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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.

Jake Arrieta almost quit baseball

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 29: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs scratches his beard as he walks back to the dugout at the end of sixth inning after giving up a three run home run to Gregory Polanco #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates (not pictured) at Wrigley Field on August 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner and author of two no-hitters, considered quitting baseball a few years ago when he was bounced up and down between the major leagues and the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia.

At the time, Arrieta was having trouble living up to his potential as one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects. He started on Opening Day in 2012, but finished the season with a 6.20 ERA and was very quickly moved back to Norfolk after four mediocre starts to begin the 2013 season.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Arrieta was considering quitting baseball so that his family could have a regular life.

We were at a point where I had other things that I could segue into and establish a career elsewhere. Not that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t want to continue to go through the things we were going through and moving from place to place in the minor leagues at 25, 26 years old.

Baseball is something that I’ve loved to do since I was a little kid, but it’s not everything. I had to reevaluate some things. I knew I could always pitch this way, but there were times where it seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to get to that point.

It’s just part of life that we had to deal with.

Mooney also points out that Arrieta had a business background having gone to Texas Christian University and would have done something in that field if he had hung up the spikes.

This has been brought up because Arrieta’s teammate Tommy La Stella considered quitting baseball as well recently, as the Cubs demoted him to Triple-A. Though La Stella received a lot of criticism, Arrieta can relate to La Stella. The right-hander said, “I know that there were things that he was going through and dealing with (that) we may not agree with and understand.”

The National Anthem: an unwavering sports tradition . . . since the 1940s

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There’s an interesting article over that the New York Times in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick stuff. This one is about the history of the National Anthem at sporting events.

The anthem is a fixture for as long as those of us reading this blog have been attending games and it’d be weird if it wasn’t there. But it hasn’t always been there, the Times notes. Indeed, it was not a regular fixture until 1942 when it was added for the obvious reason that we were at war. The other major sports leagues all adopted the anthem soon after. The NBA at the inception of the league in 1946 and the NHL in the same year. The NFL’s spokesman doesn’t mention a year, but notes that it’s a non-negotiable part of the game experience. The non-negotiability of it is underscored by the comment from the MLS spokesman who notes that they felt that they had no choice but to play the anthem when that league began play in the 1990s.

I like the anthem at ballgames. It just seems like part of the experience. I like it for its own sake, at least if the performance isn’t too over the top, and I like it because it serves as a nice demarcation between all of the pregame b.s. and the actual game starting.

But this article reminds us that there is no immutable structural reason for the anthem at games. Other countries don’t play their own anthems at their sporting events. We don’t play it before movies or plays or other non-sports performances. It’s a thing that we do which, however much of a tradition it has become, is somewhat odd when you think about it for a moment. And which has to seem pretty rote to the actual ballplayers who hear it maybe 180 times a year.