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Fifth in a 10-part series

"A Jays team once led by Joe Carter, Robbie Alomar, George Bell, Tony Fernandez and Devon White was for years known to be as diverse as the city it represents. That is no longer the case."
... "Whitest Team in the Majors" by Geoff Baker for the Toronto Star

Let's get some things out of the way.

First, this story is not about the racial composition of the Toronto Star's sports desk, or even the media as a whole. The mainstream media is as Lilly-white as Oakland's Ted.

That's a specious argument, approximately the same as saying, "Rob Neyer never played major league baseball, so he shouldn't write critically about it." The first statement, a fact, does not support -- indeed is not even related to -- the second statement, an opinion.

Second, here's something most people don't know about the journalism profession: writers don't write their own headlines. So attacking the author of a controversial piece -- in this case, Geoff Baker -- for the impression created by the headline is aiming at the wrong target.

The ZLC's own Dave Till led his criticism of the "White Jays" story with this argument: "Griffin and Baker probably genuinely believe that their stories aren't implying that the Jays are racist, but a headline such as ‘Whitest team in the majors' sure gives that impression."

Till, though, directs his venom properly, following that observation by saying, "I am trying to figure out the Star's motivation here. Are they just trying to stir up trouble in order to sell more papers?"

You Know, Subheads Can Be Misleading, Too
Well, first of all -- yes. The business of the Star is to sell the Star, though the business of the journalists employed there may be -- may be -- somewhat more high-minded. But it's exactly right to wonder about the newspaper's motivation for the headline rather than the writer's.

Even Batter's Box founder Kent Williams found himself affected by the headlining process as he read a support piece by another writer: "Richard Griffin weighs in with some timely marketing advice to help the Jays," said Williams. "[The team] is apparently, according to the headline, ‘striking out in bid for diverse crowd.'"

And here's how Jordan Furlong of Batter's Box defines the story -- by its placement and posturing: "I don't think the article can be safely ignored, because it won't be. It's a front-page banner feature on the most widely read newspaper in Canada on its most widely read day of publication."

Both Griffin and Baker acknowledged the unfortunate contributions of the headline to fan and player reactions to the story, but both found other issues more troubling.

The heated reaction was no surprise to Griffin, "given the inflammatory nature of the front page headline and graphic," he says. "What surprised me was the reaction of Jays players who for some reason took the analysis of the changing face of the Jays as a personal attack."

As for Baker, he acknowledges that "the front page headline and presentation, which I was not involved in, threw many people off topic. That's unfortunate." But, he adds, "the way the basic facts of the story were shrugged off by some -- though not all -- media in Toronto is still something I find troubling."

Okay, so this isn't about the how many Latinos share Geoff Baker's cube space or Richard Griffin's e-mail domain. And it's not about headlines or front page placement.

It's about diversity and it's about facts.

And both sides of the argument seem to want it that way, so let's move on.

Geoff, over to you.

The Baker's Tale
" I was very surprised [at the response to the story]," says Baker, "though I'd expected a lot of negative reaction heading in. That's just normal."

However, he says, "the level of knee-jerk non-acceptance stunned me and the multitude of senior editors who approved the story beforehand and applaud it even to this day."

But what editors appreciate may not necessarily reflect what readers appreciate, right? Take Tom Fuke, writing for Blue Jay Way, who admits, "Racism is a sensitive topic ... right off the bat, the Toronto Star deserves credit, not criticism, for being willing to address such a topic."

However, says Fuke, "I appreciate the desire to write about the Blue Jays' lack of diversity, and I applaud the Star for trying. But considering the explosion that resulted, they have to consider that they could have gone about the issue more constructively."

Baker agrees with Fuke's basic assertion about addressing racism, and says, "Toronto is a big enough city that questions of race can be raised without automatically linking it to racism." And, continues Baker, "I think it's good that many people here don't automatically notice things like skin colour, but that doesn't make the issue less relevant."

However, he adds, the "explosion" that resulted -- as perhaps might be expected -- was entirely localized. "The media reaction outside of Toronto, especially from broadcast outlets, was far less hysterical than it was here," says Baker. "I did a number of interviews in the U.S. and around Canada that asked tough questions, but got them answered and moved on."

Locally, then, the hysteria generally fit into two distinct categories: the lack of comparison of the Blue Jays to other major sports teams in the area and the progressive-yet-dismissive idea that "race doesn't matter."

The Only Colour Barrier Now is Green
Or Purple or Red or Whatever Colour Canadian Dollars are These Days
Starting with the latter criticisms, there may be cases where it's true that race doesn't matter. For instance, in discussing the Jays' occasional use of sabermetric analysis on players sight unseen, Griffin notes "one senior official claimed they didn't even know [Corey] Thurman was black." And truth be told, a 6.46 ERA and 1.96 WHIP are the same in any language or colour.

However, says Baker, to claim colour doesn't matter in sports is "just silly. There have been countless stories on race in sport since before I was born right up to the recent Sports Illustrated piece on the decline of blacks in baseball."

And the Jays were given every opportunity to address the racial makeup of their team in the article. For instance, Baker quotes CEO Paul Godfrey as saying, "I believe the vast majority of people will come to see a winning ball club, whether it has nine Dominicans, nine Americans or nine people from Japan on the field. I think the excitement generated by a winning team far outweighs any other consideration."

So, what players are on the team is strictly a matter of talent, then? Of course not -- it's also a matter of budget.

Mike Moffatt is a regular contributor to Batter's Box and's Guide to Economics. He addressed the "White Jays" article from an economist's perspective, saying "The front office personnel of the Blue Jays, particularly J.P. Riccardi and Keith Law, have done an excellent job in putting a winning team on the field at a minimal cost."

In fact, says Moffatt, "Part of the reason why the Jays have had so much success is that they have a better understanding of financial and economic concepts such as opportunity cost," essentially the value of the next-best choice.

That "next-best choice," in sabermetric terms, is the Red Sox signing Bill Mueller, Jeremy Giambi and David Ortiz instead of spending all the money on, say, Hideki Matsui. That's two white guys and an African-American with a Latino surname for a total of $5.5 million or one Japanese "superstar" for $6 million. Opportunity cost, indeed.

Does Mark Hendrickson Count Twice?
However, says Baker, "The most common argument against the story has been that we didn't compare the Jays to the Raptors or Leafs."

Why not? "Well, that would have been junk science at its worst," he says, "a completely invalid comparison, with no statistical relevance whatsoever. As Baker explains, the NBA is more than 80 percent black while the NHL is almost entirely white. "Baseball is the only sport with a true racial mix that allows for enough minorities on each team that the addition or subtraction of one won't alter the ratios dramatically," he says.

"You won't find a statistician on the planet who would consider comparing the three Toronto teams this way to be a valid exercise," says Baker. "We did our homework on the topic. Yet Godfrey stated this as his main objection to the story and it went unchallenged by the Toronto media -- with some even parroting Godfrey's arguments for days afterwards."

