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March 2019

Anthony Giansanti Talks Indy Ball & the Gift of the MLB Rules Experiment

By Jessica Quiroli

With additional reporting by RoseAnn Sapia 


In 2018, INF/OF Anthony Giansanti confidently finished the season hitting .295/.357/.456, with 58 runs batted in, and hoped an affiliated team noticed. In the Atlantic League, where you're hoping to get somewhere else, somewhere better soon, players are working to earn those chances, even a look, that might lead to a chance. 

Giansanti's team, the Sugarland Skeeters are popular with locals; they ranked 3rd in attendance overall in 2018 with 328, 491. 

Good team, good league, but Giansanti thought his own 2018 finish would perhaps lead to a bigger opportunity. 

"I will be honest, I was pretty bummed I didn’t get signed after the season I had last year," he said last week. "Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to get back to work and strap it on for another year in Indy ball."

Once he came to terms with the news, he moved forward. He knew he had a job and he was going to continue to make the most of the (key word) opportunity. Major league scouts now routinely scour the indy leagues looking for untapped talent or guys that were released, as Gisananti was in 2016 by the Chicago Cubs who signed him as a non drafted free agent in 2010, and that's been the glimmer of light for guys playing on the outskirts, completely out of affiliated baseball. But it was another year, and he knew where he was headed. Back to play it out, play it hard, maybe get that look.

Then something happened. 

In early March, the MLBPAA announced that they were partnering with the Atlantic League to experiment with rules that MLB is considering implementing in the future. Among the rules they're trying out, are no mound visits by players or coaches other than for pitching changes or medical issues, increasing the size of 1st, 2nd and 3rd base from 15 inches square to 18 inches square, and home plate umpire assisted in calling balls and strikes by a TrackMan radar tracking system. 

"I get this news which might not seem like it is a “break” for us Indy ballers," he said. "One of our few and far between breaks."

The "break" was an intriguing announcement, inspiring debate on Twitter. Ok, so the AL will be a guinea pig. That's undeniable. The league will act as a testing ground, with teams serving a purpose to Major League Baseball. Maybe that sounds crass, and it certainly will impact players. But Giansanti is adding that factor to an already devotedly disciplined routine, one that he's not giving up on after spending five years in the minors before signing with Sugarland. 

He spends many hours in the gym, and in the batting cage; he's on the phone and writing emails to scouts, friends, keeping his ears open for a shot at something more. To his better senses, this experiment serves him as well. 

"At this point what’s the difference? Anything to get out. It’s like being in prison and you’re given an escape root but you have to flee to west instead of east," he said, then laughed. 

He's not necessarily excited about the actual rules. No, his response isn't about cherry picking what to like about his current situation. His strong reaction is about being focused on how he can make this all work for him.

" I’m talking about it from the point of view of my situation and my fellow Indy ballers who are upset about it," he said. "And people who have no idea what it’s like to be on the outside looking in while [playing here.]"

Perspective, he says, is tainted; they can "fight the man," but, ultimately, "the man" is actually getting is getting players exposure to who they need to be exposed to. That's the point. That's what they're playing for. And so, he looks forward. East, if you will. 

"Now I get to be tracked by a track Man, mlb teams in every single game at every single stadium. I’m game."

To quote a folk hero from the Old West, Wild Bill Hickok said:

"It's a free for all, and I heard it said, Stakes are high and so am I, It's in the air tonight."

You can follow Anthony on Twitter @GianSanity

Longtime MiLBer Advocate Garrett Broshuis Talks About the Possibilities of an Increase in Pay For Players

By Jessica Quiroli

Garrett Broshuis, longtime advocate for increasing pay for minor league baseball players, spoke to AHOD about reports that the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be first in line. (Also see MLB Players Union head Tony Clark's supportive response here:

Broshuis is a former 5th rounder in the San Francisco Giants organization, and now practices law in Missouri. He has led two lawsuits filed on behalf of a group of minor league players. That fight is ongoing. Broshius has also written about minor league life since 2006, in a column for Sporting News, which he authored for three years, and in his own blog.

