All about the Braves and baseball events.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let The Hand-Wringing Commence

In a recent column by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Orlando Hudson claims that black players are being discriminated against in the free agent market. What's worse is that Passan seems to agree with it.

MINNEAPOLIS – As Major League Baseball prepares for its annual Jackie Robinson Day on Thursday, one prominent African-American player questioned teams’ commitment to employing black players past their prime years.
A "commitment" to employ black players "past their prime". Just one sentence into the article, we have a problem. Why should a team take on a player who may not contribute as much as they did in the past with the color of their skin as a factor? That's a classic definition of racism.

“You see guys like Jermaine Dye without a job,” Minnesota Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson said Monday. “Guy with [27 home runs and 81 RBIs] and can’t get a job. Pretty much sums it up right there, no? You’ve got some guys who miss a year who can come back and get $5, $6 million, and a guy like Jermaine Dye can’t get a job. A guy like Gary Sheffield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can’t get a job. …

“We both know what it is. You’ll get it right. You’ll figure it out. I’m not gonna say it because then I’ll be in [trouble].”
We know it, huh? Lets see who we're talking about here:

During the off-season Dye turned down a $3 million contract offer from the Cubs, was rumored to be linked with the Nationals during the off-season after Elijah Dukes was released, and talks petered out with the Brewers.

If Dye was looking for more money from some team, he struck out and now he doesn't have a job. It definitely seems as if it's mostly his own fault.

Gary Sheffield, on the other hand, is a 41-year old outfielder who hit well in a part-time role with the Mets, but was brutal in the field. Now, he's one year older and probably still has a glove of iron. No National League team is going to take him and there are only 14 DH spots in the American League.

What Hudson wants to say: He believes there is a racist element to the free-agent market in baseball, and that it’s paralyzing the 36-year-old Dye’s ability to earn what non-blacks with commensurate numbers received in the offseason.
Wow! What a damning statement! I'd sure love to see you back that up while Dye lobbies the Mariners and Sheffield tries to get younger.

“Call it what you want to,” Hudson said. “I ain’t fit to say it. After I retire I’ll say it. I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to say after I retire.”
So, he's not fit to say it now, but after he retires, he's going to go all Kitty Kelly on us?

Hudson’s comments came on the heels of Dye turning down a one-year contract offer from the Washington Nationals for less than a quarter of his $11.5 million salary with the Chicago White Sox last season. After a first half in which he slugged .567 and hit 20 home runs, Dye spent the second half of 2009 in a deep slump from which he never emerged, batting .179 and slugging .297 while playing subpar defense in right field.

Hudson believed Dye’s credentials – 164 home runs in the last five years and an OPS 21 percent better than the league average – would buy him the benefit of the doubt.
Okay, let me get this straight: Hudson believes that Dye should be paid according to his track record despite the fact that he utterly tanked for three months last season offensively and defensively. If that is the case, then that should work for trades too. The Braves should have been able to get something more for Jeff Francoeur and something, period, for Kelly Johnson because of their positive track records.

Dye hoped to play for a contender, and while he understood he would take a pay cut, he expected a deal in the $4 million-plus range. Hudson said he and Dye spoke on the phone this offseason about his status, though they never broached specifics about why the market never materialized above $3.5 million, a number approached or exceeded by a number of players with inferior credentials.

“We don’t even get into it,” Hudson said. “We both know what it is.”
Translation: Dye wanted to get paid. He didn't get paid what he wanted and now he doesn't have a job. It must be because he's old and black.

And what's this about "players with inferior credentials"? Hm. I probably have to keep reading for that.

The Baltimore Orioles guaranteed $4.5 million to first baseman Garrett Atkins, 30, after he hit .226 and slugged .342 in 354 at-bats last season.
Atkins, a white guy, is also a corner infielder and six years younger than Dye, thus more likely to return to his pre-2009 production. Dye was unlikely to play first base despite expressing interest, so I'm not sure this a particularly good comparison.

Thirty-three-year-old Aubrey Huff’s(notes) on-base percentage was 30 points lower than Dye’s and his slugging percentage 69 points lower, yet the San Francisco Giants gave him $3 million
Another white guy, but three years younger than Dye also a player who had been playing first base and DHing for a few years. He shuffled between DH and the corner infield and outfield spots his entire career. The only times Dye has been in the infield are for one game at first and one at short in 2005 with the White Sox.

The Chicago Cubs paid 31-year-old Xavier Nady $3.3 million after an elbow injury limited him to 28 at-bats last season.
A third white guy, he's also five years younger than Dye and called on to be a utility-type like Huff once was. He's already played in the outfield and first base this year.

Whether teams with first base openings didn’t trust Dye’s ability to convert or others with outfield slots preferred different players, his presence on the open market in mid-April is particularly puzzling when coupled with the fates of other black players.
The elephant in the room behind Curtain #2!

Second baseman Ray Durham, coming off a 2008 in which he got on base at a .380 clip and slugged .432, couldn’t get anything more than a backup sniff as a 37-year-old. Durham’s case, one source said, is among those being looked at by the MLB players’ association in its potential collusion case against MLB.
I'm not sure how they can argue collusion with this. Durham did have a fine season (.289/.380/.432), but it was in a diminished role with two teams (304 PAs with San Francisco, 112 PAs with Milwaukee). Maybe there was concern that he couldn't take a full role any longer.