Another national writer built a case about Latinos having a walk rate 14 per cent less than non-Latino players, recalls Baker. "That's statistically correct. But what do those stats actually translate to? He said the walk rates were 0.069 to 0.060 ... Compute those over a full season -- where average at-bats per player was 147 last season -- [and] non-Latinos are earning 1.35 more bases per season than non-Latinos."

By the time batting average differences between the two groups are factored in, says Baker, non-Latino players are accumulating only one more base per year than Latinos, which is, to put it kindly, statistically insignificant.

"So it's essentially identical to the on-base percentage differences between Latinos and the rest of baseball that we talked about in our White Jays sidebar," says Baker. "There is no tangible difference. Yet, some folks would rather invent arguments than simply do some legwork."

That same charge -- lack of legwork before reporting a story -- has been leveled at Baker and his Star colleages as well, right here on Batter's Box.

But They're Winning ... Isn't that All that Matters?
To that charge, "the numbers don't lie," says Baker. "They tell of a dramatic dropoff in visible minorities playing for Toronto and yet, two months after our story, there is no clear indication as to why. The percentage decline was unprecedented. As we wrote, it wasn't about to change any time soon. And it hasn't."

Listen to the arguments -- and the numbers -- again.

"The Jays will likely finish the season with five non-white players," says Baker, though even then he is venturing into dangerous waters as many Latinos consider themselves "Caucasian," a term normally used interchangeably with "white" as a racial descriptor.

"The number of man-games played by Jays minorities will have dropped to a projected 727 -- down from 1,074 last year -- and 1,412 in the final year of the Ash regime," says Baker. "The total non-white players used, eight, will also be a huge drop from last year's 16 and the 18 used in 2001."

He concludes, "Those are enormous dropoffs in a sport growing more diverse by the year and something is obviously causing them. We still don't know what, but the sample size now [has] nearly two seasons [worth of players]."

Why is all this important? After all, the "White Jays" are 74-72 while the Rangers, with a roster packed with Benoit, Cordero, Diaz, two Garcias, Ramirez, two Rodriguezes, Park and Valdes -- not to mention Thomson, Young, Perry, Jones and Spencer -- are 65-81.

"Well, aside from Toronto's long and glorious -- and much written-about -- 27-year history as a home to Latino and African American players," says Baker, "let's consider where the game of baseball is headed."

One reader dropped Baker a note soon after the All-Star Game, he recalls anecdotally, and said she saw the importance of the "White Jays" story "in the fact that there was only one white player, Troy Glaus, in the entire American League starting lineup," he says. "The Jays obviously, have a very different look to them than does a collection of the AL's finest. That alone, for me, is a reason for all Toronto fans to care," says Baker.

The Sabermetric Complaint: Jackie Was a SABR-Star
But perhaps the line of reasoning that has raised the most significant ire with readers of Batter's Box and other sabermetrically-minded folks is the Jackie Robinson argument.

Moffatt, for instance, presents a seemingly compelling case, saying "Robinson was a star college athlete ... he was 40th all-time in OBP, the only career stat he's in the top 80 in. He does not [even] rank in the top 100 all time in stolen bases."

More to the point, says Moffatt, Robinson didn't take chances on the bases, as shown by his 197 steals but just 30 times caught stealing, an 87 percent success rate. By comparison, all-time steals leader Rickey Henderson and "Old School" icon Joe Morgan swiped bags at a rate of just less than 81 percent apiece. "If anything," says Moffatt, "Jackie Robinson is a JP/Beane/SABR style superstar."

But that's all in retrospect, retorts Baker. "When [Griffin] wrote about Robinson in his column defending my [White Jays] piece, his argument about the Jays not going after a player like Robinson today was 100 per cent factual," says Baker. "What readers fail to realize is that Robinson had an .097 batting average in college."

The only reason he was kept in the daily lineup, explains Baker, was for his base-stealing ability -- see percentages above -- and his breakneck style of play. "Baseball was arguably Robinson's worst college sport," he says, "but he was promoted to the pro ranks largely because others saw his 'tools' and projected him as the future star he later became."

And that, says Baker, is the exact opposite of the Moneyball formula. "Yes, Robinson became the prototypical sabermetric player," he says. "But that's all hindsight. At UCLA, he was raw, unpolished and obviously lacked the OBP that Ricciardi's Jays so covet from the college players they recruit. Stealing bases was his biggest asset at the time, something the Jays now consider to be overrated."

"It Was Valid"
Though the "White Jays" story has been -- to put it mildly -- controversial, Baker has no regrets.

"I would write this story again in a heartbeat because it was valid," he says. "We ran follow-up columns to it, including a piece by sports editor Graham Parley eight days later. Publisher John Honderich has since complimented me on the story and stands behind it 100 per cent. Our legal team had no problems with it and I have also been allowed to keep giving interviews about it, so obviously our paper is not embarrassed by the content of what was written."

Nor, it seems to Baker, should they have been. "The premise of the story -- whether we should have ever written it -- was never questioned by those who read our entire package," he says. And, he adds, "some readers have written in to commend us for our ‘watchdog' approach and their words are appreciated."

But has the story had the desired impact? At one level, if the impact desired was to draw attention to the Star and engender further discussion, then of course it has. However, says Baker. "We still don't know why nine out of every 10 new players coming into Toronto are white, though we have at least tried to find out."

Finally, Baker concludes, "My hope is that the Jays will one day look into the matter themselves and maybe help us shed some light on why this is happening here.

"Until then, we'll keep tabs on the numbers."
"White Jays" Revisited | 47 comments | Create New Account
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Gitz - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 05:51 PM EDT (#13941) #
Mick, another outstanding addition to this series.

If the Blue Jays philosophy continues to promote the drafting college players -- and by all accounts it will -- then this issue will not go away. Having gone to USC for three years, I can only think of two black players -- Damon Buford and John Jackson -- during my time, though there were a number of lesser-known Hispanic players (and a coach; Buford's dad, Don, also coached while I was there) who I cannot remember. But the composition of the team was 95 percent white. Despite higher-profile players like Jacques Jones, as far as I know not much has changed: USC's baseball program remains thickly white. Stanford, another high-level California program, has produced many big leaguers, but few of color; but Jeffrey Hammonds is the only black one I can think of. No doubt there are programs producing many black/latino collegiate players, and I welcome those as examples.

This is especially remarkable for USC when you consider the ethnic makeup of where the college is: the heart of downtown Los Angeles, minutes away from Watts and Inglewood and Compton, three largely black areas. They recruit heavily from the greater Los Angeles area -- in Orange County, in the San Gabriel Valley, and junior colleges in the San Fernando Valley -- but for some reason don't seem to tap what surely must be the fertile area immediately adjacent to USC. And I am not accusing USC of racial profiling, if you will, but it is an interesting condition. The point, and this was raised by many people in response to the original article, is that, for better or worse, most college programs are heavily painted white, as is higher education in general, though you would never know that by watching a Division I college football game. If you really want to tackle a thorny racial issue, let's figure out why there are so few black coaches in the NFL. That is a true abyss.

