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Does the Giants’ lack of in-house Latin players impact clubhouse chemistry?

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Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News has a story about the San Francisco Giants’ minor league woes. All of their affiliates are in last place at the moment and few if any of their prospects are advancing as quickly as the club would like to see.

One of the issues Baggarly identifies is the Giants’ poor track record in developing international talent, noting that no Giants player from a Latin American country who was originally signed by the Giants has played for the big league club this year (one, Reyes Moronta, spent one day on the 25-man roster but did not play). All of the others were acquired via trade or free agency.

Baggarly suggests that the relatively small number of Latin players on the Giants roster, and the fact that none of them came up through the Giants system together, may be impacting the Giants clubhouse. Here he calls back to a Johnny Cueto quote from April:

“When I was with Kansas City, it was a team, I think, it was a very happy bunch because we had a lot of players from the Dominican,” Cueto said through Spanish interpreter Erwin Higueros in April. “The same with Cincinnati. But here, it’s different. As Latins, we like to get together kind of loud, and be a happy bunch. But here, you look around and everyone is on their own, just sitting at their locker, very quiet, just by themselves. That’s just how they are.”

I had missed that quote when it first came up in April. It seems tangential at best to Baggarly’s thesis about the Giants’ developmental issues, but I find it interesting to consider all the same in light of the Giants sitting in last place.

On one level, obviously, it comes off as a negative comment. After all, when a player says that one club he played for felt like “a team” and that current club feels like something different, that has to be taken as a negative, yes? To Cueto, the Giants, don’t feel like a team and that’s never something good to hear from a ballplayer.

Still, it’s worth noting that the quote came from a couple of months ago. At the time Cueto said that, the season was young, the Giants were expected to be pretty good and, as such, it could be taken as a mostly neutral observation, not some comment about why the Giants aren’t playing well. Indeed, if the Giants were in first place now it could be seen, perhaps, as almost a compliment. “The Giants are a serious, business-minded bunch who let their playing do the talking!”

But here it is, reappearing now, when the Giants stink, both at the big league level and in the minors, and it is clearly being offered as a potential reason for why they stink. A lack of Latin players perhaps harming their on-field talent, sure, but also harming clubhouse chemistry and making AT&T Park a dreary place to be.

I don’t have a view about the Giants talent base or their clubhouse chemistry as I was only in it for, like, an hour back in Scottsdale in March. But I do find it interesting how player comments can, depending on what is going on with the club on the field at any given time, be seen in many different ways. And how, as always, the conversation about clubhouse chemistry is so often a backwards-looking thing.

Sheldon Ocker named winner of the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award

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The Baseball Writers Association of America has named Sheldon Ocker the winner of the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. He will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown on July 29.

Ocker began covering the Indians for the Akron Beacon Journal in 1981 and did so until 2013, when he retired. He was national president of the BBWAA in 1985 and served as chair of the Cleveland Chapter 11 times. He named Ohio Sports Writer of the Year in 1997 and 2000 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.