A/P Photo by Jeff Robinson





Here's what he said about the Jays news and what it could mean for the future.

On his reaction to first hearing the announcement: I guess the best way to describe my reaction was cautious optimism. I'm cautiously optimistic that teams will eventually do the right thing.

But am I satisfied? If you want to use a baseball analogy, this is only the fifth inning of a game that we've been playing for several years. I started writing about minor league working conditions as early as 2006, when it wasn't a popular topic. And then of course our lawsuit was filed in 2014, led by some extremely courageous players.

On Optimism: So this is a positive step, but it's a small one. It still doesn't solve the problem of players not being paid during spring training, extended spring training, and instructional leagues. And even during the season, it still means that the majority of Jays players will be receiving wages that place them below the poverty line.

What Now? This isn't a time for reflection. This is a time to keep fighting. Hopefully we will soon get a good result from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in our case, and we'll keep pressing forward.

Follow Garrett on Twitter @broshuis

Talking Shop: John Sickels on the Business of Covering MiLB

Talking Shop: Minor League Life

By Jessica Quiroli

Look for this series to be featured throughout the season! We'll talk to someone in the minor leagues about the business and media, and how those worlds intersect and impact one another.

I'm happy to present the first installment with my longtime colleague and a pioneer in the business of covering MiLB, John Sickels. Now with The Athletic for the 2019 season, Sickels was the mind behind Minor League Ball on SB Nation, where I worked with him covering the minor leagues a few years ago. We talked recently about that website, what interests him most about covering the bus leagues and how the business of minor league baseball coverage has evolved.--JQ


JQ: When you started out covering MiLB, what were fans especially interested in? Because they're so savvy now, how has their interest shifted?
I started doing prospect stuff with Bill James in 1993 then transitioned to the internet in 1996 with That was 23 years ago and the internet was just getting started, so in that way I was a pioneer.
At the time the main prospect interest came from fantasy players looking for a future edge. That is still true today, although the amount of information available today is far greater and so are the expectations. Back then a Top 50 prospect list was the gold standard. Nowadays you have Top 100 or 200 or 500 lists and information available on high school and international players who are years away from the majors.  
While fantasy players are still the main core of the audience, there has been increased interest from general baseball fans and specific followers of the minors.
JQ: When I started my own MiLB blog, Heels on the Field, in 2008, I felt unsure anyone would care about something entirely focused on the minor leagues. We're you skeptical when you began Minor League Ball? How quickly did the idea connect?
By the time I started Minor League Ball with SB Nation/Vox in 2005, I was fairly confident there would be enough interest to sustain daily blogging as opposed to occasional articles.
That was a success and although Vox pulled the plug at the end of 2018 for their own reasons, we ran for 13 years, an eternity in internet time. Our traffic grew every year and I’m proud of what we accomplished.
JQ: Do you think upstarts covering that specific aspect of baseball have a shot at connecting, or are bigger sites monopolizing the market?
I think we are in a consolidation process right now. Digital media continues to grow in terms of traffic but companies are still trying to figure out how to monetize it.
The pure advertising model used by Vox for example doesn’t seem to provide enough revenue, at least if you want to actually pay writers, and we are seeing more companies switch to a subscriber model.
My guess is that this trend will continue. Upstarts are going to have a rough time of it in the short run, but quality material will find an audience one way or another, eventually. It can take time though.
JQ: With so many people jumping to cover MiLB now, and getting more attention because of social media power, what motivates your focus? Why do you still love this?
I still love baseball but if I am completely honest, I was burned out on blogging after 13 years. I’m trying to make a living of course….I have a family to support and my wife and children are my main focus. The work supports them, not the other way around. That said, I have been very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
JQ: When we worked together at Minor League Ball, we often talked about the kinds of stories readers we're interested in. What pulls you in as a writer?  Do you think readers have the same interest as you do?
I have always been more interested in the underdog type prospects, the 10th round or 20th round or non-drafted free agents who work their way to the majors without big hype.
For fantasy owners these guys have value, but on a personal, human level they hold more interest for me than the well-known bonus babies. Those types of stories pull me in, players overcoming obstacles and exceeding expectations.
JQ: How do you think the business of covering MiLB will evolve in the next few years?
I think we will see an increasing focus on players as people. The recent attention paid to poor minor league salaries is an example of that. How the business will evolve as a business is hard to say given the consolidation in digital media mentioned earlier.
JQ: Finally, what do you hope to do going forward covering MiLB? What excites you?
I will be doing a weekly prospect column for The Athletic in 2019 but it is not a full-time gig. I own the rights to the name Minor League Ball but as I noted above, I am burned out on daily blogging and am still uncertain on what I want to do in the baseball world.
Follow John on Twitter @MinorLeagueBall

