So really, what does “he’s a ballplayer” actually mean?

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Yesterday I noted a couple of scouts referring to Melvin Mora as “a ballplayer” and mused what, if anything, that could mean. My suspicion was that it’s a term baseball people use to refer to a guy who they really like but whom it would be misleading to describe primarily in terms of phenomenal baseball talents. Or that it’s just nonsense.

I should have Googled a bit more, because Andrew Simon of the Hitting the Cutoff Man blog researched this very question a couple of weeks ago. He found scores of examples of guys being referred to with the “he’s a ballplayer” thing in quotes, and broke them down by category. It’s some pretty stunning stuff that both enlightens us and makes us pray that Simon isn’t working in national security or public safety, because he clearly took some time with his head buried in this data.

The results, in my view, suggest that calling a guy a “ballplayer” is really a more robust way of calling someone a “gamer” or “scrappy,” with the added benefit that it seems to avoid the racial implications that “gamer” and “scrappy” seem to often provoke. You rarely see “scrappy” black or Latino guys. There are a lot of black and Latino “ballplayers.”

In the end I fear that it may be so broad a characterization that it’s not really useful, but for now I’m sort of cool with it for being rough shorthand for “good guy/hard worker/not dumb/no ego.”

Sean Manaea pitches first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.