Monday, October 31, 2011

9 comments Tim Keown Is Tired of All These Foreigners Taking Our Jobs

Tim Keown has had enough. American-born players have a ton of opportunities to be developed and play the game of baseball as they are growing up, yet Hispanic players are prevalent in the majors. What can be done to combat this? At least I think that's what he is saying...or maybe he isn't. It is an interesting dynamic put forth here. Tim Keown says American-born players are "bred" to play baseball and given many opportunities to excel, but then complains foreign-born players are surpassing many American-born baseball players in terms of skill.

You would think the problem would be reversed, at least I would think this. I would think the American-born players populate MLB rosters because they are given more opportunities, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Then, Tim Keown comes to the conclusion America isn't going to stand for this much longer and will want to deport (I assume that is what would happen) foreign-born players. This article is quite the rollercoaster and I am still trying to get my mind around it. I'm not sure if it is racist, calling for quotas in MLB, or highlighting a potential social issue.

A question occurred Monday around the time Juan Cruz was pitching to Nelson Cruz, which was a half-inning after Alexi Ogando got the Rangers out of a seventh-inning jam and one inning before Neftali Feliz came in to close out the Rays.

Is this before or after Josh Hamilton hit a home run off Matt Moore and drove in Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli, at which point the Rays then brought Kyle Farnsworth in the game as a relief pitcher?

The question was this: Do young American baseball players understand what they're up against?

Up against? I've always felt MLB was one of the most diverse sports and it was made better for it. I don't know where the hell all the players from my favorite team are from and frankly I don't really care. It doesn't matter to me because in baseball it is a matter of the best players being on the team without having to be recognized as a white, black, Dominican, Japanese or American baseball player. So this "up against" crap doesn't really cut it for me because I don't see it as an American v. Foreigner (not the band) issue simply because MLB is fortunate to be so global.

American baseball players probably have the financial advantage over many foreign-born players, so I am not concerned foreign-born players end up surpassing some American-born players in terms of skill.

Every year, hundreds of American college and high school players sign contracts and head out to go to work in the minor leagues. They show up and find the world doesn't look quite the same. Amateur baseball in this country -- especially college baseball -- could be mistaken for a country-club sport.

Foreigners are taking our jobs! They took 'er jobs!

So let me get this straight. I'm supposed to feel bad for the American-born players who suddenly have to be mixed with foreign-born players in the minor leagues? It is a bad thing there are talented players not born in the United States? I don't understand the issue here. Yes, the American amateur baseball circuit probably doesn't contain as much diversity as the minor league systems do. Is this a call for more diversity at the amateur level in America or is this a call for less diversity in the minors?

America is an incredibly diverse country so I would imagine the presence of Hispanic-born players wouldn't shock the American-born players all that much. Even if it did, the idea Hispanic-born players have superior skills doesn't make me worry about these American-born players losing their jobs. If you can play, you can play.

There are shockingly few minorities and not even much in the way of socio-economic diversity. It's an upper-middle-class world, fueled by expensive travel teams, private coaches and the best suburban high schools.

So do these people don't know they will later be up against minorities from a lower-to-middle-class world without the budget for the best baseball-related amenities? I am supposed to worry about this?

In 2006, there were just 24 black players in the SEC, a conference that includes eight states with a black population of more than 25 percent.

I thought we were talking about foreign-born players coming into the minors, not minority players from the United States? Tim Keown does realize the 24 black players in the SEC are not all foreign-born I would hope. I would also really hope an American-born player wouldn’t be thrown off by having a black teammate once he reaches the minors.

I think you can see my confusion about what this article is supposed to be discussing. The title is about Hispanic baseball players and now we are discussing African-American baseball players...but only briefly and then immediately stop discussing this topic and move on to illegal immigration in Arizona and Alabama.

Baseball has become less enticing to African-Americans, a fact attributable either to diminished opportunity (expense/infrastructure/support/coaching) or the allure of other pursuits (basketball/football). College baseball is by far America's most underrated and under-covered sport, but the racial makeup of participants is no different from women's soccer. Players are often groomed more than developed.

What’s weird about this sudden diversion into the discussion of African-Americans in the majors is this is the last we hear of it in this column. It just sort of gets thrown out there and then disappears again, never to be discussed again.

