Even if we are taking the annual Lapchick study with a grain of salt due to its failure to use common denominators, Major League Baseball takes the underlying issue of the decline of U.S.-born blacks in baseball seriously enough that it’s doing something about it:
Major League Baseball has created a task force to study why the number of African-Americans playing the sport has declined in recent years, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The 17-member committee, which will be chaired by Tigers president/GM Dave Dombrowski, will hold its first meeting in Milwaukee on Wednesday. He’ll be joined by several other baseball executives, plus Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir; Frank Marcos, senior director of baseball’s scouting bureau; and former White Sox and Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
I wish baseball hadn’t made a mockery of task forces and studies with that whole Oakland thing, because I would like to think that this would lead to some actual useful and actionable information. Here’s hoping it does, because it would tickle me pink if baseball could figure out how to get more kids to put down the footballs and basketballs and pick up a bat and a glove.
The answer, at least in part, is probably money and engagement by people and organizations with money. Because we have to face facts that baseball is not a cheap sport to play on the amateur level, what with its single-use fields, travel and equipment requirements. I know there are urban initiatives afoot by the league, but in addition to that I’d like to see something less charitable/community-involvement-oriented and something of something that is more ruthlessly talent-development-orients. A system in which teams try to identify and support young baseball talent in the U.S. with an idea toward making them major league ballplayers. The draft disincentivizes this, sadly, but perhaps there’s a workaround or league-wide solution.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.