CHICAGO — Big stuff going down at baseball’s quarterly owners’ meetings at the historic Drake Hotel. There is a new collective bargaining agreement being negotiated with a Dec. 1 deadline, the game’s future in the hands of those at the table. Most folks here seemed a little antsy or curious over its completion and its details.
On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, though? The Lords of the Realm pivoted to a more interesting topic.
You should’ve seen the cartoonish eye-bulges every time a new person saw Kate Upton’s legendary tweet. Or heard the laughter at the mere mention of it.
By now, you surely know Upton, the actress and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, went ultra-graphic after her boyfriend, Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, suffered an upset loss to his former teammate Rick Porcello of the Red Sox in the American League Cy Young Award voting on Wednesday.
Was she right, on either the merits of her case or the R rating of her expression? Who cares? She got more people talking about baseball on an otherwise sleepy November night. She wins. Baseball wins.
“The particular content of the tweet, I’m not going to comment on,” commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday, as he tried to balance a grin with the proper emanation of disapproval. “I do think that engagement on social media by players and people close to players is important in today’s world. I think that it brings attention to the sport at a point during the year when it’s our offseason and we have less going on. I think that social media is a form of fan engagement that can be useful in terms of growing the sport.
“But I will close where I started. I’m not going to comment on the particular substance of that tweet.”
In my perfect world, as a stats geek, Verlander would’ve defeated Porcello. It is depressing to think wins still matter to some Baseball Writers Association of America voters when the measure has proven as antiquated as a cassette recorder.
However, what fun would a perfect world be? I’m glad I don’t get my way all of the time, and besides, I got my way Thursday night when the Angels’ Mike Trout won his second AL MVP award, even though his Angels finished in fourth place and second-place finisher Mookie Betts’ Red Sox won the AL East.
Most pertinent to this column: Verlander and Upton not getting their way led to innocuous fireworks, which led to far more people following this story.
Tigers general manager Al Avila, chuckling as a small group of reporters approached him Thursday, said, “You’re talking to the wrong guy.” It would’ve been nice for Avila to defend Verlander’s candidacy — though Avila once got offended when I compared his owner Mike Ilitch to late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who is on the current Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot. So Avila’s public-relations instincts aren’t the best.
More attuned was Angels chairman Dennis Kuhl, who early Thursday afternoon publicly professed his wish for Trout to win some hardware.
“It would really, really be great for the team,” Kuhl said. “It would be great for the fans. It would be great for Mike. It would really be nice. I think he deserves it, of course, but I’m a little prejudiced about that. I think he’s got a shot. I think he’s got a really good shot. We’re looking forward to it. He’s just the face of baseball right now.
“I don’t see the controversy that …” and then Kuhl trailed off with a laugh. Yes, there would’ve been social-media controversy had Trout lost, Kuhl was hinting. Yet Ms. Upton probably would’ve sat this one out regardless of which way it went.
May I suggest that as part of the new CBA, more players agree to date celebrities with active Twitter and Instagram accounts? The more famously obscene tweets about baseball, the more revenue the owners will get to divvy up amongst themselves.