Author: jdcam85

Free Agent Possibilities – Starting Pitching Help for the Minnesota Twins

The best starting pitching in baseball in the regular season belonged to, in order; Dodgers, Indians, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Yankees, Astros, Cubs, Red Sox. While ERA might be a limited statistic, that’s a telling trend. In 2017 the Twins were 19th on this list, starters combining for a 4.73 ERA, (as opposed to dead last in 2016 at 5.39). They were only 26th in strikeouts in 2017 (as opposed to dead last in 2016). Most of the improvement in their pitching was due to soon to be Gold Glove center fielder Byron Buxton. Consider this, the median MLB team (in this case, the Mariners) scored 4.63 runs per game in 2017. Buxton had an Rtot of 32 (a stat which combines a variety of statistics to form an overall defensive contribution above or below average). In 2017 Buxton was so good in CF, he negated an average MLB team’s offense over a 7 game stretch, that’s absolutely bananas. The story here ultimately is that aside from Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana, the Twins starting rotation is both uncertain, and decidedly average.

The Twins have a stable of in-house candidates looking to fill out the back end of their rotation. Kyle Gibson seems to be a lock, after ‘turning a corner’ down the stretch (I’m too jaded to be convinced of this). Adalberto Mejia has shown flashes of potential despite being about as efficient as Gabriel Moya’s mechanics. Trevor May is working his way back from surgery, Stephen Gonsalves and Francisco Romero offer intriguing rotation options although both should start the season at AAA Rochester. If I’m in the front office, I don’t want to rely on someone with limited experience stepping up or a AAA guy being ready close to the beginning of the season (remember Berrios’ 2016 debut?). Assuming the Twins choose to pursue a starter in free agency and not through the trade market, here are some options they might consider.

Andrew Cashner

Cashner had an Ervin Santana-like year in 2017, in that, his peripherals did not match his overall performance. As a result, he is likely to get a solid contract this off-season. Signed to a 1 year, $10 million deal with the Rangers, he posted a 3.40 ERA (compared to 5.30 xFIP, which resulted from him cutting his HR/FB% almost in half from 2016, an unlikely feat in Arlington. Cashner put up a poor K/9 (4.64), is injury prone (has surpassed 180 IP just once since 2013), and struggles with control 3.54 BB/9. The Twins would do well to leave Cashner alone after a year where he was more lucky than good.

Alex Cobb

Cobb would be an interesting free agent acquisition for the Twins, particularly if the Jim Hickey to Twins pitching coach rumors come to fruition. The 30 year old made $4.2 million in 2017 and is due for a substantial raise in a thin FA market, despite missing 2015 and part of 2016 after undergoing TJ surgery. The deceptive righty put up a 3.66 ERA (4.24 xFIP), an OK 6.5 K/9, and great control (2.29 BB/9). Cobb underwent an evolution in 2017 in which he dramatically increased his LOB%, despite increased hard contact, fly ball percentage, and decreased ground ball rate. Cobb used his curve significantly more in 2017, throwing it 34% of the time (up from 22% in 2016). This pitch turned into a major weapon for Cobb, adding a value of 6 runs over the course of his season. Cobb will likely have a strong market in the off-season due to a poor smattering of SP free agents.

Tyler Chatwood

Chatwood is an interesting option for the Twins. The 27 year old was the definition of a league average pitcher (if you factor in Coors Field) in 2017 (4.27 xFIP, 7.31 K/9). Chatwood’s biggest issue remains an unacceptably high walk rate 4.69 BB/9, which was by far the highest of his career. Chatwood repeatedly escaped trouble thanks to a ground ball rate of around 60% (compared to league average of around 45%). Despite an uptick in fastball velocity (to 95.3 mph), Chatwood saw that pitch be dominated at Coors Field. A move to Target Field could potentially suit his pitch mix and push him into the realms of above average starter.

Lance Lynn

I initially saw Lynn as ‘the bigger name candidate the Twins might push for’ but upon reflection, I don’t think the Twins would be willing to pay the money Lynn would command, given a closer look at his season. Lynn put together an impressive 3.43 ERA, despite an xFIP of 4.75. He had a decent K rate of 7.39 and a typically high 3.77 BB/9. Lynn is also a year removed from Tommy John surgery in 2016, so there is a chance his second season back improves some of his peripheral numbers. Lynn relies heavily on a solid fastball and slider combination and falls in line with league averages for ground ball/fly ball percentages. He would undoubtedly be a good fit with the Twins exceptional outfield defense. Lynn made $7.5 million last year and will likely earn significantly more than that over a deal which might be his last long term contract. I would not expect the Twins to make a strong push here.

