Derek Jeter smiling

You can own the dirt beneath Derek Jeter’s feet

29 Comments

In ancient times, some random sect of people might lay claim to the remains of a venerated hero as a part of hero cult.  Parts of their weapons or clothes, a lock of hair, earlobes, whatever.  This practice developed over the centuries and, like most ancient practices, was adopted and/or co-opted by organized religion, with stuff like Elisha’s bones and Paul’s handkerchief becoming holy relics.

Over time the relic game got pretty sophisticated, to the point where the Catholic Church classified them by orders of degree.  Some stuff — actual items associated with Christ or saints themselves — are first class relics.  Down the list you go to, I dunno, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

Baseball plays the relics game too, though we don’t call it that. We call it “memorabilia.” The idea is still the same, though: the preservation of an inanimate object that, in and of itself, has no value apart from the veneration of an intangible event or memory in tangible form. Jerseys. Autographs.  That kind of thing.

Baseball should have degrees of this too.  Do you own the bat that with which Babe Ruth hit home run number 60 in 1927? Heck, that’s like the bones of John the Baptist.  The jersey Pete Rose wore when he broke Ty Cobb’s record? That’s totally as good as a spoon once used by St. Whatshisface to eat the mush which have him strength to do whatever miracle it is that is ascribed to him.

Not sure where to put this, however, but I’m guessing it’s farther down the list:

Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit will be a cause for celebration, marketing and — not least of all — digging up dirt.

After the game, a groundskeeper will tote a shovel and bucket onto the field to scoop five gallons of dirt from the batter’s box and shortstop’s patch. In baseball’s version of preserving the chain of evidence, the bucket will be sealed with tape and verified as the dirt beneath Jeter’s feet with tamper-proof holograms …

… The dirt — from Yankee Stadium if all goes perfectly, but from some ballpark, perhaps Citi Field July 1 to 3 — will find its way into a vast and lucrative universe of celebrity memorabilia and collectibles, much of it orchestrated by a company named Steiner Sports. Tablespoonfuls of the dirt will be poured into capsules to dangle on key chains; ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage); and glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats.

People don’t realize this, but I have a time machine, and I was able to transcribe a conversation between some people who bought the Derek Jeter dirt in 2012:

Man #1: He has given us… His shoe!

Man #2: The shoe is the sign. Let us follow His example. Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise.

Man #1: No, no, no. The shoe is a sign that we must gather shoes together in abundance!

Woman: No, cast off the shoes! Follow the Gourd!  Follow the Gourd! The Holy Gourd of Jerusalem!

Man #2: No, hold up the sandal, as He has commanded us!

 

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
Getty Images
1 Comment

When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Getty Images
9 Comments

Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.