Thursday, March 11, 2010

Torii Hunter, Please Shut Up

I won't go through the whole thing because at this point the news is kinda old, but Torii Hunter really just needs to learn to keep his mouth shut, especially when it comes to his peculiar 'baseball and race' thoughts. Yesterday, the USA Today was continuing its 5-part series on ways to improve the game, and they brought in Torii Hunter to share his views, which was probably a mistake to begin with because Hunter has been known to say things in the past that make you go, "huh?" It was no different in this instance:

"People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they're African American," Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter says, "They're not us. They're impostors."

"Even people I know come up and say, 'Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?' I say, 'Come on, he's Dominican. He's not black.' "
"As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us," Hunter says. "It's like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It's like, 'Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?'"

 Aside from basically insulting the entire Latino community, there is this curious idea he has that somehow the Latino players are 'cheaper' labor in the Major Leagues than their African-American counterparts... When I heard this, I literally laughed out loud. I did a piece not too long ago on the top 10 salaries in baseball. Let's revisit the list.

1.) Alex Rodriguez - Dominican heritage, highest paid player of all time
2.) Manny Ramirez - Dominican Born
3.) Derek Jeter - African-American
4.) Mark Teixeira - Caucasian
5.) Carlos Beltran - Puerto Rican
6.) Carlos Lee - Panamanian
7.) Magglio Ordonez - Venezuelan
8.) Johan Santana - Venezuelan
9.) Carlos Zambrano - Venezuelan
10.) Barry Zito (again lolwut?) - Caucasian

There is precisely ONE African-American player on that list, 2 Caucasians and 7 Latino players. You know, I don't even have to add commentary to that, the evidence is so opposite of what Hunter is saying, it's staggering that he would even make such a statement. It's get's better though, later on in the day the LA Times caught up to Hunter and asked him, 'wha happen?' He said he'd been misquoted, blah, blah, blah, he didn't say that, he should have never talked to the media, we've heard it all before. Then he went one step further and released a statement on his website:

"I am hurt by how the comments attributed to me went off the track and misrepresented how I feel. My whole identity has been about bringing people together, from my neighborhood to the clubhouse. The point I was trying to make was that there is a difference between black players coming from American neighborhoods and players from Latin America. In the clubhouse, there is no difference at all. We're all the same."

I guess it's hard for me to give Hunter the benefit of the doubt. He has called out teammates in the past for various things (often hypocritically), and this is hardly the first time he's spoken about race. It's just hard for me to see how he could have been saying anything else if he used the words "imposters" and "imitators." Also, you couldn't make up that last bit about MLB wanting to hire more Latino players because they are cheap labor if you wanted to. The bottomline is that Hunter shouldn't be talking to the media because he can't seem to control his mouth.

The story regarding race in the Major Leagues is this: Latino players often (i'm generalizing here) see baseball, particularly American baseball, as a ticket to being able to provide for their family and improve the quality of life for everyone they know. Latino stars in the Major Leagues are literally heroes in their home countries, up there with royalty. Because of that, there are more kids interested in baseball in those countries than there is here. African American kids in America on the other hand aren't playing baseball (for the most part) for a variety of reasons. For one there other options, good options, including basketball, another sport where if you are good, can pay millions of dollars. Basketball does A MUCH better job marketing itself to young people and inner-city communities than does baseball. Secondly, baseball, particularly the space and unique equipment required to play baseball, isn't as available as they are in Latino countries, especially in the inner-city. On this point I have to give Hunter praise because he does do a lot of charity work in this area.

All I'm trying to say by that is this: Major League Baseball is a marketplace for talent. That marketplace doesn't care what country you're from, what color you are, or what language you speak, if you can throw a baseball accurately at 95mph, you will get a job and if you show you can dominate, you will get paid millions of dollars. That list above says all that needs to be said.

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