With the full-blown start of the 2013 season less than a week away, news about the greatest sport in the world is pouring in all around us. Pundits are prognosticating, captains are complaining, injuries are increasing—the topics are certainly plentiful and diverse. Some of them are even on the "weird" side of things (and no, I'm not talking about the Brewers giving Kyle Lohse three years and $33 million).
Here's a quick look at some of those odd or off-the-beaten-path stories from recent days.
Traded for Nothing
Michael Cisco is a 25-year old right hander who has been in the Phillies system since he was drafted in the 36th round in 2008. Well, at least he was until Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro traded him to the Angels last week.
The return? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The big zero.
There is no "player to be named later" here. No "future considerations." No "and cash." Jim Salisbury, the Phillies beat writer who first reported the story, calls it a trade "for no compensation." Seems like they're stretching the definition of "trade" to me.
Dave Brown of Yahoo! Sports wonders if this means that Amaro is becoming a nihilist. I only wonder if getting traded for nothing is somehow better than getting traded for a bag of bats, especially considering the sad postscript to that tale.
It's been a staple of Little League dugouts for over thirty years now. Big League Chew, the stringy, sugary bubblegum, is changing their packaging this year. Thankfully, they are not getting rid of the pouch kids have grown to love over the generations. How else could kids make their tobacco-like chewing gum with the tobacco-like name look even more tobacco-like? Instead, they will be replacing the menacing cartoon big leaguers with glossy photos of the real deal. This summer, Matt Kemp and Cole Hamels will be the big leaguers kids look up to when they need to stuff their jaw with that menacing wad of gum. Outside of a brief partnership with the MLBPA to put retired players on the pouches, this will be the first time in the brand's 30+ years that the cartoon heroes will be replaced.
Big League Chew was invented in 1980 by Rob Nelson and Jim Bouton. Yes, that Jim Bouton. He even wrote about it in "Ball Five", the epilogue published in the ten year anniversary edition of Ball Four.
You may also see me promoting something called Big League Chew. It's shredded bubblegum in a tobacco style pouch, designed for ballplayers and other kids. My partner, Rob Nelson, and I dreamed it up out in the Portland Maverick bullpen while we were sitting around one day drowning bugs in tobacco juice.
Rob, a left-handed pitcher and thinker, decided there needed to be a substitute for that terrible tasting stuff which was so necessary for a ballplayer's image. … The Topps company, of bubblegum card fame, turned us down on the grounds that mothers wouldn't want their kids spitting brown stuff all over the place. Finally, a guy named A. G. Atwater at Amurol Products, a division of Wrigley's, bought the idea and now Big League Chew is the hottest selling bubblegum in the country.
I'm a little concerned about promoting a product with sugar in it but I figure I'm morally covered. Our original idea called for brown sugarless wheat-germ gum. It just didn't test well.
I wonder if Bowie Kuhn ever considered banning the gum from the clubhouse out of spite towards Bouton.