Andrew McCutchen: Baseball leaves lower-income kids behind

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When he’s not patrolling center field for the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen serves as the senior editor for Derek Jeter’s The Player’s Tribune, a media platform for professional athletes. McCutchen published a must-read article today in which he explains how baseball has increasingly left children from lower-income communities behind.

McCutchen goes over the various costs a family considers: equipment, motels/hotels, gas, tournament fees. Kids from families that can’t afford it or choose to spend their money on more staple needs are simply never seen, and many wind up quitting baseball as a result. McCutchen, who didn’t come from riches, is an outlier as he was fortunate enough to meet several people who helped pay his way into competitive baseball.

The financial struggles don’t end once you’re in college or the minor leagues, either, as McCutchen details. “The fact is, no matter how good you are, you’re not getting a full ride in baseball,” he says. Had he not torn his ACL when he was 15 years old, McCutchen would have chosen to play football in college over baseball as his tuition would have been paid in full on a scholarship compared to only 70 percent with baseball. In the minor leagues, players are paid less than minimum wage, a problem that has been brought up recently.

Fixing the myriad issues are quite difficult, but McCutchen has one idea that he thinks would work well:

[…] when I was a kid, I looked at baseball players growing up in Latin America with a lot of envy. If you’re a talented kid in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, a team can come along and say, “We’re going to sign you for $50,000 and take you into our organization and develop you, feed you, take care of your travel.” To me, as a 14-year-old kid whose family was struggling, that would have meant everything to me. I would have taken that deal in a second.

That kind of system would make the game a lot more attractive to kids from low-income families.

This is a more important issue than it may seem at first blush. If the only people who can afford to play baseball are those born into privileged families, then the baseball talent pool will become very homogenized, and that would be boring. Part of baseball’s allure, along with the beauty of the game itself, are the diverse personalities from Yasiel Puig to Alex Rodriguez to Chase Utley, each of whom can appeal to various segments of the fan base. Craig Calcaterra has done yeoman’s work refuting the claim that baseball is dying, but it certainly could begin to die if issues like the one McCutchen brings up aren’t addressed properly.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.