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How would the Michael Sam story play out in baseball?

Feb 10, 2014, 8:25 AM EDT

Michael Sam AP

The news about Missouri defensive end Michael Sam coming out in the runup to the NFL combine is the rare football story that catches my interest. And while normally it would just be my interest, I was asked on the Erik Kuselias radio show this morning how I thought such a story would play in a baseball context. I hadn’t given it any thought until the moment I was asked, but a few minutes later I’m still fairly satisfied with my gut response.

That response: I feel like baseball would handle it pretty well. I’m not naive enough to think that no one would say something dumb or awkward, but I feel like it would be far more likely to come out of simple clumsiness than animus. The reason? Jackie Robinson, mostly.

While every sport has its integration story, none is more widely known than baseball’s. Much to baseball’s credit, every player has Jackie Robinson’s history and example drilled into them. Part of that history is Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman’s (and other bigots) role in it. I think most players and coaches are well aware of what it looks like to be on the wrong side of history. I’m not saying that example would instantly change everyone’s mind and heart — there are bigots everywhere — but I feel like most people in baseball would think a lot about what they said if, for no other reason, than no one wants to be Ben Chapman in baseball’s next civil rights story.

Another reason I think baseball would do OK if the Michael Sam story were repeated here is that, unlike in the NFL, players grow into the game over time rather than show up as preexisting stars via their college exploits. There aren’t many baseball players in Michael Sam’s position — not yet in the game but famous enough to command media attention — because most amateurs are unknowns. A baseball player at the same level of Sam’s fame would have already been considered a top prospect and would be an integral part of his team’s future. No one would ask about whether he would be a distraction or whether a team would be willing to take a chance on him. He’d have already played in the futures game and a couple levels of the minors and fans would have already spent two or three years agitating for him to get a shot on the big league roster over that veteran they’re tired of seeing. Those uncomfortable threshold questions like the ones being asked about Sam this morning — who will take a chance on him? — would be moot.

Alternatively, a player could come out when he’s in high school or college. This may lead to the same sorts of “who will take a chance on him” questions, but the leverage and attention paid to a baseball draftee is so much less than in football. Each year he leveled up — to double-A, Triple-A, etc. — there would be some interest or stories in him, but it wouldn’t be a big media explosion like I suspect the Sam stuff will be over the next couple of weeks. The big league media would see how the smaller-scale media had been handling it for a couple of years and those obviously dumb initial questions and reactions will have been played out, leading to, one hopes, a more thoughtful consideration of the player.

As with any trailblazing event, there would be interest and curiosity and ignorance and some unfortunate incidents here or there. But I feel like baseball’s far less intense scrutiny of young players in general combined with the Jackie Robinson model would make a baseball player coming out less of a thing than some might suspect it would be. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my initial thought.

157 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. barrywhererufrom - Feb 10, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    @clenente you are the low infornmation voter that put obama in the white house. Have you been paying attention to any other news outle except msnbc? Let see hearings havw occurred and under.oath irs.officials have stated.that conservative groups were targeted. What planet are.you on? Just because obama and the libwral.news outlets say their is no story doesnt make.it.so. Goebberls would.be very proud.of the manipulation of the media that this regime has. Finally 98% of.conservative groupd were targeted by the irs. If you have no.problem.with that than you are.part.of the problem

    • cur'68 - Feb 10, 2014 at 5:37 PM

      Godwin’s Law, folks. Barry, you lose. You just broke an iron clad interwebz rule, I’m afraid. Any arguer that engages in Reductio ad Hitlerum automatically loses that discussion and the comment thread is closed. The End & Thanks For Playing.

      • barrywhererufrom - Feb 10, 2014 at 5:46 PM

        Oh boy I lose I should of used Stalin..Damon you liberals at just so smart..I will remember the next time I bring up media manipulation I will never again bring up Georbells..otherwise my point is lost..you my friend are a jackass!!

      • cur'68 - Feb 10, 2014 at 5:59 PM

        Uh…what does Jonny Damon have to do with this? Man, you make less sense and less sense with every post. Good night.

      • The Common Man - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:22 PM

        Typical. God, the American education system is terrible. Addendum to Godwin’s Law, you can only bring up Nazis whose names you know how to spell. Goebbels

      • cur'68 - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:33 PM

        I think he’s drunk. He can’t even control where his periods are going. Tsk. What would god say…

      • historiophiliac - Feb 11, 2014 at 12:20 AM

        Seriously? None of the spelling cops got all up in arms about “should of” there? What?

  2. barrywhererufrom - Feb 10, 2014 at 5:25 PM

    18th st..they tea party groups were targeted because of the political ideology. It was brought out during testimony under oath in the house of representatives. They tried to say that it was rogue irs employees in Cincinnati. The hearings are still ongoing. Of course no one was fired and no outrage from the media or the left because of it. When you had hundreds of conservative groups that were targeted and liberal groups with the same documentation are not something is wrong. These are tactics that dictators use to silence the opposition. I see you have no problem with this. It is a shame but when you sell out liberals do it all the way. If you know your US history it was republicans like James Baker who told Nixon to resign over a break in that would be tame under Obama’s standards. So continue on your merry way..nothing to see here..as our constitution is trampled on by this administration.

    • 18thstreet - Feb 10, 2014 at 6:46 PM

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/07/12/democrats-offer-new-evidence-that-irs-targeted-progressive-groups/

      • barrywhererufrom - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:07 PM

        Dude a story from.july? Again it.was.reported.about a month ago that over 90% of.conservatuve groups were.targeted. Not even close..

      • cohnjusack - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:16 PM

        Repeat a lie long enough, well…it’s still a lie.

        Twice as many conservative groups received tax-exempt status as liberal groups in the IRS sweep.

        During that time frame, do you think there were more liberal groups or conservative groups seeking tax-exempt IRS status? I recall a ton of tea party groups being founded then…not a whole lot of liberal groups. Perhaps that might explain why more conservative groups were investigated…

      • barrywhererufrom - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:28 PM

        From today..

        http://www.suntimes.com/news/huntley

      • barrywhererufrom - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:31 PM

        Again Democrats like cummings were trying to give cover for obama and they are part of the problem

  3. miketreedy - Feb 10, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    The same way. The media would overplay it because they are idiots.

  4. barrywhererufrom - Feb 10, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    Overplay what? The liberal media doesn’t even report it..pretty stalinistic

    • cohnjusack - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:16 PM

      If you’re referring to the IRS scandal, it was all over the news for months, so I have no f**king clue what you’re talking about.

  5. barrywhererufrom - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    I was refering that the liberal.media gas ignored the story. Especially after reading some posts that either yheir is nothing to the scandal…pretty scary

  6. fearthehoody - Feb 10, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    This right here folks, is the definition of lazy journalism! Gobble it up!!

  7. genericcommenter - Feb 10, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    Looks like some of the ProBasketballTalk commenters wandered over. For whatever reason the HBT commenters are civilized, and the PFT are for the most part, but any story about anything on PBT brings out the bigots and comments run about 2/3 bigoted or very insensitive and thoughtless at best.

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