On the Tomahawk Chop and the confusion of symbolism with action

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The Braves’ use of the Tomahawk Chop during games came under additional scrutiny this week, thanks to a Cardinals’ rookie pitcher. Ryan Helsley, said Cardinals’ rookie and member of the Cherokee Nation, spoke up after Game 1 of the Braves-Cardinals National League Division Series:

“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” Helsley said. “Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.”

The Braves, to their credit, listened to Helsley’s remarks, and did not distribute the customary foam tomahawks to each seat in the stadium prior to Game 5. They didn’t listen that much, though, and therefore don’t deserve that much credit, as the real promise here was just to not perform the chop — or the music that goes along with it that prompts everyone in attendance to start chopping — whenever Helsley was in the game:

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“What if MLB’s efficiency fetish could further infect the minors,” asks writer.

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On Monday, Travis Sawchik asked a question to Five Thirty Eight’s audience: “Do we even need Minor League Baseball?” Sawchik’s theory is that so much of player development happens off the field these days, in comparison to how development used to work, that the minors are a waste of time and resources. Sawchik, you might recall, is one of the two authors of The MVP Machine, which looked at how players can kind of just be created these days thanks to advances in analytics and the introduction of the concept of “Betterball,” so this is an arena he knows his way around.

To a point, anyway. As you might also recall, the book brings to mind some key questions regarding labor and homogeneity it does not know the answers to (or even how to answer them), and this article is something of an extension of that. Deadspin’s Albert Burneko, for instance, wants to know who the “we” in Sawchik’s headline refers to, and it’s not an exaggeration that the entire premise of Sawchik’s piece relies on the reader identifying with management in order for it to accomplish the job the author set out for it.

You should read all of Burneko’s piece, as it’s fan-centric and a rebuttal to the idea presented in the initial piece that MiLB exists in the service of MLB teams alone, but I’ll pull this paragraph from it for now:

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Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL isn’t the answer he thinks it is

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This whole Jay-Z and National Football League partnership is only getting weirder and more disappointing. As explained at The Root, Jay-Z is expected to end up with a “significant ownership interest” in an as-of-yet unnamed NFL team, which would make him the first Black owner in the league’s lengthy history. The prospective NFL owner is sticking with the idea that he’ll be some kind of agent of change between his partnership with the league that has his Roc Nation business consult on entertainment while contributing to NFL activism* and this ownership of a team. Shaking things up is not how anyone has ever been accepted into the (white) boys’ club that is sports team ownership, but don’t let that dull your enthusiasm!

*What?

Jay-Z was a proponent of Colin Kaepernick and his protests against police brutality, protests that ended up getting Kaepernick ousted from the NFL: if you don’t believe that the former quarterback was blacklisted by the league, look no further than the fact that the NFL paid him and another former player, Eric Reid, a settlement to make the collusion case disappear. Leagues aren’t in the habit of paying settlements for crimes they’re innocent of committing, but sometimes it pays to make things just go away with cash without ever outright saying you’re guilty. The past-tense following Jay-Z’s name in this graf’s first sentence was intentional, by the way, as the mogul joining forces with the NFL pits him against the player they still won’t allow to play in their league. Once he does own a team, do you think Jay-Z will sign Kaepernick to be its quarterback? Or will he already be committed to keeping his seat at the extremely white table that has kept Kaepernick away?

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On Betterball’s creation of talent, and its danger to MLB’s labor

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The July issue of The Atlantic features a review of Ben Lindbergh’s and Travis Sawchik’s recently released book, The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Noncomformists Are Using Data To Build Better Players. Jack Hamilton, the writer of this review, didn’t just look at whether the book was enjoyable to read, but also at the subject being covered itself, and the problems contained within it: in some cases, he even asked and tried to answer important questions the authors themselves did not.

