Gotta hand it to the folks at MLB for some neat ideas in recent years. The Fort Bragg game was a wonderful salute to the military. The Little League Classic is a gem you would hope they would keep for years and years. The forays into Australia and London have been memorable. The buzz surrounding next summer's "Field of Dreams" game in Dyersville, Iowa, is already huge.
Then you have "Players Weekend." It's time for this idea to go the way of the Sabres' old Turdburgers. Let's just call it a good thought on paper that's a flop in practice.
The weird jerseys of the past haven't been too bothersome, although traditionalists like this corner aren't real keen on messing with longtime standards worn by franchises like the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox. The goofy nicknames players get to put on their backs often prove intriguing, as fans try to figure out their origin.
But the design factory ran completely afoul on this year's all-white vs. all-black jerseys. What was the thought process there? Taking traditional colors away from every team is just plain awful. Fans often go to games to see uniforms and these are universally terrible.
One of my followers on Twitter said the games looked like cricket matches. In this view, it was hard to decide if the teams wearing white were supposed to look like Star Wars stormtroopers or they were bringing back the "Man from Glad" commercials of the 60s and 70s with their full white suits (Google it, kids).
It was only in the last few days that MLB apparently realized you can't go all white because the batter can't see the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand, so the teams in white were given dark caps. Whoops. And if we're supposed to read the nicknames, what's with white lettering on the backs of white jerseys? Were there baseball people even involved in these designs?
Love the tweet of former big-league pitcher Brandon McCarthy early Saturday morning: "If you're a starting pitcher who gives up a ton of runs in the 1st, gets pulled and ruins the game for everyone else, you have to talk to the media. In that fashion I think whoever is responsible for the 'players weekend' unis needs to stand and answer for the mess they've made."
The whole thing made for a sophomoric look for the Yankees' showdown series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, and for the Blue Jays' once-a-year weekend in Seattle filled with Canadian fans.
Said Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen: "You feel like you're in the major leagues — 'Damn, we're playing the Yankees.' The only ... part of it is — you're not seeing the true uniforms. Bad timing. That's really bad timing."
It sure is. The compromise here might be to let players continue with their special touches for a weekend — the Colombian flag colors on the bat of Yankees infielder Gio Urshela were neat — and forget about jerseys. Give the teams Players Weekend caps and that's about it.
Let's stop messing with the jerseys, especially if people designing them clearly have no idea what they're doing.
Is Sunday Pearson's lone Buffalo stop?
Nate Pearson makes what could be the only start of his career in Sahlen Field for the Bisons Sunday afternoon at 1 against Pawtucket, and Toronto's top pitching prospect has been named the organization's player of the year by Baseball America magazine.
Pearson showed terrific command in Tuesday's debut at Rochester and a 99-mph fastball all the way to the seventh inning was certainly impressive. So was his command of a changeup that kept batters off-balance with pitches in the 80s when they were trying to prepare for heat in the 96-99 mph range.
Don't discount how important it was for Pearson and the Blue Jays to see him go seven innings his first time out in Triple-A either. Pearson, remember, was limited to just 22 innings last year due to an intercostal strain and a forearm fracture after he was struck by a line drive. He enters Sunday at 90 2/3 this year in carefully structured outings that have alternated starts of five innings and just two innings as he's worked through Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire.
Pearson was on a seven-inning or 100-pitch limit Tuesday, easily the most flexible the Jays have been with him. There's real talk he could end up in the big leagues right out of spring training next year, which could mean Sunday would be it for Sahlen Field.
Pearson, however, will have to get used to big-league baseballs that are also used in Triple-A. He nearly gave up a tying home run in the seventh inning Tuesday to Rochester's Wilin Rosario on a ball that carried to the warning track in right field.
"It was the first time using the big-league balls," Pearson said. "And off the bat, I thought it was a popup."
Folks around here have been saying that all season.
Meacham never pondered pulling Zeuch
Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said T.J. Zeuch's no-hitter Monday in Rochester was the fourth one he's been a part of, but the first as a manager. Meacham was on the bench in his first week in the big leagues when Dave Righetti no-hit the Red Sox for the Yankees on July 4, 1983. He was a Houston coach when San Francisco's Matt Cain fired a perfect game at the Astros in 2012 and was Florida third-base coach under Joe Girardi when Anibal Sanchez no-hit Arizona for the Marlins in 2006.
