UPDATE: It seems that the Braves may, possibly, be considering a change.
9:26 AM: Inspired by their atrotious new batting practice caps, Ryan Hill has a take on the Atlanta Braves and their regrettable use of American Indian iconography and how one reconciles being a Braves fan with the existence of that garbage.
My short answer is basically the same as his: it’s horrible and I hate it, but I’m here for the baseball, not to buy in to some cult of fandom which requires me to approve of these things. Nevertheless, if that bp cap is a harbinger of things to come and Liberty Media is making a conscious effort to reemphasize the screaming Indian and other such things, I’m going to have to question my level support for the team.
Hill’s larger point, which applies to not just the Braves, but the Indians, Redskins and any other team which chooses to portray Indians as savages and caricatures, is spot-on:
The more that American Indians and First Nations people are seen as cartoons and caricatures of the past, the less they are likely to be seen as people that exist today, who continue to make contributions to human culture, and who continue to be denied many of the basic rights and respect afforded to others … There was a time when professional baseball moved ahead of society, defying Jim Crow and racially integrating the sport. Today, even with all the formal tributes to its Civil Rights legacy, baseball lags behind by condoning American Indian mascots.
I’ll acknowledge that getting rid of Chief Wahoo will be hard because it’s been around for a long time and is still actively being used by the Indians. There is no excuse for the Braves and the screaming Indian, however. He has been dead for some time and there is no reason why the Braves and Major League Baseball can’t put a stop to that new cap before a single one is sold. It’s the right thing to do and I’d hope they’d know it.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.