Before my time, but worthy of note. Bragan managed the Braves in both Milwaukee and Atlanta, and managed the Pirates and Indians in the mid-to-late 50s. He didn’t manage long and he was never at the helm of any transcendent teams. He was probably best remembered for the time that, while managing, he walked on the field sipping a soft drink through a straw, discussing the play in question with the umpires and offering each a taste of his drink.
So why do I think he’s worthy of note? From something the brilliant baseball historian Steve Treder said over at Baseball Think Factory earlier this afternoon:
Bragan was an ardent anti-integrationist, one of the most vocal members of the 1947 Dodgers opposed to Jackie Robinson’s presence on the team. But once the season unfolded, and he observed what Robinson went through and how he handled it, Bragan began to greatly admire Robinson, and he saw that he’d been wrong all along, that what he’d been taught to believe was nonsense. Bragan became a vocal champion of integration.
It takes a big person to be that self-aware, and to grow that way. May he rest in peace.
I’m often accused of being a moral relativist. And yeah, maybe I am too forgiving about a lot of things. But I just can’t shake the notion that people should not be defined by their worst moments.
Bragan, like a lot of young men of his vintage, probably said and did a lot of stupid things before and immediately after becoming Jackie Robinson’s teammate in 1947. But by all accounts he learned and he grew, and he leaves a body of work that, while perhaps not worthy of sainthood, no doubt brought more good than harm to this world.
I think that’s something worth thinking about the next time some athlete acts out or gets arrested or tests positive for some drug. We notice the worst moments. But we shouldn’t let them define people.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?