While the Twins should make a push to bolster their rotation their best option may be through a trade. With a strong lineup which happens to be the youngest in the majors, the Twins have solid prospect depth in outfield positions. Next, I’ll look at what the anatomy of a trade for a young, controllable starting pitcher might look like.

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Free Agent Possibilities – Bullpen Help for the Minnesota Twins

If the reemergence of the Yankees in the 2017 postseason has proven anything, it’s that a team can ride a bullpen to and through October success. In advance of the 2017 season, the Twins new front office tandem of Derrick Falvey and Thad Levine did little to bolster a group which consistently struggled in 2016. They brought in Matt Belisle on a guaranteed one year deal. He struggled initially, May punctuated by a bloated ERA over 12.00 with opposing hitters approaching a Hard% of 50%. A dramatic improvement in the second half of the season coincided with the Twins parting with their best reliever, Brandon Kintzler, who was traded to the Nationals prior to their annual elimination game self-destruct in the NLDS at the hands of the Cubs.

The Twins 2017 bullpen was not without bright spots. Trevor Hildenberger emerged not only as the answer to a future Twins related Jeopardy question but also as the Twins best bullpen option. The 5th round pick from the 2014 draft ended his meteoric rise with 9.43 K/9, 1.29 BB/9 and a 2.29 xFIP, cementing his position as the Twins most reliable setup option moving into 2018. Alan Busenitz also showed flashes of promise, more grounded in outstanding stuff than outstanding numbers, his lack of command offset by Twins fans desperate desire for the 27 year old to tip the scales of the swap of MLB scrap that was the Ricky Nolasco for Hector Santiago trade.

Despite the bright spots the Twins pen labored again in 2017, finishing 22nd in MLB by WAR overall, after a terrible first half (0.2 cumulative WAR, good for 28th overall) and a much more promising 2nd half (2.0 WAR god for 14th in the span). With the bullpen ERA not matching some of its peripheral numbers, a large part of its improvement was seemingly rooted in a drastically improved defense (namely Byron Buxton). Let’s take a look at teams at the top of the list; Yankees, Indians, Dodgers, Red Sox, I’ll stop. The top of the bullpen rankings is a who’s who of playoff contenders, with Cubs, Nationals, and Twins ranking as the worst 3 bullpens of playoff qualifying teams (let’s remind ourselves of how all three teams were eliminated!). Given that the Twins have some payroll flexibility and a strong lineup returning in 2018, bolstering the bullpen maybe the highest leverage and most cost-efficient way for the team to make the move from good to great.

The Twins declined Glenn Perkins $6.5 million team option on Wednesday the team is clearly in need of some high quality, high experience arms. The Twins have a stable of young, potentially high impact arms within their own system including John Curtiss and Jake Reed, both of whom had success moving through the Milb ranks in 2017, with Curtiss making and struggling in his MLB debut. Here’s a look at some names they might target with free agency approaching.

Jake McGee – The 31 year old left hander was extremely effective in the unfriendly confines of Coors Field in 2017, posting a 1.7 WAR, a 2.93 FIP, and a 9.1 SO/9. The Twins current left handed options are wither unproven (Gabriel Moya), or inconsistent (Taylor Rogers, Buddy Boshers). McGee made $5.9 million in 2017, and after a strong season, should command a slightly higher average annual salary over a multiyear deal.

Tony Watson – the 32 year old lefty may end up with a World Series ring before the season is over, having been traded to the Dodgers from Pittsburgh mid-season. Watson struggled this season with the Pirates, but after being traded, dramatically increased his ground ball rate (41%-61%, and dramatically increased his strikeout rate. Watson made $5.6 million in 2017 and would likely come at a similar cost to McGee.

Addison Reed – Reed was traded from the Mets to Boston midseason and may appeal to the Twins who lack an obvious closer and will likely be priced out of the Wade Davis/Greg Holland sweepstakes. Reed will be expensive in his own right (he made $7.75 million in 2017), he earned that figure with an outstanding season in which he posted a 2.4 WAR, and 9.3 SO/9. Reed may still be outside the Twins budget given the hefty contract he should command.

Bryan Shaw – perhaps the most speculated over FA RHP and the one who makes the most sense. The obstacle in signing Shaw may simply be – why would he want to leave Cleveland? The 29 year old Shaw has the arm 7.6-9.3 SO/9 in the last 3 seasons with the Indians and the connection with Derrick Falvey which may land him in Minnesota. Shaw would most likely be the cheapest of the 4 options having made $4.6 million in 2017, and a higher leverage role than he had in Cleveland may be a tempting proposition for the hard throwing righty.

Kyle Gibson and the First Pitch Blues

Kyle Gibson struggled in 2016. This is hardly news for Twins fans after a 103 loss season. In the midst of the #DealDozier sweepstakes the Twins have several other areas that will have to improve if they are going to compete with a division which is weakened from 2016, but with an emerging super power in Cleveland. The primary reason the Twins must trade Dozier lies in his value reaching its peak; this fact, combined with the difficulty mid-market teams face in producing enough front-line pitching talent to win a division (never mind the World Series) also bring us back to Gibson. If the Twins are to take a step forward in 2017, Minnesota’s 2009 first rounder will have to rebound to help anchor a rotation made up largely of unreliable pieces outside of Ervin Santana.

In 2015 Gibson appeared to be developing into the number three starter the Twins had hoped for when drafting him as a first round value play in 2009. In 194 plus innings he posted his best ERA 3.84, WHIP 1.28, SO/9 6.7 while posting a 3.96 FIP, all very tidy numbers. By contrast in 2016 his numbers jumped to a career worst ERA 5.07, WHIP 1.56, and FIP 4.70. What’s interesting in Gibson’s case, is some of the numbers which underlie his 2016 struggles.

Anecdotally, Gibson seemed to struggle early in the count in 2016, with hitters being very aggressive at attacking his first pitch. Below is a heat map of Gibson’s pitch percentage on 0-0 counts against lefties with his two seam fastball (the pitch he most typically starts off a hitter with). As you might expect from a ground ball hitter, the majority of Gibson’s pitches were located down and away versus left handed hitters.

final-lhp

Here’s a similar look for right handed hitters in 2016. As you can see, Gibson typically locates down and in or down and away to right handed hitters.

rhp

The biggest issue Gibson faced in 2016 was that opposing hitters picked up on this tendency and drilled his two seam fastball. On the first pitch of an AB, opposing hitters crushed Gibson to the tune of a .467 average while slugging .907 off him. Gibson also gave up 17 XBHs including 8 HR on the first pitch of an AB. In 2015, hitters slugged a much more respectable .538 in first pitch situations, giving up 10 less XBHs. Below is a similar heat map for Gibson’s two seam fastball location in 0-0 counts in 2015, his best season as a Twin, where he spread the ball around the strike zone significantly more.

old-rhp

One of the few clues we have been given about the proclivities of Derek Falvey and Thad Lavine came through their signing of Jason Castro, an offensive struggler known for his pitch framing. This is perhaps indicative of a desire of the front office to put a greater emphasis on more detailed statistics and analytics than Terry Ryan. Castro is undeniably a defensive upgrade over Kurt Suzuki, who struggled in various defensive metrics throughout his tenure with the Twins. One attraction of Castro in addition to his pitch framing is his experience and quality in leading a staff and as a signal caller. Gibson struggled significantly with Suzuki in 2016 to the tune of a 6.15 ERA with opposing hitters managing a .359 BaBIP, compared to a 3.72 ERA and .293 BaBIP when caught by Juan Centeno or John Ryan Murphy. This trend is also true of 2015 (Gibson’s best season as a Twin) in which he performed significantly worse when Suzuki was behind the plate compared with Chris Hermann or Eric Fryer.

Whatever the exact reason behind Gibson and Suzuki’s lack of chemistry one would think Castro will be a shot in the arm to a pitcher the Twins desperately need to take a significant step forward in 2017.

Ryan Firing the Result of Twins’ Lack of Identity

The Twins fired Terry Ryan Monday in a move which surprised the Twin Cities sports media in its timing if not its necessity. The hapless Twins sit at 33-58 going into Tuesday’s play, the worst record in the American League. An organization famed for its loyalty, loyalty to a fault, finally made a move separating the Twins from a direction which has seen them in a slow decline from playoff regulars to AL punchline.

Remarkably, in a sporting landscape where the pressure to win is insurmountable, particularly in larger markets, the Twins commitment to loyalty has led to a stagnancy which has mired the organization in mediocrity. This is the same loyalty that kept Ron Gardenhire in a job long after the Twins needed a new direction. This is the same loyalty that led the Twins to build a farm system around ‘pitch to contact’ and a reticence to embrace analytics in ways that have led other mid-market franchises to great success (see 2015 Royals). Make no mistake, the Twins are behind the times and the buck should not stop with just Terry Ryan.

The Twins have long been accused by their fans of espousing a little too Minnesotan of an attitude to a GM who has brought limited success in recent seasons, particularly in his second spell at the helm. While the Twins enjoyed a consistent playoff berth in the early 2000s, their recent direction has been uninspiring, 2015 breaking a run of 4 straight 90+ loss seasons

Remarkably, it seems as if some may reflect on Ryan’s second spell with the Twins as a success, as David St. Peter mentioned his success in rebuilding the farm system since 2011. This is a baffling statement, given the primary means of restocking a farm system is losing a whole bunch of games and having consistently great draft position. Do the Twins have one of the strongest farm systems in baseball? Significantly improved from 2011? Sure, they better.

Rob Anthony has been tabbed with the interim GM title. The Twins would be wise to ensure this tag does not become permanent. The Twins need a clean break from their ‘within organization’ hiring practices. ‘The organization’ has not worked in quite some time. Alarmingly, Dave St. Peter will take on a significant role in the hiring process as Mackay of ESPN 1500 noted after a round table with the media.

It would be wise for St. Peter to stick with his presidential duties and allow baseball minds to take the lead in hiring a GM who will be critical in establishing the Twins direction for the next decade. The Twins recent woes have been indicative of one simple and undeniable fact, the franchise lacks  an identity. They have over-invested in sub-par free agent pitching (Nolasco, Hughes extension, Santana to an extent) whilst simultaneously stocking their farm system. Every mid-market baseball fan knows that free agency isn’t where its team earns its stripes. Look at the outstanding example provided by Rick Spielman down the street. The Twins have the chance for a clean break and a reshaping, rather than reshuffling of the organization after the dismissal of Ryan. The assertion of Pohlad that the new GM is beholden to Paul Molitor for the 2017 season is worrying. Not because Molitor isn’t well suited for the job, it sets a dangerous Jerry Jones-esque meddlesome precedent muddying the waters between organizational and personnel affairs. If the Twins want to start fresh, that begins with empowering their next, out of organization GM.

College Soccer: Caught in No Man’s Land

by JDCam 07.13.15

With football in the United States hitting its zenith in popularity in recent years the debate surrounding the relevance of college football has continued to intensify. While MLS continues to grow its brand and star power, the debate occupying the national scene is focused on how the United States will increase its international success and strengthen its domestic league in the face of the financial and competitive obstacles raised by a saturated US sports scene and the pinnacle of footballing competition continuing to be grounded in European leagues.

Before taking a look at some fundamental flaws of the college system in the United States, let’s start with a little context. The success of the USMNT at the 2014 World Cup has continued to spark interest in an ever-expanding MLS. Currently, Major League Soccer is competing to be the third most attended sport in the United States (behind NFL and MLB), in spite of having clubs whose home stadiums barely meet the league average in attendance. Here are some eye-popping attendance numbers indicative of just how mainstream MLS has become:

MLS: 16,675/game (2010 season)
NHL: 16,985/game (2009-2010 season)
NBA: 17,149/game (2009-2010 season)

The MLS has been unfairly criticized as a feeder league for higher level European competition. While many talented US players play overseas, it could be argued that all European leagues are feeder patterns for the EPL, La Liga and Bundesliga; the only difference being the geographical distance of the United States from Europe, which simply exaggerates the effect.

Few would argue that MLS struggles to attract and sustain the most elite footballing talent. Many however, go too far in their criticism that high profile designated player signings are akin to cushy part-time retirement jobs for the likes of Villa, Kaka and Lampard. Call it what you will, having players of that caliber playing throughout the United States is a huge draw, even if they are not at their prime, and remains a reality that MLS couldn’t have dreamed of 10 years ago.

Still the circular argument asks the question; what will it take for the USMNT to ‘break through’ at the World Cup? Aside from a slightly unrealistic level of expectation, this question needs to be re-framed. What people are really asking is; how and when is the United States going to produce mega-stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? (Neither of whom incidentally, has won the World Cup).

This brings us to the college game in the United States. NCAA football is perhaps the most chronically under-resourced men’s sport played at the collegiate level. There are simply not enough scholarships available to maintain a consistently elite level of competition (under 10 per D1 school for the men’s game compared to almost 15 per D1 school in the women’s game). While many have criticized the rules of the college games (greater amount of substitutions) as promoting a more physical game I don’t see that as a problem. Rather, shortened playing time combined with all too brief seasons does not set players up for the rigors of a full European season, or even the MLS workload.

Typically, players who make it to the level of the USMNT have had some college experience. Most who played a full-slate of four years however, are fringe players and several more relevant players at the national level did not play in college at all (Howard, Bradley, Altidore etc.). The missing link in the US evolutionary football chain is a full financial commitment to the academy system that has served European football so well.

The MLS may never attract the biggest names from world soccer at the peak of their playing prowess. Instead, the US system needs to commit itself to player academies. Take the example of EPL club Southampton, a team in the brink of liquidation in 2010. Beginning with Theo Walcott, and continuing with players like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, and Rickie Lambert, the Saints investment in their youth programming has produced a steady stream of talent that has propelled them back to EPL significance and, through transfer fees, given them long-term financial viability.

Looking at the English national team continues to highlight the success of academy raised players. Despite the fact that the Three Lions are in a transitional period, their dedication to fostering home grown talent will pay dividends long term. If MLS clubs can channel their increasing financial clout into academies that identify and nurture talent from a younger age with a degree of player protection (so the uber-talented cannot be poached by European leagues), the quality of the men’s game in the US can continue to grow. If the MLS continues to be a feeder league to its more prestigious European cousins, at least protect the financial stability of the domestic game in doing so. College offers excellent opportunities to would be student athletes, but the next world super-talent will not be playing at a D1 school near you anytime soon.

TJ, Japan and the Six Man Rotation

by JDCam 05.05.15

The epidemic of Tommy John surgeries sweeping the major leagues shows no signs of abating. Already in 2015, the Mets Zach Wheeler, Rangers ace Yu Darvish and the Royals Tim Collins have undergone the procedure, to name but a few.

While the long term effects of procedure do not compare, the prevalence of elbow issues for pitchers in the major leagues are starting to draw comparisons to the long term effects of concussions in the NFL. What remains clear is that the number of pitchers undergoing TJ remains high, approximately 1.1 per team in 2014.

The implications TJ surgery has on various levels of the game is a fascinating discussion. At a youth level there is a need for a greater breadth of creditable research on how to develop and maintain arm strength in a sustainable way, when to introduce young pitchers to offerings that put a greater strain on their arm (such as breaking balls) and arm conditioning regimens which can be followed at all levels of youth baseball to begin to decrease the risks of TJ.

A useful starting point and road map for this conversation can be found in the differing models of youth baseball in the United States and Japan.

Year TJ/Team NPB TJ/Team MLB
2012 0.833 2.30
2013 0.667 1.63
2014 0.083 1.10

At the major league level the particulars and possibilities are no less fascinating. A starting pitcher in 2015 and a starting pitcher in the 1960s have very different roles, naturally. It is easy to overlook how the statistics have traced the arc of the starting pitching role, the introduction of the ‘quality start’ being the most striking example of this (not to mention its alteration from 7 innings with 2 runs or less conceded to 6 and 3).

Pitching is an increasingly specialized trade with innings shared in greater and greater numbers between the rotation and bullpen (ever see a MLB team break camp with 13 pitchers in the 1970s)? With the combination of career threatening injuries to pitchers at a consistently high level and the explosion of power arms in recent years, one wonders if MLB teams could ever field 6 man rotations consistently?

Jose Fernandez in another pitching start rehabbing from season ending surgery

Jose Fernandez in another pitching start rehabbing from season ending surgery

This is a popular practice in Japan, where despite overusing and overexposing young and talented arms at the youth level through tournament play, the clubs of the Nippon League ere on the side of caution with starting pitching. Typically Japanese teams feature a 6 man rotation, with a season typically featuring a day off per week; the idea of a particular pitcher generally occupying a spot on a particular weekday is not uncommon. This raises interesting economic questions around the subject of a 6 man rotation. The most exceptional starters would probably be lined up on weekend days when more fans have an opportunity to attend games. This would however, create a divergence in pitching quality between weekdays and weekends, with the Kershaws and Scherzers of the world being trotted out on Saturday and Sunday while the J.A Happs and Trevor Mays perhaps occupying the Thursday matinee.

A further intriguing possibility would be a more extreme reduction in work load for back of the rotation starters and splitting innings between two or more multi-inning bullpen options, much like a traditional spring training game is handled. There are several problems with this notion (length of game, matchups)

Whatever the path forwards, there are certainly disturbing trends emerging in the status of pitchers who have undergone TJ surgery. According to a recent article from ESPN’s Stephania Bell ‘since 1999, of the 235 MLB pitchers have undergone TJ surgery, only 32 have undergone a revision – but one-third of them have occurred in the last year’. This data disturbingly points toward the misnomer that TJ recipients somehow miraculously strengthen their arms through their rehab and end up pitching at the same level and with the same effectiveness as they did prior to their surgery.

The bottom line here seems to be that despite an increasing willingness of pitchers to have and/or repeat the procedure the long term effects are still incredibly unpredictable. MLB seems to be moving forwards with a number of different research studies, educational programs and even technology aimed at reducing and limiting the number of pitchers that require TJ surgery, including obtaining data as specific as which pitches place the greatest long term biomechanical strain on various parts of the throwing arm.

MLB needs to continue its own in house research about the logistics of a possible 6 man rotation (expanding rosters, the potential stress placed on relievers, the potential for extra jobs creating some good will with the players union to name but a few).  While positive steps are being taken, pitchers are not yet carefully protected by major league baseball and out understanding of the specific relationship between work load and arm health will continue to limit this understanding, to the detriment of the most important players on the diamond.

Why the NBA is ruining their best product, part 2

Last article, I talked a bit about the NBA, and why it is not doing as well as I think it should. This article I will discuss what I see as the number one problem with the growth of basketball, and it lies with mainstream white American culture.

Contrary to many’s beliefs, America is not post-racial, demonstrated by numerous events from Ferguson, MO to Baltimore, MD, and many places in between. These instances only represent a lived experience for many in this country: that racism is still alive and well in many places around the nation. The racial bias and uneasiness definitely transfers into the world of sport, particularly basketball, as Bruce Levenson proved. Lost in the racism of the Levenson story is a key point – that much of white America is fearful of the NBA due to race. My personal belief is that the NBA having most of the power and value in the players is not a comfortable thing for white America, and this is a shame. Potential fans are missing out on one of the best eras of a beautiful sport in its growth period.

Since the 60s, the NBA has been a majority African-American sport. It is the most African-American sport in North America, and in 2011, became the least Caucasian American sport in the history of professional sports in North America. This gradual trend is making the perception of basketball that it is not a ‘white’ sport, causing many white fans to feel uncomfortable.

In an American culture where western European descendants have majority control over the look, feel and culture, basketball can be looked at as a place where that is most certainly not true. And this, demonstrated in ticket sales and television ratings, is turning white fans off. Some folks also point out that the NFL is majority black, as well, but the NFL is not a player driven league. Basketball is almost entirely a player driven league. America’s “post-racial” racism is represented by the NBA: white former fans may use coded language, or have excuses, but the NBA is not as culturally relevant for white folks.

The most disturbing thing for me is that the NBA just finalized the Levanson issue, selling the Hawks to the highest bidder. Unlike the Donald Sterling issue, which came under intense media spotlight and coincided with a long history of bigotry and racism, the Levanson issue was said from a business owner’s perspective, and mostly named what many owners of NBA teams feel: they want what’s best for their business. The NBA lost out on an opportunity to talk about the biggest issues in America, and use their platform for honest conversation. Why are the Atlanta Hawks drawing a different demographic than their metro area would suggest? Why are there not very many white fans in the NBA? Why are all majority owners, nearly all general managers and coaches and much of the executive staff of teams white, in a league with mostly black players? Why are players like Ellis scoffed for their attention to professionalism with game streaks, while hockey players get lauded for their toughness?

So, shame on the NBA for not taking some of what Levenson wrote and creating a dialogue surrounding it. The fact that white America is not feeling cultural attachment to basketball can be a great opportunity for empathy for white folks who feel that marginalized groups need to “get over it” and “work harder”. The more attention shown to some of the questions above can convince many of the facts, that race is a powerful piece of American culture, and cannot be swept under the rug. Although this issue stems larger than basketball, a dialogue could help the sport, too. With white America still not ready for a sport that is culturally dominated by African American men, it is causing a multitude of fans to be missing out on what could be the highest quality playoffs out there.