Kids from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela -- to name two countries whose players are exempt from the amateur draft -- show up in droves with little cultural assimilation but a ton of baseball savvy.

So these American-born players are being bred to play the game of baseball and then are being surpassed by a group that have less money and less opportunity to develop their baseball skills, yet have a ton of baseball savvy? Clearly, this needs to change. Those foreign-born players need to go back home so MLB and the minor leagues can cater to those American-born players who have had greater opportunities to develop their skills don’t have to compete on a level playing field for a chance to get a starting spot on a team.

Major league teams have invested heavily in player development in the DR and other Latin countries, and you can watch that investment pay off in the postseason. It's no coincidence that organizations with some of the best Latin scouting and development systems (Rangers, Yankees, Diamondbacks) are still playing.

Yes, it would make logical sense for the teams that look for talent in a wider pool of talent would have better teams.

This season, 27 percent of major league players and more than 42 percent (conservatively) of minor league players are Hispanic. Which raises an uncomfortable but inevitable question:

Does this really matter?

Is baseball too Hispanic?

How is this an inevitable question? Is the NBA too African-American? Is the NHL too white and foreign-born? I just don’t get how this is an inevitable question at all or why baseball being too Hispanic really matters.

It's a sentiment that occupies a quiet but steady undercurrent throughout the game. How else to explain radioman Tony Bruno's decision to use Twitter -- a technology that sits poised and ready to ruin careers -- to call Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez an "illegal alien" after Ramirez sparked an August fight with the Phillies by hitting Shane Victorino?

You could also explain it by saying Tony Bruno was an idiot for saying this. I don’t know if this one action proves an undercurrent of thought that baseball is too Hispanic.

Keown uses this incident as proof of the undercurrent of thought and doesn’t think about how Bruno called Ramirez an “illegal alien” for hitting a player who isn’t even your typical American-born player. Victorino is from Hawaii, but he has Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese descent as well. His last name is Portuguese and I would bet if you didn't know Victorino's background you would have trouble knowing he was American-born. So Bruno wasn’t really defending your typical American-born player and was mostly just being an asshole.

Bruno's quickly deleted tweet is a byproduct of a small-minded mentality that good old American ballplayers are getting squeezed out by Latin players.

I am not sure if the fans really feel this way. Maybe I’m wrong. I am not sure baseball fans truly care if American ballplayers are getting squeezed out by Hispanic (or Latin as Tim calls them here) players. Maybe there is a small undercurrent angry about how foreign-born players are taking American-born players jobs. It's a small undercurrent and doesn't reflect reality or the majority.

Let’s also ignore that the words “Hispanic” and “Latin” really can’t accurately be used interchangeably.

I was sitting at a high school baseball summer event a couple of months ago when one dad -- a former big leaguer -- waved his hand toward the field and said, "You watch a big league game, see all the Latins and wonder, 'Do any of these kids have a chance?'"

So does Tim Keown just randomly show up at high school baseball games he isn’t responsible for covering for ESPN?

someone else half-jokingly suggested that MLB might want to adopt a limited-foreigner rule similar to those in European professional basketball leagues.

I can understand the frustration of having your child squeezed out in the minor leagues by a superior player who didn’t spend a ton of money on traveling baseball teams, but that’s life. I’m not sure I could support a limited-foreigner rule in MLB. It seems contradictory to the world-wide view I prefer to see the sport take.

The stories of the kids who arrive from the Dominican after playing years with a milk-carton glove and a tree-branch bat are dissolving into folklore. They might start out that way, but, as soon as they show promise, they're funneled into academies that are run like schools and funded by agents, scouts and coaches.

Why is this necessarily a bad thing if the kid wants to play baseball professionally? How is this incredibly different from American-born players on the amateur circut? Because these foreign-born players may be poor and they may not eventually achieve their dream of playing in the majors? This same potential for failure goes for the American-born players on the amateur circuit. America has a way of cultivating amateur players and so does the Dominican. Does Tim think these players are being taken advantage of? Couldn't the argument be the American-born players in the amateur circuit are the ones being taken advantage of by their parents and are not being properly prepared for competition as the skill level of the competition increases? I say this because, as Tim has stated in this very column, foreign-born players are increasing in number in the majors.

