Bill Baer

Ogden Raptors issue press release after receiving backlash for “Hourglass Appreciation Night”

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Last night, we learned about a poorly-thought-through promotion idea the Ogden Raptors posted on their website, called “Hourglass Appreciation Night.” The post featured an illustration of three women in string bikinis, just in case the intent of the promotion wasn’t clear, which was for heterosexual men to ogle conventionally attractive women.

The Raptors received quite a bit of backlash on social media and the post on the Raptors’ website was quickly removed.

On Tuesday, Raptors president Dave Baggott issued a statement:

The Ogden Raptors regret that an unauthorized press release was disseminated over the weekend announcing a promotion that was not approved or scheduled by club ownership or management. This promotion will not take place and steps have been put in place to ensure that this will not happen again. The Ogden Raptors offer a sincere apology to anyone who was offended by the promotion itself and the contents of the press release, and in no way supports or condones the objectification of women. It is not reflective of the values of the Ogden Raptors, Los Angeles Dodgers organization, the Pioneer Baseball League or Minor League Baseball. The Raptors will not be taking phone calls or conducting interviews on this matter.

Of course, to say that the Raptors’ promotion “is not reflective of the values of […] the Pioneer Baseball League” is inaccurate. The Orem Owlz, the Angels’ minor league affiliate in the Pioneer League, cooked up a “Caucasian Heritage Night” two years ago. That, too, was canceled after receiving a torrent of backlash.

The real problem is that men still make up nearly 100 percent of all leadership positions in front offices across baseball. Judging by name, the only woman listed on the Raptors’ website is Stacy Oliver, who’s the director of food service and personnel. Hiring people who aren’t straight, white, heterosexual, cisgendered men — and paying them a living wage — is an easy first step teams can take towards avoiding publicly embarrassing moments like the one the Raptors had to endure on Monday.

Did the shift ruin Ryan Howard’s career?

Dylan Buell/Getty Images
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At Five Thirty Eight, Rob Arthur has an interesting article up in which he posits that defensive shifts were responsible for the drastic downfall at the end of former Phillies slugger Ryan Howard‘s career. Arthur uses a lot of data to show just how much Howard declined once opposing teams realized the first baseman’s production could be limited with a shift. For example, with no infield shift (2010-16), Howard was 17.1 runs above average; with the shift on, he was 52.4 runs below average. And Arthur also shows that only David Ortiz was shifted more often than Howard.

But shifts aren’t the only explanation for Howard’s downfall. While teams recognized by 2008 that bringing in a lefty reliever was a great to neutralize Howard, it wasn’t until 2011 that his production against southpaws really fell off a cliff as teams mostly had their lefties throw him off-speed stuff low and away. From 2006-10, Howard had a wRC+ of 106 or better against lefties in three of those five seasons. Excepting a blip in 2014 (117), Howard’s wRC+ against lefties ranged from -14 to 74 from 2011-16.

Additionally, Howard wasn’t really a ground ball hitter, so it wasn’t like the shift affected him every time he was at the plate. He hit ground balls at a 37.8 percent clip over his career, which was anywhere from five to seven percent below the league average. Furthermore, even if Howard had league average BABIP on ground balls over his career rather than his own substandard BABIP, he’d only have 82 more hits, using data from 2006-16. If applied proportionally, 77 of those hits would be singles. If we add that to Howard’s career line, it moves from .258/.343/.515 (.858 OPS) to .273/.356/.530 (.886 OPS). To use other players as a point of comparison, Kevin Youkilis had an .861 OPS during the span of Howard’s career while Prince Fielder had an .887 OPS. Of course, the shift wasn’t the sole cause for the lack of ground ball hits, so if we could suss that out, the difference would be a smaller number.

The real killer for Howard’s career was his loss of power. He put up a .279 ISO in his rookie campaign in 2005 and got up to .346 in his MVP-award-winning 2006. He stayed high, putting up .316, .292, and .292 marks the next three years. From there, his ISO tanked, going to .229, .235, .204, .199, and .156 from 2010-14. His Achilles injury happened at the end of the 2011 postseason, so the first two data points are pre-catastrophic injury. Essentially, Howard rupturing his Achilles sped up the rate at which he lost his power.

Howard also turned 30 years old in 2010 — he debuted at a relatively old age, entering the league in 2004 at 24 years old and didn’t become a regular until two years later. Age was certainly one of the reasons Howard lost his power. Teams exploited weaknesses in his swing. While lefties threw him slop low and away, right-handers threw high, inside fastballs.

Yeah, the shift did negatively impact Howard’s offense, but so did a handful of other factors and they arguably had a greater impact.

A minor league baseball team is holding “Hourglass Appreciation Night” this summer

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Today in Sexism In Sports: The Dodgers’ rookie ball affiliate, the Ogden Raptors, is holding “Hourglass Appreciation Night” on August 11 later this season. According to the post on the Raptors’ website:

The home team hosts the Billings Mustangs, but the real thoroughbreds will join Raptors broadcaster A.P. Harreld in the booth. Since August is the eighth month of the calendar year, and an 8 looks tantalizingly similar to an hourglass, be there a better way to remind the world that baseball needs no clock than to feature 18 hourglass-shaped color commentators?

That’s right! Stars Talent Studio of Salt Lake City will provide a different stunner each half-inning. And the Raptors will video-stream the broadcast booth – well, at least the better-looking half of it!

#08-11-17 .

Fans will have the opportunity to pose for pictures with the lovely ladies as we showcase seriously splendid visual appeal: Utah’s legendary mountains, Dodgers and Reds farmhands – and gorgeous women whose curves rival those of any stud pitching prospect!

Kate Feldman of the New York Daily News has a screenshot in case the Raptors delete that from their website.

The Raptors’ article includes an illustration of three women in string bikinis, just in case there was any confusion over the intent of the evening. And an “hourglass,” in this context, refers to the shape of a conventionally attractive woman’s body.

Baseball — really, sports in general — has had problems marketing to women as it tends to cater to them in stereotypes: pink merchandise, “Baseball 101” events (as if women can’t be experts on baseball), etc. And here, it’s simply including women as objects of desire for men.

Why not invite someone — anyone other than a cisgendered man — who works in one of the many front offices across baseball, like Kim Ng, so they can show others watching that they can work in important positions within the sport? The Raptors could reach out to Jessica Mendoza, Jennie Finch, or any other renowned softball player to join the booth. There are plenty of non-cisgendered male baseball writers who could talk intelligently about the sport. Resorting to ogling women is not just insulting but it’s also lazy and unimaginative. Do better.