Postcards from the Minor Leagues: Padres Todd Van Steensel

Postcards from the Minor Leagues

This is the first installment in a four-part series this baseball season. Todd Van Steensel will check in with blog posts on his experiences in the San Diego Padres organization, giving us a front row view of MiLB life. Look for added features such as photos and special Q&A's with every installment.-- Jessica Quiroli, AHOD Editor


Greetings from Spring Training with the San Diego Padres!


How did I wind up here, so far from home in Australia? 


Let us start when I was part of the Minnesota Twins organisation. An organisation I had been part of for six seasons. But just over a month after appearing in the Southern League All-Star Game, and spending two weeks on the injured list, I was told that there was no longer a spot for me within the Minnesota Twins and I was handed my release. Although I was disappointed and had to say goodbye to some close friends that became like family, I was excited at what the future would hold and looking towards a fresh start somewhere else. 


A few teams came calling over the next few days, affiliated and independent league teams, but nothing really worked out. I decided to begin my off-season early and prepare to play for my hometown team in the Australian Baseball League. Heading into the ABL season there was a lot of excitement for me. For the first time in six years I’d be part of my first opening day roster and able to play a full season, our team was under new ownership by one of the most passionate baseball people I’ve met, and two new teams were joining the league. But the thing I was most looking forward to was showing teams what I was capable of doing on the field and try and secure a contract in the USA for the 2019 season. 


Week one of the season came along mid November and we were facing newcomers, Geelong-Korea. A team comprised completely of Korean players from the Korean minor league or former KBO players, but they were based in a town in Australia. I pitched twice that weekend and was able to get video footage and scouting reports from that weekend. I passed it all onto my agent, who quickly shared it to any MLB team he had contacts with.


Within a week of him sending out all that information, the Padres came calling, offered me a contract and I had signed. It was a sense of relief, to know I still have a spot in baseball, and someone saw value in me. 


The ABL season came to an early end for my team, the Sydney Blue Sox, as we were knocked out in the semi finals. I didn’t have too much time to be upset and dwell on it, because in a few weeks time I was going to fly to the US for spring training. That isn’t without a little scare at first whether I’d make my flight or not! 


As an international working in the US, I need a visa and, well, the visa process isn’t fun at all! I applied for my visa on January 10th, and had a flight booked for February 21st. You would think I gave myself plenty of time to have it approved and sent back to me. But, after sending countless emails, and one tweet, which received an immediate response, my visa was back in my hands on February 18th! In years past I would send my completed papers to the Consulate and have it sent back to me within ten days but the last two years it’s been a real struggle. Last year I actually missed my first flight to Spring Training because I hadn’t received it back yet! Nonetheless, I got my visa back and made my flight! 


And this is where I am today. Currently in Peoria enjoying my first spring training in Arizona and my ninth spring training overall. No matter how many years I do this, no matter how monotonous it gets or how many bullpens, drills, games, bus rides and meetings we go through, it’s still a special feeling being in spring training preparing for another Opening Day. 


