Monthly Archives: October 2005

October 31, 2005

The Sterling Mr. Lopez

Congratulations to Felipe Lopez, winner of the 2005 Silver Slugger Award for a National League shortstop. Nicely done, Felipe. May there be many more to come.

October 30, 2005

Frivolity Coming Right Up

Sorry to get all weighty on you these last couple posts, guys. Don't worry; I've got some real puerile stuff planned for this week, including the highly anticipated Red Hot Mama Awards. Stay tuned!

October 30, 2005

Minorities and the Strike Generation of Baseball

Last week the Associated Press filed a story about the prevalence of minorities in major league baseball. According to this story, black representation in major league baseball has dropped to nine percent. While that only slightly under-represents the black population in the United States, it is a significantly smaller percentage than the other major sports.

The story does not go very far to discern the reason for this trend except to quote Joe Morgan hypothesizing that African-American kids do not feel welcome in baseball. The story also quotes Commissioner Bud Selig saying “We know that we have work to do. We'll continue to intensify our efforts.” But I'm one of those “Work Smarter, Not Harder” people. I think that it is important to really figure out why multiple teams, including the World-Series-attending Houston Astros, had zero black players before diving headlong into some vague initiative to change it.

This story did not mention any systemic barrier preventing qualified black athletes from achieving major league status. The problem addressed in this story has to do with the pool of potential baseball players. As Morgan says, that could be because of a perception among black youth that they aren't welcome in baseball.

However, it could also be a reflection of a general downward trend in the popularity of baseball, say from a certain strike about 10 years ago. The eight-year-olds of 1994, alienated by baseball, could conceivably have turned their attention to Michael Jordan and eliminated themselves from today's baseball consideration.

With fewer athletes interested in the baseball, the reduction in the pool of candidates of the minorities would be more apparent than the reduction in the pool of candidates of the majority, simply because of the numbers. When a potential baseball player of any race decides to pursue a different sport instead, there are going to be more white potential players to take his place.

If that is the case, then baseball needs to work on improving its esteem with young'uns across the board, not just zero in on the inner cities. Furthermore, baseball needs to act now to capitalize on the current waning popularity of basketball and reap the benefits 10 years from now.

But how can baseball appeal to the eight-year-olds of today? Appeal to their parents.

Baseball already has a reputation for being wholesome (steroid scandals notwithstanding) and for providing role models (if increasingly monochromatic ones). But baseball also seems stodgy and old-fashioned. This sport that used to be the trendsetter is now so steeped in tradition that it's become antiquated.

Case-in-point: baseball's relationship with the “minority” that makes up more than half of the population. Major League Baseball doesn't let women play: fine. I find it unlikely that there has never been even one woman through history who could have played, but fine. That still doesn't explain why there are no female managers, general managers, bench coaches, hitting instructors, pitching coaches, or base coaches. I cannot accept that there has never been a woman who has been qualified and willing to do one of these jobs, so I can only assume that they have been prevented from it, or, at the very least, never been recruited to.

It's difficult for an old sport, such as baseball, to decide which of its habits are venerable and which are just outdated. The system that has churned men from prospect to player to coach is well seasoned, but if room is never made for a woman in that system, there will never be room for one. And in an age where a family's entertainment choices are made increasingly by women, it would make sense for baseball to try to appeal to women, who, if alienated by baseball, could conceivably turn their attention to the WNBA or other sports and effectively eliminate their children from tomorrow's baseball consideration.

October 29, 2005

Being Great: Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks died this week, and though I'm stretching to make a baseball connection here, I felt like it was important to write this up at the time, so here goes.

For those of you who failed American History, Rosa Parks is known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement after an incident on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. She had taken a seat on the bus home from work, but, as a black woman on a segregated bus, was required to leave her seat a few stops later when enough white passengers boarded that they didn't have enough seats.