There is another issue here, perhaps, and that is how young black men/other minorities may simply not be playing baseball in the United States; they have turned their attention to basketball and football. Obviously I don't know what's happening, but I have heard that argument mentioned before.

None of this means that the Jays deliberately hand-select only white players; I believe that point is clear. But the original point of the article remains, at the very least as an observation of a trend, at most an invitation -- no, a command -- to discuss the issue further. That is when journalism works, the few times it does at the mainstream level.
_Jordan - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 06:02 PM EDT (#13942) #
The premise of the story -- whether we should have ever written it -- was never questioned by those who read our entire package.

Well, yes it was -- here, for instance, and in other places. And here's the fundamental problem with the premise of the article: so what? So the Blue Jays are whiter than they used to be: so what?

- Is it morally wrong that an emphasis on college players has inadvertantly changed the racial makeup of the team? No. The Star has never said that it was, and a good thing too, because that's nonsense.

- Is it a marketing misstep that the racial makeup of the team is tilting more heavily towards whites? No. The point of the Leafs and Raptors comparison is not that these leagues aren't heavily white or heavily black -- of course they are -- but that the racial makeup of the team has no effect whatsoever on whether the team builds a fan base or not. Torontonians, bless them, by and large don't care about the colour of their sports heroes' skin. They love Vince, they love Mats, they love Carlos -- if the teams are winning. Winning matters, end of story.

- Is it a problem for the players? No. Obviously not, as Messrs. Wells and Delgado made extremely clear.

Then, again I ask: so what?

The fact that the Jays are whiter than they used to be has as much meaning, relevance and importance as whether the team is more right-handed or more left-handed than it used to be. No one from the Star has yet made the case for why race matters.

This was an article whose premise was certainly worth pursuing -- but when the answers they found didn't match the original theory, they evidently went ahead with it anyway. That's what it looked like then and nothing that Messrs. Baker and Griffin have said here, however cogently stated and passionately believed, changes that.

"We still don't know why nine out of every 10 new players coming into Toronto are white, though we have at least tried to find out."

The Star knows why the players are increasingly white -- everyone they asked has told them that it's a mixture of (a) the new drafting emphasis and (b) coincidence in a small sample size. Their transgression, and they're still committing it, was to leave an ugly inference in the air about the team's real motives. It was wrong then and it's wrong now.
Mike Green - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 06:11 PM EDT (#13943) #
Dear Mr. Baker,

I suggest that you look at the following possible explanations for the decline in the number of black and Latin-American ballplayers in Toronto:

1. the number of black ballplayers in the majors generally is down significantly; most commentators believe this is due to the fact that more young black athletes are drawn to basketball particularly or football than was true 15-20 years ago.

2. the Blue Jay presence in Latin America (and in particular the Dominican Republic) is greatly diminished since the departure of Epy Guerrero; the days of Fernandez and Bell and Damaso Garcia are gone for that reason.

3. the current emphasis on drafting college pitchers, of which there are fewer minorities than high school outfielders, is likely to mean that Toronto will have fewer minority pitchers in the next 5 years.

A good way to look at the issue is to review the Jay 1st round draft choices of the last 10 years. Recent picks have included Alexis Rios, who was recently named a finalist for Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, and was considered as a risky choice at the time, and Miguel Negron. In the Ricciardi years, the 1st round picks were both white shortstops, but the arguably better minority middle infielders were gone by the time Ricciardi chose.

Now, to the meat of the matter. I find it disingenuous that you suggest that no imputation of racism was intended. The positioning of the article on the front page of the Saturday Star is simply not consistent with a serious think-piece on the sociological effects of Blue Jay management decisions, which would have been in the Review or Sports sections, and you must have known this. You had to be aware that an imputation of racism was involved, as it was in the Star's earlier campaign against police racial profiling (which had much more merit than "the White Jays" suggestion).

In short, unless you have evidence that JP Ricciardi or Paul Godfrey or somebody in a position of authority in the Jays is a racist, you owe them an apology. Not because your words explicitly suggested it, but because you had to know from the positioning of the article and the context of the Star's prior articles, what the imputation that the public would make.

Incidentally, I do not think it is entirely a fluke that the team, which had been playing very well until the day the article was published, went in the tank afterwards.

Yours truly,

Mike Green
_S.K. - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 06:27 PM EDT (#13944) #
Has anyone asked Griffin/Baker (I believe Griffin wrote the comment) how on earth they could think that people wouldn't see a "the Jays wouldn't have let Jackie Robinson play" argument as a direct accusation of racism? Sure, he didn't hit in college - that doesn't matter a bit, because he DID hit in the Negro leagues, which was a far more competitive environment. Etc.
All arguments on the merits of the comparison aside, what the Jackie reference reflects to me is a) a complete lack of knowledge about the history of racism in sports, and baseball in general - or b) a blatant attempt at stirring the pot.
Either of those things is inexcusable when writing about such a sensitive topic.
Coach - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 06:36 PM EDT (#13945) #
"What surprised me was the reaction of Jays players who for some reason took the analysis of the changing face of the Jays as a personal attack."

Nice try. The reaction wasn't to the "analysis," it was the provocative headline and colour photo on the front page of the Saturday paper, which Griffin admits was "inflammatory," then Baker tries to dismiss as "unfortunate."

It's a tag team. One says the story was fair, what's the fuss? The other didn't write the headline, so it's not his fault. They can shift the blame all over the Star offices, but thousands of readers were so offended and angry they contacted the paper, which means that tens of thousands were outraged. The players didn't sit down to compose a letter to the editor, they let the author know how they felt the next time he entered the clubhouse.

Despite all the denials, the original piece wasn't unbiased. When Baker says "no one is complaining too loudly about Ricciardi's moves," it sounds like he thinks someone should be. He closed with a dire warning of "possible upcoming trades involving black outfielder Shannon Stewart and Venezuelan pitcher Kelvim Escobar," at a time when Cory Lidle, Greg Myers and Mike Bordick were equally available. Several times, the article points a finger at something that isn't there. It avoids an accusation, but hints at racism.

Unfortunate? Yeah, it's too bad they stooped to this level. As I said the day it was published, "What a load of rubbish; I guess it sells papers."

I still feel the same way. Griffin can be the apologist, and Baker can feign innocence, but the Star should be ashamed.
robertdudek - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 06:53 PM EDT (#13946) #
Jordan is exactly right: the Jays' ranking in numbers of "minority" ballplayers is not an indication of anything significant. You might as well rank teams on the basis of handedness or height or the length of their last names.

