Category Archives: MLB

Mismanagement and Curses in Dodgers’ Playoff Woes

By Griffin Olah

October 16, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major with a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the gold standard for success in the National League in recent years. They’ve been to the World Series in 2017 and 2018, and followed that up with a franchise record 106 wins in 2019. After losing two straight World Series, the Dodgers revamped their roster this past offseason, bringing in outfielder A.J. Pollock, righty reliever Joe Kelly and lefty reliever Adam Kolarek. Walker Buehler turned into a bona-fide ace and star shortstop Corey Seager was back healthy. They were heavy favorites, as usual, going into the postseason, led by the same cast of characters that always got them there: Dave Roberts and Clayton Kershaw.

The NLDS against the Washington Nationals was a roller coaster ride leading to a winner-take-all Game 5 in Los Angeles. Walker Buehler toed the rubber for the Dodgers, and red-hot ace Stephen Strasburg faced him. The Dodgers jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, and Buehler’s gem ended when Roberts lifted him in the 7th with 2 outs. Coming in from the bullpen was none other than three-time Cy Young winner and generational pitcher Clayton Kershaw. 

Kershaw got Adam Eaton out quickly to end the 7th, and then came out for the 8th. The first Nationals’ batter, Anthony Rendon, golfed a down and away pitch over the left field fence. 3-2 Dodgers. Lefty-killer Adam Kolarek sat in the bullpen as Kershaw stared down young phenom Juan Soto. Kolarek had great success against Soto throughout the series, not allowing Soto to reach base. Kershaw stayed on, however, and Soto took him deep to center field. Tie game. 

The entire dynamic of the game changed, and instead of cruising to a win, Kershaw let up two runs and now the Dodgers were fighting for their lives. Kershaw got out of the inning, and Roberts called on Joe Kelly to pitch the 9th. He sat down the Nationals in order, going 1-2-3. The game moved to extra innings, and Joe Kelly came out in the 10th. Joe Kelly. Not Kenley Jansen, one of the league’s premier relievers. Not Kenta Maeda, starter turned playoff reliever who has been lights out all postseason. Joe Kelly, who gave up nine runs in 12 ⅓ innings of multi-inning outings (Baer, 2019). Kelly loaded the bases, and then Howie Kendrick launched a moonshot through the night sky at Chavez Ravine and through the Dodgers’ hearts. A grand slam, game over.

The media looked at this collapse and talked mismanagement immediately. Blame was laid on the shoulders of Dave Roberts for his bullpen mismanagement. Critics pointed to Roberts’ “lack of confidence in the rest of his bullpen” (Baer, 2019, para. 6) as the main reason for the loss. Roberts had one of the best overall bullpens in the league, yet stuck with a starter carrying postseason demons and a reliever who struggled in multi-inning appearances all year. Others looked to the man who let the game get tied in the first place: Clayton Kershaw. It seems every season someone “write[s] about [his postseason] failure” (Baumann, 2019, para. 11). Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in MLB history, and has had his share of success in the postseason. Sure, he hasn’t won a World Series, but he is still one of the best we have ever seen. 

Many in the media want to push the narrative that Clayton Kershaw cannot pitch in the postseason, and this latest collapse is a major piece of evidence to support that point. Where is the talk of his dominant performances, though? Where is the talk surrounding his reign of dominance over the last decade, with only injuries and a few bad starts holding him back? Justin Verlander got shelled by the Rays in the ALDS, but he is still heralded as a great postseason pitcher. Both had bad outings, but only Kershaw’s is considered a problem across his entire career. Kershaw may have had some bad postseason outings, but he is not the reason that the Dodgers’ season came to an untimely close. That is Dave Roberts’ problem.

Dave Roberts severely mismanaged the end of the game, and that’s the main problem. The media likes to focus on a pivotal point in the game that swung the outcome one way or the other, and Kershaw’s meltdown fits the bill. The real issue, though, is Kershaw staying on to face Soto, or Kelly’s second inning of work. There was a capable bullpen, a fact many articles ignore, and Roberts left the game in the hands of two relievers that struggled mightily in the game. Will this mishap cost Roberts his job? No, and it shouldn’t but media members looking for a scapegoat point at both Roberts and Kershaw as the problem, and think they should be removed from the team.

