There’s nothing going on news-wise today, as every national sports writer is trying to figure out how to make a heroic “triumph over adversity” narrative out of Ben Roethlisberger. Tall order, but I’m sure they can find a way to do it. Jason Whitlock will probably go there first. It ought to be fun to read.
In the absence of breaking news, Buster Olney’s musings on various team’s lineups today is worth a look. He concentrates on four teams — the Phillies, Cardinals, Red Sox and Rays — who have some open questions about how to best structure the lineup heading into the season. I find the Red Sox the most interesting because it reminds me most of playing 1980s-era computer simulation games in which you can totally stack your roster (I was always partial to the Lance Hafner simulations). Here’s Buster:
There is no definitive word on how the Red Sox are going to structure what should be a very deep lineup, but generally, a lot of the speculation has had Jacoby Ellsbury hitting leadoff, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez. Given that Crawford has never liked leading off and would prefer to hit No. 2 or No. 3 — as he did with the Rays — it’s a natural thought to place Ellsbury in the leadoff spot.
I find lineup optimization to be a somewhat boring topic because no lineup tends to last much beyond the first week of the season. Guys get hurt. Others slump. Some managers can’t help but tinker. But still: who is advocating for Ellsbury to bat leadoff?
Buster thinks — and I wholeheartedly agree — that Terry Francona should put Pedroia in the leadoff spot followed by Crawford, Youkilis, Gonzalez and Ortiz in some order or another. Pedroia gets on base at a way, way better clip than Ellsbury, he’s coming off an injury that is way less likely to have messed with his hitting ability than Ellsbury’s and even if they’re both healthy and at their peak ability, it’s not like the Sox are going to be stealing tons of bases with the kind of firepower they have batting in the 2-5 slots.
Are Buster and I out to lunch here? Are there really a lot of people advocating for Ellsbury to lead off? If so, why?
Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports that the Giants have signed catcher Nick Hundley. It’s a major league deal worth $2 million.
Hundley, who is 33, but who seems like he’s been in the bigs for about 27 years, hit .260/.320/.439 with 10 homers in 83 games for the Rockies last season. Obviously he will be the backup given the presence of Buster Posey.
Major League Baseball has experienced inconsistent progress in its efforts at promoting diversity and social responsibility in recent years despite making it a league priority. Today it has announced several changes in its leadership structure in these areas, with Commissioner Manfred saying, “As the sport of Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, we have a responsibility to uphold and honor their legacies, especially in ensuring that our sport and business practices are as inclusive, diverse and socially-conscious as possible.”
To that end:
- Billy Bean has been promoted to Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner. This is a newly-created and elevated position in which Bean will continue his efforts at promoting human rights issues important to Major League Baseball, with a particular focus on LGBT and anti-bullying efforts. He has done such work since 2014 as its Ambassador for Inclusion, but putting him at the vice presidential level and having him answer directly to Commissioner Manfred increases his profile and that of his mission;
- Renée Tirado, has been promoted to Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion. Tirado had previously served as Senior Director of Recruitment. She will direct the implementation of recruitment plans and procedures to support MLB’s staffing objectives and will oversee MLB’s Diversity Pipeline Program. As you may recall, Major League Baseball has struggled mightily in these effort in recent years, and has admitted as much; and
- Melanie LeGrande has been promoted to Vice President of Social Responsibility. She previously served as MLB’s Director of Community Affairs. Her job will be to develop and enhance the initiatives that support MLB’s position in the community and oversee MLB’s community investments, nonprofit/non-governmental organization partnerships, large-scale disaster relief efforts and employee volunteer engagement.
Manfred said, “the promotions of Billy, Renée and Melanie reflect our commitment to have strong, innovative leadership in place that aligns our industry objectives with a desire to be effective corporate citizens.”
While all of these are current employees who have served in roughly similar roles. A business’ organizational chart says much about how much that business values various functions and initiatives. In keeping with Manfred’s comments, that all three of these people have been promoted to the vice presidential level is a strong signal from MLB about what it wants.
Now all it has to do is follow through and get what it wants.