To coincide with the gay marriage cases being argued before the Supreme Court yesterday and today, USA Today features a discussion among several athletes about when various sports, particularly baseball, will have openly gay active players and how accepting their colleagues will be. It’s an interesting enough piece and follows more or less the contours of previous discussions on the matter.
My thinking, though, informed by some reader comments a couple of years ago and which makes total sense once you think about it: baseball’s first openly-gay player isn’t going to be an active major leaguer who comes out in the middle of his playing career. Rather, it’s going to be a high school phenom with a can’t-miss baseball pedigree who is openly gay at age 17 or something because high school kids these days have way fewer hangups about this stuff than people my age do.
It’ll be a story around draft time. Then, every year when he comes to spring training or reaches the next level of the minors someone will write a rehash column about him. By the time he makes the bigs it will be old news. The entire time his quotes will be polite versions of “whatever, it’s just how it is” as though you were asking any other baseball player about hunting in the offseason.
It’ll be great because it will deflate all of the “Wow, this is big!” hype from people who grew up in and were conditioned by the culture wars to think that someone will have to break through a barrier of bigots in order to be a gay major leaguer. Instead, it will just be a thing that no one the player’s age thinks is all that controversial, and something which the bigots in the player’s midst — due to how quickly attitudes about homosexuality are changing in our culture — will be afraid to make a big deal out of because to do so will almost universally be seen as shameful. If there is blowback from a teammate it will be handled in the same way as if a player today complained about sharing a clubhouse with black or Latino players: he’d be disciplined and/or cast out, not because he’s a bigot as such, but because he’s a crappy teammate and a jerk.
At least that’s my hope. A hope buoyed by what has been an encouraging and quite extraordinary evolution in the discourse about such matters in the just the past few years. An evolution that will create a state of affairs which will make it quite difficult for me to explain to my perplexed children why, when I was younger, people gave a crap about who people loved.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.