References

Baer, B. (2019, October 10). Dodgers’ NLDS Game 5 loss is on Dave Roberts. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://mlb.nbcsports.com/2019/10/10/dodgers-nlds-game-5-loss-is-on-dave-roberts/.

Baumann, M. (2019, October 10). NLDS Game 5: The Clayton Kershaw playoff narrative will never go away. The Ringer. Retrieved from https://www.theringer.com/2019/10/10/20907661/nlds-game-5-nationals-dodgers-clayton-kershaw-playoff-choke.

Is Acuna Jr.’s Hustle a Problem for the Braves and Baseball?

By Griffin Olah

October 13, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

Game 1 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves was entering the bottom of the 7th with the Braves up 3-1. The first game is always among the most important, and the Braves had the ability to add to their lead. Ronald Acuna Jr., the Braves’ young phenom and leadoff hitter, stepped into the box. He worked the count to 2-2, and then unleashed a long fly ball off of Cardinals pitcher John Brebbia. The ball flew down the right field line, nearly leaving the confines of Sun Trust Park and extending the Braves’ lead. However, it came up short and careened off the wall. 

After watching the ball, Braves fans willing it to stay in the air and go over the wall, and seeing it land just short of a home run, attention turned to the bases. There, Ronald Acuna Jr was inexplicably on first base. After launching a ball 331 feet down the right field line, Acuna was stranded at first. He moved to second on a groundout by 2B Ozzie Albies, and was then doubled up after a Josh Donaldson lineout. 

It’s easy to see that something went wrong on the base paths with Acuna, though. While the double play was bad, it was almost inevitable. The real issue was his single to lead off. Acuna hyped up his long ball, as usual, but this time it came up short of the fence. Acuna stood in the box, his bat raised to the sky in celebration, for two seconds as the ball was in the air. After that, he jogged to first only for Cardinals OF Dexter Fowler to play the ball off the wall and fire it into the infield. If Acuna came running out of the box as soon as the ball left his bat, he would have easily made it to second. He would have then moved to third on Albies’s groundout and the double play would have been much more difficult to turn. Acuna could have scored. 

After the game, the Braves were understandably frustrated. Veteran 1B Freddie Freeman pointed back to when Acuna was benched in August for not running out a foul ball, believing you only need to “have that conversation once” (West, 2019, para. 4). Albies believes that Acuna “probably scores that inning if he’s on second” (West, 2019, para. 8). Acuna was a problem for the Braves in that moment, but what about the rest of baseball?

Media attention on Game 1 revolved around Acuna’s lack of hustle, much like it did last season with Manny Machado’s lack of hustle and possibly dirty play in the playoffs for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This time, however, the actions of Acuna are perceived as more representative of the entire league. New outlets point to Acuna’s hustle as evidence that “the game has changed” into something selfish and immodest (Mushnick, 2019, para. 10). While people in the game – GM’s, managers, coaches, players – have excused the actions of players like Machado and Acuna, the media feeds off of it and turns it into something it’s not. Is Acuna not hustling a problem? Sure, he might have cost the Braves a key run that would have factored heavily in the 7-6 loss. Is Acuna’s hustle emblematic of baseball as a whole falling into bat flipping ruin? No, it probably isn’t.

The traditional media – old players, managers, and GMs sitting in broadcast booths – like to talk about how baseball as a whole is changing into some unwatchable mess of strikeouts, home runs and bat flips. Former pitcher Goose Gossage said of the sport “it’s not baseball. It’s unwatchable,” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 7). Hit king Pete Rose said the game has turned into a “home run derby every night” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 14). And former manager Lou Piniella derided the shift, claiming he “won a few games without having to shift” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 14). While that is up for debate and interpretation of each person watching the game, Acuna’s hustle is not some overarching issue like the media is making it out to be. It’s a key mistake in an important playoff game, but not some egregious pattern of error that needs to be corrected. With this miscue, the focus on Ronald Acuna Jr. has shifted from his near 40-40 season and his 1.579 OPS in the Postseason so far to his inability to hustle and his selfishness (“Baseball Reference,” 2019). Acuna put together an amazing season, shouldn’t the focus be on marketing one of the league’s best young players instead of his relatively small faults?

