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On Dave Holliday and the Rockies' Christianity

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The Post-Gazette reports that Colorado scout Dave Holliday - uncle of Matt - is interested in being the Pirates' scouting director.

If he were selected, I'd have some serious reservations. First of all, Holliday has been with the Rockies a long time (at least since 1998), and the Rockies have been a poor organization most of that time. Their drafting record since then has been spotty, too - in 1998, they had three first round draft picks, and they took Matt Roney, Choo Freeman and Jeff Winchester. In 2000, they took Matt Harrington with the seventh overall pick. More recent top picks like Jayson Nix (2001) and Chris Nelson (2004) have been slow to develop, and two years later the Rockies took Greg Reynolds, who was kind of like the Bryan Bullington of the '06 draft, with the second overall pick. Reynolds, a low-upside pick to begin with, had shoulder surgery in August. In 2000, the Rockies threw nearly $3 million at second-rounder Jason Young, who completely flamed out. They also gave a $2.2 million bonus to Chin-Hui Tsao, who hasn't done anything, in 1999.

Obviously, every team has scouting successes and failures, and the Rockies deserve credit for Jeff Francis, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, and so on. But, given the high draft picks they've had, their record is average at best, and players like Reynolds are exactly the sorts of picks the Pirates should avoid at all costs. If I were interviewing Holliday, I'd want to know what he'd do differently from the Rockies. Remember, the Rockies finished below .500 in six consecutive years before this one. They are not a great organization, no matter what happens this year.

Saying this probably isn't going to make me very popular, but whatever: if I were interviewing Holliday, I'd also want to know exactly what he thinks about this:

On the field, the Rockies are trying to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons and only the second time in their 14-year history. Behind the scenes, they quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity -- open to other religious beliefs but embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success...

The Rockies' approach is unusual in that religious doctrine is a guide for running a franchise. The club's executives emphasize they are not intolerant of other views.

"We try to do the best job we can to get people with the right sense of moral values, but we certainly don't poll our players or our organization to find out who is Christian and who isn't," says O'Dowd, who says he has had prayer sessions on the telephone with club President Keli McGregor and manager Clint Hurdle. "I know some of the guys who are Christians, but I can't tell you who is and who isn't."

Is it possible that some Rockies are playing the role of good Christians just to stay in the team's good graces? Yes, former Rockies say.

"They have a great group of guys over there, but I've never been in a clubhouse where Christianity is the main purpose," says San Francisco Giants first baseman-outfielder Mark Sweeney, a veteran of seven organizations who spent 2003 and 2004 with the Rockies. "You wonder if some people are going along with it just to keep their jobs.

"Look, I pray every day," Sweeney says. "I have faith. It's always been part of my life. But I don't want something forced on me. Do they really have to check to see whether I have a Playboy in my locker?"

This, to me, sounds like a very dumb and unfair way to run a baseball team. The Rockies repeatedly claim that they're open to other views - if they didn't, I assume they could be sued - but from other aspects of the article and from Sweeney's comments, it doesn't sound like that's the case, and at the very least, it sounds like an uncomfortable environment for a non-Christian. Whatever you think of Christianity, the Pirates can't afford to pass on players who can help them, regardless of religion.

Now take a look at this article:

The team doesn't like to talk about it much - mainly because the overlords of Major League Baseball don't think it's good for business - but they have an explicit policy to recruit as many Christian ball players as they can.

n other words, the Rockies - uniquely, even in a country as religion-obsessed as America - play faith-based baseball. And, in their view, God just rewarded them - big time.

"You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make," general manager Dan O'Dowd said in the only interview he has given on the subject, long before the Rockies' remarkable ascension over the past few weeks. "You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this."

That's discrimination on the basis of religion. In my view, it's wrong. I don't want to say any more about it here because this isn't a political blog, but I don't want the Pirates to become a team that discriminates on the basis of religion, which is what Dan O'Dowd has just admitted to doing with the Rockies.

Furthermore, and maybe more relevant to the subject of this blog, this is an extremely dumb policy for baseball reasons alone. It's just as dumb as ignoring the Latin American free agent market the way the Pirates have, for example.

Speaking of which:

One side-effect of the policy - one never discussed in American sports circles - is that the Rockies are one of the whitest teams in baseball. The game is dominated by players from the Caribbean and Latin America, but somehow the Rockies have a roster with one fresh-scrubbed all-American farm boy after another. Their catcher is Venezuelan, their second baseman is Japanese, but otherwise they are whiter than white.

In fairness, Willy Taveras is also Dominican, and several of the Rockies' relievers are non-white. But this is still a strikingly white team. All their stars are white.

It's worth pointing out, again, that the Rockies had six consecutive losing seasons before this one (including two after their franchise-conversion following the Denny-Neagle-with-a-hooker episode three years ago), and it's remarkable to me that instead of seeing that and coming to the conclusion that their policy hasn't led to the best baseball, or the conclusion that they've finally found some good young players with which to surround Todd Helton, they now think God is finally rewarding them now that they've played really well for a month. Their approach raises obvious questions about the mistakes they've made - did they pick Reynolds instead of Evan Longoria or Andrew Miller or Clayton Kershaw or Tim Lincecum or Travis Snider because those players didn't have the right religious beliefs?

In my view, this is no way to run a team, both for baseball-related and ethical reasons, and if I were interviewing Dave Holliday, I would want to know exactly what his role in this policy has been. The scouting director is obviously extremely important in determining which players join the organization and which don't. The Pirates simply can't afford to skip out on players who don't happen to have their preferred religious beliefs. And, furthermore, they shouldn't.