You can follow Todd on Twitter @toddvs35

Harper Valley Philly, PA: Duck Boats, Jawns & More As Bryce Harper "Crosses Broad" to the Phillies Side

By Jessica Quiroli



Harper Valley, Philly,  PA


Jake Gronsky

Crossing Broad (Kyle Scott)

Zoo With Roy

and Baseball Betsy

(hey it's Bobby Abreu)


Well, here we are. Philadelphia is now in full ownership of Bryce Harper. How did this happen? What's he need to do to fit in? Can he bring Mike Trout here via helicopter by next week? Most importantly, what type of boat will he ride through the streets of Philadelphia, when the Phillies win the World Series?

Some very special people helped answer these questions. 


Jake Gronsky

Author, former Cardinals player, one-time Scranton bat boy, and, Pirates fan Jake Gronsky weighs in on a future where Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are Phillies together. Yes. Pirates fans ARE allowed to weigh in.

AHOD: We will always remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard Harper signed. How'd you hear & what were your first thoughts?

JG: I was in the most stereotypical place when the news broke: in Philly, surrounded by Philly fans shouting about how “mad good” “we” are. If only I had a cheesesteak in that jawn…

First thoughts were relief then more frustration. The free agent market this year was very alarming. Seeing dozens of mid-level MLB players sign minor league deals I don’t believe is acceptable. Baseball is one of the only sports that rewards incompetence. It is no longer a secret that teams are dredging their team for pay, taking top draft choices at a fraction of the cost of MLB talent, and rebuilding. So, why pay a mid-level player $5M to just miss playoffs, and now miss out on two possible elite players for the same price? HarperFun_AHOD_Baseball

So will the MLB start to incentive winning again? Sure. After the strike. 

AHOD: How Philly a Phillie do you think Harper is? Can he handle Phillies fans at their toughest?

JG: Harp is perfect for Philly. The only person more perfect for Philly fans than Bryce Harper is his father. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Birds ask his dad to throw on the pads and give us an Invincible reboot. 

AHOD: What are the chances he convinces Trout to come here? 

JG: A lot of changes in the market will happen before 2021, so I don’t want to be pretentious and give a prediction, but what I’ll say is that baseball needs it to happen. Baseball has been battling image issues for years. The game is romantic because it is experiential. We need kids growing up still dreaming of hitting a home run for their hometown team. We need grandkids in South Jersey sitting on the floor cross-legged and starry-eyed listening to their grandparents tell the story about a Mike Trout home run in high school. We need to be romantic about this game again. I hope Trout makes us fall in love. 

AHOD: What ELSE does the team need to succeed, if anything?

JG: Time. The Phillies bit off a lot more than most organizations can chew. A computer builds their lineup, they are an early adapter to an analytics approach to development (Note: not saying that’s wrong, but being an early adapter of anything has its challenges. Think of being the first person to get a knee replacement. Kudos.), and a historic contract that could change a franchise or be the Ryan Howard Contract 2.0. Plus, they have a boat-load of young talent. Let them set sail!


Crossing Broad's Kyle Scott

AHOD: Any sort of prediction about how Phillies fans are going to react those first few games of the season when he comes to the plate?

KS: They will absolutely fawn over him the way we haven’t fawned all over anybody since Cliff Lee. He’s one of the best players on the planet and he chose to come to Philly and make it his home. How could you not?

AHOD: Obviously, the money and length of the contract is insane. Does he have to immediately live up to extremely high expectations? Do you think fans will give him room to be a normal player?

KS: He will never be a normal player, and if he totally sh**s the bed, is lazy and defensive about any struggles, and never wins, yeah, sure, he will hear it. But Philly fans have a unique way of sensing those sort of things, and so far, Harper seems like a guy who will do just fine here. I’m not even sure he’ll need to win it all to be remembered fondly.

AHOD: If you had two minutes to give him advice about playing in Philly, what would you say? IMG_20190309_183926

KS: Advice Just be yourself

AHOD: When he said, "Ride a boat down Broad Street?" Do you think he knew what Broad Street is? And what kind of boat will Phillies fans request he rides down Broad when the Phillies win the WS?

KS: HaHa. I’m sure he knows Broad. Perhaps even Crossing Broad! I think he meant Duck Boat— that’s a Boston thing, but I’m sure we can make it work.


Zoo With Roy

Want Shtick? You got it. 

