It has become almost a ritual. A baseball player is suspended for domestic violence; he passes his time away from the game in counseling and perhaps with some community service, then returns to the team when his suspension is up. Broadcasters remark about his return, frequently noting how important he is to the team, how important it is to have him back. And life goes on.
Even with that pattern well established since the establishment of MLB's domestic violence policy in 2015, it came as a shock recently to hear one announcer talk about a suspended pitcher's welcome return "after the awful situation he went through."
The awful situation HE went through?!!! What about his partner? Wasn’t she the one who really went through an awful situation? No word about that or about what the counseling was.
So it must have been a surprise when instead of a "welcome back," the player, one of 14 who have been suspended under the MLB policy, was greeted with a bit of a cold shoulder from his teammates.
One of the young stars from the same locker room said, “He’s on thin ice.” Another player expressed his revulsion about the man’s behavior with this: “You can’t choose your teammates.”
Their comments pushed the suspended player to address the team and apologize for what he did in what was characterized as a remorseful talk.
From the announce booth? No explanation about what the pitcher had "suffered" by his long suspension, just surprise at "how little rust" he showed when he took the mound again.
Perhaps it's not unexpected. Like most of the Major League Baseball administration, the broadcaster was a white male of a generation older than the players. Those places — management and broadcasting — remain a bastion of the "old boys network." You only have to look around to see that, despite the arrival of Kim Ng as General Manager of the Miami Marlins, there are few women in the executive suites, on the team staffs or in the announce booths.
But even as the female presence in baseball increases at its snail-like rate, it is heartening and very welcome that there is good news coming, and coming from a completely different direction: the players themselves.
Baseball's younger generation is making it clear that some things are not acceptable. . .
. . . while other things are not only acceptable, but welcome. For instance, coaches who just happen to be female. There has been nothing but praise from the players about the work of coaches like Rachel Balkovec of the New York Yankees and Alyssa Nakken of the San Francisco Giants.
Both women were outstanding scholars and athletes who struggled to get past the male hiring committees. Rachel even had to resort to using a shortened, more masculin version of her first name, i.e., Rae, to get anyone to pay attention to her credentials.
But for the players, their only concern is about the work women like Rachel, Alyssa and others do. Players know precisely what to call them: Coach.
Are you older guys there in your corner offices paying attention?
Remember the old MLB slogan you came up with: “Let the Kids Play?” Well, maybe we should also let the kids lead us.
Sounds almost Biblical.