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#Retire21... and farewell

MLB should recognize the most historically impactful Hispanic man in its history by retiring Roberto Clemente’s number throughout baseball. Finally, I bid you all farewell.

I never really looked up to anyone growing up. It’s not because I think especially highly of myself — quite the contrary, actually — I’ve just always been of the mindset that other people are other people, and I just want to be the best me I can be.

There are a couple exceptions, though. My late father, for one, whom I take after in many ways. The other is possibly the greatest human being my ancestral home of Puerto Rico every produced: the legendary Roberto Clemente. He was an even better human being than he was a baseball player, which is saying a lot. He literally gave his life to help people in need.

Clemente is revered in Puerto Rico, especially by the baseball players. Every Puerto Rican who has gone into the Hall of Fame has acknowledged his importance in their induction speech. Ask any Puerto Rican baseball player, past or present, about their thoughts on Clemente and you’ll hear nothing but the utmost admiration and respect. His impact stretches across other Latin American countries, so much so that you’d get a similar response from Dominican and Venezuelan baseball players. Sammy Sosa, who was born and raised in the Domincan Republic, wore 21 in honor of Clemente.

The lead art for this article has been the background on my phone for years (my apologies, but I don’t know whom to attribute credit for it). The picture is more zoomed in to Clemente on my phone so he doesn’t look so tiny. I also have two plaques of him above and behind my desk. For Christmas a few years ago, my parents got me a special present, buying me an authentic Cangrejeros de Santurce jersey of Clemente. For the past few years I’ve worn it on the first day of every Saberseminar. You have to wear a shirt under it because it’s very itchy, and I have no idea how players wore that jersey in the hot climate of Puerto Rico, but I love it.

Look, I understand the argument behind bestowing upon Clemente the same honor that the great Jackie Robinson received. In no way do I want to underrate the tremendous impact that courageous man had on the game of baseball.

That being said, I can’t begin to describe how much it would mean to the Latin community to see MLB retire 21. It’s already being unofficially retired by Puerto Rican baseball players. Puerto Rican Carlos Delgado might be the last Puerto Rican to every wear 21. Former Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló once petitioned Rob Manfred to make it official. It’s already been officially retired on the island. Even little leaguers can’t wear 21 there.

There seems to be more momentum building towards finally retiring 21. Clemente truly makes me proud to be a Puerto Rican man. You know, 2022 will mark fifty years since his tragic death. Seems like that would be a great time to finally get it done, if not sooner.

This is my last article for Beyond the Box Score. It’s been almost exactly four years since I first started here. I remember being so excited to be accepted to write for a website I have read and admired for a long time. The people here have been awesome.

Deciding to leave is something I do with great difficulty, though to be honest, I’ve spent most of my time here contemplating whether or not I should quit. As you are likely aware of, SB Nation pays its writers pennies, and even then only when you commit to two articles a week. I always write one during the weekend, but I never wanted to spend excessive time on my weekend writing, so I would write my second early in the week. That’s really hard to do when you’re tired from a long day’s work. I wish I could write just once a week, but I won’t get paid if I do. That’s fine if other people want to write for free, however, something Joe Sheehan once said has always stuck with me: value your work.

I am fortunate enough to not need the extra money, but that’s not the point. Anything worth publishing is worth paying for fairly. I’ve always felt guilty being part of an exploitative model. I continued to honor my commitments because I like writing about baseball, and because, like any scientist, I take my commitments very seriously. I’ve also been helped by fortuitously timed breaks that happened for one reason or another, such as the site transitioning to a new managing editor.

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been keeping my commitments to this site in recent months. One reason is because I taught an online Organic Chemistry course that was a fun, rewarding experience. The main reasons, however, come from having worked at home for four months, only recently being allowed back in the lab. I didn’t want to spend more time at my desk than I have to. I’m just really not wired to spend extended amounts of time at my desk. That’s one of the reasons why I love lab work. Moreover, to Sheryl’s point, I don’t think MLB should be playing baseball right now. I confess that I am watching it, but I don’t want to write about a COVID-plagued, small sample size season.

Something else that has kept me on the site when I thought about leaving: there are precious few Hispanic baseball writers out there, especially in the analytics community. The importance of having more Hispanic writers out there was never more clear to me than when I wrote this article criticizing the White Sox for the Luis Robert extension. I got a lot of flack from White Sox fans who seem to be bigger fans of Jerry Reinsdorf than the actual players. Somebody at South Side Sox even devoted an entire article to rip me for taking the side of a young Hispanic man who had a similar upbringing to my father instead of siding with a rich white owner.