AHOD: What does he have to do to endear himself to Phillies fans?

ZWR: He already did the most endearing thing ever- he signed with the Phillies!!!!!! But I guess if you're talking about baseball, and the typical lunatic Philadelphia fan, he'll endear himself to us by trying very hard and or being really good at baseball. HarperFun_AHOD_TextOnly2


AHOD: What's the most Philly thing he's done in his short time as a Phillie?

ZWR: Well, his outright tampering whenever talking about Mike Trout is outrageous and patently absurd, which is about as "Philadelphia" as you can get. Also, MIKEY BABY COME HOME

AHOD: Have you bought the jersey?

ZWR: Dude no joke both of my scumbag kids already asked for Harper jerseys I'm getting theirs first I'm not made of money Jessica


Baseball Betsy

AHOD: Does Harper make you want to watch more Phillies games?

BB: Simple answer, yes. I feel that he’s someone to watch, not just with his obvious skill but with his leadership ability. I saw that when he took batting practice with the minor leaguers today. He stopped and talked with each young pitcher after they were done to help them improve. He also stopped one pitcher in the middle of an at bat to help. He seemed quiet and the pitchers listened to him. He is a leader. That’s the kind of player I want to see. For the first time in a while, I think we have a contender, if not a winner. That makes me want to watch every play of every game this season.

AHOD: How much more exciting are the Phillies now with him?

BB: I’m thinking he’s the catalyst that they need. Last season there was just something missing. Last season our pitching kept us in a lot of close games but we didn’t have that one guy that can make the big hit when needed that gets everyone going. I think Harper can be that guy. We have solid pitching, now we have hitting.

AHOD: Do you consider it "his" team? The teamst leader, even though they haven't played a game?

BB: Frankly, yes. He’s going to be here for the next 13 seasons, he has to have more invested in this team than anyone else because he’ll be here longer than any other player currently on the roster. With the way he helped with the minor league pitchers today, he seems to be stepping into that role. If I had any doubts about him before, I don’t have any after seeing him today. When I said to him that were were glad that he was coming to Philly he simply replied, “Same.” I’d like to think that he feels the same way about us as we do about him.

AHOD: Did you get the jersey?

BB: I TRIED to…they were all sold out in my size at the Diamond Outfitters at the ballpark. I did get a t-shirt and the jersey will be ordered online, if they don’t get more sizes in soon.


(Photo 2 of Harper courtesy of Betsy)
Graphic design by Devon Howard


Martina Navratilova, Transphobia in Sports and the Importance of Scientific Research

By Tammy Rainey

Superstar tennis legend Martina Navratilova  re-ignited the spotlight on an ongoing controversy last month when she published an ill-informed op-ed in the Sunday Times of London declaring that trans women who compete in professional athletics against other women are, by definition, cheating. Almost two months earlier she had expressed a similar, more harshly worded, opinion when she tweeted the following


“You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women, there must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”




Photo by Andrew Campbell

The sentiment generated an appropriate firestorm of rebuke, perhaps magnified by Navratilova’s previous reputation as an ally to trans people. This week she again tried to revise and extend her remarks, semi-apologizing for using the term “cheaters” but continues to flounder and provoke blowback. At the time of the original comment she withdrew the opinion and vowed to become better informed on the subject but the new article clearly demonstrated that she’d failed in that ambition. The outrage was possibly magnified by the fact that the UK is currently embroiled in a tsunami of anti-trans attacks orchestrated by a minority of Radical Feminists and abetted by sensationalistic British tabloid media. It’s not just the expression of reservations about trans women competing against cis women that is problematic so much as it is that she chose to reduce a complex and nuanced topic down to a simple binary standard that ignores objective medical realities. 


Navratilova is not a scientist and apparently didn’t see fit to allow her position to be informed by the best current science on the subject. For one small example, she speaks of the theoretical physical advantage that accrues to the average male (as opposed to the average female) from puberty onward in terms of things like muscle mass, bone density, and lung capacity - claiming these advantages are not mitigated by the use of HRT later in life. However in that same paragraph she says this:


“Indeed, if a male were to change gender in such a way as to eliminate any accumulated advantage, he would have to begin hormone treatment before puberty. For me, that is unthinkable.”