I may be in the minority, but I intensely dislike classification of human beings into racial types. Contemporary geneticists tell us that any such division has no basis in genetics (there is more genetic variance among individuals within the same "racial type" than there is between aggregates of any two "racial types"). It's commonly accepted that all human beings on the earth at present can be traced back to African ancestors. If you want to talk about ethnic identity and cultural norms - that's a different story.

To my mind, such classification encourages racist thinking by promoting the falsehood of separate races. Any article written by anyone that first classifies people by racial type and then purports to say how two of more of these groups are treated is dangerously close to racism.

Let's not forget that these are, for the most part, athletes earning a well above-average salary we are discussing. It's true that many of them came from underpriveleged backgrounds, though that is not particularly relevant to the business of running a baseball team. I don't think the sports pages is an appropriate forum for analysis of poverty in various communities and nations around the globe.

So here are the facts:

1) The writers/newspaper have decided that, based on their racial classification of baseball players, the current Jays are the least diverse club in MLB.

2) They ask why this is so. Any number of reasons are put forward, among them:

a) chance: it so happened that the majority of players they felt would be good acquisitions were "white" and a larger proportion of players they traded/released were not "white".

b) the result of acquiring certain players that were perceived as undervalued by the marketplace and were available to the Jays, who happened to be "white".

c) the Jays were selecting their players influenced by racial bias.

The General Manager noted that there are fewer African-American kids growing up playing baseball, and this seems to account for why there are fewer young black major leaguers than 10 or 20 years ago. He noted that they were going to focus on drafting college kids, who are closer to the big leagues. There are not many Latin American or African-American college baseball players, due to various socio-economic factors beyond the control of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Apparently, these explanations were not convincing as far as the Toronto Star was concerned.
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 07:06 PM EDT (#13947) #
Controversial Theory: The A's and a lesser extent the Jays are more willing to pick up players who the rest of baseball see as non-athletes or "Bad Body" types. One of the prejudices common in our society is that we tend to see a black man as a track star or basketball player and not a research scientist. If the other 28 teams are disproportinately taking players that they feel are "athletes" then it's possible that they're taking too many black players because of their racial stereotypes. If that's true, then it would not be surprising that the A's or the Jays, who look for value, would take the relatively underpriced white player. If so, I don't see how you could claim the Jays are the racists.

And that, says Baker, is the exact opposite of the Moneyball formula. "Yes, Robinson became the prototypical sabermetric player," he says. "But that's all hindsight. At UCLA, he was raw, unpolished and obviously lacked the OBP that Ricciardi's Jays so covet from the college players they recruit. Stealing bases was his biggest asset at the time, something the Jays now consider to be overrated."

Again: Big Deal. The A's and Jays look for players which have been undervalued by the market. You'd have to think they'd look very closely at the Negro Leagues as a cheap source of players, and Robinson put up great numbers in his only season there.

If your point is that Jays only care about college players with big numbers, then they would have easily broken the color line before Robinson came around. I don't see how you could argue that JP wouldn't have been interested in Hilton Smith in the early 1930's who was a black college player who by all accounts was a damn good pitcher and hitter both in college and in the Negro Leagues (he was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2001).

An absolutely terrific article Mick! Thanks for the plug. You ought to teach a writing course. I'd take it in a second.

Gitz - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 07:40 PM EDT (#13948) #
You know what, Coach? You're right. It's a load of rubbish and it sells newspapers.

But sometimes there is a third component to augment that fetid dualism, and that is, as I said, that this article is an interesting observation. (And I am not, by and large, an ends justifies the means person.) Take it for what it is. I won't go as far as Jordan and say "big deal." But I will qualify that statement: It's no big deal ... for now.
Coach - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 08:04 PM EDT (#13949) #
Griffin notes "one senior official claimed they didn't even know [Corey] Thurman was black."

I'm not sure what Rich is getting at. What "they" knew about Thurman -- J.P. has credited Keith Law with that Rule 5 steal -- was that he was the best starter in the Texas League, and projected as a possible big-leaguer at a minimal risk. Is this allegation supposed to imply that they wouldn't have claimed him had they known his skin colour? Even if it's true that they didn't know, doesn't it just prove that the Jays, just like sabermetrics, are colour-blind?

The A's and Jays look for players which have been undervalued by the market. You'd have to think they'd look very closely at the Negro Leagues as a cheap source of players, and Robinson put up great numbers in his only season there.

I couldn't agree more, Mike. Griffin shot from the lip with the ill-advised Robinson remark. Baker takes his turn as the spin doctor, offering flimsy "evidence" why the Jays wouldn't be interested, but there is no team more likely to look for alternative sources of talent. They would have pounced on Robinson.
robertdudek - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 08:12 PM EDT (#13950) #

It must have been Ricciardi that Griffin is referring to, because Ricciardi said exactly that on TSN the day after the story. It was clear from the context of that discussion what J.P. meant: Thurman was acquired because of his numbers - he could have been purple and it wouldn't have mattered to J.P.
_dp - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 09:23 PM EDT (#13951) #
My question is:
If the choice is between a white player with equal skills to a black player, but the white player is cheaper, does Baker think the Jays should go with the more expensive black player?

Unless the discepency is made up for at the gate with increased attendence from black fans (which I think would be impossible to prove, unless the Jays keep demographic numbers like that), then signing the more expensive black player would make the team worse, as it would divert funds from other areas of need on the team. It seems like an absurd argument from the start, and when I think more about it, it doesn't get any less absurd...
_Matt - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 09:32 PM EDT (#13952) #
To me the bottom line on Griffin/Baker is :

(a)They have it in for Ricciardi, probably a combination of personal(the alleged "Toronto writers don't know anything about baseball" comment) and, of course, philosophical.

(b)Their relentless mean-spiritedness. About ten days ago Baker wrote about errors made by Myers and Bordick, two of the Jays "so called character players." I mean, what can you say about such an inane comment?

(c)Neither ever amuses... intentionally.

They can spin it any way they want, the evidence can be Googled.
_Rich - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 09:59 PM EDT (#13953) #
What I find even more offensive than the original series of articles and the inferrences of racism they contained is Griffin and Baker's continued tippy-toeing around the nature of their "stories" on the subject. Their don't-shoot-the-messenger response to the ensuing outrage, "My hope is that the Jays will one day look into the matter themselves and maybe help us shed some light on why this is happening" only reinforces the view that they are, in fact, accusing the Jays of racism, but don't have the courage to do so explicitly.

I don't need to recount all the explanations listed above my post, but you don't need to be a genius to recognize the validity of many of them. How can none of these explanations make any sense to Baker and Griffin, yet they still maintain that they are not throwing around accusations of racism? The two of them can't possibly be so thick that they can't think of a single valid reason for the team's current racial makeup, whether it's racism or otherwise. I'd really like to hear Baker provide clarification about the italicized quote from him above. Is it really this puzzling to him?
Dave Till - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 10:12 PM EDT (#13954) #
Till, though, directs his venom properly

I just wanted to write that again :-).

