Colin Cowherd wonders how baseball can be considered “complicated” if Dominicans can understand it

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Colin Cowhered was on his ESPN radio show today talking about criticism of Dan Jennings getting the job as the manager of the Miami Marlins. For his part, Cowherd rejects the notion that a guy with Jennings’ lack of experience can’t manage in Major League Baseball. Why? Because he does not buy the argument that the sport is “too complex” as so many people like to say.

He probably has something of a point about that. I didn’t care for the Jennings hire but, separate and apart from that, there is a somewhat annoying tendency of inside-baseball people to almost, I dunno, fetishize baseball’s complexity. Sure, you and I couldn’t play or manage and there’s a lot we don’t know. But I sometimes think that sentiment goes too far and rests a lot on arguments from authority as opposed to real facts. Maybe Dan Jennings won’t work out, for example, but at the same time, I question whether the magic keys to managing are really SO magic that any number of front office people couldn’t, if given the chance, do just fine.

But that’s another conversation altogether. And maybe it’s one Cowhered will decide to have one day. But today he decided that it’d be a better bet to simply illustrate baseball’s alleged lack of complexity by arguing that, hey, a bunch of durn foreigners do it!

“It’s too complex? I’ve never bought into that ‘baseball is too complex.’ Really? A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic.”

The video of him saying that is over at Deadspin and it cuts off right after he says it. I cannot at the moment find a longer video of his comments (the show just went off the air for the day), so it’s possible that he went on to explain what he’s saying here and that it’s NOT a baldly racist slam at Dominican people. I just can’t for the life of me imagine what it could be. If someone was watching or listening and Cowherd somehow saved himself after this, by all means, let us know and I’ll update.

Short of that, however: great hire Fox. I’m sure the baseball players who are asked to do in-dugout interviews and stuff will love it if you incorporate him as a part of your baseball productions once he makes the move from ESPN.

UPDATE: Reader Mathias Kook was good enough to send me more of the audio from Cowherd’s thing. I don’t think the added context helps him. Here’s Cowherd in context:

“It’s too complex? I’ve never bought into that ‘baseball is too complex.’ Really? A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has not been known in my lifetime as having world class academic abilities. A lot of those kids come from rough backgrounds and have not had opportunities academically that other kids from other countries have. Baseball is like any sport. It’s mostly instincts. A sportswriter who covers baseball could go up to Tony La Russa and make an argument and Tony would listen and it would seem reasonable. There’s not a single NFL writer in the country who could diagram a play for Bill Belichick. You know, we get caught up in this whole ‘thinking-man’s game.’ Is it in the same family? Most people could do it. It’s not being a concert pianist. It’s in the same family.”

After a break, presumably after he started to catch flak for his comments, Cowherd tried to backpedal, it seems, going on about how ALL baseball players are dumb. Arguing that only four percent of the sport has college degrees and that a third of the players don’t speak “the primary language of this country, so communication can be tough, but everybody plays it and gets along fine.”

Not that he fixed it well. He went back to the idea that “baseball is massive in countries where there are, you know, third world living conditions. Rough academic situations. Where young people don’t have the opportunities American kids have. Yet they come to the sport and they flourish. They dominate it. Because it’s a sport on instinct, it’s individual instinct. You know, so stop the fake controversy.”

There are some truths in there about the academic level achieved by baseball players and the tough conditions in non-U.S. countries. But his whole point began with Dan Jennings and managing, not Dominicans and playing, so I’m not sure where he was going with this. And the whole “pure instinct over intellect” stuff is classic racial garbage to begin with.

And, of course, all of this is apart from the fact that Cowherd clearly doesn’t understand baseball. And that a HUGE part of it is game theory, in terms of knowing what pitches are coming next and which pitches to throw next, the study of film and opposition tendencies and being able to keep any number of options in mind when on the basepaths or the field in terms of what to do if the ball is hit where.

But it’s Cowherd we’re talking about here. And Colin Cowherd, has not been known in my lifetime as having world class academic abilities.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.