Looking deeper at Luke Scott

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Luke Scott caused a stir back in December when, during an interview with Dave Brown of Yahoo!’s Big League Stew, his belief that President Obama wasn’t born in America came out into the open.  This piqued the interest of Amy K. Nelson of ESPN, who spent some time with Orioles’ outfielder Luke Scott this spring. Her story is up today.  After recounting the birther stuff, she makes this observation:

Given all that, the simple assumption is that Scott is a right-wing nut, a borderline racist and a loudmouth redneck ballplayer who should keep his mouth shut. But it’s not that simple. Luke Scott will require a deeper line of thinking.

I think “deeper line of thinking” is the key phrasing here, because I don’t think Luke Scott is misunderstood. Just not fully understood.

Indeed, what we learned about Scott in the aftermath of the birther fiasco and in the early part of Nelson’s article is accurate, as far as it goes. While “nut” is a loaded term (each side of the spectrum has ’em), Scott is clearly right wing, and he admits that. He’s clearly a loudmouth, as his teammates freely — and amusingly — admit.  Borderline racist? Depends on how you define it, but the fact that Scott needed a handler during the interview to remind him to be careful with how he spoke about race  — and his use of the term “savage” when talking to a black Dominican teammate about his behavior — at least gives one pause.

None of which means that he should keep his mouth shut or that he’s a bad person. Being right wing was, last I checked, still allowed in this country. So too is being ignorant, as Scott’s apparent belief that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. makes clear (he doesn’t back off those statements here).

Am I 100% comfortable with Scott’s views on race? Not really, but I don’t know that he or anyone else should care. He’s not my son’s civics teacher. His teammates and the people close to him don’t have a problem with him. Personally speaking, I  grew up with a lot of people like Scott. Even at its most uncomfortable, the stuff they say and believe doesn’t necessarily come from hate, even if it does reflect real beliefs and even if it is ignorant.

And perhaps the biggest reason Luke Scott doesn’t bother me is revealed in what Orioles’ GM Andy MacPhail says about him:

“I’ve met a lot of people in this game who will say the right thing every time,” he says, “but maybe not act in a manner that is the most laudatory. Luke’s the opposite.”

Luke Scott says and believes crazy stuff. He keeps 114 guns in a small, temporary apartment. I’m guessing only a small segment of the HBT readership would be able to find much political, social or personal common ground with Scott.  The fact that he happens to be a good guy doesn’t change that he’s kind of wacky and the fact that he’s kind of wacky doesn’t change that he’s a good guy. Everyone is more than their political and social beliefs, and no one outside of the most cartoonish fictional villains are good or evil, black or white.

Scott is kind of a knucklehead who I’m not sure I’d invite to dinner. He’s also got a lot more complexity and likability to him than we’d expect based on how some people portrayed him after his comments to Dave Brown.  I guess what I’m saying is that nobody really knows anyone all that well, and just because he put his worst foot forward back in December doesn’t mean it wasn’t a true part of him, nor does it explain everything about him.

The same goes for most people, actually. And it’s kind of sad that we forget that so often.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.