I don't really have much more to add, other than to reiterate that Ricciardi-style sabermetrics is colour-blind. And, J.P.'s Rule V draftees have been an African-American and a Latino.
_S.K. - Friday, September 12 2003 @ 10:15 PM EDT (#13955) #
By the way: Great job with this article, Mick. I have enjoyed the series immensely so far. After reading this article on an immensely controversial and sensetive subject, I have no idea what your opinion is - which is good reporting.
_Ryan - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 12:43 AM EDT (#13956) #
If the Star had used a headline other than "White Jays," not put the player photos on the front page and treated the articles in the way Baker and Griffin supposedly intended, would people still feel they implied the Blue Jays were racist? I think so. They indirectly accused the team of racism several times in those pieces which is hard to ignore. Others have already pointed to several of these instances, but the proverbial "smoking gun" for me was the article on the Latin American players. This fired a direct shot at the Blue Jays, pointing to the concept they value most: on-base percentage. The article had no other purpose except to say the team's front office was racist.

Baker and Griffin need to realise that the treatment of the articles on the front of the paper was not the sole reason for outrage among readers. On the Star's website, the "White Jays" headline and the player photos were absent. For the most part, people who read the Star only via the internet had no idea what was actually on the front page of the paper that day. Those people read the articles in the context Baker and Griffin intended and many of them still complained.

Those two can do all the hand-washing they want, but they were still the ones who wrote the articles that many people found offensive and, in some instances, silly. They were ultimately the ones responsible for these poorly-crafted articles and the subsequent backlash.

Mick posted a link to the main "White Jays" article, but here is the complete series:

Whitest team in the majors
College players mostly white
Free-swinging label has no substance
Jays striking out in bid for diverse crowd (Griffin)

The backlash:
Jays attack Star for roster story
Story is not about racism (Griffin)

I'm going to include the following Griffin column as part of the backlash because it came out immediately after the "White Jays" articles and was the first (and only) pro-Ricciardi column he's written:

Ricciardi was the right choice for Jays
_Rich - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 07:27 AM EDT (#13957) #

Thanks for posting the link to Griffin's follow-up article. I read it the day it was published, and it left me with 2 distinct impressions:

1. It's a meagre attempt to display a non-biased attitude to JP, or a non-apology apology (we're not sorry for what we wrote, but we're sorry if it upset people, so we'll say something nicer about you now).

2. Even his complement to JP is a rather back-handed one: "Well, at least he's done better than Dave Dombrowski has". After months of ripping at him constantly, frequently without facts or careful arguments, this comes off pretty unconvincingly.

Did anyone else get a similar impression, or am I just unfailingly biased against Griffin and Baker?
_Rich - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 07:45 AM EDT (#13958) #
Sorry if the spot where I used quotes above gives the impression I am citing Griffin's article directly; I'm just paraphrasing here.
_Rich - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 10:16 AM EDT (#13959) #
Shouldn't a fair look at this issue have included an examination of the players JP has gotten rid of and the reasons for doing so? I agree that the focus on college players does not explain the current makeup of the club, since no one JP has drafted has reached the majors (although it will be relevant in the next year or two).

Look at these names, approx salaries in millions, and OBP/ERA figures:

Koch: 4.25 / 5.72
Plesac: 2 / 2.70
Quantrill: 3.3 / 1.78
Loazia: .5 / 2.73 (earned 6 million with Jays last year w/5.71 ERA)
Fullmer: 1 / .387
Stewart: 6.2 / .365
Izturis: .335 / .592
Cruz: 2.5 / .361
Mondesi: 13 / .341
Gonzalez: 4.5 / .291

There are some good players there, but virtually none of them are worth what they are being paid for the roles they perform to a cost-conscious club. The 2003 version of Loaiza is the exception, but I don't think anyone said the Jays were wrong to dump him when his contract expired. If Baker wants to see some legwork, well, here's a small sample for you. It's pretty clear that skin colour notwithstanding, most of these guys were not affordable to the Jays for what they produced on the field. If this makes no sense to the baseball writers at the Star, then perhaps they should be writing about something other than baseball.
_lurker - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 10:37 AM EDT (#13960) #
Bottom line: The Star and Baker got such negative reaction because the average Star reader is not the average Sun reader, and can determine what the Baker article implies and that it is baseless in implying it. It's obvious it was written to sell papers, and it's so safe to play the race card (usually).

So the payroll has been cut and the team has improved. Now take Baker's observations about the makeup of the team and write another article.

How about one exploring the idea that minority players (whose tool sets could presently rank higher in priority than fundamentals by most teams) command higher salaries? Of course they should if tools are still the focus of the majority of MLB teams..but tools aren't what this organization focuses on. That would explain more whites on the team.

Now someone is going to say "what makes you say minorities have better raw tools?" I don't know, look at the MAJORITY of athletically dominant players in football, basketball and baseball. MOST of them are minorities.

How about an article exploring the lack of fundamentals and negative team influence by some of our former players who happened to be Latin (Mondesi, Cruz, Felipe Lopez)? The disposal of these players could explain both better situational hitting and clubhouse harmony. We've all heard the stories and seen them play, afterall.

My 'ideas' actually hold more water than Baker's, because they are REINFORCED by the direction of the team. We HAVE cut payroll, we DO have more quality ABs, there IS better clubhouse chemistry, and we ARE a better overall team.

Not that they're worth printing, but at least they have SOME logic behind them. Mine say "here's what's happened to the team and here's some possible reasons why"..Baker's says "The Jays are whiter, yet better, so let's question the character of management for making them whiter, but better".

The article was a mistake, passing the buck to the headline writer ain't gonne cut it.
_Grimlock - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 12:44 PM EDT (#13961) #
One reader dropped Baker a note soon after the All-Star Game, he recalls anecdotally, and said she saw the importance of the "White Jays" story "in the fact that there was only one white player, Troy Glaus, in the entire American League starting lineup," he says. "The Jays obviously, have a very different look to them than does a collection of the AL's finest. That alone, for me, is a reason for all Toronto fans to care," says Baker.

Is Baker saying that the Jays might be too white to contend? That, since the 2003 AL All-Star lineup was all non-white save Troy Glaus, if they continue along their maybe-racist-but-we're-not-saying-so-because-they'd-sue-and-win ways, then they won't win?

However, says Baker. "We still don't know why nine out of every 10 new players coming into Toronto are white, though we have at least tried to find out."

Couldn't it simply be coincidence in a small sample size (me Grimlock talking about the free agent and trade acquisitions), as someone else has noted? The fact that they downplay that possibility, if they mention it at all, reveals less than balanced reporting.

At the time of the article, there were one or two teams that had one or two more "non-whites" than the Jays. Was it explored why those teams, with a comparable roster makeup, aren't very diverse? Or, for them, was it just assumed to be a coincidental result?

Me Grimlock hasn't bought the Star since the White Jays articles, after reading it for most of the past 20 years.
_Mick - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 07:24 PM EDT (#13962) #
An absolutely terrific article Mick! Thanks for the plug. You ought to teach a writing course.

