Great Moments in Sexism: Who’s your “Baseball Boyfriend?”

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Not everyone plays fantasy baseball. There are a lot of reasons for that. I don’t play because I have a short attention span and I kind of suck at it. Others don’t play because they don’t have the time. Still others because, shocker, they just don’t like it.

But a company called  A View From My Seat — “In cooperation with CBS Sports Interactive” according to their website — has decided that the reason women don’t play fantasy baseball is because there isn’t enough romance in it. So they’ve decided to change that. By allowing girls — and they specifically say “girls” — to choose their “Baseball Boyfriend”:

Baseball Boyfriend is a single draftee, fantasy baseball, mini game designed for those who love baseball players. Pick your first BBBF at the beginning of the 2012 Baseball Season. Every time your boyfriend plays, you accumulate points based on his stats for the day. If he can’t perform, dump him. Then pick up a new BBBF. The one with the most points at the end of the season wins.

The website asks “girls” to go through their “little black book” and pick the handsomest player. Oh, I’m sorry, it asks you to “choose your stud.”  How long have you kept a player on your roster? No: it’s “how long you’ve dated him.”  If “one man is not enough” it encourages you to play in multiple leagues. The pics from the site have little hearts and stuff around pictures of, um, handsome players like Lance Berkman and Matt Cain.

I think it’s enough of a criticism to say that this game is stupid, if for no other reason than, as of this writing, it spells the word “triples” with two ps.  But it’s far more execrable for its crass sexism.

Guess what: women like baseball. They watch a lot of it. They write about it. They are, increasingly, executives in the game. Every fantasy league I’ve ever played in has had women in it, and they invariably beat the crap out of me (not that that’s hard). Are the numbers where we’d like them? No, because ideally everyone on the planet is doing basebally things. But the disparity between male and female fans is not because baseball is too hard for “girls” to understand or two manly for them to enjoy.

I get what they’re trying to do here. They want to expand the number of people who click where they’d like them to click and are trying a unique approach to get there. But there are certainly better ways to do so than by misguidedly attempting to girly-fy fantasy baseball or to dumb it down. Women do not need to be treated like love-struck teenagers to be drawn in.

But A View From My Seat and CBS Sports — which is hosting the app on its fantasy site — have regrettably chosen to take that route. And in doing so, they have insulted the intelligence and dignity of just about everyone who has either of those things.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.