Also, I'm noticing a trend here: Every black player cited so far is above 35 years of age. As of this blog post, according to's Play Index, there are only 81 baseball players 35 or older. Out of those 81 players, only 14 are outfielders or first basemen. That either means that there are entrenched players at the positions or teams want to go younger at said positions. Dye's real crime may just be getting older.

Outfielder Kenny Lofton(notes) put up an above-average OPS as a 40-year-old in 2007 and hasn’t been seen since.

And Sheffield, 41, remains a free agent after slugging .451 with spacious Citi Field as his home stadium.
I was wondering when we'd get to them. Kenny Lofton somewhere along the line has garnered the reputation for being a "malcontent". In recent years, he hasn't done anything to disprove that. After he left the Yankees, he was rumored to trying to steer C. C. Sabathia away from signing with the Yankees. This came after he agreed with teammate Gary Sheffield's comments in which he said black players were treated differently than whites in the Yankee clubhouse. This essentially branded longtime manager Joe Torre as a racist.

There are other factors, of course. The free-agent market has shifted drastically against older players. The game places a greater emphasis on defense. And in the individual cases, Lofton came with a difficult-to-handle reputation, as did Sheffield, who once alluded to possible racism from his manager with the New York Yankees, Joe Torre – an accusation backed up by Lofton.
Okay, I win. Blog post over.

But wait, there's more...

Never has Dye been lumped among the malcontents, and his case lends credence to a belief among some black baseball players that should frighten MLB: They’re treated differently. True or not, it doesn’t matter. The specter of racism in a game still haunted by its history – and trying to rejuvenate itself among black youth – is a disturbing reality.
First, note the scary adjectives and noun:

  • should frighten MLB
  • The specter of racism
  • a game still haunted by its history
  • is a disturbing reality
That paragraph could have been so much better, but it's watered down by hyperbole. Whether black players believe there is a racist conspiracy against them is their problem. Major League Baseball shouldn't just sign unemployed black players because blacks and most Hispanics were shut out of the major leagues for 63 years. Not only that, but no one has let them forget about those 63 years for the 63 years since.

There are some things that go on in the game that shouldn’t be going on,” Hudson said. “But it’s part of baseball. It’s part of life. Deal with it.”

Perhaps Hudson’s stake is personal. Two years ago, he entered free agency seeking a multiyear deal. He ended up taking an incentive-loaded $3.4 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This season, the 32-year-old hoped for multiple years again. He signed with Minnesota for $5 million over one year.
The second-base market is one that has been closed off to most free agents over the past few years. Almost every team has a regular starter at second base, with a few exceptions. Hudson had to sign with the exceptions both times. That doesn't mean baseball is racist.

Hudson’s words spoke enough that Dye and his agent, Bob Bry, declined to comment Monday night. Hudson going public was unique, too, as other players worry it will have a negative effect on the issue.
Right: You're going to get a bunch of dudes on the Internet disagreeing with it.

While some will accuse Hudson of race baiting and paranoia, the reality is quite the opposite: He is taking public a concern that promotes discussion and forces MLB to be honest with itself about the precipitous drop in African-American players over the last two decades.

"Promotes discussion"? If accusations by Sheffield, Lofton, Hudson and many other black players hasn't led to a solution, there are two reasons for it:

  • MLB isn't going to bother with it.
  • The problem is so overstated that it isn't significant.
You'd think that with so much racial sensitivity in today's society that Major League Baseball would bend over backwards to make sure black players find employment. Apparently, that's not happening.

As for the drop in black players overall, the main culprits are the NBA and NFL. Basketball and football seem to be much more popular with black Americans and that's why Major League Baseball is stepping up their inner-city programs.

Between the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and Urban Youth Academies, baseball has tried to resolve that chasm between the sport and black children. The issue: Compared to the football juggernaut and the stranglehold of basketball, baseball finishes a distant third.
... wow, I scare myself sometimes.

While the tremendous influx of black talent in the major leagues in recent years – from Ryan Howard and Carl Crawford to Justin Upton and Jason Heyward – is a positive sign, it doesn’t eliminate the feeling that others have been and continue to be mistreated.
Funny how all of those players have more talent than Orlando Hudson. And who are these "other" black players, by the way? All this article has really proven is that one player is upset that he can't get a secure job and is upset about another who screwed up his shot at getting a job and may not get one this season. If this is all about "promoting discussion", then anyone at all who feels as if they're being discriminated against should speak up and not make it seem like it's an isolated case.

So as players receive their special jerseys this week with the No. 42 on the back and the sport celebrates Robinson breaking the color line, baseball will examine itself again and wonder how it can change a perception that is now six decades old and seems to be going nowhere.
It's a perception that's most likely born of suspicion and paranoia: "Because my ancestors were wronged because of the color of their skin, I may be wronged too." That's not good.

By the way, everyone wearing #42 on Jackie Robinson day is a total and utter farce. I was fine with individual players doing it, but having it be mandatory for everyone is just going too far.

EDIT: Slight grammar fix
SECOND EDIT: Deleted three "(notes)" from quotes

No comments:

Blog Archive