Parks refused to leave her seat and was arrested. In response, the black community of Montgomery, led by a young Martin Luther King, Jr., boycotted the bus system. Meanwhile, Parks challenged her conviction to the Supreme Court, who found the segregation laws to be unconstitutional.

When I was a kid, I saw photos of Rosa Parks and thought she looked like a grandmother. I imagined a scene on a bus with some slick, entitled white guy gruffly barking at the kind little old black lady to move out of his seat. The little old lady, angry but dignified, raps him across the knees with her cane. The entire bus, the entire city, the entire world, erupts in spontaneous applause that she taught that young upstart some manners.

As a kid, of course, I didn't appreciate that I was looking at current photos of an American icon still living. In my mind, all great historical characters were from a time long past; of course photos of her were from the relevant period in her life.

Now I realize, though, that the woman standing up for herself on that bus wasn't a picturesque matron with a lifetime of character and little to lose. She was a young, hard-working, probably angry woman. And she didn't lash out like an old mother correcting a child, but as a downtrodden individual sick of being kicked around all the time.

But, most importantly, this young woman wasn't out looking to change the world. She did not go to an ivy league school or use well-placed connections to start a crusade. She was just a regular woman on a bus who was presented with a choice: lie down and let someone walk all over her or stand up, risk everything, and be true to herself. She did not know that this choice would be her opportunity for greatness. She just knew she was tired and had been sitting there first.

You can rarely predict how a person will affect the world. The mightiest of kings can be forgotten to antiquity while a single kind and nameless Samaritan can define an entire race for thousands of years. You cannot force opportunities for greatness to materialize, nor can you deny them when they present themselves. You don't have to be rich or beautiful or powerful or brilliant or motivated. The opportunity for greatness can appear anywhere to anyone.

(Here's where I make the tenuous baseball tie-in) If you read Red Hot Mama, you're likely a baseball fan, and probably one of the things you enjoy about the game is the opportunity to witness greatness. Whether it's the super-slugger with the walk-off grand slam or the kind fella dedicating his time to local underprivileged youth, people like to be near greatness.

But what we forget is that each of us holds the potential for greatness at any place, at any time. It just takes the opportunity to make that choice that changes the world. And like Rosa Parks, we might not even realize that it is our opportunity while it's happening. All we can do is always be true to ourselves.

October 28, 2005

Friday Night Raps

I almost skipped the Friday Night Raps this week, what with the big Aurilia announcement plus the two additional posts I plan to put up tonight or later this weekend. But when I thought about depriving you, my loyal reader, of '80s novelty rap, I realized I just couldn't do that to you. That being the case, yo, VIP, let's kick it.

Now that the party is jumping
With the bass kicked in and the vegas are pumpin'
Quick to the point to the point no faking
I'm cooking MC's like a pound of bacon
Burning them if you ain't quick and nimble
I go crazy when I hear a cymbal
And a hi-hat with a souped up tempo
I'm on a roll and it's time to go solo
Rollin' in my 5.0
With my rag-top down so my hair can blow
The girlies on standby waving just to say hi
Did you stop no I just drove by
Kept on pursuing to the next stop
I busted a left and I'm heading to the next block
The block was dead
Yo so I continued to A1A Beachfront Avenue
Girls were hot wearing less than bikinis
Rockman lovers driving Lamborghinis
Jealous 'cause I'm out getting mine
Shay with a guage and Vanilla with a nine
Reading for the chumps on the wall
The chumps acting ill because they're so full of eight balls
Gunshots rang out like a bell
I grabbed my nine all I heard were shells
Falling on the concrete real fast
Jumped in my car slammed on the gas
Bumper to bumper the avenue's packed
I'm trying to get away before the jackers jack
Police on the scene you know what I mean
They passed me up confronted all the dope fiends
If there was a problem yo I'll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Yeah, it just wouldn't have been Friday without that.

As long as we're here, might as well mention that , so it looks like he won't be a Met next year. Hey, the Reds are looking for relievers, aren't they?

Word to your mother, y'all.