Torii Hunter's Statement

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Torii Hunter has released a statement on his website. I won’t reproduce the whole thing here — it’s long and you should read it in its entirety in its context — but this is the part that I consider to be most significant:

We all come from different places and backgrounds. Coming from Pine
Bluff, Ark., my hometown, is no different than being a kid from San
Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. We all share the common
bond of a love of baseball, and it pulls us together on the field and
in the clubhouse.

What troubles me most was the word “impostors” appearing in
reference to Latin American players not being black players. It was the
wrong word choice, and it definitely doesn’t accurately reflect how I
feel and who I am.

What I meant was they’re not black players; they’re Latin American
players. There is a difference culturally. But on the field, we’re all
brothers, no matter where we come from, and that’s something I’ve
always taken pride in: treating everybody the same, whether he’s a
superstar or a young kid breaking into the game. Where he was born and
raised makes no difference.

Despite the conversations about racial identity that have sprung up in the comments, the original reason I posted this morning was not to open that can of worms. Rather, it was because I thought Hunter’s use of the term “impostors” and “imitator” was completely out of line. I don’t think anyone in baseball is trying to pass themselves as anything other than a ballplayer, and suggesting as much is an insult to Latin American players who didn’t get where they are by pretending to be anything other than what they are. Well, and sometimes pretending to be younger versions of themselves, but that’s another conversation.

Anyway, unless the USA Today reporter seriously misquoted Hunter, I view the above statement as more of a retreat than a clarification — and the passive voice regarding the word impostor “appearing” in his statement is a bit telling — but that’s fine. We all say dumb things sometimes, and we should all be allowed to get a mulligan. Hunter’s a good guy and he deserves a mulligan too.

Still, I have to note that something is absent from Hunter’s statement, and that’s anything relating to the other part of his comments in USA Today with which I had a problem: his theory — he actually said “we have a theory,” apparently referring to U.S.-born blacks — that Major League Baseball has an active agenda to overlook U.S. born blacks in favor of foreign born players. Unless Hunter (or anyone else) has some evidence for such an agenda on the part of Major League Baseball, I think it’s a pretty irresponsible charge. Frankly, I’m rather surprised Hunter didn’t address it here.

At any rate, that appears to be that. Unless someone decides it isn’t that, at which point I’ll write something else that will rile everyone up again.

Mike Trout has no interest in being a superstar

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At The Ringer, Michael Baumann published a terrific feature on Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Trout, 25, is a two-time American League MVP Award-winner and the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner. He’s already the greatest position player of his generation and is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

Recently, I ruffled a few feathers here by calling Trout boring. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick said as much last year. And the simple truth is that, for reasons Baumann explains, he is boring by choice. Trout wants to be a role model for kids. His agent Craig Landis said, “I have Little League and high school coaches come up to me all the time and tell me that they tell their kids, ‘This is how you do it. Period. In all aspects. This is your role model.'” Trout is the only active big league client Landis has. If he wanted to, Trout could have super-agent Scott Boras on bended knee begging for him to sign.

Trout is friendly to everyone and doesn’t come close to controversy when he speaks to the media. The most controversial thing Trout has said, Baumann recalls, is that his go-to order at Wawa is chicken noodle soup. For the uninitiated, Wawa is a popular gas station-slash-convenience store in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey as well as Maryland, Virginia, and Florida. Wawa is known for its coffee and its hoagies, even starting “Hoagiefest” almost a decade ago offering discounts on hoagies to its patrons. To go to Wawa just to get chicken noodle soup is akin to sacrilege — just ask any Wawa devotee. There are lots of them.

Trout does not bark at other players for playing the game differently, more emotionally. He himself doesn’t celebrate wildly when he does something great on the field, which happens to be quite often. He has taken what is, for a player of his stature, the bare minimum in endorsement deals.

It is a shame for Major League Baseball, and for its fans, that Trout has no interest in becoming a superstar. As you’ve no doubt read here, baseball has had trouble reaching younger audiences. The only sports with a lower percentage of kids 17 years of age or younger watching are golf and NASCAR. 17 percent of those aged 18-34 watch baseball, a far cry from the NBA’s 32 percent and the NHL’s 28 percent. When I was a kid, Ken Griffey, Jr. was arguably the most popular athlete among my peers. We imitated his batting stance when we played backyard baseball and stepped into the batter’s box in Little League. MLB marketed him like no baseball player had ever been marketed before, bringing him into our households on a regular basis. Griffey was in countless commercials, put his face on video games, and was a pop culture personality. Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a kid who cares who Mike Trout is — or even Bryce Harper or Clayton Kershaw, for that matter — because they’re watching basketball, football, YouTube, Twitch and numerous other venues of entertainment. And MLB hasn’t made much of an effort to capture their attention.

Major League Baseball should be beating down our doors attempting to show us Trout’s otherworldly talent. Unfortunately, Trout has no interest in becoming the face of the sport the way Griffey did.

Rougned Odor received two horses as part of his contract extension with Rangers

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Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor reached an agreement with the Rangers on a six-year, $49.5 million contract extension. It was announced on Saturday and finalized on Thursday. The contract is pretty typical — a signing bonus, escalating salaries each year — except for one thing: Odor received two elite horses as well, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.

Here are those horses, per Jared Sandler of 1053 The Fan:

Players do sometimes get perks as part of their contracts. Usually it’s mundane stuff like extra game tickets for family and friends, use of a suite, limo rides, or plane tickets. Sometimes they can get rather specific. For example, in 2005, Troy Glaus got $250,000 per year in “personal business expenses” from the Diamondbacks, which was for his wife’s equestrian training. Hall of Famer George Brett got a 10 percent stake in an apartment complex in Memphis when he signed an extension with the Royals in the mid-1980’s. But as far as my research was able to go, no one received any horses, so that’s new.

Of course, the Rangers certainly think Odor is worth the perks. Last season, Odor hit .271/.296/.502 with 33 home runs, 88 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 632 plate appearances. And at just 23 years old, he has plenty of room to improve.