Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today spoke at length with Adam Jones about Colin Kaepernick’s continuing practice of not standing for the National Anthem in protest of racism and injustice in America. A protest which has spread to several other football teams in the past week or two.
It has not spread to baseball, however, and Jones talks about why that is. His comments on that, including the quote “baseball is a white man’s sport” will likely get all of the play as this story spreads and will likely be taken out of context, but that quote is something of an aside which, however sensationalized it may become, is secondary to his larger points, even if they’re worth discussion in their own right.
His most on-point comments, in my view anyway, are right here, made in the course of dismissing those people who claim that Kaepernick is disrespecting the military or the country:
“Look, I know a lot of people who don’t even know the words to the national anthem. You know how many times I see people stand up for the national anthem and not pay attention. They stand because they’re told to stand.
“That’s the problem. Just don’t do something because you’re told to do something. Do it because you understand the meaning behind it and the sacrifice behind it.’’
As many have argued in Kaepernick’s defense, demanding that someone not protest the way he sees fit is the very definition of not understanding the meaning behind the anthem and the sacrifice behind it.
Jones goes on to talk about how it’s somehow controversial when an athlete — especially a black athlete — makes political or social comments and stands while anyone else with a voice and an audience can say whatever they want with impunity. He’s spot-on there too. We want athletes to “stick to sports” in ways we’d never dare ask anyone else to stick to certain narrow topics or concerns. It’s totally messed up.
Jones is given a lot of room in Nightengale’s article to talk about these matters and the entirety of his comments are worth your time. Pay special attention to the final quote.
The playoffs might be very interesting this year for reasons that have nothing to do with the game on the field.
Calendar years are an artificial construct, as are decades and centuries and the base-ten system that makes years with 0s and 5s on the end of them seem significant for that matter.
But they’re significant to enough people that it will be interesting, and maybe even a little sad, when the last player who appeared in a major league game before the year 2000* retires. With A.J. Pierzynski kinda sorta probably retiring over the weekend, we lost another pre-2K guy. He debuted on September 9, 1998. With him gone, only five players who debuted before the temporal odometer flipped still roam the big leagues:
- David Ortiz (debuted September 2, 1997): You may have heard that he’s retiring after the season and that, if people think of it, they may hold some sort of farewell festivities for him. Working to confirm.
- Joe Nathan (debuted April 21, 1999): He just made it in under the wire this year, missing most of it while recovering from even more surgery. He’s pitched in six games — three each for the Cubs and Giants — and hasn’t allowed any earned runs, even if he hasn’t impressed anyone all that much. He hasn’t talked about his plans for 2017, but it’d be easy to see him either hanging it up or latching on someplace next spring.
- Adrian Beltre (debuted June 24, 1998): All he’s doing is chugging along with fantastic numbers — .299/.358/.516 29 HR, 96 RBI — while remaining healthy and reliable at third base and serving as the unquestioned team leader of the club with the best record in the American League. He may play forever. The most hilarious thing about this is that if you ask casual baseball fans if Beltre is a Hall of Famer they’ll probably say no because there ain’t no one more overlooked and underrated than Beltre.
- Carlos Beltran (debuted September 14, 1998): Unless of course Beltran is the most underrated. Hard to say. He should be a Hall of Famer too. He’s hitting about the same as Beltre on the year — .298/.340/.520, 27 HR, 86 RBI — so he’ll almost certainly be back in 2017 as well.
- Bartolo Colon (debuted April 4, 1997): When you’re built like someone’s 50-something-year-old uncle by the time you hit your 30s you become the butt of a lot of jokes. But I also wonder if you likewise level out to some more sustainable level of “fitness” that guys who get bigger in their late 30s can’t. Like you can handle it better if you get big while you’re still young. I dunno. All I know is that as long as Colon keeps pumping strikes like he has for the Mets this year — he’s 13-7 with a 3.27 ERA while walking only 30 guys in 30 appearances — he’ll always have a job. He’ll be back next year and the world will be better for it.
Buddy Carlyle (debuted August 29, 1999) has not appeared in the bigs or the minors this year but I could not find a formal retirement announcement for him. He was hemming and hawing about it when the Mets released him back in March. I presume he’s done, but you never know with relievers. Everyone else on the list that friend-of-HBT Jason Lukehart complied to this effect last year has bid baseball adieu.
Who do you think the last one will be? My head says Beltre, but my heart says Bartolo. Maybe those two and Beltran should all leave the game together, holding hands in a little circle or something.
Note: yes, I realize no one says “the year 2000” anymore, but I did for the first 25 years or so of my life and that Conan bit was always fantastic. Also: given how often people get pedantically crucified every time they use “the 20th century” to refer to years beginning with “19–” rather than noting that, technically, 2000 was the last year of the 20th century, I feel like I deserve some kudos for not calling this post “We’re down to five players who debuted in the 20th century.”
A weird scene unfolded in Atlanta on Saturday night. A.J. Pierzynski, the Braves’ 39-year-old catcher, hit a single in the 10th inning of the their win over the Mets, putting what would be the winning run on third base. Afterward, he hugged his teammates, passed out cigars, got the Gatorade shower treatment and had the ball he hit authenticated by the MLB authentication folks. He also happened to have his family, who he flew up from Florida, in attendance to watch a rare start from the now-third string Braves catcher.
Did A.J. Pierzynski retire?
Not technically. Not yet anyway. As Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports, the Braves placed him on the disabled list yesterday. As Bowman further notes, doing so when the rosters are expanded in September is rather pointless. And that’s before you acknowledge that Pierzynski didn’t obviously injure himself or anything.
It’s a good bet that Pierzynski is going to retire after the season, but my gut feeling is that this is a bit of roster manipulation, however benign, that allows Pierzynski to finish out the season while still collecting a paycheck but while likewise still being able to be away from the team and back home with his family — who live close to the Braves’ training facility in Orlando where a DL’d player would go — without it being a problem. And while avoiding the ignominy of a release.
If that’s what is going on it’s a pretty nice gesture from the Braves who, despite Pierzynski’s reputation as a somewhat difficult guy and somewhat disruptive force over the years, has been a welcome part of the club for the past two years. He hit quite well last year, and has been a good clubhouse presence, a mentor and much-needed source of levity for the Braves over two difficult seasons when leadership and levity has been hard to find in Atlanta.
It’s not too sad if this is it for him as a player, though. He’s been fantastic as a TV analyst in the postseason the past couple of years. I suspect that the stuff that made him a difficult presence in the earlier part of his career — talking frankly and at times critically to ballplayers who are used to all manner of courtesy and complicated rituals of respect — is what makes him a good analyst. Not sugarcoating things and talking about players less-than-diplomatically may make it harder to be a good teammate, but it’s good stuff for TV. He should have a successful broadcasting career ahead of him if he wants it.
Happy trails, A.J.