Thanks, Mike ... but been there, done that ... changed careers. Still think about it sometimes. Like what I'm doing now.

I have to admit, the (still!) heated reaction to the White Jays imbroglio throws me a little bit. I'm pleased that S.K. notes that he can't tell what my opinion is of this whole affair after reading the above, and I've heard from several people via e-mail (including one of the interviewees) noting that it seemed balanced. (Though I hope it wasn't "Fair and Balanced" or Bill O'Reilly will sue me.)

The one concern I have, and it's admittedly quite minor, is that (A) readers of the series seem quite anxious to focus on intonation and innuendo which is at least as much the responsibility of the reader as it is of the writer/s and (B) the bottom line is, that as Baker says, while somebody has to be last, it's the Blue Jays.

And doesn't that make the question worth asking?

I admit, one of the first things I think about in discussions of race (not necessarily racism) is the outspokenness of the white male -- including Baker, Griffin and in this case myself -- to provide commentary and analysis.

The more I think about this from a (ex-)journalist's perspective, the more I want to fire off an e-mail to Kevin Blackistone or Mike Wilbon to ask their opinion. But that in itself is a Bizarro World form of racism -- "it's an issue of race, so get the African-American columnist to comment on it."

Maybe we should ask Dusty Baker.

Regardless of the tone, placement, statistical validity of the argument, whatever -- this topic was ripe for, and worth addressing. IMNSHO, anyway.

Finally, the Jackie Robinson argument strikes me as both sides just wanting to be mad at the other and using an unimpeachable icon to do so.

Writers like Griffin say Robinson never would have been drafted by Ricciardi out of college. Correct. He hit less than .100 ... nobody would have drafted him.

Writers here on Batter's Box argue that he would have been hotly pursued and signed by Riccardi out of the Negro Leagues. ALSO correct, just as top Japanese players are making their way into the Major Leagues.

But it all would have been moot, because these days the crowds and endorsements and money of baseball wouldn't have compared to what was available to Jackie Robinson, tailback, UCLA and sophomore-eligible first-round draft pick of the Houston Texans.
Named For Hank - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 09:00 PM EDT (#13963) #
And, he adds, "some readers have written in to commend us for our ‘watchdog' approach and their words are appreciated."

And just what the hell does that mean? "Thank you, Toronto Star, for keeping an eye on those nasty Blue Jays so that they continue to hire minorities, because if it weren't for you they'd be all white at this point"?

I certainly hope not. But can anyone explain what it does mean, then?

I cannot for the life of me understand the intent of the article. What I do see are articles and justifications by a pair of writers, one of whom has made it very clear that he will engage in baseless character assassination and spout completely fabricated nonsense in their unending series of negative articles about the Toronto Blue Jays. When you take that history into context (and of course you must), how can one possibly doubt that the intention of the White Jays article was to further this agenda?

While I appreciate that these Batter's Box articles must be balanced and at least attempt to be fair to Baker and Griffin, I personally think that the tough questions, particularly follow-ups to their shrug-off answers, are sorely lacking.

If I had been told that when Griffin said that the Jays would not be interested in Jackie Robinson because he was not their kind of player that he really meant that the Jays would not have drafted him out of college because he had a poor batting average, I would ask him if that was true.

And if he said yes, I would ask him why he felt the need to infer that overall, Jackie Robinson was not a Blue Jays kind of player when he really only meant that Jackie Robinson had a poor batting average in college. That would seem awfully unfair to the Jays, wouldn't it? And then, of course, the reverse implication is that other teams would overlook Jackie Robinson's dismal batting average because they are not statistically oriented. How does this support the White Jays thesis in any way, shape or form? All it says is that the Blue Jays are unwilling to take a risk on a guy who bats under .100.

Oh, unless the inference was that the Blue Jays would not have looked at Jackie Robinson because he was black.

So which was is it? What, exactly, was Griffin's line of reasoning? And how does it support the White Jays article? If I were running the interview, I'd be asking him the question until he actually answered it.

Griffin's motives and methods were fully, glaringly revealed to us all when he spat on SABR for being any number of things that it is not. It was massively uninformed, a complete and total fabrication made up out of his head. How can a columnist get away with making things up? Furthermore, how can he not have his whole history of work not called into question when he is caught making things up?

Reading about his childhood and past has made it hard for me to believe that Griffin is simply malicious or writing out of spite...but it sure looks like it from here in the cheap seats.
_Jonny German - Saturday, September 13 2003 @ 11:38 PM EDT (#13964) #
Mick, excellent point about the responsibility of the reader as well the writer, and as others have mentioned an excellent job of putting your own opinions aside to present this interview series objectively. I looked forward to these interviews thinking that they would improve my opinion of these two writers. Learning more about someone usually leads to liking them better, or at least understanding their point of view and having more respect for them.

This has not happened.

Giving Mr. Griffin and Mr. Baker this opportunity has been like handing them a length of sturdy rope, and they have done a very efficient job of hanging themselves. The overriding feeling I have about both men, halfway through this series, is that they are arrogant. Plain and simple, two very arrogant people, unwilling to admit their own shortcomings. I do not feel that either of them lacks for intelligence or talent, and it is quite conceivable that they could both consistently turn out worthwhile writing if they were inclined to.

Mr. Baker, I submit that you made a mistake in pursuing an ill-conceived idea for an article, on a topic that is only a topic in that you wrote about it. Jordan can't say "So what?" enough times as far as I'm concerned.

Mr. Griffin, I submit that you are not nearly as thorough in your research as you would have us believe, and that you have a dislike for Mr. Ricciardi which is wholly unrelated to his performance as General Manager.

I do not expect any sort of outward admission from either of you on these claims, but admitting them to yourselves would make you better writers.
_Justin B. - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 12:52 AM EDT (#13965) #
My sense of the articles has been that they have said, mainly, what people want to hear. It's easy to say that you always strive to be objective or that you are privy to information that fans don't have, for example. Personally though, I just don't see this born out in their work to date.

With so many readers perceiving an agenda from the writers/paper, their responses just don't mesh with their writing.
_TUCKER FREDRICK - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 11:11 AM EDT (#13966) #
I will give credit where its due. 1st of all Jp and staff did take Thurman and A. Lopez , one being black and the other being latin. Lets not compare the situation of JP vs Dombrowski, two complete different situations, JP had the makings of some decent players in which to make deals with, some ok and some not so ok, but nonetheless there was players, prospects and depth, he also had a Top 10 rated organization by Baseball America in prospects before he arrived. For Dombrowski he wasnt quite as fortunate, his major league team stinks and the Detroit's minor leaguers have been and presently ranked in the bottom 20's for sometime!! If you press me with same given situation I'm taking Jp but lets get this one straight, it shouldnt have been written and the situations are completely different!!
Mike D - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 11:35 AM EDT (#13967) #
I completely agree with Mick's post.
Coach - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 12:14 PM EDT (#13968) #
an excellent job of putting your own opinions aside to present this interview series objectively

I'll second that. Mick is doing a terrific job. There's no way I would have been as impartial, because certain writers often trigger a "here we go again" response. Though I'm still grateful to Geoff and Rich for doing this, and we do know them better, my opinion of some of their work hasn't changed.

