MLB announces new anti-sexual orientation discrimination and harassment policies

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Back in 2011, MLB and the MLBPA added anti-sexual discrimination language into their collective bargaining agreement for the first time. On Monday the league and the union, in conjunction with New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, announced a copy of a new Workplace Code of Conduct aimed at protecting current and future MLB players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. The league and union also agreed to new training policies as well as a centralized complaint system for reporting incidents involving harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Some specifics seem aimed at the folks who may have the most power to craft first impressions of young players who may be gay: scouts and farm directors. As part of the policy the league will disseminate materials on sexual orientation non-discrimination to all club scouting and farm directors involved in the acquisition of amateur talent.

This seems pretty savvy to me because if a player is going to be adversely impacted based on perceptions of his sexual orientation, the greatest impact could theoretically come because the gatekeepers are the ones perceiving it. I mean, if someone is at Double-A hitting .360, people will probably be OK no matter what he’s all about. But when that first impression comes prejudice and discrimination could impact his ability to get a fair shake. Indeed, one line about his “makeup” in a scouting report could make all the difference in the world.

Bud Selig and union chief Michael Weiner each issued statements about the new policy. Selig:

“I expect all those who represent Major League Baseball, as a social institution that has important social responsibilities, to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that our game’s diverse players, employees and fans deserve. We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins. Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Weiner:

“The Major League Baseball Players Association supports and promotes a discrimination-free workplace, and firmly believes that every individual is entitled to pursue his or her career in an environment that is free of any type of harassing behavior. Additionally, the MLBPA embraces diversity and supports a workplace environment that welcomes all regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation.”

I find it interesting that the New York Attorney General is the one sort of pushing this — the press release announces him working with the NFL too, so apparently he has decided sports leagues with headquarters in New York are priorities — but no matter what the inspiration, it’s good to see the league address this now rather than have to do so later as the result of some unfortunate high-profile incident.

Victor Martinez played his final major league game on Saturday

Victor Martinez
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After 16 years in the majors, longtime Tigers DH Victor Martinez capped his career with one final start at Comerica Park. Although there are seven games remaining in the club’s regular season schedule, Martinez said he felt he owed it to the fans to record his final at-bat at home. He’ll still cheer the rest of the team on from the dugout when they hit the road for their last six-game stretch on Monday, though he’s not expected to slot into the lineup at any point during their back-to-back away series against the Twins and Brewers.

In order to commemorate the occasion, the Tigers arranged a pregame ceremony to celebrate the veteran infielder’s seven years with the team, during which they presented him with Topps baseball cards, a recliner, a pair of boots, and a saddle, among other honors. Martinez also put in a special request to play first base, a position he hadn’t manned in over two years.

The 39-year-old didn’t waste a single minute of his final start in the majors. He deftly handled an inning-ending out in the top of the first, then laced a rare infield single to short in his first and final at-bat of the afternoon, beating the throw to first and advancing Nicholas Castellanos to second base in order to set up the Tigers’ first run: a two-out RBI single from Niko Goodrum that brought Castellanos home to score.

“I think that at-bat was the perfect at-bat to describe my career,” Martinez told reporters after the Tigers wrapped a 5-4 win over the Royals. “I had to sweat it out. I had to sweat it out the whole way. I had to grind it. That was my whole career.”

Following the hit — and the standing ovation that greeted it — the switch-hitter was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Ronny Rodriguez, who subbed in at second base in the top of the second while Goodrum shifted from second to first base. Taking Saturday’s performance into account, Martinez polished off his big league career with a lifetime .295/.359/.455 batting line, 423 doubles, 246 home runs, 1,178 RBI, and 28.4 fWAR across 1,973 games and three separate stints for the Indians, Red Sox, and Tigers. His accomplishments at the plate have been decorated with five All-Star nominations, two Silver Slugger Awards, and the designated hitter-exclusive Edgar Martinez Award following a career-best campaign in 2014.