Melky Cabrera

Oh my stars and garters, what if an All-Star tests positive for drugs!

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That’s the short version of Bob Nightengale’s latest column in which he reminds us how the Republic ended last year when Melky Cabrera won the All-Star Game MVP award before his drug suspension. And how, thanks to Biogenesis looming over everything, it could happen again.

Nightengale’s concern here is at about a 20 on a ten point scale, referring to Cabrera’s MVP award as “a punch line for an otherwise glorious season.” I think it’s stretching it to even call it a footnote, but if Nightengale wants to say it turned 2012 into a joke he’s welcome to his opinion. Fact is every player in the All-Star Game is tested for drugs at some point every year. It’s quite possible that any player — not just four random ones currently in the news — could be suspended for drugs at any time. That’s a feature of the system, not a bug. If that feature is something which ruins seasons for him he probably needs to find another line of work, because it’s going to happen again. That’s how it works when you test players for drugs.

I don’t think Nightengale really thinks that, though. I think that, rather, he’s playing the Melky/All-Star Game angle up because it allows him to mix in (a) a Manny Ramirez digression that has zero to do with the All-Star Game or, beyond the yuks of it all, baseball relevance in 2013; and (b) extended quotes from Don Hooton of the Taylor Hooton foundation about the evils of steroids, all in the service of writing a large, point-free “steroids are bad, mmkay” ramble.

The Hooton stuff makes me sad. Taylor Hooton, in case you were unaware, was a high school baseball player who committed suicide several years ago. He was also taking steroids at the time and his parents have decided that the steroids caused his suicide. He also happened to have suffered from low self-esteem and was taking an anti-depressant (Lexapro) which has been linked to an increased risk of suicide, but that part is usually left out. The Hootons — and most baseball writers — have determined that the suicide was caused by the steroids alone and they are widely quoted on the matter whenever PEDs in baseball returns to the news.

When one sees a quote from Mr. Hooton in these stories one’s heart can’t help but go out to him and the tragedy which befell his son and his family. One can’t escape the fact, however, that Mr. Hooton’s experience and views on the matter, however tragic, are wholly irrelevant to Major League Baseball, its drug testing program and the All-Star Game. Even if you accept Don Hooton’s explanation for the cause of his son’s suicide, Taylor Hooton was a teenager playing high school sports, facing wholly different sorts of pressures and incentives than professional athletes do. His foundation is the recipient of funds and support from Major League Baseball, but he not part of baseball’s drug enforcement regime.  As such, when Mr. Hooton opines on the All-Star Game and Manny Ramirez and suggests that baseball’s collectively-bargained PEDs penalties are insufficient, one struggles to find a point.

But hey: if the column gets one more person emotionally agitated over PEDs in baseball, mission accomplished, right?

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.