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Neal Huntington: Comments from anonymous scouts “based on archaic, racist stereotypes”

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Last week, Sports Illustrated ran a quote — which was later amended — in which an anonymous scout criticized Phillies outfielder Odúbel Herrera using dogwhistle language. The scout said Herera is “the antithesis of Brett Gardner,” then called Herrera a “clown” and a “[f***ing] dog.” The term “dog,” specifically, is dogwhistle language when directed at a player of color.

Herrera wasn’t the only player of color an anonymous scout criticized, as quoted by Sports Illustrated. In their MLB preview last week, another anonymous scout said of Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, “Josh Bell can’t play. He’s not a good defender. He’s a big lump. He has bad agility, bad footwork. He can’t run. Supposedly he’s a big power threat, but he hit 12 home runs at first base. This is not a kid! This is his third year in the big leagues! I don’t think he’s got the ability to get better.”

Bell, by the way, hit .261/.357/.411 with 12 home runs, 62 RBI, and 74 runs scored in 583 plate appearances last year. Not MVP numbers by any means, but above-average for sure, especially for a 25-year-old. Bell’s defense was lackluster, but that is something that can be improved upon.

Understandably, Pirates GM Neal Huntington wasn’t pleased with the scout’s analysis. Per Andrew Fillipponi of 837 The Fan, Huntington said on Thursday, “These anonymous scouts are hacks. A lot of their criticisms are directed at minorities…we’re happy these guys don’t work for our organization.”

Huntington also said, via MLB.com’s Adam Berry:

Unfortunately, so much of the information from the anonymous scouts appears to be based on archaic, racist stereotypes. The white players tended to be labeled as ‘gritty,’ ‘smart’ and ‘tough.’ Minority players seemed to be labeled as physically talented but maybe not the most talented, or they had their work ethic or motivation repeatedly questioned. So much of it, unfortunately, seemed to be based on archaic, racist stereotypes, which don’t have a place in our game … That preview just reinforced that they still exist and there still is a lot of work to do to rid those, not only from our game, but ideally from our society.

This is true. We have noted as much here often. It’s a subject that hasn’t been studied in-depth often, but one study by Adam Felder and Seth Amitin in August 2012 found that the language baseball broadcasters use is different for white players and non-white players. A similar study, but of print journalism, found similar results in July 2011. It would follow that scouts are subject to similar biases. So, too, are fans.

It is important that someone high-ranking like Huntington pushed back against the comments anonymous scouts are making. It’s one thing for fans and writers to do it, but for Huntington to express complete disapproval has the potential to send a message to scouts across baseball, thereby curbing or potentially altering their outmoded ways of thinking.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”