First, we talk about Miguel Cabrera, who joined the 500-homer Club on Sunday in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Cabrera’s taken a very long road to join the 27 other players who’ve hit 500 home runs, and his career illuminates some interesting ways that MLB has changed over the last decade, especially in regard to the rise of sabermetrics and changes in pitching styles he’s had to face. It also doesn’t look like there are too many active players who are in a position to join Cabrera any time soon. (Nelson Cruz of the Rays is next-highest at 443, but he’s also 41 years old.) Entering the 500 Club requires hitters to be exceptional early, often and avoid the pitfalls of injury. Many players who look on pace now won’t end up getting there, which makes Cabrera’s accomplishments all the more worthy of celebration.
Next, we’re joined by FiveThirtyEight designer Emily Scherer to discuss all things Little League World Series. Emily takes an enthusiastic Neil and a slightly grumpy Geoff through the joys of the LLWS — from no-hitters and girls killing it, the fluidity with which young players are able to master multiple positions (eat your heart out, Shohei Ohtani), and the many fun facts the series provides about its players — which MLB could stand to emulate in its promotion of the major leaguers. Whose favorite band is Counting Crows? What is everyone’s favorite Adam Sandler movie? The Little League World Series may not have as many hard numbers to it, but it provides wonderful answers all the same.
Finally, we discuss MLB ending its 70-year partnership with baseball card maker Topps, and the overall shift in the sports merchandise world to Fanatics. They are, in essence, the Amazon of sports merch, so their rise is easy to track and understand based on their logistical mastery of online marketplaces. But it is a little lamentable, as Fanatics’ cut-and-paste approach to merchandise design may end up getting rid of a lot of the whimsy and the weirdness that have made baseball cards so much fun over the years. At least we still have Quebec Major Junior League hockey cards, right?
What we’re looking at this week: