Thursday, December 07, 2006

Leyland Talks Roster Management

I wish I would have read the articles by Jason Beck and Lynn Henning before I read the Detroit Tigers Weblog this morning. Billfer, who does the DTW, posted about the Leyland's ideas in the articles and and now I feel like I'd be ripping him off if I did the same. Well, maybe just a few thoughts will be okay. If you don’t like links, the content of the articles has three points Billfer commented on. First, Leyland is coming up with a contingency plan for the leadoff spot in case Granderson doesn’t make progress in cutting down on his strikeouts. The two other candidates in Leyland’s eyes are Polanco and Pudge. Leyland also said he was trying to figure out how to get Thames at bats, and thought of trying him out at first base to do so. Finally, facing a similar problem with Omar Infante, he said he’s thinking of giving him some time in the outfield – center field specifically.

As everyone mentions, the Pudge thing sounds nutty when you consider he walked less than forty times in the past two seasons. Everyone also mentions that he seems to adjust his approach when he’s in the leadoff spot, and I think I remember saying the same thing in a post after one of those games where he led off last season. Now if somebody could just talk him into taking that “leadoff approach” regardless of where he bats in the order.

I love the idea of expanding Thames’ and Infante’s roles to get them more at bats. The Thames thing is only surprising in that the idea hasn’t been tossed around before. In the Tigers’ defense, it’s a lot easier to try a guy at a new position in Spring Training than in the middle of a playoff run. The Infante idea is not surprising at all. The Tigers have talked about making him a super-sub in the past and outfield was discussed then as one of his possible responsibilities. I actually thought the Tigers might think of Infante as their fourth outfielder if and when they traded Thames or Monroe. Such a designation would have allowed them to keep him, Santiago and Perez all on the roster once one of those to were moved.

That brings me to an interesting sidebar that comes from all of this (I guess Billfer didn’t cover as many of my thoughts as I realized). I’ve talked quite a bit about the 2007 roster and who there is and isn’t room for. Well, to recap there are only four bench spots once you get past the pitching staff and the regulars. Vance Wilson is signed for the next two years, so he is a lock for one of them. Santiago is signed and I believe out of options, so he is another lock on the roster (why sign a guy for half a mil and then let him get snagged off waivers?). That leaves two spots for Neifi, Thames and Infante. Leyland specifically addressed ideas for using Thames and Infante in 2007 with no mention (at least in these articles) about Neifi. Could it be? Is there no future with the Tigers for Neifi? I love that idea almost as much as the ideas for getting Thames and Infante playing time. I am on board with getting rid of Neifi whether it’s a trade requiring the Tigers to eat his salary or just releasing him. Basically, I’d rather pay him $2.5M not to play on the Tigers than the alternative. The only other option I can think of – which would allow keeping all three on the 25 man roster - is going with an eleven man pitching staff. As I said before, I doubt that’s likely. I’ll keep you posted on what could be a promising development for the Tigers’ roster.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Affirmative Action part 1

So, I hinted on the Weblog that I might do some posts on affirmative action here and, well, that's what I'm about to do. The issue is a hot topic now as the Supreme Court just heard cases on this subject. Dahlia Lithwick tells the story in Slate. There are plenty of other sources for comment as well.

I'm a firm believer in affirmative action and I think it is underutilized in today's America. I work in civil rights, fair housing specifically, and I know from my daily work that people of color, women, and people with disabilities do not have the same opportunities that their more privileged counterparts enjoy.

The Supreme Court case is about school desegregation. Unlike other forms of desegregation, racially mixed schools have been a high priority for government and community leaders ever since Brown 52 years ago. However, the history of school desegregation since Brown has largely been one of slow movement to integrate, followed by a serious Supreme Court setback against integration, followed by re-segregation to a point where predominantly minority schools are worse today than they were in 1954.

When Brown was decided, many southern school districts were the first targets of desegregation. However, segregated schools could be found throughout the nation. The primary difference being that southern states and cities had laws encouraging segregation while northern and midwestern states and cities simply had enforced housing patterns that created segregated school districts. The southern districts delayed integration as long as possible. Some never integrated until the 1980s. The northern districts took a long time too.

In Detroit, there was a case that made its way to the Supreme Court. Milliken v. Bradley dealt a huge blow to integration efforts. The narrow 5-4 decision declared that "[w]ith no showing of significant violation by the 53 outlying school districts and no evidence of any interdistrict violation or effect," there could be no interjurisdictional remedy. This was a short-sighted ruling for a number of reasons. For one, it did not account for the "passive" resistance to integration of suburban communities (and their corresponding school districts). Also, it did not account for the fact that no real integration effort could be attained solely within the City of Detroit. Finally, it provided near-sovereignty to schools districts in a way that had never previously been given to local governments. The result was prototypical pattern of segregation that persisted throughout the 1970s and 1980s -- an urban/suburban dichotomy.

After Milliken, desegregation efforts were limited at best. For instance, Chicago Public Schools has a white population of less than 10% of its students. Whites have largely abandoned the public school system for private schools. Thus, even though CPS works toward desegregation, its best case scenario would be to have white students make up 8% of each school.

The pattern of segregation has changed a bit since the 1980s. Now, many suburban communities and school districts face the same dilemmas that Chicago faces. They have very small white populations. Worse, yet, they have very limited fiscal resources due to disinvestment from the business community. Meanwhile, their small populations make them ineligible for direct federal funding.

As a result, the current segregation in schools is worse than it ever has been. Meanwhile middle class minorities have had some success moving out of predominantly minority communities.
Thus, those minority school districts are also poor school districts.

The Louisville case is especially important here. Louisville has a metropolitan government. This should make Milliken's ban on interjurisdictional remedies irrelevant. But, in both cases, there needs to be some acceptance that because people have unequal opportunity due to their race, there necessarily needs to be corrective measures in place to provide equal opportunity to minorities and other protected persons.