This is objectively and manifestly untrue and anyone who set out to have an informed view would know better. People who transition in youth do not, and never have, start hormone replacement “before puberty.” Rather, as puberty begins the initiate a regime of hormone blocking medication until they are (typically) about 16 and THEN if they remain committed to their professed gender identity they begin cross-sex hormones. This has the effect of preventing all those testosterone-fueled advantages (from the critics point of view, curses would be a better word from the trans woman’s perspective) that are supposedly at issue here. This is an increasingly typical outcome for trans youth (albeit cost puts it out of reach for the majority, still) and in time as it becomes a more widely accepted course of treatment this “issue” will largely disappear on it’s own. But we still have to get from here to there. That aside, the point is that one is forced to question Navratilova’s other claims given that she muffed such an easy one on this point.


Before one gets to the specifics of her claims, it’s important to put this debate in the context of the broader culture. Beyond adding fuel to the TERF war against trans women in the UK (something not confined to that side of the Atlantic but seemingly finding more traction there) Navratilova’s rhetoric goes hand in hand with the worst transphobic rhetoric employed by the right wing Evangelical segment of the American political landscape - a group of people only too happy to explain to Martina exactly what’s wrong with her own lesbian identity when they are not busy using her words as a shield for their hatred of trans people. As a rule of thumb, if you are LGBT or an ally and you find your opinion winning praise from people like Tony Perkins and Matt Barber, you really need to rethink your opinion. They are not neutral observers, and they have no investment in facts or even logic.


For example, right-wing website WND published an uncredited article almost two years ago titled “Female Athletes Crushed by ‘Women Who Were Once Men’” - and then proceeded to list off 14 cases (all they could find?) of trans women competing against other women, not all of them American even. Among those they only mention two stories of such a competitor winning first place in direct competition. According to the anti-trans rhetoric Navratilova (and right wingers) embrace, one should conclude that virtually everywhere a trans woman competes, she will dominate - it’s right there in their misleading headline: “Crushes.” Except… they don’t. That’s where the narrative forwarded by transphobes falls apart, and why it’s stunning an otherwise intelligent person doesn’t immediately see the flaw in her reasoning. 


Here’s the bedrock quote upon which Martina built her op-ed:


“To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires. It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.””


Navratilova elsewhere seems to make a direct distinction between trans and transsexual (as she uses it, a post-operative person with a vagina, not a penis), which is an ill-informed distinction since the only relevance genitalia have to athletic competition is the presence of testosterone. A pre-operative woman under medically supervised HRT has approximately the same testosterone levels as a cis woman, and as a post-operative trans woman. It’s literally the goal of HRT. So if Martina isn’t REALLY concerned after all about the effects of years (theoretically) of testosterone before a trans woman undergoes GRS, then why, logically, should she be worried about years (theoretically) of such testosterone exposure on the part of a pre-operative woman on a hormone replacement regimen?

Let me illustrate. If a cis woman is about to compete in any sport against a trans woman, one of four possibilities exist:

1. The transwoman transitioned medically in youth and never experienced male puberty. Such a person cannot possibly have any “male typical” biological advantage from natural testosterone and is therefore outside the margins of this debate.

2. The trans woman at some point in adulthood, after at least several years of post-puberty testosterone exposure undergoes HRT and then GRS and has less than female typical (without a supplement) testosterone in her system and female-typical levels of estrogen.

3. Same as 2, except she hasn’t yet undergone GRS and thus has an irrelevant penis still present. 

4. Hasn’t undergone any HRT and simply (for the purposes of this discussion, I’m aware not all trans people are able to have HRT for various reasons) professes a female identity. These women are barred, as far as I know, by every professional competitive sports organization and thus are also irrelevant to Martina’s professed concerns. 