Zeuch was at 102 pitches through eight innings, the same total he tossed over six innings in his previous start against Toledo, and Meacham said there were no phone calls made to or from Toronto during the game about taking Zeuch out with the no-hitter intact.
"I was comfortable," said Meacham, whose smile foreshadowed his imminent mic-drop joke. "He threw 102 the last time he pitched so I figured if he goes into the ninth and gives up a hit, we take him out right away anyway. And if he doesn't, it's my judgment. I guess you see If I'm going to get fired or not."
There was no Terry Collins-Johan Santana issue here. Zeuch finished with 114 and the Blue Jays are more than happy with the work Meacham and his entire coaching staff has done this year with the Buffalo club.
Bisons offering Fan Appreciation bonuses
The Bisons have expanded their always popular Fan Appreciation Night into Fan Appreciation Week, with bonus promotions for their final four home games of the season that start Monday against Rochester.
Monday's "Markdown Monday" affair featuring the standard $1 ice cream and popcorn also features discounted tickets ($9 advance, $11.50 day of game) and will be another Dog Day, with dogs admitted free with an adult ticket and a pregame dog parade around the warning track. The bonus is buy-one-get-one-free tickets with the donation of a new or gently used book to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Libraries. With the donation, fans will also receive $5 off the purchase of the ‘Celery’s Greatest Race’ children’s book.
The bonus for Tuesday's 12th annual Mystery Ball Night is a postgame fireworks show. As previously announced by the team, there will be 500 autographed baseballs for sale with signatures from around the sports and entertainment world. Many Bisons stars of past and present have signed balls and so have local stars like Jack Eichel and Josh Allen.
The Oak St. Gate opens for Mystery Ball tickets at 6:00 p.m. One per person for $25, with proceeds to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Advice: Get there early, as most Mystery Ball tickets are gone within a half-hour or less.
Wednesday's final "Buffalo Wings" night of the season has the added bonus of a free Sahlen's hot dog voucher to the first 1,000 fans and a "Jersey off the Back" giveaway where selected fans will get the game-worn Wings jersey from the players in the starting lineup.
The home scheduled concludes with Thursday's Fan Appreciation Night has put a limited number of general admission tickets on sale for $5. Gates open at 5 p.m. as the team will stage a final craft beer happy hour, which has proved wildly popular on the Friday night games.
There will be giveaways every inning as well as one of the largest fireworks shows of the season.
Around the horn
*James Paxton's win for the Yankees Friday night gave him a 5-0 mark with 35 strikeouts ane 3.56 ERA in his last five outings. He's on his way to claiming a start in the postseason rotation with Domingo German and Masahiro Tanaka while the team figures out if Luis Severino can contribute this year. As it stands right now, J.A. Happ may not make the postseason roster and it's hard to see where CC Sabathia would fit in, a shame for his final season.
*Didi Gregorius' two-homer game Friday night was the first for a Yankee against the Dodgers since Reggie Jackson's three-homer finish to Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. Gregorius' fifth-inning grand slam came in his 3,000th career at-bat and was his 800th career hit.
*The Tigers' 2-1 victory Wednesday night at Houston will be best remembered for Justin Verlander losing despite throwing a two-hitter -- and the Astros then foolishly breaking media access rules by preventing Detroit Free Press writer Anthony Fenech from entering the Houston clubhouse because Verlander has some unexplained grievance with the writer.
But according to SportsBetting.ag, it should also be remembered as the greatest MLB wagering upset of the last 20 years. Detroit was as high as a +440 underdog on Wednesday, while the Astros were a -525 favorite, meaning a bettor would have to wager 525 dollars just to win 100. The Tigers entered the game 37-86 while the Astros came in at 81-46, a 42-game difference in the standings.
*When Jacob deGrom struck out 13 Braves Friday night, he became the first Mets pitcher to crack 200 strikeouts before September in three straight seasons. Only Tom Seaver (1970-71) and Dwight Gooden (1984-85) have done in two straight in franchise history.
*The Pirates entered the weekend 8-30 since the All-Star break and were outscored 42-10 over the first seven games of their homestand even though they somehow went 2-5. It appears manager Clint Hurdle's shelf life may be coming to an end.
"I’m 62 years old, man,” Hurdle said last week when asked about his job status. “I’m going to manage for as long as people have me manage, and if they don’t have me manage, I’ll go home. My job is to do everything I can to get this club to play better baseball, to finish games and execute better.”