I guess I don’t see why the academies are a bad thing. Wasn’t Tim just saying American-born players are on teams and travel around the country playing baseball to cultivate their skills? I don’t see why Hispanic players can’t join academies and do the same. Like everything else in the world, I am sure there is dirty business that goes on, but this really has very little to do with the topic at hand…which if you don’t recall is, “Are there too many Hispanic players in baseball?”

There is an emphasis on training and instruction, but very few (if any) games.

Well clearly they aren’t getting their money’s worth out of these free academies if they are only receiving training and instruction.

The most funhouse-mirror example of the phenomenon came in 2008, when 16-year-old, 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher Michael Ynoa signed with the A's for a $4.25 million signing bonus. Ynoa had all the qualities scouts covet -- size, projectability, a plus-90 fastball -- but the most eye-popping aspect of Ynoa's signing wasn't the money or even Ynoa's age. It was this: A product of the academy system, Ynoa had never thrown a pitch in a game.

It is a bit weird he had not pitched in a game yet, but he is 16 years old and if the A’s were convinced enough by watching him pitch, then learning to pitch is the next step for him.

(So far, the A's have gotten just three minor league starts out of Ynoa, who had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2011 season. He's still only 20.)

This a very passive-aggressive way of saying the A’s didn’t spend their money wisely. There is a part Tim Keown leaves out. In those three minor league starts these are Ynoa’s statistics:

9 innings pitched, 6 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts, 3 wild pitches, 1 hit batter, WHIP 1.111, and an ERA of 5.00.

I’m not a huge fan of projectability or rating a pitcher completely on potential, but Ynoa clearly has a very good arm waiting to be harnessed by the A’s and their system. He is wild and can’t control his pitches, but he also appears to be able to strike out batters and you can work on a pitcher’s control as he develops. So I won’t say Ynoa has been a success, but there appears to be a lot to work with. Even for a guy who never pitched to batters until reaching rookie league ball.

Latin ballplayers are so ingrained in the culture of baseball that it's wild to think it's a problem, but there are indications -- anecdotal and otherwise -- suggesting a chillier climate.

By itself, the Arizona immigration law seemed alarmist, a reactionary one-off. Now, though, comes the Alabama immigration law, raising the possibility of a trend.

I think I’m confused. So Tim starts this column off by asking if there are too many Hispanics in MLB, says there are others who feel this way, and then uses immigration laws created by two states as proof even more people feel this way. So the topic of this article should not be, “Are there too many Hispanic players in baseball,” but instead should be “Are the Hispanic players in baseball going to experience a backlash of negativity because they are so prevalent in the sport?”

Basically, I am not sure a trend towards negativity concerning illegal immigration from two states means there are too many Hispanic players in baseball. There may be some resentment towards foreign-born players, but most people who are sports fans understand baseball players have a unique skill set and the players with the best skill set are the ones that will receive the best opportunities at the major league level.

The talking points are similar: jobs, opportunities, benefits.

The difference, at least in my mind, is the skill set that baseball players possess which makes them different. It seems like a short-sighted comparison to make between regular American workers having their jobs taken away by foreign competition (or competition from foreigners who live in the United States) and American athletes who don't get an opportunity to start because of foreign-born players with a better skill set.

And if we've learned anything from every baseball book we've read or documentary we've seen, it's this: Baseball can't help but mirror society.

Yeah sort of. Baseball mirrors society in some ways, but I can't help but think many times the media wants sports (including baseball) to mirror society more closely than it really does for the purposes of putting forth a narrative. Possibly I am naive, but I am not sure the many foreign-born MLB players are going to find their experience playing baseball in the United States as a negative because two states are cracking down on illegal immigration.

Baseball mirrors society, but sometimes there are different rules for sports. Monopolistic business is not allowed in the United States, but I think it would be fair to say the NFL has a monopoly in the United States and is protected in some ways from receiving fair competition. So sports can mirror society, but this isn't a hard-and-fast rule. I think this is one of those situations. I'm not sure American fans are going to be upset there are too many Hispanic players in the majors.

So why should this be any different?