References

Baseball Reference. (2019). Ronald Acuna Jr. Stats. Baseball Reference. Retrieved from https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/acunaro01.shtml

Mushnick, P. (2019, October 5). Braves’ Ronald Acuna is doing his part in ruining baseball. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2019/10/05/braves-ronald-acuna-is-doing-his-part-in-ruining-baseball/

Nightengale, B. (2019, August 19). MLB lifers decry the state of the modern baseball: ‘Unwatchable’. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2019/08/19/mlb-baseballs-old-timers-decry-state-modern-game/2047025001/.

West, J. (2019, October 4). Braves critical of Ronald Acuna Jr. for lack of hustle in NLDS Game 1 loss. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/10/04/ronald-acuna-jr-lack-hustle-braves

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

By Griffin Olah

October 3, 2019

Griffin is a second-year BGSU undergraduate student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

The Cleveland Indians’ 3-year reign over the AL Central has come to an end, and the Tribe has missed the postseason for the first time since 2015. The preseason division favorite finished in second place in the Central and third in the AL Wild Card with a 93-69 record. This season definitely did not go according to plan for anyone involved, but reasons for missing must be analyzed. 

Most media attention focuses on shoddy leadership, particularly from owner Paul Dolan, as the primary reason the Tribe sits on the outside looking in on the postseason. Before the season began, Dolan ordered the payroll to be cut. Following an embarrassing sweep in the ALDS at the hands of the Houston Astros (Torres, 2019), this was particularly puzzling. The 2018 iteration of the Indians was flawed for sure, with the top-heavy offense and top of the line rotation carrying the team to 94 wins, but there was no addition over the offseason (Perry, 2019). Following a three team trade of first basemen sluggers with the Rays and Mariners that netted the Indians Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers while losing Yandy Diaz and Edwin Encarnación, the Indians sat quiet for the offseason. 

The reasons behind the blame placed on the Dolans vary based on the article, but there are two main ideas. The first is that the Dolans either don’t care to spend or don’t care about the team’s success. Following the Astros’ sweep, the Indians had a window to improve and a few key contributors on the open market, including relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, outfielder Michael Brantley and third baseman Josh Donaldson. All four left in free agency on contracts that the Indians could have afforded if the Dolans opened up their pockets. There is also the infamous comment from Paul Dolan telling fans to “enjoy” Francisco Lindor when asked about resigning him (Meisel, 2019). The other idea is that it is the fault of ownership. This group believes that the Dolans went farther than restricting the resigning of players, they instructed President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff to cut payroll. The Indians “cut more than $15 million from the 2018 Opening Day salary obligations and reversed almost a decade-long trend of year-over-year increases” (Perry, 2019, para. 5), which led to the team not only losing key pieces of the 2018 team, but not being able to add any players at all. The Indians have a creative front office, but they were severely handicapped by the Dolans strategy and plans for the future.

Was this the reason that the team missed the playoffs? Yes, the offseason was flawed- letting Michael Brantley and Yandy Diaz leave was particularly painful for Indians’ fans both before and during their quality seasons- but there is a lot more to the picture than just the Dolans’ unwillingness to spend. The outfield was a serious issue, but one that was addressed by Antonetti and Chernoff. The Indians promoted outfield prospect Oscar Mercado in May, who went on to have a Rookie of the Year caliber season. They swung a major deadline deal with the Reds and Padres that brought in a year of Yasiel Puig and 5 of Franmil Reyes, shoring up the outfield and strengthening the overall lineup.

So, if the off-season concerns were addressed, what was the issue? Injuries. The Indians’ rotation, known across baseball as one of the most formidable in the sport, was decimated. Perennial Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber broke his arm on a comebacker to the mound, second ace Carlos Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia and missed a significant portion of the season, and surging Mike Clevenger dealt with a back issue that caused him to miss over a month of the season. Jose Ramirez disappeared for the first half and then recaptured his MVP form in the second half, only to break his hamate bone in his right hand and miss the critical end of the season.

Even with all the injuries, the Tribe were still competitive, finishing 8 games behind the surprising Twins and 3 games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card spot. When looking at the season as a whole, where can the blame truly lie? The media puts it on the tight-walleted Dolans, but it should rest on the string of bad injuries. Would Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco give the team 3 more wins over the season? If Jose Ramirez performed to his MVP caliber the first half, could the team have won a few more games? These questions directly impact the win total of the 2019 Indians, possibly even more so than questions surrounding the Dolans’ choices over the offseason. So, in the ultimate question of “Whose fault is it anyway?” The answer rests solely on the unpredictability of baseball and the Indians’ lengthy IL.

References

Meisel, Z. (2019, March 25). Paul Dolan discusses the dollars and sense behind the Indians’ payroll and Francisco Lindor’s future. The Athletic. Retrieved from https://theathletic.com/884023/2019/03/25/paul-dolan-discusses-the-dollars-and-sense-behind-the-indians-payroll-strategy-and-francisco-lindors-future/

Perry, D. (2019, September 30).The Indians have been eliminated, and it’s mostly the fault of ownership. CBS Sports. Retreived from https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/the-indians-have-been-eliminated-and-its-mostly-the-fault-of-ownership/

Torres, L. (2019, September 30). The Dolans don’t care that the Indians missed the playoffs. Beyond the Box Score. Retreived from https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/9/30/20889710/cleveland-indians-ownership-dolan-missed-playoffs-cheap

What Does Harper Deal Mean for MLB and Other Leagues?

By Drew Gallagher

March 18, 2019

Drew Gallagher is a first-year undergraduate student at Bowling Green State University. He is planning to major in Sport Management with a minor in General Business. Drew is a proud native of Aurora, Illinois and is interested in many sports, but focuses primarily on baseball and football at the professional and collegiate levels.

Back on February 28th, the most lucrative free agent contract in North American sports history was agreed upon by Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal ended up being worth $330 million over 13 years (Zolecki, 2019). The contract also included stipulations such as no-trade and no opt-out clauses for the 26 year-old outfielder (Zolecki, 2019, para. 5). Now, of course, this is an insane amount of money for any one individual to be making, especially since it is 100% guaranteed.

When you examine the deal individually, you can see that it benefits everyone involved. As Kram (2019) said, “Harper receives the largest contract by total value in U.S. sports history, while the Phillies can spread the payment over more years to reduce the per-year cost” (para. 1). When you examine the deal on the larger scale though, you see that it may be a sign of what’s to come for Major League Baseball. We can predict that deals, at least for star players, will start to become more and more about long-term security in the coming years. This is especially important when you think about the number of young talented players in the game right now who will all become free agents at some point within the next decade.

Many news outlets took this news another route though. Since the NFL is the most popular league in the country, why shouldn’t its players earn as much or more money than MLB players? There are many forms of this argument that we hear frequently since the NFL is infamous for limiting guaranteed money for its players. At the surface, this argument makes complete sense. The players that earn their league more money deserve to be compensated more for their play. But when you look at it from a business standpoint, it becomes apparent why that isn’t the case.

According to Cosentino (2017), “NFL players are far more likely to sustain injuries than those in MLB… the mean number of injuries suffered per game in the NFL is approximately 4.9 times higher than the sum of those other leagues [the MLB, NBA and NHL]” (para. 5). The truth is, such a high risk of injury leads teams to be more reluctant to dole out big money to players. The same can’t be said for baseball since it is rarer that a player suffers a major injury. Baseball is a more long-standing sport with a more influential players union. These two reasons set it apart from the other two major American sports.

It is my guess that the implication of Harper’s contract will extend primarily to MLB as a whole. It does make sense though that media outlets would try to apply it to other sports to make it a more universal topic for their viewers. The truth of the matter is that the sports world is very secular and not much of what happens in one sport will affect another.

References

Cosentino, D. (2017, August 1). Why only the NFL doesn’t guarantee contracts. Deadspin. Retrieved from https://deadspin.com/why-only-the-nfl-doesnt-guarantee-contracts-1797020799

Kram, Z. (2019, February 28). The ripple effect of Bryce Harper’s record-setting Phillies contract. The Ringer. Retrieved from https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2019/2/28/18245294/bryce-harper-philadelphia-phillies-giants-dodgers-yankees-cubs-trout-betts

Zolecki, T. (2019, February 28). Harper, Phils agree to 13-year deal. mlb.com. Retrieved from https://www.mlb.com/news/bryce-harper-deal-with-phillies

Gary Sanchez: New York’s Next Superstar

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

The New York Yankees had by far the most interesting season in all the MLB this year. To sum it up, their year had three parts. The first part ranged from opening day until the All-Star break, where fans saw a continuation of the previous season with their team showing flashes of greatness only followed by long periods of disappointment. Sporting an everyday lineup filled with injury prone veteran players, fans had to hope t00at these men would play above their potential every game in the very tough AL East. But to their disappointment, we watched as Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira struggled mightily and went through lengthy absences due to injury. When the All-Star break finally arrived, the Yankees sported a .500 record of 44-44, this is where the second part began.

Following the break, the Yankees ended July going 8-8 and capped it off by getting swept by the dreadful Tampa Bay Rays. This generated a lot of chatter about what New York would do at the trade deadline, either stay course and hope the team could rebound and make a push for the playoffs, or cut their losses and sell some of their top players to build for the future. General Manager Brian Cashman chose option number two and at the deadline agreed to multiple trades which resulted in Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova being shipped to different teams. The pool of players that New York brought in return were highlighted by highly touted prospects Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres among many others. To go along with these trades, the Yanks also decided to part ways with Alex Rodriguez when they cut him on August 13th and thanks to the pressure he was feeling from the fans, Mark Teixeira announced he would retire after the season.

With all of this said, the Yankees now had a totally revamped major league roster to go along with a much improved minor league system. Part three occurs when NY called up their top prospects Gary Sánchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin. Each player helped spark the team and allowed them to realistically contend for the post season. But as everyone is well aware, Gary Sánchez was the heart and soul in the last two months of the season.

On August 3rd Gary Sánchez was officially moved up to the big leagues and while many knew of the incredible skill set this young man had, no one could have predicted he would go on the tear he did. After making all the trades they did, New York was seen by many as officially entering the rebuilding stage, they were trying to get these young players at-bats and playing time so when the 2017 season rolled around they would at least have some level of experience. But to baseball viewer’s amazement, Sánchez played historically good and not just because he was a rookie. In two months, Sánchez was able to break multiple rookie records, was the main reason his team even sniffed the playoffs, and somehow put himself in contention with Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer to win AL Rookie of the Year. In just 53 games, Sanchez’s slash line was .299/.376/.657 to go along with an incredible 20 home runs and 43 RBI, those stats are nothing short of amazing.

Image result for gary sanchez                                                                                                 Image via nypost.com

Ever since two of the Yankees all-time legends, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, retired, New York has been dying for their next superstar. After spending millions of dollars on big names like Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka, it’s only right the next star would work himself up through the team’s system. The buzz and hype that Sánchez generated from his play is ver similar to what Jeremy Lin did to the city when he came to the Knicks, not just the city of New York was in a state of shock and utter disbelief but as was the entire nation. In an article titled Gary Sánchez has impressed the baseball world written by Erik Boland, there is a quote from an opposing AL team executive describing his view of Sánchez, he says, “I’m buying. I don’t think it’s a fluke. That’s a stupid pace he was on, but . . . with that swing, he should be a 30-home run guy, I would think.” This just adds to the point of how in just two short months, Sánchez has already won over many people in the league thanks to his consistent high level of play.

During the 53 games he played at the major league level, it is impossible to find just how many articles were published about this player or how many times he was mentioned in broadcasts because simply everyone in the sports world wanted to talk about Gary Sánchez. He could have done what he did on any team in the league and would still be receiving a crazy amount of attention, but the fact that he did this in New York City, the center of the sports world, only added to the hype.

It is hard to wrap your mind around the fact that in such a short time Sánchez has already put himself in the center of the Yankees plans for years to come, looking to him as the player they need to build around. Even though his club still missed the playoffs, his efforts helped shift the view of the team from being in a state of rebuilding, to being one that should contend in 2017. Obviously in sports it is impossible to predict if a player can continue to have such an incredible level of play but when discussing Sánchez, how can you doubt him anymore? His tenure with New York this year was filled with many claiming it was beginners luck but night after night he kept producing. No adjustment could be made to slow him down and now fans are eager for next year to see the numbers he will put up. The 2016 New York Yankees season will simply go down as the year Gary Sanchez emerged.

Remembering Niño

By Nate Flax

Before the early morning sun even had a chance to kiss the shores of South Beach, a dark cloud had been cast over far more than Miami and the sporting world. Reports of a boating accident involving a 32-foot fishing boat nicknamed Kaught Looking (spelt with a backwards K) just off the coast of Miami came in early Sunday. The vessel belonged to José Fernandez, star pitcher of the Miami Marlins, who, along two of his close friends, Eddy Rivero and Emilio Macias, died that night when their boat crashed into a jetty and landed upside down on the rocks. However, in the words of Dr. Seuss and as legendary broadcaster Vin Scully signed off his final game with “do not be sad it’s over, smile because it happened”, which is what we should all do in remembering the lives of Rivero, Macias, and Fernandez.

joses-boat

PHOTO: PATRICK FARRELL/MIAMI HERALD/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fernandez, 24, attempted to escape three times from Cuba, before finally reaching the United States with his mother, and leaving his grandmother behind. He was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB amateur draft (14th overall) before making his début for the Marlins as a 20 year-old in 2013 when he dominated the New York Mets, striking out eight in just five innings. That year he played in an all-star that year as well as Rookie of the Year honors for the National League. Injuries would plague his next two seasons, but Fernandez would return to all-star form in 2016 as he racked up 16 wins to go along with an earned run average under 2.9, putting him in contention for a Cy Young award. However, Fernandez were far more than phenomenal numbers, as it is his person for which he will forever be remembered.

Getty Images

Getty Images

As so many involved with the game of baseball could tell you, Fernandez brought a certain joy to the clubhouse, coming to work day in and day out with the giddiness we all had when we played the game as children. In short, he made the game fun again. One need look no further than moments like a booming Giancarlo Stanton home run, where Fernandez can be found in the dugout jumping up and down, his hands flailing in the air, and a huge grin on his face, to see just how much fun he had just by coming to the ballpark.

Another moment he’ll be long remembered for is when he caught a screaming line drive off the bat of Troy Tulowitzki who looked out at Fernandez stunned asking “Did you catch that?” to which Fernandez replied through his massive smile “Yeah. Yeah, I did”. Or after his final game, which he claimed was the best he had ever pitched, when he came back to the dugout and received a massive bear hug from hitting coach and good friend, Barry Bonds.

It was not until it was too late, however, when we all got to see just how much Fernandez meant to the Marlins organization and the game of baseball. Approaching Marlins Park Monday morning, one would see a sunny day everywhere but over the stadium where one cloud poured rain on the dome in the start of an overwhelming, emotional day. The game would start with tributes and grieving from both teams for Fernandez, whose number 16 covered the stadium and the mound, before the Marlins took the field with eight players, all wearing Fernandez’s number 16, missing their pitcher. After the Mets were retired in the top half of the inning, Dee Gordon led off for Miami, taking the first pitch thrown to him from the right-handed batter’s box while wearing Fernandez’s helmet, before switching to his natural lefty side. Two pitches later, Gordon would hit a powerful home run to right for his first homer of the season. An emotional trip around the bases concluded with tears throughout the stadium and hugs from every teammate in the dugout. After the game Gordon said, “I told the boys, if y’all don’t believe in God, y’all might as well start. I ain’t ever hit a ball that far, even in BP…we had some help.” Even though the Marlins ended up losing the game that day, the entire stadium and baseball community felt the presence of Jose “Niño” Fernandez cheering on his teammates from above that day.

Who’s in the Wrong? Curt Schilling or ESPN?

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

Curt Schilling has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. The former Major League Baseball pitcher has served as a baseball analyst for ESPN since 2010, but this past Wednesday was fired from the network because of the “transphobic” comments that he posted on Facebook.

                                                                            Image via awfulannouncing.com

To give a little background, Schilling first entered the public eye in 1988 when he debuted for the Baltimore Orioles as a right-handed pitcher. The former second round pick then went on to play for the Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox over the course of 19 seasons. During his career, Schilling won three World Series titles (including being named co-World Series MVP in 2001) and was a six-time All-Star. Arguably the most memorable part of his MLB tenure came in game 6 of the 2004 ALCS when he was on the Red Sox and pitched while having a torn tendon in his ankle causing blood to become visible through his sock, this game is now known as “the bloody sock game.”

Sadly these are all just memories and now the former MLB star is seen as transphobic by many. As stated earlier, Schilling was let go by ESPN because of a post he shared on Facebook, it was a picture of a man dressed as woman  and read, “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” He also added a comment that said, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.” This post was obviously a response to the recent uproar caused by North Carolina passing a law which restricted public restroom and locker-room use to individuals based on birth sex. In simpler terms, people are angry that a person who was born a man but has since changed genders to a woman, will still be forced to share a locker-room with men even though they are a woman now.

This actually is not the first time that Schilling has been disciplined by the network for comments he made about popular social issues. In August of 2015, Curt was suspended from ESPN after he posted a meme on twitter that read, “It’s said ONLY 5-10% of Muslims are extremists…In 1940, ONLY 7% of Germans were Nazis, how’d that go?”

With all of this said, is it wrong for ESPN to fire Mr. Schilling because he expresses his personal beliefs? Some will argue that a man is entitled to his own opinion and he should not have to keep it to himself when we live in a country that takes pride in their freedom and where the First Amendment of our Constitution protects our freedom of speech. This is true but technically in the First Amendment it states that only the government cannot restrict freedom of speech from anyone. So actually ESPN did not infringe on his First Amendment rights and legally has the power to fire him if they wish.

Many of the stories that have been written about Curt Schilling and his recent termination state that what he said and more importantly how he said it was wrong but also credit him with starting a public conversation concerning a very popular issue. In an article from The New York Post titled “Curt Schilling got fired for his Common Sense on Bathrooms,” author Linda Chavez is inspired from Schilling to ask an important question. She writes, “Are Americans being intimidated into accepting public behavior that many feel threatens them — namely, allowing biologically male or female individuals to use public bathrooms that are designated for the opposite sex?” While this was a pretty “raw” way of giving his opinion on this certain topic of discussion, it has caused more and more people to start talking about something that may be looked at as a “sensitive” subject.

The statement ESPN issued regarding Schilling’s dismissal reads as follows, “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.” In an article titled “Curt Schilling’s Crassness, Not Politics, Got Him Fired From ESPN” from forbes.com, author Alex Reimer claims that the analyst was only fired because of the way he gave his opinion, not the opinion itself. He writes, “Curt Schilling isn’t being persecuted for his right-wing views. He’s being persecuted for the crass and crude ways he expresses them.” This is very interesting and makes one think that if he had stated his views in a more appropriate way would he have still been let go?

It is unclear whether the public will ever know if the former pitcher was let go because the network thought his views were offending or if it was only because of the way he said it. One thing that is clear is that Schilling will not be a part of ESPN’s staff moving forward. Following his termination, Schilling was quoted as saying, “I’m not transphobic, I’m not homophobic.” So the question I have now is that if a different analyst, who doesn’t have a history of being outspoken, would have said something similar (in a gentler way) would he or she have been fired?