Why aren't there more minority third base coaches?


Baseball is about 40% non-white (i.e. black, Hispanic, Asian). Third base coaches are 23% non-white.  First base coaches, in contrast, are 67% non-white. Michael S. Schmidt writes about it in the New York Times.  It’s interesting and reasoned reading, but if you think I’m not going to blockquote the most provocative passage from it, well, you’re just not that familiar with my work:

Current and former minority coaches and managers said they had noticed the disparity for years, but none attributed it to overt racism. Instead, some of the former coaches, along with diversity experts, questioned whether race may be playing a more subtle role, with minorities routinely funneled into a job at first base that is less demanding than the one at third.

“It’s very easy for them to put the minority at first base, to say we have a minority and we hire minorities,” said Al Bumbry, a black former player who was a first-base coach for the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.

I don’t purport to be an expert when it comes to these matters, but I’m always skeptical of mass media stories about race that start with statistics and search for explanations for them as opposed to those stories starting with documented questionable attitudes or practices and then analyze the impacts.*  Sometimes weird things happen in small samples (and we’re only talking about 60 coaches here). I’m more interested in knowing what has happened before and how we got where we are.

And there is some of that in the second half of the article. Particularly Bobby Valentine’s quotes about how friendship explains an awful lot about a manager’s choice of coaches. I imagine there’s all manner of other noise going on here that suggest explanations apart from first-level racial discrimination for the disparity in numbers.

At the end of the day, though, who the hell wants to be a third base coach? There’s hardly anyone more maligned than those dudes.

*Not that I discount statistical analysis as a means of gaining insight on racial matters. I just think that any meaningful discussion of that sort of thing is best suited for (a) larger sample sizes than professional sports provide; and (b) academic literature as opposed to a 1,500 word story in a daily paper.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.