Now consider, why does she state that she has no objection to those in #2, but does to those in #3? In all the ways which are biologically relevant to athletic competition they are the same. If one’s real objection is to, for example, lung capacity, there’s no difference here. This illustrates that she has allowed her biases to cloud her reasoning, and that she doesn’t consider a pre-op trans woman a “real” woman in the same way she does a post-op trans woman. 

To be clear, their are real and complex scientific questions here. Particularly surrounding the level of testosterone remaining in one’s bloodstream, which is a valid discussion. In the case of pre-operative women who are on an HRT regimen, there is a potential for variance in the levels of testosterone found in the bloodstream (albeit, in any case much much lower than male-typical levels) and this is a valid subject for discussion and disagreement. Testosterone suppression discussions aside, the preponderance of the science suggest that the other claimed advantages are largely non-existent (for example, a year or two on HRT causes a dramatic reduction in male-typical muscle mass and bone density) though some marginal advantages (wingspan, stride length, etc) do not go away. Athletic competition organizations have not gone into this discussion ill-informed or blind and have consulted the best science and set up reasonable guard rails (such as a required minimum period of consistent HRT) in order to balance the concerns of everyone involved. 

But it’s also helpful to note that professional athletes are not sex-typical examples, they are peak performers. To say “the average woman x” and “the average man x+” is to ignore that we are not speaking of average people. The wing-span, for example, of an “average female” is not necessarily the measure you need to use to compare that of a trans woman. What is typical of the elite athlete she is competing against? Moreover, sometimes these factors balance out. A heavier skeleton can be a disadvantage in speed based competition that would tend to offset theoretical advantage created by stride length. In other words, complex and nuanced science, which was not what Navratilova offered. 

Martina’s mistake, the fundamental one which leads to the several others in her position, is to take as a given the lie that trans people have such vast socio-political influence that they can simply will such organizations to accommodate whatever we want despite objective science. To the contrary, typically you have to drown decision making bodies in objective evidence in order to even gain a hearing.

Finally, let’s refer back to the most obvious and basic flaws of her fundamental quote above. 

“To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female…”

Assuming she respects the legitimacy of trans people’s professed gender identities, which she has seemed to, this can only mean she has in mind a poser here - a male-identified male.

“...take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned… “

That would be all of them, and that alone would be a deal-breaker for any male-identified individual.

 “ everything in sight…”

As noted, this essentially never happens. Whether poser or actual trans woman, one would be very hard pressed to find more than the occasional very rare exception. If a poser anticipated such an automatic dominance then the proof should be in the long long list of trans women crushing the cis competition - but that list doesn’t exist.  Indeed, it’s been 15 years since the IOC set standards which permit trans people to compete according to their identified gender and in that time not a single trans woman has even qualified to compete at the Olympics. Or consider that it’s been five full years since the state of California passed trans affirming statewide  policies for high school athletics and there’s no evidence at all from the accumulated results that trans girls are dominating girls sports in that state. A quick search turned up zero examples of such happening.

 “...and perhaps earn a small fortune…”

This is most bizarre of all. How many female athletes in the history of ever have “earned a small fortune”? When you balance the books between what they invested in competition and what the prizes they have won are, how many are even in the black? Perishingly few. Perhaps not even Navratilova herself can claim to have earned a small fortune. A man who went to this degree of deception anticipating a “small fortune” would indeed be in for a very rude awakening (to say nothing of the cost involved in accomplishing the supposed pretend transition - more on that below).

 “...and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.”

If you were still uncertain how much scientific research she actually did, this should seal it for you. No one who goes on a couple of years of full bore HRT (at least one and often two before competition, and then the years spent competing - two years is the most conservative figure) is NOT going to be making any more babies. That ship well and truly sailed. 

 “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.””

If indeed such a strange and unrealistic fiction were to ever happen, it would indeed be cheating - but it doesn’t and in all practical reality CAN’T. For a summation, let’s go to Dr. Rachel McKinnnon (one of Navratilova’s most vocal critics) who’s also a competitive cyclist and one of the few examples of a trans woman having won a competition against cis women. Thus, she speaks from direct experience.For a cis male to defraud his way into competition against cis women...

