Baseball Ethics Batting Practice, Part 1: The Historic and The Good

The Historic

Not only is April 15, 2022, Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, it is also MLB’s Jackie Robinson Day, commemorating the date  baseball’s apartheid was ended forever when Jack Roosevelt Robinson (1919-1972) took the field for the National League’s Brooklyn Dodgers. It was the most important of baseball’s many influences on the national culture and society at large, by far. As for Robinson, a remarkable man and exactly the athlete for the difficult role assigned to him, he was among the first admittees to the Ethics Alarms Heroes’ Hall of Honor, with this post from 2012.

In 1997, Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s number, 42, and has dedicated all games on April 15 to Robinson. On this date all players wear 42 instead of their usual number, making for mass confusion for fans who don’t know the individual players on sight. It will be especially strange in Fenway Park today, for Opening Day and Jackie Robinson Day have never coincided before. The tradition individual introductions in the pre-game ceremonies, as the whole Red Sox team lines up along the first base foul line—“Playing left field, #8, Carl Yastrzemski!”—will be weird, as every player will be wearing 42.

There have been a lot of posts here about or relating to Jackie Robinson, which you will find at the Jackie Robinson tag.

The Good (and also historic!)

Alyssa Nakken became the first woman to take the field as a coach in a Major League baseball game this week. She coached first base after one of the San Francisco Giants coaches was ejected in a game against the San Diego Padres. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York now has her helmet, which will soon go on display.  The former Sacramento State softball star became the first woman to coach in the big leagues when she was hired for Giants manager Kapler’s staff in January 2020. At Sacramento State, Nakken was a three-time all-conference player at first base and four-time Academic All-American. She went on to earn a master’s degree in sport management from the University of San Francisco in 2015 after interning with the Giants’ baseball operations department a year earlier.

The complete absence of woman in professional baseball has always puzzled me, especially after seeing “A League of Their Own.” There is no reason why a woman couldn’t play baseball well enough to be a pro, other than the fact that girls are discouraged from continuing in the game after Little League if not before. Even The Great Stupid can have ethical and societal benefits: the rush of companies and organizations to show their “diversity, equity and inclusion” has punched some holes in baseball’s gender line. Yes, it’s s silly that the Giants now have 13 coaches, which raises questions about how many are tokens. When Jackie Robinson played, teams had five coaches at most, plus the manager, and it often looked like that was too many. Still, progress is progress. Rachel Balkovec of the Tampa Tarpons, a Yankees farm team, became the first woman to manage a team in affiliated baseball. Genevieve Beacom, a 17-year-old pitcher, began playing professionally in Australia. and Kelsie Whitmore, a 23-year-old pitcher, signed a contract to play with the Staten Island FerryHawks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Last year, Kim Ng became the first woman to lead an MLB’s team’s front office as its general manager.

Baseball Ethics’ Bad, Ugly and Stupid will be discussed in Part 2.

6 thoughts on “Baseball Ethics Batting Practice, Part 1: The Historic and The Good

  1. I did not know that! I just learned that Ken Griffey Jr. was responsible for the all-42 tradition on April 15. He wanted to wear 42 to celebrate Robinson, and asked permission from the then-Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig liked the idea so much he asked Griffey if he would mind if all the players wore Jackie’s number.

  2. Yes, it’s s silly that the Giants now have 13 coaches, which raises questions about how many are tokens.

    The only practical reason to limit the number of coaches is the payroll and major league teams have a lot of money to throw around. Beyond that, more means each–very expensive player–is receiving more personal attention during practice and more specialties can be represented. If they determined that 13 is the number and they are running a business, I’m going to guess there was a cost/benefit analysis done rather than jump to the assumption of tokenism.

    I suppose you mind works differently.

    • I just have followed baseball a long time. Coach inflation is like administrative inflation in colleges. Major League players have a track record of success; there is limited assistance that most of them need or will accept. Video technology has actually reduced the need for coaches: a player can check out what he looked like when he was pitching or hitting well on his own. In the old days, they depended on coaches to pick up on what they were doing differently. Teams have also been sued for discrimination by minority players, sometimes with justification, sometimes not. It’s cheaper to cover all the racial bases by redundant coaches. Once, teams has a hitting coach who doubled as the first base coach during games, a third base coach, which is a specialized job because of the signals to the batter but he also was frequently a fielding coach, a pitching coach, and a bullpen coach, who often served as an assistant pitching coach. That four coaches. Somewhere, the “bench coach” came into the game, an in-game consultant to the manager. I have seen no indication that most of them have any value at all. Then came the assistant hitting coach, the infield coach, the outfield coach, and the baserunning coach, even though all agree that baserunning skills in MLB has declined drastically. Most teams have “strength and conditioning coaches.” Some teams have “psychological/motivational” coaches. Maybe a tech whiz coach can be justified now. That’s still only 12, and that’s a stretch. I think it’s fair to wonder, especially in San Francisco, if coach #13 might be a “signaling virtue to the woke community coach.”

      • Well golly gee, you watch a lot of baseball, what the hell do those professionals know?

        It’s all woke, woke I tells ya, and CRT and grooming and there’s probably a caravan of woke tranny BLM CRT MS13 soy-eating baseball coaches coming to groom kids in your white-bread suburb and they’ll bring Cory Booker with them.

        • Exactly. One thing I know from watching a lot of baseball, reading what those in the industry say, and listening to their interviews, is that with very few exceptions, critical thinking is not their long suit. These are the people who plastered “Black Lives Matter” all over Fenway Park. They came up with the idiotic “ghost runner.” They pulled the All-Star game from Atlanta without checking the law they were supposedly protesting. No, I don’t trust their judgment, motives, or competence. Neither should you.

          • So, speaking of ethics and baseball, I have the MLB app on my phone, which is how I typically listen to the games everyday.

            Well, going into the season this year, I was deluged with bunches of push messages from the app, literally dozens a day at some points. I kept tinkering with the app, trying to reduce these messages — all I really want is to know when the Rangers game starts each day. Not too much to ask, don’t you think?

            Finally, I turned off all the notifications inside the app. So then I don’t hear when the game starts each day. Alas, the damned thing was still sending out push messages with general MLB news. I ended up going to the app permissions on my phone settings and disabling all permissions for the app.

            So now it’s finally silenced. The downside is that I won’t get the reminders about the daily game. It didn’t used to be that bad – I could always live with it.

            I think I blame the ghost runner for their app being so obnoxious.

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