Tag Archives: baseball

Baseball’s Foreign Policy: Where is It?

With baseball’s All-Star Game taking place next Tuesday, I wanted to weave together two frequent topics in my blog (baseball, social awareness) and ask a question: why doesn’t Major League Baseball speak up more about current events overseas?

For those of you keeping score at home, Venezuela has descended into near anarchy.  Violence has become a standard political tool.  Their free-falling economy threatens reach Weimar Republic levels.  A renegade policeman commandeered a helicopter to attack the Supreme Court with grenades, perhaps as a false flag attack.

Meanwhile, MLB, currently home to over 70 Venezuelan players, has not made any statements I can find to address the situation. Put another way, about one-in-twelve men who pull on an MLB uniform comes from Venezuela and, presumably, still has family there.

Miguel Cabrera, Venezuela’s top export now that oil prices are low

Just after President’s Trump’s inauguration, I wrote about the need for every business, even one as small as mine, to have a foreign policy.  Given MLB’s efforts to popularize the game overseas, you’d think that goes double for them.  Already, some Venezuelan players have spoken out via social media and other channels.

I realize that MLB does not dictate foreign policy in Latin America in the way that, say, the United Fruit Company did.  MLB clubs have largely closed their baseball scouting operations in the country, thus depriving them of on-the-ground influence.  However, they can still lead positive change in the country.  If I could share a nice, cold cerveza Polar with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, here’s what I’d suggest:

  • First and foremost, use the upcoming All-Star Game as a platform to talk about Venezuela.  The game will take place in Miami, the de-facto capital of Latin America, especially affluent Latin America.
  • Offer mediation help.  While it’s tempting to recommend that MLB support the disgruntled opposition, I can’t ignore the harm it might do to families left behind.  That said, MLB has deep experience in mediation both at the micro scale (negotiating player contracts) and the macro scale (labor agreements).  If she weren’t otherwise engaged, I’d recommend Justice Sonia Sotomayor, not just because she speaks Spanish, but because she settled the last baseball labor action.
  • Support players’ social media activities.  Consider using MLB and MLB TV resources to amplify what they have to say, especially in international channel.

I reached out to the Commissioner’s office to see if they had anything to say.  However, they’re rather busy with the All-Star Game festivities, so they didn’t get back to me.  I’ll share if they do.

Facing an Army Of Steamrollers

My beloved New York Times ran an article today about Germany’s national soccer museum in Dortmund that focused on how the museum holds up a mirror to Germany itself:

Any soccer fan — in fact, almost any German — will tell you that the moment the country first felt able to return with dignity to the international arena after the evil of Nazism came with what is known here as “the miracle of Bern,” the 3-2 victory in Switzerland over favored Hungary to win the World Cup in 1954…

…But the museum does not shy from Germany’s past. The national team of 1941 is seen giving the Nazi salute before a game in Sweden. An infamous 1944 propaganda film runs, showing Jewish inmates at the Nazis’ Theresienstadt camp near Prague playing soccer and ostensibly enjoying a relaxed life. (In reality, most were about to be shipped to Auschwitz.)

The German Football Association’s ban on women’s soccer from 1955 to 1970 is also related in detail — as are the considerable achievements of Germany’s female soccer team since.

I’d like to argue that while the Cooperstown Hall of Fame may not hold up a mirror to America, baseball certainly does and that, perhaps, explains why Major League Baseball’s brand has lost some of its shine.

This image was decidedly not approved by Major League Baseball or its affiliates

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Yogi Berra, my Personal Ancient Greek Tutor

I’m going off-topic today (well, not very off-topic considering how frequently I write about baseball).  I couldn’t let the passing of Yogi Berra go by without discussing how he helped me make it through my ancient Greek minor in college.

The scene begins 2500 years ago, when Herodotus wrote his history of the wars between Persia and the Greeks.


My 28-year-old copy of a 2500-year-old book

 As the first widely-published Western writer of history, Herodotus earned himself the honorific “Father of History.”  However, his approach to truth did not always stop at the credible.  For instance, he claimed that Ukraine was full of werewolves and that Egyptian women pee standing up.  Of course, he wasn’t an idiot, either.  He often used language to indicate that he had heard a particular tale but that he neither endorsed nor gainsaid it.

In a Greek class I took as part of my minor, I wrote a paper about one of his his most famous apocryphal tales, a dinner between Croesus (the “rich as Croesus” Croesus) and Solon, the author of Athens’s first legal code.  Croesus, you may recall, held the world record for most poorly-interpreted military intelligence until George Bush came along.  An oracle told Croesus that if he crossed the River Halys, a great empire would be destroyed.  Unfortunately, the oracle meant Croesus’s Lydia, not the Persian Empire across the river.

Before the disastrous invasion, the emperor and lawgiver enjoyed a chatty meal.  Croesus asked Solon what made people happy.  Solon famously answered “call no man happy until he be dead.”  At first, this reply sounds incredibly gloomy.  However, Solon went on to explain that people who had ordinary lives but who somehow sacrificed themselves for a higher purpose achieved the highest level of happiness.

In my paper, I made sure to note this nuanced meaning of Solon’s assertion.  To hammer the point home, I employed the greatest footnote of my academic career:

c.f. Berra, Lawrence Peter (Yogi): “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Thank you, Yogi, for helping me achieve what modest academic success that I did.  Should you meet Herodotus in the afterlife, I hope Red Smith is on hand to record the conversation.

Tolstoy Thought Cohorts Were Nonsense

In my last post, I discussed how age cohorts may have a major impact on the future of baseball in America.  As a result, I’ve paid more attention to cohorts (Generation X, Millennials, etc.) in my daily peregrinations.

Enter Count Leo Tolstoy, whose War And Peace I’ve been reading.  (Yes, I’m reading a hoity-toity classic; it’s cheaper and has a greater chance of being worthwhile than trying my luck with new books.)  This quote stopped me in my tracks:

…mentioning “our days” as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they have discovered an appraised the peculiarities of “our days” and that human characteristics change with the times.  (translation by Aylmer Maude; emphasis by me)

In other words, Count Leo considers a fool anyone who believes that generations differ fundamentally from one to the next.  Should we agree with him?

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Talkin’ Baseball. And Cohorts.

Longtime New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott recently wrote an article outlining his ideas for restoring baseball’s popularity.

I’ve written at length on the subject, but Stu’s piece has me thinking: are we too late?

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Metaball: Can Baseball Data Help Market Baseball?

Michael Lewis’s 2004 book Moneyball documented a revolution in how baseball teams evaluate players.  More than a decade after the book, all Major League teams use statistics like WAR, Fielding Independent Pitching and Range Factor per Game.  Now, Major League Baseball wants fans to get in on the act with Statcast,  Using both radar and special cameras, Statcast gives incredibly detailed information on nearly every movement on the field.


Not pictured: Explanation of how a Major League infielder flubs a cutoff throw

I’ve written extensively on how sports and data combine to make sports themselves more marketable.  So I thought I’d discuss what impact Statcast might have on baseball’s challenged popularity in the US.

In, short, I think that the data won’t hurt, but they might not help.

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