Boston Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez watches his triple against the Milwaukee Brewers during the fourth inning of their MLB inter-league baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston

Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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I sort of don’t feel like doing little state-of-the-team factoids this week. They are who we thought they were for the most part. There’s an argument for making the Marlins last, but I almost feel sorry for them. There’s an argument to make the Twins even higher, but I’m not sure who to drop below them. There was a lot more bunching up of teams this week than there had been, so it wasn’t the easiest week to rank guys.

Anyway, my little weekend getaway stirred my wanderlust a bit and had me in mind of various other trips I’ve taken and stuff I’ve done, so I’m just gonna blurb little bits about experiences — good, bad, random — I’ve had in the various major league cities. Which may be problematic for Seattle since I’ve never been there, but I’ll worry about it when I get to it.

1. Red Sox (1): Did the Bunker Hill tour when I was a kid. There was a park ranger there — I guess he was a ranger — who tried to impress people by telling them that he could direct you from there all the way to your home without you hitting a red light. Doesn’t matter if you lived in Rhode Island or California. My dad listened to him do this schtick for a few minutes and then said “so, really, all you’re doing is telling people how to get to the interstate near here without hitting a light. Because once you’re in the interstate, you can get anywhere without hitting one.”  The guy was a bit deflated. I felt kind of bad.

2. Phillies (2): I’ve only been to Philly once. Around the fourth of July in 1989. Watched a Phillies-Braves game at the Vet on a Sunday afternoon. John Smoltz pitched a complete game. I cheered loudly for him and not a single person in the Vet said a word to me or took any kind of exception to my open Braves rooting. So I suppose that crazy hardcore Philly fan thing didn’t start until later.

3. Yankees (4): First trip there was as a tourist with my brother and my dad in 1988. My dad carried a map and a camera. My brother wore spandex bike shorts and carried a camera. I wore ugly Jams shorts, a Braves shirt and carried a camera. I’m surprised we all weren’t murdered, mugged and/or raped.

4. Indians (12): I’ve been to Cleveland too many times to count. Mostly on law firm business, as the firms I worked for were based there. I’m mostly over it now, but for a good long while I couldn’t drive into the city without getting a bit antsy from residual stress.

5. Brewers (3): I went to a big Irish festival there in — I think — 1986, at that big downtown fairgrounds place they have. Did you know that in 1986, the Milwaukee fairgrounds was extremely lax in carding people at the beer stands? Even if you were only 13-years-old? It’s true! Of course, back then I wouldn’t know what to do with a beer if you gave me detailed instructions. I think I held it for a while, acted like a big man with my brother and his friend who was with us, took one sip, hated it, and then tossed it someplace. Really, when you get down to a low enough age, youth drinking is a self-policing problem.

6. Cardinals (4): I was a big fan of the combined St. Louis Cardinals-Bowling Hall of Fame museum they had there when I visited in 2003.  Is it still there even though Old Busch Stadium is gone?  If not, what did they do with the big mannequins of Elizabethan English people lawn bowling?  Because if they’re not using them, I’m sure someone else could.

7. Braves (6): I have only been in Atlanta (a) at the airport on layovers; or (b) driving through on the way to Florida on I-75, the last time being 1984 or so.  It’s crazy that I’m such a big Braves fan and have never really stepped foot in that town.

8. Tigers-Rays (8), (11): My parents were both born and raised in Detroit so I spent a boatload of time there as a kid. They tell me about — and I see pictures of — what the city looked like when they grew up in the postwar years though the early 60s. There’s a lot of romanticism at play — my dad lived in Dearborn, which was then a highly-segregated suburb so he was shielded from real urban problems —  but it sounded like it was once a great city.  I hadn’t really been to Tampa until spring training last year. Meh. As I’ve written in the past, Florida doesn’t do much for me.

10. Giants (7): San Francisco is my favorite city in the country. I’ve never not loved life when I was there. I’ve never not wondered why I didn’t live there while I was there. I’m thinking that it’s about 80% weather — I hate the heat — but picking a place to live based on weather is a better reason than a lot of people choose to live places.

11. Reds (13): See the Cleveland recap. I went on a stretch of about seven years where every single time I drove to Cincy it was to deal with a hearing or a trial or a status conference for a case that was simply awful or sideways or eight shades of nasty. I’ve gotten over the Cleveland thing for the most part, but even yesterday, driving back through Cincinnati on the way home from Kentucky, the place just made me itch and shake. Forget it Jake, it’s my Chinatown.

