Tigers broadcaster Rod Allen apologizes to the little people

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I don’t get the sense that Tigers’ broadcaster Rod Allen is a bad guy. I think he’s a lot like someone’s father or grandfather who just really isn’t all that plugged in with the sensibilities of modern public discourse. Which, because he’s a broadcaster and not, like someone’s grandfather, simply some guy who talks with the fellas at the coffee shop, gets him in trouble from time to time.

Back in July he got into some trouble after saying that some Hispanic players’ reward for good play was going to be “rice and beans” in the clubhouse.  I never got the slightest sense that he was being racist about anything, it just was something that was not artfully put. He apologized.

Last night it happened again.  As he was talking about how Buffalo was his favorite minor league city, he noted some of the fun promotions and entertainments that went down there:

“The atmosphere at the ballpark was second-to-none. They had people at the concession stands that were dancing on top of the dugouts. They had some midgets around, they had some giants around.”

While not exactly at the forefront of the politics of minority discourse, it has been the case for some time that the term “midgets” is considered derogatory and that those who once were referred to as such prefer to be called “little people.”

Someone obviously told this to Allen during a break because he came back and apologized for using the term. I think it’s pretty clear that it was just something he wasn’t aware of — I’m sure a lot of people aren’t aware of it — and his apology sounded 100% genuine. This is firmly in the “hey, it happens” category and no one should hold any ill will toward Allen about it going forward.

But I note it anyway, not in an “OMG, look what Allen said!” kind of way, but because I think that there’s a useful takeaway here.  That takeaway is that, though many people will likely say that this is no big deal and turn this into some “political correctness run amok” debate, I think people should have a right to be called what they wish to be called.  If the people who were once referred to as midgets want to be little people, they’re little people. A group’s self-identity should be an inviolate right.

Of course there are two sides to that, and the other side is the dissemination of that public identity. I’m sure that Allen had no idea that little people prefer to be known as little people before last night. But he does now. As do the people who read this.  If you don’t know and you use some out-of-favor term, hey, no biggie.  But if you do know and you continue to use the out-of-favor term, you’re just being an ass, ya know?

Apologies to asses, however, if they prefer to be called something else. If you tell me what the term is, I’ll start using it.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.