Is India the next hotbed for baseball talent?

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When you mention “baseball in India,” the only thing most people think of is Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, those guys who won MLB contracts after winning a reality show several years ago. But there are people trying to grow the game in India beyond that somewhat gimmicky episode:

Indian Raunaq Sahni and his American friend Jackson Golden have launched Grand Slam Baseball – an umbrella initiative aiming to bring the various Indian fringe baseball teams, associations and enthusiasts under one umbrella and grow the sport at the grass root level.

Talking about how the initiative began, Jackson Golden says, ‘I lived in Delhi for 16 years and played baseball here with friends and at the American Embassy. But hardly anyone here knew about the sport or had facilities to play. So I came back from college in the US to start this initiative.’

The story has the familiar “Indians love cricket and cricket skills translate well to baseball, so India is bound to become a baseball hotbed eventually” kind of talk.  And, with the caveat that I think it would be awesome if a new baseball talent source like India started producing prospects, color me dubious that it will happen any time soon.

Just reverse the thinking: “Americans love baseball and baseball skills translate well to cricket, so America is bound to become a cricket hotbed eventually.” It doesn’t really make sense, does it? It doesn’t because it takes more than a population base with roughly analogous skills. It takes interest and a culture and incentives that are in place for the talent to take advantage of. We see this even within different American regions: way more baseball talent comes from Texas and California than comes from Pennsylvania. Why? Culture, intensity of the amateur baseball community, weather and a bunch of other things.

It’s be cool if baseball became a big thing in India. But why would any kid who is talented in baseball not try to make a go of it in cricket first, when that path is way more established? And if it’s because he can’t cut it in cricket, how great a baseball talent is he likely to be?

Mariners give manager Scott Servais a multi-year contract extension

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Two weeks ago the Seattle Mariners gave GM Jerry Dipoto a contract extension. Today they did the same for manager Scott Servais. They are calling it a “multi-year contract extension,” though the exact number of years and the money is not reported. The money rarely is reported for the managers.

Servais has a record of 222–199 (.527) midway through his third season as the M’s skipper. That, actually, makes him the fourth-winningest manager in Mariners history if you can believe it. Twenty men have held that job. A lot of them helmed some pretty bad teams.

The Mariners released a quote from Dipoto regarding Servais:

“Scott has created a culture here in Seattle that allows players to be successful,” Dipoto said. “They are encouraged to be themselves, which has resulted in a loose environment, while still maintaining the focus on team above self. His leadership has also been evident through the ongoing growth and impact of one of the best coaching staffs in Major League Baseball.

“He has been the right leader at the right time for the right team and I look forward to many more years together.”

The Mariners are currently 58–39, good for the fourth-best record in the Major Leagues. If the season ended today they’d be in the playoffs for the first time since 2001, baseball’s longest postseason drought.