Tony La Russa and the Rockies' groundskeeper

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Despite clinching the division, Tony La Russa was angry about something over the weekend:

Dissatisfaction over a seeming discrepancy between the visitors bullpen mound and the Coors Field main mound caused Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to seek an umpires’ review of the two following Friday night’s loss and led to an animated exchange with the Rockies grounds crew Saturday . . .

. . . The umpiring crew measured the two mounds Saturday and found no discrepancy. The finding didn’t prevent La Russa and Duncan from a testy back-and-forth nearly four hours before first pitch with Rockies head groundskeeper Mark Razum.

This may seem like your standard “Tony La Russa being difficult” kind of story (why argue with the groundskeeper even after the umps made the measurements?), but I think there’s more going on here than meets the eye.

For one thing, the article notes that Chris Carpenter — who lodged the mound complaint — said that the problem wasn’t the height of the bullpen mound, but the slope. It’s possible for the bullpen mound to be regulation height yet still have the wrong slope due to the whole mound havng a greater diameter or something. I’ve seen umpires measure a mound’s height before — it’s a fairly simple operation involving a stick, a level and a tape measure — but I’ve never seen them measure the slope. It’s not clear from the article, but it doesn’t seem likely that they could have done it, let alone accurately, before Saturday’s game (UPDATE: OK, I may be wrong about this). La Russa is a lawyer by training. Though this often makes him a jerk, it also makes him the detail-oriented guy that he is, and I’m guessing he still wasn’t satisfied on Saturday, maybe for good reason.

The much more interesting thing about this comes via the Baseball Think Factory message boards. It’s no secret that long time Rocky Mountain News writer Tracy Ringolsby posts over there from time to time under the name “ballfan.”  Ringolsby knows Rockies’ baseball of course, and in response to the mound dispute, “ballfan” posted this yesterday:

Interesting tid bit is that Mark Razum, groundskeeper at Coors Field, was hired from Oakland, where he developed a friendship with former A’s manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. Now, here’s the real question. Could Duncan and La Russa be suspicious because of anything they might have been involved with in the past?
 

Nice catch, Tracy.  Could this be a situation in which La Russa and Duncan know damn well that Razum messes with the bullpen mounds based on personal history? If so, it might explain the argument on Saturday.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.