This thread is about just one of his controversial pieces, but Geoff Baker has a knack for being "misunderstood." Batter's Box recently received some unexpected publicity when a Baker game note from Boston mentioned one line from our J.P. Ricciardi interview, and spun it into a controversy. A non-story (the GM is the manager's boss) became "pulling the strings" in Star-speak.

If you consider that out of context, J.P. may have "overreacted" by ripping the paper on The FAN 590. However, he had a long history in mind when he said things like "shoddy reporting" and "consider the source."

The White Jays presentation was offensive by itself, but it didn't create the animosity between the team and the paper, it just escalated the existing tension. That's how some readers felt, too -- like it was just the latest thinly-veiled attack.

I'm not speaking for any other Batter's Box authors or for "the site" here. That's why I didn't want to edit the series. I couldn't have done it nearly as well as Mick, and I'm not objective. I enjoy reading Griffin and Baker most of the time, but whenever that anti-Jays agenda seeps in, it pushes my buttons.
_Wildrose - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 01:24 PM EDT (#13969) #
For me this comment sums up the rationale behind the story,"Publisher John Honderich has since complimented me on the story and stands behind it 100 per cent."

Frankly this story is nothing more than an attempt by Baker and his sports editor to curry favour with the papers senior executives. The "watch-dog" element and left wing adgenda ( I share many of these beliefs)of the Star is well known. Perhaps Honderich casually mentioned to his sports editor that the sports pages were not reflecting the papers viewpoint strongly enough. This series of articles is a weak attempt to "tow the company line".

The absurdity of these stories have forced me to rexamine the jaded slant that pervades most Toronto Star articles.

I think a real bias exists at the Star against the Jays on both a corporate level,Rogers vs. Torstar, and on a personal level with both Baker and Griffin feeling slighted by the new regime. Griffin as I remember strongly lobbied for Dave Stewart to be the new G.M.,( Now wouldn't that have made Baron Von Honderich happy!)so there is a history here.
Craig B - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 02:53 PM EDT (#13970) #
The "watch-dog" element and left wing adgenda ( I share many of these beliefs)of the Star is well known.

The Star isn't a left-wing paper. It editorial positions consistently occupy the political centre, which in the Toronto media market make it appear "left-wing" by comparison. It's not... which is why it's the city's most popular newspaper.

This series of articles is a weak attempt to "tow the company line".

The only line being toed is the one that (as you acknowledge later on) says attacks on one of a company's chief competetitors will always be welcome. This is to be expected and is something that as a reader, you need to guard yourself against.
_Wildrose - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 03:09 PM EDT (#13971) #
Craig, your Idea of the "center" is a little different than mine. I would contend the Globe and Mail is much more towards the middle than the Star. If you think the newspaper market is slanted to the right in Ontario ,you haven't seen anything yet, here in Alberta the National Post(even during Lord Blacks tenure) would be considered left wing.

As well,lets call it "editorial influence" is very much alive in Canadian papers. I'm surprised you seem to be intimating that this does not exist.
_Rich - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 09:42 PM EDT (#13972) #
I would have been very surprised if the Star's publisher had had anything critical to say about the story. It was controversial, it sold newspapers, and it was entirely consistent with the type of work Baker and Griffin have been writing for a long time. I don't think the paper's political bent has much impact on what gets written in the sports pages. The editors obviously saw the chance to make a big splash by putting the story and the photo grid on the front page, and I'd have to say it worked pretty well.

Not to get too far off topic (as I said I don't think the Star's political philosophies are really that relevant to a baseball story), but Wildrose, you need to remember that the Alberta political spectrum is vastly different from that of the rest of the country. Only in Alberta could the Globe be considered to be in the centre of the political spectrum. The Globe has consistenly endorsed Conservative governments, parties, and policies, not to mention corporate interests, for literally decades. They do publish liberal thinkers like Naomi Klein and Rick Salutin to provide a modicum of balance to the paper, but all in all it is squarely to the right of centre and probably always will be. Just because the Sun, Post and some Alberta papers are even more conservative does not make the Globe middle-of-the-road, sorry.
robertdudek - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 10:24 PM EDT (#13973) #
I'd have to say it didn't work well, based on the testimorials here and elsewhere of disgruntled Star readers who are now ex-Star readers.

If the point of the thing was to sell newspapers, it backfired.
_Grimlock - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 10:56 PM EDT (#13974) #
I'd have to say it didn't work well

According to the Star ombudsman, linked in the homepage, it was "an embarassment for The Star."
_Wildrose - Sunday, September 14 2003 @ 11:34 PM EDT (#13975) #
I'm afraid Rich I don't agree,"The Globe has consistenly endorsed Conservative governments, parties, and policies, not to mention corporate interests, for literally decades". If this were true one could examine the various comments made by the Globes columnists during this past week regarding the on-going Ontario election to see evidence of such bias.

I did exactly that,the 09/10 story by Jeffery Simpson strongly anti -conservative,3 consecutive stories by Roy Magregor 09/11-13 anti- conservative,John Ibbitson 09/10 another anti-Eves column, a negative editorial on 09/13.The only decidedly nuetral commentary was by Murray Cambell on 09/13. With friends like this, who needs enemies.

It's funny how different individuals perceive things. For me the Globe is very centerist, but thats just my viewpoint sitting in "Red Neck" Alberta.

Granted its a reach to try to explain the " White Jays" connundrum on the basis of a newspapers political slant, but I just found the whole series to be so silly, this is the only rationale I can come up with.
_George Tsuji - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 12:23 AM EDT (#13976) #
The one question I haven't seen addressed about the whole "colour-blind" issue is this -- Why not look at race? Obviously it wouldn't be "politically correct" to base personnel decisions even partly on race... heck, it'd probably be illegal. But, if there was "statistical evidence" that players of a certain background developed better than the average player, why not use this evidence?

In, I believe, the 1987 Abstract, James did an extensive study of rookies... the one thing he was reluctant to write about was the comparison of Black and White rookies, something he didn't seem to even want to do in the first place. IIRC, what he found was that Black rookies, on the whole, significantly out-performed their White comps, most notably in the way they tended to retain their speed.

Does anyone know of anyone ever disputing that part of the study? Was it ever studied further? I can't recall ever subsequently hearing the subject seriously addressed. If not, why not? (It may turn out that it's socio-economic background, rather than race, that "explains" the difference, but why not use that, if that's the case?)
Craig B - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 08:49 AM EDT (#13977) #
For me the Globe is very centerist, but thats just my viewpoint sitting in "Red Neck" Alberta.