12. Diamondbacks (9): The alpha and omega of my Phoenix experience was this past spring training, about which most of you read at the time. I could see liking the area for a few weeks in the winter, but it mostly seemed like a wasteland of freeways, strip malls and vast distances from point A to point B to me. And given that I live in Ohio, which has its own problems with that kind of sprawly stuff, it’s saying something that this bugged me so. Also, I couldn’t stop thinking that the water was about to run out.

13. Rangers (10): Like Atlanta, I’ve only driven through and flown through Dallas. The Winter Meetings will be there this December, so I’ll give it a better look. I was a big fan of Austin, though, and I’m guessing that no matter how much fun I have this December, that Big D won’t be passing up Austin as the coolest Texas town.

14. Mariners (14): I would very much like to go to Seattle some day, but it just hasn’t come up.

15. Rockies (19): I didn’t spend much time in Denver when I drove through Colorado on my big winding road trip back in 2003, but I did decide that if I ever wanted to escape from my world that I would change my name and rent a room above a bar in Salida, Colorado. I felt some serious inner peace in that town. And I hear that the ski place just up U.S. 50 at Monarch Pass isn’t very crowded, so that would be good. I mean, hey, even if you escape from the world, you gotta pass the time, right?

16. Nationals (24): I lived in D.C. for three years when I was in law school. I liked it very much. My love of San Francisco notwithstanding, however, I never really want to live in a city any bigger than Washington. And anymore when I visit Washington I feel like it’s too big for me, at least in terms of traffic and hassle. I’m more likely to move into a fortified compound out in the country than to a big city, I presume.

17. Blue Jays (17): I’ve only been through Toronto on the freeway. We took a family vacation to Nova Scotia when I was a kid though, and I liked that. And yes, I realize that those two things have nothing to do with one another. It’s like when you meet someone from Canada and say “you’re from Canada? Do you know John from Thunder Bay?”  Sorry Canada.

18. Mets (15): I actually got closer to Citi Field while landing at LaGuardia than I ever got to Yankee Stadium. I probably need to apply myself to baseball in New York a bit better.

19. White Sox (16): If you go to college anywhere in the Midwest, you know at least five people who live in Chicago. And you likely spent your early-to-mid 20s (post-college) visiting them from time to time and wondering why they still get to live like they’re in college while you have some adult existence back in whatever city you live in.  The city is like a decompression chamber for people making the transition from college to adulthood. Keeps ’em from getting the bends.

20. Pirates (20): I like driving in to Pittsburgh because one minute you’re basically going through a big forest, and then you hit a tunnel and — bammo! — you’re downtown. You feel like you’re getting away with something.  Also, french fries on a sandwich is so full of win.

21. Twins (27): I have never been to Minneapolis. At least outside of the airport. I suppose Gleeman would show me around if I went.

22. Athletics (28): Obviously a totally different place than San Francisco, but my forays to the East Bay always come on those trips I take to S.F., so all of that deluded magic from which I suffer rubs off on Oakland too. I suppose that the best way for me to become realistic about the Bay Area would be to just go to Oakland for a week and pretend that I, you know, lived in Oakland.

23. Angels (23): My entire impression of Orange County comes from the one Angels game I took in eight years ago, from driving between L.A. and San Diego and from watching “Arrested Development” reruns.  So I’m on a 2-to-1 good impression ratio.

24. Orioles (22): While walking around the Inner Harbor in 1996, I passed Richard Belzer. He was wearing a black suit, a black shirt and shades. It has occurred to me that the change in Detective Munch’s wardrobe from the early seasons of “Homicide” on though his time on “Law and Order” were inspired by Belzer’s own tastes.  Which is kind of sad, because the Munch character was an interesting one early on — kind of an angry, disheveled sad sack — and became far less interesting as Belzer and his shows’ writers turned him into a cartoon character/self-parody. Oh well.

25. Dodgers (21): I have a friend from college who lives in L.A. who I visit every couple of years. He lives a decidedly non-9-to-5 existence, so he doesn’t fight traffic that much, doesn’t go out shopping into the retail hellscapes or any of that. When I hang out with him, I am lulled into a false sense of “I could live in L.A.-itis.”  I realize, however, that I would probably take hostages if I had to be in that dystopia for more than a few days at a time. And yes, that’s the case even if it is a somewhat pleasant dystopia due to the weather and stuff.

26. Royals (26): I am not a man of faith, but I had a near-religious experience at Arthur Bryant’s once, so that has to count for something.

27. Marlins (18): I had a bad impression of Miami based on childhood vacations (see link above in the Rays entry), but Old Gator took me to a great Cuban restaurant when I was down there last year, and that helped a lot. I have this feeling that I’d have a much better appreciation of Macondo if I bunked at Gator’s place for a week or so.

