Must-click link: studying the words scouts use to describe black players vs. white players

89 Comments

This is not about baseball, it’s about football actually. But it’s a topic we’ve discussed here many times over the years, so it’s fair game: Deadspin has thrown the scouting reports on nearly 400 players in this year’s NFL Draft into a database and you can now search it to see how often any given word or phrase is used to describe black players vs. white players.

Even now, after years and years of people recognizing the subtle, often unwitting racial judgments that weigh on certain descriptors — white players are “hard workers,” black players are “gifted,” white players are “intelligent,” black players have “instincts” — there is still a pretty marked difference in how players of different races are described in 2014, showing you that cliches and attitudes about race die extremely hard.

Here are some of my sample searches. Remember: there were substantially more scouting reports in the system for black players than white players and thus many more words written about them. The results on top of the graphs normalize it out as occurrences per 10,000 words:

source:

source:

source:

source:

source:

 

source:

I will give some kudos to the scouts for using “scrappy” more often with black players than white players. Let’s hear it for our bold new colorblind era!

source:

Seriously, though, this is kinda nuts in this day and age. Just imagine what older scouting reports — like all of those that are archived about baseball players going back 30 or 40 years — would look like if given this treatment. These days scouts know enough to not use the term “articulate” to describe a black person they find to be charming, but I wonder how often that noise popped up in 1975 or whenever.

Anyway, kudos to Deadspin for putting this together and letting us all run our own searches. And a hearty “buzz-off” to those people who think that old racial attitudes totally died off and disappeared when the Civil Rights Act was passed.

The Phillies plan to spend money and “maybe even be a little bit stupid about it”

Getty Images
8 Comments

In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.

“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.

Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.

How novel.