“You know, I’d really like to hire you, but I’m not going to be able to. And it’s because of your gender.”
- An unnamed strength and conditioning coordinator of a MLB organization to Rachel Balkovec – the reigning S&C coach of the Appalachian League at the time – nine years ago.
This past Sunday it was widely reported that the Yankees were set to announce the promotion of Rachel Balkovec to manager of the Tampa Tarpons, the Yankees high A affiliate. This would make her the first woman manager of an affiliated professional baseball team and is great news on several fronts to anyone who pays attention to baseball, sports in general, or life in general.
A few years back, when I started my own blog and social media pages, I made a point of not sharing idiotic and/or cowardly takes from idiots and/or cowards. To me, there’s no point and more importantly no benefit in giving a larger platform to idiots and cowards. That said, I do want to address an aspect of what was a largely predictable and sadly not uncommon response to the news of the Balkovec promotion. That is to say, the sexists crawled out of the woodwork to an extent that it can’t, nor should it be, ignored.
As you likely know in addition to My Baseball Page, I write for Pinstripe Alley (a site that covers the Yankees) and Off the Bench Baseball (a site that covers baseball in general). On Monday the staff of Pinstripe Alley received a message from an editor explaining that the comments section on the two posts about Balkovec needed to be shut down and removed due to increasingly frequent sexist comments. I.e., if we wanted to chime in, or if a reader wanted to chime in with a positive reaction – or heck, even a negative reaction or question that was at least made in an adult manner – we wouldn’t be able to do so. Apparently, the dullards had successfully drowned us out.
Now, I’m not a sociologist so I’m not going to try to tackle the problem of sexism in general in our society as I possess neither the educational background nor the time to do so. However, I have written about baseball extensively (on a semi-professional level at least), so I’m going to stay in my lane and explain something to those who just don’t get it, and either intentionally or unintentionally, miss the entire damn point about how the Balkovec hire is a good thing. (Because apparently, there are many of you out there…)
For all we know, Balkovec may turn out to be a God-awful, joke of a manager. Conversely, she may turn out to be a female Miller Huggins. We don’t know yet – although we’d likely all agree it’s far more likely she’ll fall somewhere in the middle of those two possibilities. But that’s not the point.
The point is she is getting the opportunity to show us one way or the other.
It’s been shown over and over and over, ad nauseam, that certain demographics in our society will get opportunity after opportunity after opportunity – even if they’ve failed on multiple occasions. Other demographics get far fewer opportunities, and if unsuccessful, rarely get a second chance. Women – to this point in time – have had zero opportunities to manage in affiliated pro-ball.
To paraphrase Giants’ GM Farhan Zaidi, if you think every single one of the men who have had multiple opportunities to manage in pro-ball is better than every single woman at managing a baseball team, you believe in a statistical impossibility. Just because women (so far) haven’t thrown a baseball 99 mph, or hit one 475’, does not mean they do not understand the game or are unable to teach the game. Again, many, many, men have proven beyond any doubt they don’t fully understand the game nor can they teach it or manage a team – but they keep getting opportunities anyway.
I mentioned the experience of Kim Ng, GM of the Miami Marlins – the only woman to be in a shot-calling position in MLB – in an article for Off the Bench Baseball earlier this year. Kim had 30 years of experience, had three World Series rings as an Assistant GM, and had gone on nine interviews before being offered a job as a GM. (One of the teams who interviewed her was the Mets – they offered the job to Brody Van Wagenen instead, who had never worked in an MLB front office before.)
Why should this matter to you and why is this a good thing even if you’re someone who doesn’t care about other people not getting a fair shake?
Because sports are supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy. It’s supposed to be the place where fair competition takes place. Your size, age, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and gender should not matter – we’re going to compete, and may the best team or individual win.
Yet in reality, sports are not that way, unfortunately. But when people like Rachel Balkovec and Kim Ng are given opportunities, it’s one step closer to being a true meritocracy – which means we’re one step closer to a higher quality, more competitive game for all involved because the best of the best will be competing against each other. (As opposed to battles between the proven to be mediocre we often watch currently…)
If you feel otherwise, then your thoughts are very similar to those who said integration was pointless because the players in the Negro Leagues weren’t good enough to compete in the National and American Leagues.
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