Craig Calcaterra

David Denson
MLB

Six months after coming out, David Denson has received total support from the Brewers

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Last August David Denson, a first baseman and corner outfielder in the Brewers organization became the first openly gay player in MLB-affiliated ball. Yesterday Scott Miller of Bleacher Report wrote a story catching up with Denson. It’s a good read.*

The best part: Denson has received total acceptance from the Brewers, his friends and his teammates. It’s a story which illustrates just how people feel about those who are different from them when they actually, you know, know someone who is different than them as opposed to when thinking about those differences only in the abstract. I’d assume that some ballplayers, in their heart of hearts, are wary of having a gay teammate. But once they actually have a gay teammate it seems obvious that it’s not an issue for anyone. It shows that there are about a zillion more important things that go into a relationship with teammate than his sexual orientation.

The only regrettable note in the story is that Denson’s relationship with his father has apparently been complicated since he came out. It has to do with his father’s religious beliefs and it’s explained pretty fairly in the article. It was notable to me, however, that then-Brewers GM Doug Melvin personally reached out to Denson’s father to assure him that the Denson’s career would in no way be negatively impacted due to his coming out. Which may not have ever been a thought that crossed the Brewers’ collective mind but which Melvin worried was something that Denson’s father was himself worried about. I think that it speaks volumes about Melvin’s thoughtfulness and empathy for both both Denson and his father, who obviously see the world differently, that he made that effort.

There’s no telling if Denson’s baseball career will go as far as he wants it to, but if he doesn’t end up reaching the majors it’s good to know that it won’t be because his club and his teammates aren’t accepting of him.

UPDATE: The original version of this article linked to the New York Daily News. It seems, however, that the Daily News’ story was based primarily upon Miller’s story in Bleacher Report, using its quotes and building around it and I had missed that on first read. While we here at HBT are obviously not averse to aggregation — and while the Daily News did link to and credit the Bleacher Report story — we prefer to post links to original reporting. Especially when, as is the case with Miller’s story, that reporting is much more substantial. Apologies to Bleacher Report and Miller for not paying closer attention to this earlier. 

The Brewers will hold a Hank the Dog Conspiracy Theory press conference tomorrow

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Last week we linked to a compelling and gripping story about a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of the . . . well, not the government or anything, but the Milwaukee Brewers. Which is basically the same thing.

The theory: that their beloved unofficial mascot Hank the Dog, who wandered as a stray into their spring training complex in Phoenix two years ago and quickly won the hearts of Brewers fans everywhere, has been replaced. Maybe he’s even dead! It’s not clear, but the Brew Crew Ball blog gave us all of the information that it could find on this sinister (alleged) plot and vowed to get to the bottom of it even if it meant their deaths.

Well, maybe not that far, but they were totally going to get to the bottom of it.

Now, under the intense pressure that only the most intrepid and committed stay-at-home baseball bloggers can bring to bear, the Brewers have cracked:

If this goes like most conspiracies go everyone in a position to know The Truth about all of this will be dead or disappeared by morning. But we have to give credit to the Brewers for at least going through the motions here, right? Maybe we’ll actually get some answers tomorrow.

Until then, we’ll be contending with people who think this is all nonsense and that having fun with such things is beneath them:

In other news, that reporter’s own newspaper has a dedicated URL page in which its numerous Hank the Dog stories are stored. Maybe only credentialed members of the Serious Sporting Press are allowed to have fun with stray dogs that turn into mascots. Maybe there’s an unwritten rule of baseball I’m missing which states that it’s impermissible to have some harmless fun at the outset of a season in which your team is probably gonna lose 96 games. Who knows?

In any event, we will update you once the Brewers come clean and admit that Hank has been kidnapped by nihilists or that he had to go back to his home planet which needs him or that the Trilateral Commission, in conjunction with the Reverse Vampires, have actually just induced a mass hallucination on us all via water fluoridation or what have you.

Not every infielder is pleased about the new slide rules

Chase Utley
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Major League Baseball recently announced new rules about sliding into second base and efforts to break up double plays. The so-called Chase Utley Rule, in honor of Dodgers infielder Chase Utley who broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg sliding into second base in last year’s playoffs, mandates that the runner slide prior to reaching the base, that he be able to reach the base, that he be able to stay on the base and that the runner does not change his path to the base.

Obviously the reason for the rule is to cut down on injuries to infielders and no one disagrees with that being a laudable goal. Ballplayers are creatures of habit, however, and some of them are a bit wary of the new rules. And not just base runners who may be uncertain as to what is and what is not permissible. Some infielders are as well. Like Skip Schumaker of the Padres, who tells Dennis Lin of the Union-Tribune that the new rules take away some of the craft and wisdom of the middle infielder arts.

He talks about how, after coming into the bigs, you learn over time which runners come in hard, which don’t and how they tend to operate. It’s hard to tell when reading it rather than hearing him speak, but you can almost sense a bit of fondness in his voice for the badass double play breakers. Even for Chase Utley, who he mentions as someone you always had to look out for. It’s understandable. Anyone who learns a craft has a certain fondness for even the hard parts of that craft, so I totally get it when someone is a bit wistful about no longer being able to exercise part of their craft.

Part of his comments do sort of miss the point, however:

“I love how Chase Utley plays,” Schumaker said. “You don’t go in with the intent with the hurting anybody; that wasn’t Chase’s intent. Chase’s intent was to extend the inning, which he did, and they scored a run, in playoff baseball. What guy wouldn’t want a Chase Utley on your team doing that for you? You don’t want Ruben to get hurt. That’s never the intent when you’re going in. You’re going in to break up the play. I see what Chase was doing,” Schumaker added. “I’ve been at second base, and Chase has done it to me, so I get it. You know how hard he plays, and you respect it, and you try to get the heck out of the way.”

You hear things like this from ballplayers every time there’s a new rule or some new safety measure. No one intends to hurt the catcher on a play at the plate. No one intends to injure a batter when brushing him back or plunking him on the backside. The thing is, though, that intent has little to do with it. Just as we have laws to punish or prevent someone from intentionally harming another, we have laws which are aimed at punishing conduct which may do so via recklessness or negligence. It’s about addressing risks that are too great regardless of what one intends and acknowledging that, in many situations, one’s intent and one’s actions do not correspond. That one cannot control all possible outcomes once one sets events in motion.

Keep that in mind as you follow the baseball season. Especially with beanball and plunking controversies when, as is so often the case, you hear a day’s worth of argument from fans, players, managers and commentators about what a pitcher intended or didn’t intend to do. It’s basically irrelevant but it comprises about 95% of the talk.