As is stated in my Twitter profile, I ignore bad arguments. Arguing online is always a waste of time, because it’s against human nature to change one’s mind, and attempting to do so can just make things worse. That’s why I never wrote a response.

Moreover, pro-owner arguments tend to miss the point entirely when it comes to trying to counter pro-player arguments: you can be paid a lot of money and still be exploited. If your work is worth $100 million but you’re being paid $50 million, then you are being exploited.

I’m not sure there is a better site for me than Beyond the Box Score. There’s plenty of editorial flexibility, I feel like I can be myself, and I can use the stats that I want to use. I don’t have to, for example, use only Baseball Prospectus stats or only FanGraphs stats. I like to be able to use bWAR, cite wRC+, and still be able to use DRA. I might also be the only baseball writer to only use RA9 exclusively over ERA, which strangely I feel like other sites might push back on. To be clear, I’m not necessarily saying the advanced stats I prefer are objectively the best ones. Far from it. I am just pretty strict about not compromising my analytical style.

I am not permanently retiring from baseball writing. My plan is to take a break until winter and then reevaluate. For now, while SB Nation doesn’t deserve my loyalty, the site deserves committed writers, and I just can’t do that right now.

Before I go, there are a few final thoughts I’d like to share:

  • All of you, stop using ERA. Just stop it. RA9 is objectively better. There’s no argument. It’s strange to me that sabermetric writers will not hesitate to cite advanced stats, but still use ERA instead of RA9. I also find it baffling that neither Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, nor Baseball Prospectus carry comprehensive RA9 data. B-Ref uses RA9 for its WAR calculation, and FanGraphs adjusts FIP to the RA9 scale when calculating its version of WAR. DRA is on the RA9 scale, yet you don’t see RA9 anywhere on BP’s player pages! Calculating it is easy enough, but let me tell you that stubbornly doing it over and over again gets old. Whats worse is when you’re writing about Rockies pitching and you have to calculate park-adjusted RA9- by yourself. I love these websites to death, but they could really benefit from progressing away from ERA.
  • Speaking of which, all errors should be hits. All of them. The error has been outdated for a good hundred years, and it only ever helps the pitcher and never hurt him. It’s not like we pretend there’s a ghost runner on base whenever a fielder makes an exceptionally good play, and charge the fake runner to the pitcher if we think he would’ve scored. If you think that sounds silly, is it really any sillier than subjectively deciding what hits shouldn’t count? If a hitter puts the ball in play and reaches base outside of a fielder’s choice, it should always be a hit. I don’t care if a fielder drops a can of corn or let’s one go between his legs. Now more than ever we should be rewarding hitters for putting a ball in play. We already have better stats to adjust pitchers’ performance for the quality of the defense behind him, anyway.
  • Ponle acento. Publications have gotten a lot better with this. It would help if content management systems made it easier. I can tell you that what we use here makes it a hassle. I have to copy the player’s name elsewhere and then paste it here. Finally, I have to put in the player links manually.
  • About breaking transactional news: teams couldn’t hide this information if they tried. As the old old adage goes: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”
  • Speaking of which, I find that a lot of baseball “news” that is tweeted out is just gossip from anonymous sources who have every reason to lie if it’ll benefit them, and they can do so without consequences.
  • I am really tired of some reporters carrying water for ownership in order to keep their sources happy.
  • MLB draft TV coverage should only be done by scouts and prospect analysts. Please, no more former players who have clearly never seen any of the prospects play in person.
  • Players should get as much money as possible. They’re the reason why we watch. It’s a lot harder to play major league baseball than it is to do whatever it is that owners do. The work owners do other than signing checks can be done by far, far more people than those who can play baseball at the highest level. Next time you want to defend an owner, think long and hard about why.
  • Next time you complain about a player being overpaid, look at his entire career WAR before complaining. Most of the time you’ll see that he deserved every penny, it’s just that being overpaid late in his career balanced out being woefully underpaid early on.
  • I am not a crackpot.

I’d like to thank Neil Weinberg and Kevin Ruprecht for originally bringing me on board, as well as previous managing editors Ryan Romano, Henry Druschel, Matt Provenzano, and current ME Kenny Kelly, who has been incredibly patient with me the past few months. Lastly, I want to give out a special thanks to Marty Martano, the poor guy who has been editing my stuff the entire time I’ve been here. He has done an excellent job sharing critical feedback and making me a better writer.

And of course, thank you all who have been reading me the past four years. Every kind word was taken to heart. Farewell.

. . .

Luis Torres was a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, and now just a baseball watcher by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.