La Russa Phone

Should phone companies sponsor the bullpen phones?

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Did you know that the Chinese word for “crisis” is the same as that for “opportunity.”  Ha! Just kidding! That’s not true at all!  But it makes people feel better, so why not let ’em go with it?  And besides, it’s not like there isn’t some truth to it. When bad things happen it gives you an opportunity — hell, sometimes an engraved invitation — to reflect and see if things could be done a better way.

Or at least a more lucrative way.  CNBC’s Darren Rovell is good at thinking along those lines and thinks out loud today about how Tony La Russa’s ill bullpen phone communication could be spun into an opportunity for Major League Baseball and some lucky sponsor:

Major League Baseball has 16 official sponsors, and surprise, surprise, not one of them has anything to do with phones … Imagine LaRussa picking up a smart phone with a huge logo on it or going into a booth built in each dugout with the company’s logo on it to text on it. As part of the deal, that company would get a media buy included that would assure that the TV networks would show the managers making the call.

Always look on the green side of life, I suppose.  But I do wonder: what happens if last night’s event took place — a bullpen coach misunderstands the manager’s instructions — but this time there’s a giant “Verizon” or “Sprint” logo on the side? Isn’t that, you know, bad marketing?  I don’t think phone companies run negative ads against each other anymore, but if they did, a dropped call or garbled communication would basically write one itself.

I floated the idea on Twitter earlier and people told me that no one blinks when the headsets — sponsor-supplied equipment! — go down during NFL games, so maybe I’m just being paranoid.  Or maybe I’m just looking for any excuse to avoid having commercialism and corporate sponsorship intrude any further into the game than it already has.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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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)
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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.