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Andy Martino asks: Was Luis Castillo hate a racial thing?

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You can’t really win when it comes to talking about race on the record.  Even if there’s something to a charge of racism it’s always denied. Denied so often that, if you take people’s word for it, you’d have to conclude that there are no racists in this country anymore, the last of their kind having died sometime in the 1970s. Indeed, there is way more indignation voiced these days by those who claim they are wrongly accused of racism than by actual targets of racism who, you know, have good damn reason to be indignant.

Of course, this goes both ways.  Race is frequently erroneously brought up when there are multiple better explanations for one’s allegedly shabby treatment.  It’s a dangerous world out there for those people who are inclined to call a jerk a jerk because — if the races of the jerk and the one calling him a jerk don’t match up — there’s always the threat of a bogus accusation. Which then leads back to the dynamic from the previous paragraph.  And it’s always the worst when a genuine racist and a person who has cried wolf before disagree about something. Which is a big reason I don’t watch any cable news.

The point here isn’t to figure out racial politics. It’s to note that, when someone throws out racism as a potential explanation for something, it’s almost 100% certain that we’ll quickly end up talking about something other than the actual incident in question.  It’s something that I’m guessing Andy Martino of the Daily News will soon be quite conversant with following his exploration of why Mets fans seemed to hate Luis Castillo so much:

But what is it, exactly? Why is one of the toughest and most passionate Mets so unpopular among fans? Asked if the issue was about race, Castillo, who is Dominican, shrugged and wondered why the public did not appreciate his willingness to play through intense foot and leg pain … Castillo, reluctant like most players to wander into a subject fraught with controversy and misinterpretation, chose not to discuss race. A friend of his only partially accepted the premise that Castillo’s troubles were related to his skin color and heritage.

For Martino’s part, he never accuses anyone of racism, but notes that nonwhite players tend to be called lazy more often than white ones are, notes the divide between Hispanic and non-Hispanics in the Mets clubhouse in recent years and recalls how much criticism Omar Minaya took for seeming to favor Hispanic players when it came time to fill out the roster.

And Martino isn’t wrong to make those observations. Quite right actually, at least in the abstract.  But just as everyone will acknowledge that the concept of racism exists in general while never admitting to being a racist themselves, no one will ever acknowledge that Luis Castillo was hated because of race even if they admit that there are clear dynamics in sports that cause us to evaluate and talk about players of color in ways we never evaluate or talk about white players. Especially on recent editions of the New York Mets.

In other words: this inquiry will probably get us nowhere. And Martino will probably find himself on the defensive before sundown, with everyone talking around this issue as opposed to about it.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.