It should be different because I would guess 95% of people don't care what nationality their shortstop is. Possibly I am in the minority on this opinion, but I believe baseball fans in general don't care about the nationality of the players on their team. It's been widely accepted by serious baseball fans the sport is a national sport so the large amount of Hispanics in baseball is taken as less of an issue to fixed and is seen more as a sign of the inclusive worldwide sport baseball wants to be.


Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

the xenophobic undertones in this article are quite disturbing. it's not like teams are illegally bringing in latin-american ballplayers, so if latinos are more talented than their american counterparts why is it a bad thing that the MLB become more populated with these more highly qualified individuals? furthermore, i find it comical that tim appeals to the arizona and alabama immigration laws in order to enhance his point. sometimes baseball does mirror society, but i think that racist, unconstitutional, and offensive laws are not something that baseball should be looking to echo. that argument alone destroys any shred of creativity that tim keown might have ever had

Bengoodfella said...

Arjun, I found there to be a little xenophobic undertones as well. Especially when he was talking about being at games and seeing American players' parents complaining about how their kids have no chance because of the kids coming from Latin America. I don't see it as a bad thing and I certainly don't care if parents invest a bunch of money in their children playing baseball only to have a more talented foreign-born player take his spot in the minors. That's just tough luck.

Sports do mirror society, but I question whether the laws in Alabama and Arizona really do reflect society. I would hope not. I don't believe it does in baseball, which is a sport that has a fair amount of diversity. Maybe I am short-sighted, but I am not sure we will see widespread anger at foreign-born players for taking American-born players jobs.

Anonymous said...

This is too comical! This "once great" country, is a mere SHELL of its former self. If you're 'straight', you're considered abnormal, if you have God and religion in your life, you're somehow labeled, a 'freak' of nature. But, hey, let's legalize dope, promote homosexuality, and rip away a bag of chips from someone's lunchbox. It's absolutely sickening, what's become of this country.

There is NOTHING at all wrong with Tim Keown's article, NOTHING! Stop letting the demon known as, 'political correctness' brainwash/distort, your very last brain cell. Yes, there ARE far too many hispanics in MLB, too many blacks in the NBA and NFL, too. But, funny, how you NEVER hear about the lack of Whites in the other major sports. I don't care what color someone's skin is, but, it's more than obvious how the White man is constantly being pushed out of professional sports AND society. It's now hip and trendy, to exclude the White man from many venues in today's society. It's pretty much encouraged and promoted, but that's just perfectly fine and dandy.

Also, for you 'people' crying "racist" for every little thing, give it a rest already! That term has been thrown around so friggin much, it doesn't even have any luster anymore. Sorry folks, ALL White people aren't "racist" just as, ALL blacks and hispanics really don't care too terribly much for White people. Stop the whole White guilt thing, and get a life asap! But, that's what happens, when you have a liberal run society!

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, very shocking that you wrote that screed anonymously. Very brave too. Don't let political correctness brainwash us all, but you aren't willing to put a name to your words. Got it.

I'm not sure anyone considers you to be abnormal if you are straight, but it's clear you have some sort of persecution complex so it isn't even worth arguing with you.

Also, that bag of chips should be ripped away from someone's lunchbox because a good portion of America is obese.

Robert Wayne said...

Anonymous is absolutely right. There are too many foreigners in major league baseball. By the way, my name is Robert Wayne. I'm not afraid to tell it like it is about the way this country is falling apart at the seams thanks to political correctness, which by the way isn't the least bit correct.

Bengoodfella said...

Robert, I like your hot political take. I'd like to know the correct amount of foreigners in baseball. What's the percentage look like?

Robert Wayne said...

Quite a few. There should be a limit to the number of foreigners playing on major league teams. Japan only allows two Americans on each team. And I don't blame them. What's wrong with American major league teams allowing only two foreigners on each team?

Bengoodfella said...

Other than it would dilute the talent pool available for MLB teams and alienate certain fan bases? I guess nothing is wrong with that rule. If you know much about Japan, they are xenophobic and are known for wanting purity of culture, so I'm not sure they are the example I would want to follow.

I'm sure you've spent time in Japan and know about the culture though, right? It's not a very policy and is reflective of their attitude toward foreigners. Probably not an example to be followed.

Bengoodfella said...

I meant "very good" policy and I really think an idea like that is in the worst interests of baseball.