Before we get in to the baseball stuff, let me take a moment to make a plea. Numbers–infections, hospitalizations, deaths–are climbing in the US once again, all over the country. Please, please, please stay vigilant. Mask up. Socially distance. No big gatherings, even as the holidays approach. The lives, health, and safety of other people are all more important than our Thanksgiving tables. We all remember how bleak and dire March and April seemed, especially here in the tri-state area. Please, folks, let’s not repeat that feeling again.
Now, on to the far less pressing matters of baseball. We’ll start with the assorted thoughts before we get to the main thrust of my thoughts.
2020 Rules Beyond 2020
One thought I’m sure we’ve all had is how are the 2020 rules–universal DH, expanded playoffs, 7-inning double headers, runner on second in extras–going to work in 2021 and beyond. Part of me wonders if baseball will return to normal in 2021 (though who knows what the landscape will look like, given where we are now) and those things will be revisited in the CBA talks before 2022.
I hope the universal DH stays. Everything else can go, as far as I’m concerned. The runner thing is gimmicky and almost insulting. I already don’t like the second wild card, let alone 16 teams making the playoffs without radical realignment. I could live with the double-headers, sure, but hopefully they won’t be necessary going forward. And while this rule was implemented before the pandemic, I think it’s worth revisiting the three-batter minimum rule. It didn’t do much–if anything–to speed up games. Additionally, with teams being so quick to the pen in general, there are, generally speaking, still going to be lots of pitching changes during the average game. Given that, the rule feels meddlesome and extraneous, much like the runner-on-second thing, though less egregiously so.
Kim Ng, Black catchers, and Diversity in Baseball
Let’s all take a second to keep congratulating Kim Ng on earning her spot as the Marlins’ new GM. Ng has been working in baseball almost as long as I’ve been alive and has been (over) qualified for a GM role for years now. As the first woman and first Asian-American GM in MLB, she’s opening a lot of doors and my hope is that no one closes them behind her.
Just as important as her being the first is who’s the next? The Marlins did the obvious in hiring a good candidate and above all, that’s what Kim Ng was. Hopefully more women, more Asian-Americans, more people of any under-represented background can score interviews. Will they always be the most qualified or as qualified as Ng? Not necessarily, but they deserve the opportunities they aren’t getting now. It took over 30 years of experience for Ng to be the first; hopefully it doesn’t take nearly that long for whoever to be the second.
Speaking of underrepresented people in certain positions, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece on the lack of Black catchers in the game today. Randy, Bobby, and I discussed this–and the lack of Black pitchers–on the podcast way back in the summer. Diamond identifies in the piece a pipeline problem: young Black players are pushed away from the plate and towards other positions. This connects with a thread Lindsey Adler of the Athletic had in the wake of the Kim Ng hire:
Both young, Black players and women are systematically excluded from certain positions in baseball from a young age. Thus, when it comes to the higher levels of the game, they’re not there through no fault of their own. Surely, there are tons of young, Black players who could be fantastic catchers. Surely, there are tons of women and Asian-Americans who could be fantastic in front-office or on-field roles. They all just need to be given a chance. To this point, they really haven’t. If MLB is serious about increasing diversity in its ranks both on-field and off, it needs to do something to help open those pipelines.
Can they do much about youth and high school coaches funneling Black players away from certain positions? Probably not, but a true effort needs to be made to foster Black participation in the game at all levels, at all positions. This goes beyond using certain music or certain aesthetics when it comes to marketing the game, too.
MLB can likely and should do more to open up front office and other roles to make the composition of said positions way less male and way less white. In a time when most teams are doing the exact same things on the field, having a diverse staff off the field could lead to a similar diversity of thought, which could open up new avenues of winning.
MLB says it cares about diversity, says it cares about inclusion. They tried to talk a big game over the summer, but that all seemed to go away during the pandemic season and that shouldn’t be the case. We as customers and fans need to hold their feet to the fire to make sure their commitment to change is real and not just posturing.