28. Padres (25): My brother lives in San Diego. It’s positively lovely there. The only thing keeping me from putting it up with San Francisco on my “I’d live there in a hearbeat” list is that, well, my brother lives in San Diego.

29. Cubs (29): Yes, I drank Old Style at 10AM before a noonish start at Wrigley once. See that stuff above about Chicago being a way station for post-college life.

30. Astros (30): Never been to Houston. And not even the best Hayes Carll songs make me really want to change that.

A-Rod will be back on Fox for the playoffs

Alex Rodriguez
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Alex Rodriguez made for a shockingly good analyst during last year’s playoffs. He’s clear and concise and is able to criticize players without being a jackass. That’s key, as so many current and former players who spend time doing analysis seem loathe to call out a player despite the fact that that’s what they’re there for.

Fox obviously liked what they got out of A-Rod, because he’s coming back:

Now, if they can refrain from hiring Pete Rose and if TBS brings back A.J. Pierzynski, tuning in to the pregame and postgame shows may actually be worth your time this October.

Blame Baseball’s copycat behavior for its lack of diversity in the executive ranks

Rob Manfred
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Following on yesterday’s stuff about baseball’s marked lack of diversity in the executive ranks comes a Ken Rosenthal column which digs into it a bit.

I might observe that, while, Rosenthal is right on all of the facts, there is a whiff of pushback in the story. As if MLB folks were hearing the criticisms Murray Chass and others have leveled in recent days about the lack of women, minorities and other candidates who don’t fit the “30-something MBA from an Ivy League school” mold of so many of today’s top execs and wanted to get some points out there. The league’s search firm is examined and there is a bit of “well, here is an exception; and here are a few more . . .” to it. Which, hey, that’s fair. Like I said, Rosenthal has his facts right and treats the issue seriously.

I think Rosenthal’s best bit, however, is the point he hits on at the end, when he says “homogeneity is dangerous in any industry, particularly when bright people are excluded.” That’s probably the key word to think about when you think about baseball’s hiring practices. “Homegeneity.” Baseball has a distinct lack of women and minorities in key positions, but I don’t think it’s because baseball is maliciously racist or sexist. Rather, it’s because baseball is acutely prone to copycat behavior that breeds homogeneity.

Everything about baseball culture, from the first day of a player’s minor league career-on and from the first day an intern is hired to get coffee for an assistant general manager is about not being different. About not sticking out. About emulating successes. You may mess up or you may fail, but if you do it while going about your business the way other, successful people went about theirs, you’ll be way better off than if you did things differently or stuck out.

This is true of all industries to some degree, but it seems far more prevalent in baseball. It’s a smaller world with fewer opportunities than business at large. It’s a more conservative world in terms of temperament. It’s one where you’re far more likely to have a reporter ask you about why you did something than, say, the accounting industry. It makes people afraid to take chances and makes people far more likely to do what that last successful guy did than to go out on even the shortest of limbs.

Not that things don’t change. Indeed, today’s preference for 30-something MBAs is radically different than the old model of hiring some old “baseball man” to run baseball operations. But it only came to the fore after the sabermetric and analytical model forced its way into the conversation with success and/or efficiencies that were impossible for even the crustiest old baseball man to ignore. That said, it was a transformation that was so difficult and radical that it was literally turned into a book and a movie and led to a decade and a half of arguing. A philosophical change which may have been casually noted in another business and then quickly emulated played out like some sort of cultural civil war in baseball circles. Change came, yes, but it wasn’t easy.

But here we are again, with the old baseball men replaced by the “Moneyball” disciples, who have become the new normal. A normal which one deviates from at great risk in baseball’s conservative world. I don’t believe that baseball’s homogeneity in the executive ranks is a function of bad people who believe bad things making bad decisions. I think it’s about fear and conformity more than anything else. Now there is a fear that not hiring that Ivy League MBA is the radical and perilous move. And if that Ivy League MBA was one who worked under another Ivy League MBA with another, all the better. And the easier we can sell him to fans as “the next Theo Epstein,” well, the better. And it sure would be easier to do that if he looked like Theo Epstein! Comps are the lingua franca of old baseball scouts. They’re the lingua franca of baseball decision makers too.

Whatever the causes, the net effect of all of this is no different than if there were virulent racism and sexism in the hearts and minds of baseball’s decision makers. It’s the same rich white boys club that maliciousness and bigotry could’ve created, even if it was created via more benign means. If baseball’s leaders truly believe that diversity in their leadership ranks is important — and I believe them when they say they do — they need to attack the problem of its homogeneity in the same manner they would if there was something malicious afoot. They need to stop throwing up their hands and saying “well, that’s what clubs do” or “that’s what our search firm gave us” and make achieving diversity a goal with an action plan, not just a goal which is merely stated.