Multiple sources are reporting that the Cubs have signed Matt Murton to a minor league deal.
Remember Matt Murton? It’s understandable if U.S. fans had forgotten about him. He was the Red Sox’ first round pick from 2003. In 2004 he was part of the epic Nomar Garciaparra trade, sending him and Nomar to the Cubs, sending Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz to the Reds and about million other guys in a million other directions. There was an Alex Gonzalez in that trade too (Which one? Does it matter?). The Montreal freakin’ Expos were involved as well. In a transaction involving a player signed in 2016!
Murton had a nice half a season in Chicago in 2005 but then sort of floundered, eventually doing time in Oakland and Colorado. But after the 2009 season he went to Japan and has been playing there ever since, all of it with the Hanshin Tigers. And he’s played really well there too. In 2010 he broke Ichiro’s single season hits record with 214 in a year in which he put up a line of .349/.395/.499. Over the course of his six seasons his line is .310/.352/.437. He fell off last season, however, posting a .691 OPS and seeing his OBP fall to .316. It’s unclear if he had injuries (NPB people: any help on this?) or if, at age 33, his bat just slowed down.
He’s 34 now and, even if 2015 was the sign of a decline for Murton, he’s totally worth a flier on a minor league deal in the interests of organizational depth. And, if nothing else, the Cubs can say they have a guy who was once traded for a Montreal Expos player, which seems so dang weird.
The Mets had previously announced that they would be wearing 1986 throwback uniforms as part of the 30th anniversary of their last World Series win at various times this season. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports today, however, that they’ll actually be wearing those duds a lot, not just during the actual festivities honoring the 1986 club.
The 1986 club wore a 25th anniversary patch in honor of the club’s debut by the way. I wonder if the throwbacks will have it too and if it’ll still say 25 years or if it’ll be 55 years. This brings up “Inception-style” concerns and maybe creates some sort of time travel paradox situaish. It also brings up the question about whether this is really the 55th anniversary of the 1962 Mets because it’s their 55th season or whether it’s really the 54th because 1962 was 54 years ago. Anniversaries are the toughest things under the best of circumstances. When you have inclusive/exclusive counting procedures floating around and the specter of “annual” and such in the background, it just becomes complicated.
What I’m saying is, this is all dangerous.
Aesthetically? Well, I think it’s pretty OK. I think the Mets’ classic duds and their non-alternate uniforms now look the best, but 1986 is a justifiably huge year in the team’s history, their 1980s doubleknits were far less offensive than a lot of other teams’ and a huge number of fans identify with that look, so mazel tov.
David Laurila of FanGraphs asked a bunch of major leaguers a really good question: which current players do they think would be or could be future managers?
Laurila asked 20 players and/or managers and they listed 31 different players. Many named a handful. A few — A.J. Ellis and Dustin Pedroia — were listed by multiple respondents. David Ross was named, like, a gabillion times.
The most striking thing about the list: the overwhelming majority of the potential candidates are white guys. A ton of them catchers. The non-white/U.S. players mentioned: Adrian Beltre, Alex Cora, Jose Molina, Henry Blanco, Melky Cabrera (?!) and Russell Martin, who is mixed-race.
Which isn’t to say that anyone here is racist or prejudiced or anything of the sort. The guys the interviewees listed, I am certain, were just those they know well or know well enough to weigh in on their qualifications as managers. Indeed, it’s worth noting here that, with only a couple of exceptions, those asked the question were white too. Given how clubhouses and baseball friendships often break down along racial and ethnic lines themselves, the fact that they named guys like themselves is not shocking or malevolent or anything of the sort. If the 20 interviewees were Latino or black, I’m sure the breakdown would be somewhat different too. If you were asked to name the three people you’d be most likely to ask drive you to the airport, your answers would likely be people of your own race as well. That’s just how informal relationships tend to go in our society.
It’s still nonetheless telling, because a lot of baseball hirings are made on the basis of personal relationships and familiarity too. Front office people hiring people they know best. The ones with whom they are the most familiar and about whom they are least uncertain on some personal level. But then you remember that front offices themselves are overwhelmingly white. And then you remember that almost every single manager in the game is white too, and you start to realize that it’s not really an accident.
Again, given how so many baseball relationships break down along racial and ethnic lines themselves, it’s not shocking or malevolent or anything. But it’s certainly illustrative of how a certain historical selection of people in power can lead to a perpetuation of similar people being in power, even with the most benign of current intentions. And that, in turn, speaks to how important it is for Major League Baseball to increase diversity up and down organizations so that these patterns will not be perpetuated rather than relying on empty and toothless proclamations like “The Selig Rule” and the like.