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Do the Rockies Discriminate Against Non-Religious Players?

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If you scratch a Colorado Rocky, God almost inevitably pours out.

I don't mean that these guys are God-like, though my 12-year-old son seems to think so. There are just a lot of seriously religious people on the team.

For example, after back-up catcher Chris Iannetta hit a home run and won a big game for the Rockies last week, he offered this reflection to the Denver Post:

"If we're to learn from this situation, I learned just to have faith. Have faith in yourself. Have faith in God. And it will eventually pan out."

Nothing wrong with this, right? A lot of sports figures are religious and like to talk about God.

But there are legitimate questions hanging out there about whether the Rockies discriminate against players who are atheists or not religious.

That's a strong accusation, I realize, but did you know that the Rockies measure the "character" of potential players using a 14-point definition of "character," which the organization has developed specifically for player evaluations. The Rockies look for players who have skill, yes, but also who provide the correct answers to the Rockies own definition of "character."

This might not be anything to be concerned about, but information about the team's religious orientation that's wafted out of the Rockies' organization smells bad.

In 2006, USA Today published a shocking article arguing that the Rockies were "embracing a Christian-based code of conduct" and using "religious doctrine" as a "guide for running [the] organization."

USA Today quoted former Rocky Mark Sweeney: "They have a great group of guys over there, but I've never been in a clubhouse where Christianity is the main purpose. You wonder if some people are going along with it just to keep their jobs."

Then, in 2007, on the KHOW's Caplis and Silverman talk-radio show (Oct. 17), O'Dowd revealed his 14-point program for evaluating baseball players.

He said that a "byproduct" of his 14-point evaluation has been players with "faith, humility, accountability, trust, integrity, patience. There's been an incredible amount of byproduct to all those things which I think makes our organization, in my mind, right now special."

If faith is a "byproduct" of the Rockies' definition of good character, as O'Dowd said, might atheists be screened out? Gays?

How about other sinners as defined by various religions?

Sure, O'Dowd could have been referring to "faith" in a nonreligious sense, as in faith in your teammates. And for this reason, I didn't suggest directly that the 14-point character evaluation might be connected to religious discrimination when I wrote about this issue in the Rocky Mountain News in 2007, though I blogged about it.

But it's surprising that the issue has disappeared, particularly as the media swarm around the Rockies this week. I wonder about whether the team favors religious players every time I see another Rocky show his faith by crossing himself or pointing upward after a base hit.

The Rockies won't say whether faith in God is on its 14-point character evaluation because, ludicrously, O'Dowd has said the 14 points are "proprietary."

In other words, they think so highly of their own definition of character that they believe it gives them a competitive advantage over other baseball clubs. To me, this sounds like they're hiding something, and it also sounds awfully self-righteous, like the kind of holier-than-thou attitude you expect from someone who discriminates based on religious preference.

Still, the Rockies have said they do not favor Christian players and are tolerant of all faiths.

I hope so.