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Andy Martino asks: Was Luis Castillo hate a racial thing?

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You can’t really win when it comes to talking about race on the record.  Even if there’s something to a charge of racism it’s always denied. Denied so often that, if you take people’s word for it, you’d have to conclude that there are no racists in this country anymore, the last of their kind having died sometime in the 1970s. Indeed, there is way more indignation voiced these days by those who claim they are wrongly accused of racism than by actual targets of racism who, you know, have good damn reason to be indignant.

Of course, this goes both ways.  Race is frequently erroneously brought up when there are multiple better explanations for one’s allegedly shabby treatment.  It’s a dangerous world out there for those people who are inclined to call a jerk a jerk because — if the races of the jerk and the one calling him a jerk don’t match up — there’s always the threat of a bogus accusation. Which then leads back to the dynamic from the previous paragraph.  And it’s always the worst when a genuine racist and a person who has cried wolf before disagree about something. Which is a big reason I don’t watch any cable news.

The point here isn’t to figure out racial politics. It’s to note that, when someone throws out racism as a potential explanation for something, it’s almost 100% certain that we’ll quickly end up talking about something other than the actual incident in question.  It’s something that I’m guessing Andy Martino of the Daily News will soon be quite conversant with following his exploration of why Mets fans seemed to hate Luis Castillo so much:

But what is it, exactly? Why is one of the toughest and most passionate Mets so unpopular among fans? Asked if the issue was about race, Castillo, who is Dominican, shrugged and wondered why the public did not appreciate his willingness to play through intense foot and leg pain … Castillo, reluctant like most players to wander into a subject fraught with controversy and misinterpretation, chose not to discuss race. A friend of his only partially accepted the premise that Castillo’s troubles were related to his skin color and heritage.

For Martino’s part, he never accuses anyone of racism, but notes that nonwhite players tend to be called lazy more often than white ones are, notes the divide between Hispanic and non-Hispanics in the Mets clubhouse in recent years and recalls how much criticism Omar Minaya took for seeming to favor Hispanic players when it came time to fill out the roster.

And Martino isn’t wrong to make those observations. Quite right actually, at least in the abstract.  But just as everyone will acknowledge that the concept of racism exists in general while never admitting to being a racist themselves, no one will ever acknowledge that Luis Castillo was hated because of race even if they admit that there are clear dynamics in sports that cause us to evaluate and talk about players of color in ways we never evaluate or talk about white players. Especially on recent editions of the New York Mets.

In other words: this inquiry will probably get us nowhere. And Martino will probably find himself on the defensive before sundown, with everyone talking around this issue as opposed to about it.

Bryce Harper struck out four times in a game for the first time in nearly four years

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts after he struck out during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Washington. The Phillies won 3-0.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has not exactly been strikeout-averse over his five-year career, but he has been pretty good about not bunching them up. Entering Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Harper had struck out three or more times in a game only 21 times in 533 games. He had registered two four-strikeout games, the last of which occurred on August 21, 2012 — his rookie season.

On Sunday, Harper struck out three times against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez and once against reliever Seung Hwan Oh for the dreaded golden sombrero. The reigning NL MVP has now equaled his walk and strikeout totals at 17 apiece.

Despite the rough afternoon, Harper still owns a lusty .272/.390/.679 triple-slash line with nine home runs and 24 RBI.

Chase Headley doesn’t think Yankee Stadium is as hitter-friendly as advertised

New York Yankees Chase Headley (12) breaks his bat on a ground out to third during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Monday, April 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
AP Photo/Brandon Wade
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Yankees third baseman Chase Headley finished April without registering an extra-base hit. Across 71 plate appearances, he registered only nine hits for an uninspiring .150/.268/.150 triple-slash line. Speaking to David Laurilia of FanGraphs, Headley said that Yankee Stadium isn’t as hitter-friendly as many people think it is, and added that the shift has helped to limit his offensive success.

“Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” said Headley. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.”

[…]

“Because of the shifting that’s going on now, if you hit the ball on the ground, for the most part you’re out,” Headley told me. “I’m trying to get the ball elevated — I want to hit it hard in the air — and if I never hit another ball on the ground, I’ll be happy.”

According to StatCorner.com, Yankee Stadium is indeed better for left-handed hitters, and particularly so when it comes to extra-base hits. It lists park factors for handedness, setting 100 as average. A higher number means it’s more hitter-friendly. Here are the left-right numbers as of today’s writing:

  • Singles: 101 for left-handed hitters, 102 for right-handed hitters
  • Doubles and triples: 101 LH, 82 RH
  • Home runs: 137 LH, 127 RH

Headley’s hypothesis seems to have some merit. But his claim that shifts have been hurting him doesn’t seem to hold up to the numbers.

babip

Headley’s ground ball BABIP (batting average on balls in play) this season is only .022 behind his career average of .239. As he’s only hit 23 ground balls total this season, the difference between .239 and .217 is less than one hit.

Where Headley’s BABIP is notably lower is line drives. His career average line drive BABIP is .698, but it’s only .333 on nine line drives in 2016. This could be simple bad luck or it could mean Headley is making worse contact. FanGraphs’ batted ball data suggests Headley has been pulling significantly fewer balls (36 percent to his 45 percent career average), and he’s making “hard” contact less often (21 percent versus his 31 percent career average). Overall, there’s been very little change in his ground ball rate versus his fly ball rate.

Headley mentioned to Laurila that if he could, he would try to hit fly balls to the pull side more often. “I’m working on that,” he said.

Carlos Martinez sued for battery, negligent transmission of STDs, and more

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
AP Photo/Matt York
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Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez was given permission to leave the team on Friday in order to travel to Miami. Martinez was named in a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed he knowingly trasmitted mutliple sexually trasmitted diseasese to her. She is seeking $1.5 million in damages for battery, negligent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, fraud, and more, TMZ reported on Saturday.

Martinez rejoined the team and started on Sunday afternoon against the Nationals. His attorney called the allegations “100% false”.

The Cardinals are waiting for more information to find out if the league will investigate the matter under its domestic violence policy. Via Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, GM John Mozeliak said, “We wait. And once we learn more, then we’ll have more of an idea. These are things you just learn as you go.”

Should obstruction have been called on Ryan Webb?

Toronto Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar gestures to the dugout after hitting a triple against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 8, 2016, in Toronto. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)
Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Blue Jays had a comfortable 5-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Rays, but one never knows when a base runner might be crucial. Kevin Pillar was on first base when reliever Ryan Webb threw over to first on a pickoff attempt and got him in a rundown.

First baseman Logan Morrison chased Pillar towards second base, lobbing the ball to shortstop Brad Miller. Miller sent Pillar back to first base, throwing to Webb covering the bag. Webb chased Pillar back towards second base and threw to second baseman Logan Forsythe. Forsythe chased Pillar back again, but Webb wasn’t able to get out of Pillar’s way. Second base umpire Mark Ripperger immediately signaled “no obstruction” and Pillar was easily tagged out after he was essentially bear hugged by Webb.

Here’s the MLB.com video.

Major League Baseball defines obstruction as “the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.” Webb had already thrown the ball and Forsythe was in possession of it, so he couldn’t have been considered “in the act of fielding.”

At any rate, the Jays still won 5-1, giving them the series win over the Rays.