Hey look, it’s the inevitable “is Josh Hamilton getting off easy because he’s white?” column!

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I was surprised we didn’t see this within a couple of days of the Josh Hamilton story breaking, but I’m glad it’s here all the same. Not because I think it’s worth a damn — it’s not! — but because no story about a scandal involving an athlete feels complete without it.

Take it away Mac Engel who, after noting that Josh Hamilton isn’t having effigies of him burned in the streets says …:

Now the tricky part—would you feel the same way if Josh Hamilton was not a white dude?

Would Josh Hamilton have been asked, let alone agreed, to make his first TV interview since his now famous relapse on Glenn Beck TV—as he did on Wednesday afternoon—if he weren’t white?

The race card may be an easy out for a column, but here we sit in the middle of Black History Month and there is no better time to ask an uncomfortable question: Does Josh Hamilton inspire, generate sympathy and are people largely accepting and supportive simply because of the color of his skin, and to heck with the content of his character?

It’s a tired argument because it assumes all manner of things about the nature of punishment. There’s actual punishment, of which he should receive none because, no matter what his past is, it’s not illegal for him to have had some beers.

There’s also public opinion punishment, which I don’t think anyone can have a firm grasp on, in terms of either its nature among those who hold it or the person whose opinion is being opined upon. At least not now.  And of course there are the feelings of the person in question. Maybe Hamilton is going through hell and we just don’t know about it nor can we, be he black or white.

But I do know this much: Josh Hamilton’s manager, Ron Washington — who, as you probably know, is black — tested positive for cocaine a couple of years ago.  And he kept his job. And got no small amount of support from everyone with the Rangers and in the baseball community at large. He then won awards, pennants and got a contract extension.

Why? Because (a) he’s a good man who people like; (b) he was contrite and vowed to do better in the future; and (c) he did, in fact, do better and validated everyone who cut him some slack.

So, call me crazy, but yes, I think that Josh Hamilton — who is also someone who is well-liked and has shown contrition and has promised to do better — would likely get the same shake if he were black.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.