We’re going to look at the review and those questions today, because they happen to be labor-oriented. Let’s open with this background quote from Hamilton, on recent revolutions in baseball:

The steroid and stat revolutions have unfolded very differently so far, but they arose from a common source: a desire to deploy scientific methods to improve the way baseball is played. Steroid use focused on player enhancement, whereas analytics focused on player value. To put it polemically, one was a revolution driven by labor, and the other by management, which is probably one of many reasons the latter has been more readily accepted.

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MLB’s early collective bargaining sessions might just be theater

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The USWNT’s fight for equal pay takes center stage

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The United States Women’s National Team are your 2019 World Cup champions, just like they were in 2015. This time around, though, there is a discussion going on outside of just how awesome this roster and its players are (incredibly awesome, for the record): it’s beyond time for the women of America’s national team to be paid on par with the men of America’s national team.

It’s not just fans or media who think so, or anything like that: the team itself believes as much, and in fact sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination back in March of this year:

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Adam Eaton has deluded himself into thinking suffering is good, actually

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The Washington City Paper ran a story on Sunday discussing the poor working and living conditions of low-level minor-league players in the Nationals’ system. For the most part, it’s full of the kind of information you’re already aware of if you’ve been opening up newsletters like this one, but then it gets to current Nats’ outfielder Adam Eaton, and what he has to say about minor-league exploitation. In short, it’s a net good! Who knew?

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The media isn’t helping

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For some reason, The Ringer published a podcast featuring special guest Ben Shapiro on Thursday. Yes, that Ben Shapiro, the only Ben Shapiro, the one adored by the right wing and mass murderers, as Deadspin reminds. Shapiro was a guest on Larry Wilmore’s podcast, because Larry Wilmore was at one time a guest on Shapiro’s podcast, and I guess we learned nothing from like, Jon Stewart going on Tucker Carlson’s show and how little damage trying to clown on him and his bow tie while having a discussion with him did to his stances and career.

How’d it go? Well, let’s take this bit from Deadspin’s piece, and you’ll understand in a hurry (you should also read that piece in full for the full context, if you’re unaware of who this goblin is):

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Red Sox White House visit illuminates larger MLB-wide problem

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The defending World Series champion Red Sox should never have gone to the White House to visit President Donald Trump. That’s the beginning and end of the story, or, at least, it should have been the end. Instead, the Red Sox did go to the White House — the white Red Sox, anyway — and now we’ve got denials of any kind of clubhouse divide, non-white players put into public positions they never should have been forced to have to take, and Trump taking credit for the Sox’ recent resurgence because they were able to absorb his aura or whatever via soggy and cold McDonald’s lunch ritual.

Even the Washington Post, which is certainly not some bastion of progressive thinking, says the racial divide shown by who went and who did not is “impossible to ignore.” Yahoo’s Hannah Keyser has the right idea, too, writing that if the Red Sox wanted to remain apolitical, the organization never should have put players in a position to choose going or not:

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The latest Addison Russell story is a reminder MLB doesn’t care about domestic abuse

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Major League Baseball has a domestic violence policy, and, on paper, it can be pretty effective. There are internal investigations and suspensions can occur without charges being filed or there being an arrest: that’s a positive workaround for the world we live in, where domestic abusers rarely face punishment or even public scrutiny.

When we see how the policy and punishments are used in practice, though, we get the uncomfortable reminder that, too often, MLB’s view of domestic abuse is mostly one where they’re hoping to minimize the public relations hit. Giants’ CEO Larry Baer was suspended for just half of the 2019 season, despite being caught on video attacking his wife in public in order to wrest a cell phone from her hands. The Yankees traded for then-suspended closer Aroldis Chapman, because his domestic abuse suspension lowered his value, and allowed New York to acquire him for less than he’d usually cost… and then they flipped him to the Cubs that summer, at a premium, because the suspension was over and so to was any stigma attached to his person. The Astros traded for Roberto Osuna last summer to improve their bullpen for similar reasons: this version of Moneyball is an uncomfortable one to witness play out.

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