The center of the political spectrum in Alberta is nowhere near what it is in the rest of the country, of course. Perhaps this is what you are seeing.

The Globe is well known as a Tory paper and has been for many decades now, as was pointed out above. (Current election content perhaps notwithstanding... conservatives in this province seem to have become completely fed up with the bumbling and randomness of this "Tory" government).

Actually, the Globe's attempts to undermine the Canadian government during the Second World War were recently the subject of a very interesting book (_War Games_) by the very good journalist/historian Douglas Hunter.
_Rich - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 09:15 AM EDT (#13978) #
Just because the Globe can no longer ignore the incompetence and arrogance of the Ontario Tories doesn't mean the paper's political slant isn't to the right (Margaret Wente, anyone?). This is the same paper that rhaposized in its editorial that Brian Mulroney was the best Prime Minister of the past 35 years upon his retirement.

If you know of any any non-conservative electoral candidate the Globe has ever endorsed, then you know of 1 more than I do. The paper has long supported lower taxes, balanced budgets (when they were a traditonally conservative policy), free trade, privatization, and virtually any other policy you can name that favours corporate Canada.

As for Jeffrey Simpson, I don't know how to classify him, except maybe as the Richard Griffin of the Front Section (ie. simply snipes at everyone of any stripe).

I find it very interesting to read your thoughts, Wildrose (and I'm not being sarcastic).
Gerry - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 09:47 AM EDT (#13979) #
I have taken my time in responding and I have gone back and re-read the original article.

It's a hatchet job.
_Ryan Day - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 11:07 AM EDT (#13980) #
I remember seeing the headline/photo in a newspaper box and thinking a) what the hell? and b) oh, right, it is the Star. (as an aside, I generally like the Star aside from the Sports section)

When I finally read the article a week later (I wasn't about to pay for that, and I was out of town for several days), my general reaction was "what's the point?" Simply saying "The Blue Jays don't have many minorities" isn't a story any more than "The Blue Jays don't have any Mormons" or "the Blue Jays don't have any players who own Chihuahas."

There's a story if Blue Jays management purposefully drafts white players instead of black players. There's a story if minority players are treated unfairly in the system. There's a story if Vernon Wells says "I just don't feel comfortable with all these white guys."

There's none of that whatsoever. The only remotely valid point is actually from a quality standpoint: Does Ricciardi's scouting philosophy omit talented players who don't fit his mold? Would Vernon Wells, Alexis Rios or Guillermo Quiroz have been signed under Ricciardi? The fact that all three are minorities is utterly insignificant unless you can prove that changing Rios' skin colour would have made him more desirable to Ricciardi.

It's just not a story, it wasn't even remotely interesting, and should have been ignored if not for the grossly inflammatory headline & photo on the front page.

As for the whole Jackie Robinson thing: Griffin never brought up Robinson's college career. Maybe it's a valid point (that is, if Griffin had made it), but it's completely irrelevent to Robinson being black. I'm sure you could come up with a number of white guys with mediocre or poor college careers who went on to be good players.

If there's any evidence that Ricciardi discriminates on anything other than talent, I've yet to see it.
_jason - Thursday, October 02 2003 @ 02:02 AM EDT (#13981) #
My two cents is a caricature of our Mr. Baker.

He strikes me as something of an aesthete. Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. But these dear creatures are not without their failings. While they revel in the finer things in life, they are all to aware of lifes iniquities. After all, how long will a conversation last discussing the virtues of a cabernet. There is a guilt in their pleasures and a desire to make some form of atonement. While the rest of his journalistic croanies can rail against the injustices of this nasty, brutish and short existence, what's a 'sports writer' to do when sports and sports writing is in essence escapism?

Why, write a piece on racism in baseball in general, and the Blue Jays in particular. That will shake up the masses to this injustice. That will get me credit with the right sort of people. ("Yes, this is a delightful chardonay. And What do you write Mr. Baker?") But how to bring an accusation of racism without actually saying it is racism.

Because racism is such a heinous crime, it can only be hinted at, and for this pupose Master Baker brings out the shiboleth of diversity. Now I suppose that diversity is fine and noble thing, but to use it as a trojan horse for the purpose of insinuating racism is duplitious at best, and at worst chicken sh...

Look, baseball has a long and sordid history of racism, much like the rest of society. Like the rest of society, baseball has an invidious and distasteful present with regards to racism. These present day prejudices are not what they used to be: they are made up of elusive gossip and heresay; sophisticated and subtle inuendo. (Much the same methododology as our Geoff uses.) It is not as simple as a mere racial profiling.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about: Dave Perkins writing in the Star (Sept 26) about Tony Fernandez - "...what a tremendous phisical talent he was...." Do you see it? Tony Fernandez is black, and gifted physically. It has nothing to do with hard work, dedication and training, nothing whatsoever to do with intelligence. This is the type of racism that is prevalent today.

If good Mr Baker wants to bandy about allegations of racism, I suggest he look to baseball's past. If he wants be a crusader in the fight against injustice, maybe he could look deeper than a simple skin colour count. (I Don't know about you, but I found the 25 man roster to be the most demeaning and sickening part of the whole piece. Each of these people - fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, good, bad, smart, stupid, kind, loving, caring, indifferent, cold, generous or miserly - each of them reduced to three categories; white, black and latino.) If Geoff is hoping to find the Blue Jays at the forefront of vast right wing conspiracy in order to get minorities billeted in separate hotels, maybe he should try his no doubt gifted hand at fiction.
_Rob - Friday, December 12 2003 @ 04:28 PM EST (#13982) #
Does anyone here have a sudden urge to read the Globe's coverage of the Blue Jays? I know Jeff Blair and Larry Millson are very good writers, and I doubt they care one iota about the skin colour of any player.

Remember when O-Dog called JP a pimp? If JP was racist, he would have traded Hudson within a week.

Let's go Blue Jays -- or whatever colour the new logo is.
Mike Green - Friday, December 12 2003 @ 05:13 PM EST (#13983) #
Let it be remembered. O-Dog said something like: "JP's a cool dude; he dresses like a pimp". It was obviously not an attack on JP or his morality; at worst, it was an unwise sartorial slight, with an impolitic use of language. Anyways, that is all water under the bridge now.
_Rob - Monday, December 22 2003 @ 11:21 AM EST (#13984) #
You're right, Mike. I forgot the context in which O-Dog said that.
Thanks for correcting me.
_Rob - Monday, December 22 2003 @ 11:22 AM EST (#13985) #
You're right, Mike. I forgot the context in which O-Dog said that.
Thanks for correcting me.
_Rob - Monday, December 22 2003 @ 11:22 AM EST (#13986) #
You're right, Mike. I forgot the context in which O-Dog said that.
Thanks for correcting me.
_Rob - Monday, December 22 2003 @ 11:24 AM EST (#13987) #
Oops, sorry about that triple-click.
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