Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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The Mariners suspend Steve Clevenger without pay for the rest of the season

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Last night the Mariners issued a statement condemning catcher Steve Clevenger‘s comments on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests in Charlotte, North Carolina. Today they went further: they just suspended Clevenger for the remainder of the season without pay.

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said in a statement, “As soon as we became aware of the tweets posted by Steve yesterday we began to examine our options in regard to his standing on the team. Today we have informed him that he is suspended for the remainder of the season without pay.”

The Mariners have a right to suspend Clevenger pursuant to the league’s social media policy, adopted in 2012. Pursuant to the policy, players are prohibited from “[d]isplaying or transmitting Content that is derogatory or insensitive to individuals based on race, color, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or religion, including, but not limited to, slurs, jokes, stereotypes or other inappropriate remarks.”

Discipline under the policy can be issued by either the league or the club. In this case the Mariners decided to act before MLB had the chance to. Not that MLB is likely very unhappy about that.

In the meantime, it looks as though Clevenger will have some extra time on his hands.

 

The Division races are boring, but that’s OK

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Yesterday we talked about the possibility of the NL Wild Card race ending up in a three-way tie when the season ends. It probably won’t, but it could, and that’s exciting! Last night ESPN’s Jayson Stark doubled up on that madness and talked about the possibility of a six-way tie in the AL Wild Card. Even more unlikely, but again, excitement!

The obvious reason we’re focusing on these implausible scenarios? There’s nothing else to really get excited about when it comes to this year’s pennant races.

As we woke up this morning, here are your division leaders with the number of games by which they lead:

  • AL EAST: Red Sox: 5.5
  • AL CENTRL: Indians: 7
  • AL WEST: Rangers: 9
  • NL EAST: Nationals: 8.5
  • NL CENTRAL Cubs: 17
  • NL WEST: Dodgers: 6

The AL East had been entertaining until recently, but the Sox’ recent winning streak put an end to that drama. The NL West had some potential to be a race if the Giants had decided to wake up but they’ve decided to stay asleep until September ends, it seems. The Cubs, of course, have already clinched. All of these races are over and most of them have been over for some time. Which kind of stinks. Playoff drama is good and playoff drama between good teams is even better, and all we have now is drama between the 4th through 7th or 8th teams in each league.

But it’s also the case that division races are often sort of anti-climatic. As Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated noted a week ago, in the three-division era, this year’s average spread between first and second place is a bit large, but (a) it’s buoyed in large part by the Cubs’ large lead; and (b) isn’t THAT much larger than many years in the past.

I’ll go further and note that, back when we only had two divisions and no Wild Card, close division races weren’t terribly common either. Indeed, during the four division era — 1969 through 1993, taking out 1981 because the playoff qualifying rules were messed up by the strike — the average division-winning margin was 6.37 games. Sure, we remember the 1993 NL West race between the Braves and Giants and the 1987 AL East race between the Tigers and Blue Jays because they were great. But they were also exceptions, not the rule. Don’t even get me started about the pre-divsional era, when a lot of pennant races were effectively over before September even began thanks to dynasties and the lack of free agency and many teams simply mailing it in for years at a time.

So, no, we’re not going to get a ton of drama in the last week of the season as far as division races are concerned. But we should be thankful for the Wild Card being around to give us something.

Never meet your heroes

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OK, I’ll grant that absolutely no one considers Steve Clevenger to be their “hero.” At least I hope not, and would have hoped so even before last night (dream bigger, kids!). But his racist comments on social media last night, followed up by his non-apology apology, do provide a good opportunity to remind us that, for the most part, we’re better off not getting to know sports figures, entertainers and anyone else who is famous all that well. At least not beyond the reasons for which we pay attention to them in the first place.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo gave us a reminder of why that is this morning, at least with respect to ballplayers:

Passan has talked to more ballplayers in the last couple of weeks than I ever have in my life, but based on my modest amount of interaction with players, and based on what other ballwriters and people who work in baseball have told me, this is dead-on. Baseball draws from rural areas and white burbs way, way more than the other major sports do. When you combine that with the cloistered world in which professional athletes often find themselves — traveling with and spending time in clubhouses with the likeminded — it’s not at all surprising that you’re not only going to get opinions like these but that the holder of the opinions will think there’s nothing wrong with broadcasting them. Most don’t, of course, because, as Passan notes, they have a modicum of sense when it comes to public relations and public perception. Clevenger must have called in sick on media training day.

What Clevenger thinks about race relations in the United States isn’t all that important, of course. He’s just a dude with his opinions and he’s got a right to hold them. It does remind us, though, that just because someone is good at something — and Clevenger is good at baseball compared to most other mortals on Earth — doesn’t necessarily make them wise about anything else. We forget that when what an athlete is saying is inoffensive or comports with our own views of the world, but the situation remains the same regardless.

Which isn’t to say we should ignore or totally discount what an athlete says. They have a right to say whatever they want and we have a right and, sometimes, an interest, in reacting to it positively, negatively or otherwise. It’s simply to say that just because they’re famous or notable doesn’t mean they’ve got any kind of special insight into anything than that for which they are famous or notable. This goes for Steve Clevenger just as much as it goes for Bono or Scott Baio or anyone else.