Latino players vs. The Old Guard

46 Comments

There’s been a lot of talk about Yasiel Puig’s alleged hot dogging and the Dodgers jumping into the Diamondbacks’ pool. There has been a lot of talk about Brian McCann: Baseball Sheriff and the Braves’ multiple run-ins this year with players they perceived to be acting unprofessionally. Against that backdrop Jorge Arangure writes in Sports on Earth about the impossible-to-ignore fault lines in baseball culture:

Forget about the stats vs. scouts argument: The biggest dissonance in the game right now is between the showmanship of Latino players and the stoicism of the old guard. Some believe it is the fight for baseball’s soul. Some believe that allowing such behavior will irreparably damage the game. It’s a silly argument, of course, but it’s happening.

Arangure argues that, while the culture of baseball and its unwritten rules of deportment are long-standing, they developed in a game dominated by U.S. born players. Mostly white U.S. born players. Given that Latino players now constitute 30% of the baseball population and given that that number is only going up, baseball can and should have to adjust and make room for a different style.

I couldn’t agree more. There is no escaping the fact that almost every controversy about deportment in baseball involves white players explaining to Latino players how to “do things the right way.” Fact is, though, that there is more than one way to carry oneself than the way someone like Brian McCann Chris Carpenter or Tony La Russa believes one should carry oneself. And it’s quite possible to enjoy the game, be exuberant flip bats and do all manner of things that many ballplayers currently consider taboo without also being disrespectful.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
4 Comments

Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.