Place your bets now: Tigers to go 162-0 this season

The Tigers launched the 2021 season yesterday at home with a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Baseball Team. It was snowing during the first few innings, becoming nearly a whiteout blizzard a couple of times, including when Miguel Cabrera hit the first MLB home run of the season but couldn’t see that it went out so he slid into second:

Kirk Gibson: “Look at the confetti!” LOL.

Matthew Boyd started for Detroit, and while he wasn’t as flashy as Cleveland starter Shane Bieber, who struck out 12 Tigers, he also didn’t give up any runs and got the victory. The Tigers’ bullpen looked pretty good, too, with José CIsnero and Daniel Norris throwing scoreless innings. New closer Gregory Soto gave up a two-run homer to Roberto Pérez in the ninth but still got the save.

So the trend line is obvious: The Tigers have a perfect record after one game, and therefore will finish the season 162-0. Where do I buy playoff tickets?

A more disturbing trend in baseball, and sports in general, is the rapid encroachment of gambling into the broadcasts and the stadiums themselves. Once upon a time, a connection with known gamblers or gambling interests was enough to even get baseball legends like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle banned from baseball back in the early 1980s for working for casinos in public relations capacities.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law that outlawed sports betting in most states in 2018. Since then, all of the leagues have started to get into the gambling business, initially by accepting sponsorships from sports books and gambling companies, and now actively allowing solicitation of all types of bets in their live broadcasts and on their websites and mobile apps. It’s hard to avoid a pop-up asking you to “bet now” if you visit MLB.com or watch a live telecast; yesterday, ESPN’s coverage included sidebars asking how many runs the Dodgers and Rockies would score after the seventh inning, along with a betting website and a code to use to win $5,000.

The Tigers’ broadcast partner, Fox Sports Detroit, become Bally Sports Detroit on March 31. The name change was needed anyway, as Fox no longer owned the regional sports networks that bore their name, having been bought by Sinclair Broadcasting a couple of years ago. They continued to use the Fox name under license, but needed a new one and the deal was made with Bally’s Corporation, a casino, horse track, and online gaming company (and which started as a manufacturer of pinball machines back in the 1930s). The connection between the games and the gaming is now complete.

Personally, I don’t care what they call the network (I still miss PASS Sports, myself). Sports has always had gambling, legal or not. In some ways, maybe having the whole thing out in the open is better. We’ll see. I’m not opposed to gambling, though I don’t do much myself, an occasional lottery ticket when the jackpot gets ridiculous and some penny ante and no stakes fantasy football and baseball. And people have noted that baseball has long been associated with other less-than-virtuous vices, including tobacco and alcohol.

The difference, as noted by Craig Calcaterra in his excellent “Cup of Coffee” newsletter today, is that baseball is now producing gambling-related programs and content for their websites and channels, which is a far cry from the days of baseball’s cleaner-than-clean Mantle and Mays bans:

I’m concerned, but I’m not going to let it get me down. I love baseball. Yesterday’s game was a joy to watch, especially Cabrera’s homer and his remarkable diving play at first base, where he hadn’t played since 2019. Detroit manager A.J. Hinch claims Cabrera is the best defensive first baseman on the team and that he’ll get to play there a few times per week. We’ll see if his troublesome knee will allow that, but for one day, anyway, it was all smiles for the big guy.

1-0! First place, baby! Enjoy it while you can.

Windmill tilting

As you may have surmised from reading my ongoing Cardboard Tigers series (see them here!), I’m a baseball fan, and specifically of the Detroit Tigers. Watching them on TV over the past few years has been tough, mostly because they haven’t been very good, but also because nearly all of their games are televised on Fox Sports Detroit.

The games are very well-produced. The announcers are okay (when they aren’t causing their own drama in the broadcast booth), though I wish they’d talk a bit less (it’s on TV, guys, we don’t need wall-to-wall chatter).

No, the problem has been, as everything seems to be these days, political. Fox Sports Detroit was, up until 2019, owned by 21st Century Fox, which sold most of its entertainment assets to The Walt Disney Company. As part of the agreement with the federal government allowing the sale, Disney, which also owns the ESPN-branded sports channels, was forced to sell the regional sports operations like Fox Sports Detroit. They found a buyer in Sinclair Broadcasting, one of the few companies both big enough to make such a deal while also somehow being even more right-wing than Fox. So both before and after the sale, I was unhappy knowing that my viewing was helping to make Fox – and then Sinclair – any money at all.

The point is moot, at least right now and at least for me, because my current streaming platform for local channels, YouTube TV, dropped Fox Sports Detroit when they couldn’t come to an agreement over rights fees with Sinclair. Sinclair will also be re-branding their local sports channels, apparently using the Bally name, sometime this year; they were continuing to use the Fox name under license through 2021. Won’t matter to me, they’re still owned by Sinclair, and frankly, the whole intermingling of sports and gambling is also disappointing. I know it’s a big part of sports and always has been, and I’ve been known to place some casual bets with friends and play fantasy sports, but the direct connection and the expansion of legalized betting in Michigan doesn’t strike me as a positive thing. So Bally Sports Detroit, or whatever they end up calling it, isn’t any more appealing than Fox Sports Detroit.

I’m sure executives at Fox Sports Detroit and Sinclair are shaking in their loafers over my extremely quiet boycott of their channel. But it makes me feel better, and I suppose if enough people did it, it might make a difference.

My other windmill-tilt involves CVS, a company I’ve always had good experiences with. Their Marine City store is clean, seems well-run, has good prices on the things I need, and their pharmacy is convenient. (They send a few too many text reminders, but I could stop those if I really wanted to.) However, the last time I went to pick up a prescription, they had a large display of Mike Lindell’s “MyPillow” next to the counter. Mike Lindell, if you’re unaware, is the entrepreneur behind one of the most successful “As Seen On TV” products of recent years, and is also a vocal supporter, both financially and personally, of Donald Trump and the effort to throw out the results of a legally-held election to keep his boy in office for four more years.

So I wrote the following note to the corporate complaint department:

I’ve been a CVS customer for many years. Our local store is staffed by friendly, knowledgable people, I’ve been happy with the value provided by both the local store and CVS.

I was disappointed yesterday, though, when I stopped to pick up a prescription at the Marine City, MI, store. There was a prominent display of the “MyPillow” product next to the pharmacy counter. The CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, is a supporter of the false claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from President Trump and was also involved as a financial supporter of the rally on January 6 that resulted in a mob invading the U.S. Capitol.

I recognize that Mr. Lindell has the right to sell his products and that CVS has the similar right to select and market whatever products you deem appropriate. I would prefer, however, not to purchase anything from a company that is aligned with someone who is trying to invalidate my vote and cause insurrection. I will be moving my prescriptions as soon as possible.

Again, I’m sure CVS isn’t going to change their decision to sell a popular product because of my complaint. But it felt good to write that measured, yet, quixotic, note.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have to take up my lance and find me a windmill or two.