The Braves’ GM inadvertently explains baseball’s diversity problem in one tweet

85 Comments

There has been a lot of talk lately about baseball’s diversity problem. The front offices and top executive ranks are filled with likeminded people of a particular demographic: white men from affluent backgrounds from Ivy League schools.

This isn’t just liberal pinkos like me discussing it. Major League Baseball itself has cited diversity in its management ranks as a top priority. To its credit, the league itself believes this to be a problem. And a lot of effort, unfortunately fruitless so far, has been spent talking about how to fix it. I contend it has been fruitless because MLB is trying to fix a problem without appreciating its true cause.

Today, however, Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella explained why baseball’s front offices are a rich white boys club. He didn’t mean to, but he did so. And he did it quite succinctly. It only took him one tweet. It came in response to a question from someone asking for career advice for a recent college graduate with college baseball analytics and operations¬†experience:

“Don’t worry about the money,” because baseball’s entry level jobs pay horribly. That, in turn, forces away everyone who actually needs to make a living and pay for the expensive education baseball front office jobs demand these days. Which, in turn, leaves all of the entry-level baseball jobs for people who can afford to not worry about money. Rich kids who, demographically speaking, skew white.

I don’t believe that baseball teams discriminate when it comes to the¬†candidates they are considering. Their parsimonious compensation practices do it for them, preventing a ton of qualified candidates from even bothering to apply given that they’ll be expected to work for free or something close to it for a long, long time.

Baseball is a private business and it can pay its entry level employees whatever it wants to, of course. But if they do, they shouldn’t scratch their head about why they have such a diversity problem. One of their top people just explained it in fewer than 140 characters.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.