When Apple unveiled its fancy new iPad two weeks ago, it chose a select few partners, each dominant in its field, to help show off the gadget's possibilities. Among them were
As the stodgiest of the major sports, baseball's emergence over the past decade as the most wired among them has been a bit surprising. There is a reason, though, why it was MLB and not the NFL or the NBA parading its wares before
Because of this, the news that
This isn't necessarily a lark, either: Bowman, a former treasurer of Michigan, also has experience in the Department of the Treasury and on Wall Street, and a kind of wry charisma that may play well in a state hardly overrun with blinding political talent. Two implications are worth teasing out.
Second, this has implications for the immediate future of MLB's digital arm. Presumably if Bowman explores and likes what he finds -- and perhaps even if he doesn't -- he'll be leaving his job soon. (A spokesman for MLBAM wasn't immediately available for comment.) There are surely qualified candidates to replace him, but one key to his shop's success is that throughout its existence it has been able to function with a good measure of independence. Given that the 30 teams each own equal shares in the enterprise, that shouldn't be taken for granted. Whether Bowman's successor would do as good a job of maintaining that autonomy is an intriguing question.
From drug policy to labor relations to the designated hitter rule, baseball gets a lot wrong, but it has had digital media spectacularly right for a decade now. You can watch ball games on your telephone, read credible reporting on your favorite team's Web site and check the exact location and speed of any pitch thrown because people made the right decisions on these issues over the past decade. Here's hoping they continue to do so in the one to come.
Thomas: .330 BA/.452 OBA/.600 SLG, 182 OPS+
Pujols has dimensions to his game that Thomas lacked, and he'll almost certainly age better, but on pure talent, at their best, and just as hitters, I'd take the Big Hurt -- he was just stronger, with an even better batting eye. The line on him used to be that he was the greatest hitter since
As the Great
Damon is obviously a much better ballplayer. Even at 36 he's still a terrific baserunner, he can hit left-handed pitching, and he has played at least 140 games every year since 1996. You can say none of this of Branyan. Still, Damon isn't much in the field, and if Branyan isn't either, he at least offers some interesting options, as he's a passable first baseman, played a vaguely adequate third base as recently as 2008 and has outfield experience.
That a guy who can be fairly described as the more complete Russell Branyan has several contenders bidding on him with money they claim not to have and seems likely to end the weekend with a multi-year deal in hand may be in part testament to the power of good hair and good press, but should also go some way toward answering why
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