September 4, 2012
When Sexism and Home Plate Collisions Collide
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Hunter Felt blogs about baseball, basketball and assorted U.S. sports for the The Guardian. He has contributed to Pop Matters and Et tu, Mr. Destructo? He also is occasionally (not) Terry Francona on Twitter in the guise of @NotCoachTito. You can follow him as himself as @HunterFelt where he mainly just makes really snarky jokes about life in Somerville, MA and raves about his kickass girlfriend.
On August 28th, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was involved in a home plate collision with Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although Molina was knocked out of the game with back, shoulder, and neck injuries, he did manage to hold on to the ball and record the out at the plate. The official Twitter account of Major League Baseball celebrated the accomplishment with this tweet:
If the writers had come up with something like "Molina held onto the ball because he's THE man," there probably wouldn't have been too much outcry. But they didn’t, and there was. Immediately following the "Yadier Molina is a man" tweet, many expressed shock that the official Twitter feed of a major entertainment industry would publish something with such a blatantly sexist subtext. Not long after that—because we are talking about Twitter here—came the series of tweets making fun of @MLB. (As a devoted fan of press conference meltdowns, my favorite joking response was Dan Wade's "Yadier Molina can't be a man, he's not 40! #MikeGundy!) As those familiar with the Twitter News Cycle have probably guessed, the joke tweets were followed by the inevitable backlash from those who thought the initial response was unwarranted. These tweets claimed that while the Yadier Molina tweet was dumb, it was pushing it to claim that there was anything sexist about the statement. Instead, the counter-argument went, the MLB account was trying to express something closer to the idea that Yadier Molina was more like a "man among boys" for clinging to the baseball during the collision.
Dan Kelley. Hello. Please do me a favor. Take your hand and grab your head. Then repeatedly bang your face into the closest thing available. I.E. a wall. A desk. An on coming vehicle. You are a soccer mom at best. Your wife is ashamed of you for writing this. I hope she beats you tonight. Stop writing about sports. It doesn't suit you well. Maybe write about the best tampon brand out there. I don't care. But, please. Until you find any shred of manliness in your bones stay as far away from sports as possible.
'The ridiculous display of aggression—in an exhibition game, no less' Its a shame most MLB players don't play in games that actually matter with as much intensity as Pete Rose does in an exhibition game. Put your purse down Nancy.
Similar comments were made after the San Francisco Giants told catcher Buster Posey to stop blocking the plate at the start of this year's spring training. The comments on the related ESPN article—a news article, it should be noted, not an opinion piece—were of a similar nature.
Baseball tickets, corporate advertising dollars, and the like are increasingly going to be in the hands of women. Pissing them off by talking down to them or simply ignoring them is bad for business.
So yes, there may be an increasing amount of "sensitivity" to sexism in baseball coverage, but this is a positive development.
At least the controversy made me feel a little bit better about being a Boston Red Sox fan. After years of hearing Sox supporters calls bandwagon fans "Pink Hats" (because GIRLS wear Pink Hats, and girls don't know sports) or delight in calling right fielder J.D. Drew "Nancy" (because he didn't dive for balls that he could catch on the run, took pitches that were out of the strike zone, and spent a lot of time on the disabled list), I had started to convince myself that Sox fans had a monopoly on thoughtless sexism. Unfortunately, no fan base is entirely free from it. The Molina tweet was a reminder that much of the way we think and talk about baseball and other sports is colored by sexist assumptions. That’s not going to change if we let it slide without comment, for fear of people thinking we're being "too sensitive" or "making too much of it." If we don't call out overtly sexist behavior, we're guilty of dropping the—
Well, you know.