In most countries, he'd have to: 

1. Find a psychologist/psychiatrist who will diagnose him with Gender Dysphoria (DSMV). ...good luck faking that. 

2. Find a physician even willing to treat a person with Gender Dysphoria. ...good luck with that: they're very hard to find, most physicians who will treat a trans person have YEARS long waiting lists. 

3. Take T-suppressing medications. It takes a few months to titrate up to the amounts that will suppress T below the 10nmol/L requirement.

4. Undergo LEGAL gender change. Change your driver's license, passport, bank information, insurance information, etc. This often requires you to come out at work as transgender. 

5. You have to be able to demonstrate that you are 'living' as the gender you say you are.

6. You have to be able to document ALL of this and provide it to the satisfaction of the sports organization you want to compete in. This often means another letter from your treating physician, putting their credentials on the line.

7. Then you have to SHOW UP and compete in the gender you say you are. If you're really faking all this, that will be hard and you will face overwhelming scrutiny.

8. You will quickly find that there's usually NO MONEY in women's sport, or at least vastly less than in men's. In track cycling, for example, I don't make ANY net money. At best I'll make a few hundred from a race, which doesn't even cover travel expenses.

9. Note that if you change your gender for the purposes of sport, you are BANNED from changing it again for FOUR YEARS. you can't just 'switch back' and compete again as a man. You'd have to waste 4 years. 

This process (to get into competition) will take a MINIMUM of 2 years of full commitment to the fraud. And you can't show any signs that it's a fraud, or you'll be banned. Also, the psychologist is probably $150/hr+ and will want a minimum of 12 hours of time over 6 months to diagnose.

As Dr. McKinnnon asked, where’s the male athlete so committed to the fraud that he’ll invest THAT much effort to pull it off? It’s worth noting, however, that not every women’s competitive athlete agrees with the trans-exclusionary narrative. In January, USA Powerlifting caved to the narrative Navratilova is giving voice to and announced a full ban on participation by any trans athletes.  But at the Minnesota state championships last week members of one gym took the platform and silently protested by refusing to take their lifts, going 0-9 in the competition. They were not alone as an apparent total of 14 lifters shared in the protest. 

As for baseball, the sport is only just beginning to reckon with the overdue concept of women playing baseball at all (as opposed to being shunted into softball as a matter of course) and like other sports is still struggling to deal with LGBT athletes who are out and living their lives authentically. As you might expect, that means this issue is not exactly on the front burner at any level of professional or amatuer baseball. Indeed, in connection with this article I googled “transgender+baseball player” and turned up only one example of an article about a trans girl playing on the girls baseball team, and that was from 2014 just after California’s trans-inclusive law took effect. Still, in a sense one might suppose that baseball as a sport has an opportunity to take the lead in this area of acceptance. In a period of gender-related assumptions being retired across the sport, what better moment to be assertive and not reactionary when it comes to inclusiveness? But as in all these moments, the forces of resistance are considerable. The ill-informed and often bigoted narrative is nevertheless all too often the prevailing “wisdom” among decision makers.

Martina, after all,  got baited into fear based in a myth perpetrated by people with a hostile agenda. Consider that if a person of such a high profile, with such a lifelong involvement in advocacy for LGBT equality, who’s had a decades long close friendship with a trans woman (Renee Richards) who served as her coach, who should have every motivation to get this right and got a second chance to sort it out - if EVEN SHE bungled it due to bias and lies, imagine how hard it must be for your local high school athletic association to sort fact from fiction and come to a well informed decision. It’s for those people that we’re asking Navratilova to get it right - not just because it’s better to be right than wrong, but because a world of less connected people making important decisions will take their cues from people like her and a whole lot of “ordinary” trans folks who just want to lead “ordinary” lives like their cis peers struggle every day to overcome widespread ignorance. They can’t afford to have her platforming it. 


Tammy Rainey is a long-time baseball blogger, most recently for BPToronto as well as a prolific blogger on transgender related news and issue who’s work can currently be found at Medium. Follow her on Twitter @tammy_beth