This is not about baseball, it’s about football actually. But it’s a topic we’ve discussed here many times over the years, so it’s fair game: Deadspin has thrown the scouting reports on nearly 400 players in this year’s NFL Draft into a database and you can now search it to see how often any given word or phrase is used to describe black players vs. white players.
Even now, after years and years of people recognizing the subtle, often unwitting racial judgments that weigh on certain descriptors — white players are “hard workers,” black players are “gifted,” white players are “intelligent,” black players have “instincts” — there is still a pretty marked difference in how players of different races are described in 2014, showing you that cliches and attitudes about race die extremely hard.
Here are some of my sample searches. Remember: there were substantially more scouting reports in the system for black players than white players and thus many more words written about them. The results on top of the graphs normalize it out as occurrences per 10,000 words:
I will give some kudos to the scouts for using “scrappy” more often with black players than white players. Let’s hear it for our bold new colorblind era!
Seriously, though, this is kinda nuts in this day and age. Just imagine what older scouting reports — like all of those that are archived about baseball players going back 30 or 40 years — would look like if given this treatment. These days scouts know enough to not use the term “articulate” to describe a black person they find to be charming, but I wonder how often that noise popped up in 1975 or whenever.
Anyway, kudos to Deadspin for putting this together and letting us all run our own searches. And a hearty “buzz-off” to those people who think that old racial attitudes totally died off and disappeared when the Civil Rights Act was passed.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.