MLBPA issues statement about the Arizona immigration law and All-Star Game boycotts

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We touched on Sheriff Joe a few minutes ago. In other All-Star Game/illegal immigration news, there was a lot of talk last year about potential player boycotts and the like as a result of Arizona’s tough immigration law, S.B. 1070. That has largely subsided, partially because parts of the bill are currently in legal limbo, but also because, let’s face it, most modern baseball players aren’t really willing to create a giant poopstorm over a political issue.

Personally I would respect the living hell out of a ballplayer who took a principled stand like that, but I can’t say that I blame them for not doing it. We as a society don’t reward celebrities and athletes when they stray from their areas of core competency, and if Adrian Gonzalez or someone did loudly boycott the All-Star Game, they’d quickly find themselves in a dreadful fight that no healthy and sane person would want to be the focus of.

Acknowledging that, Mike Weiner of the player’s union released a statement today which will in all likelihood be the last word on the matter. As is usually the case with Weiner, it’s reasonable and temperate:

“On April 30, 2010, the MLBPA expressed publicly its opposition to SB 1070, and that position remains unchanged.  We stated then that, if SB 1070 as written went into effect, we would consider additional measures to protect the interests of our members.  SB 1070 is not in effect and key portions of the law have been judged unlawful by the federal courts.  Under all the circumstances, we have not asked players to refrain from participating in any All-Star activities.

“The All-Star Game is an opportunity to celebrate the best that Major League Baseball has to offer.  Without question, the best players are here.  Each All-Star squad, as with each of the 30 Major League teams, is populated by the best players from baseball-playing countries around the globe.

“But the All Star Game is a chance to celebrate even more than that.  It is a chance to celebrate Major League Baseball’s unprejudiced commitment to excellence – a commitment, undiminished for decades, to judge solely on the basis of individual ability and achievement.  It is a chance to celebrate how much the game has been enriched by the contributions of players of different races, ethnicities and nationalities.  It’s a chance to celebrate — to marvel, actually — at the example set every time a Major League team takes the field: that of a true team, composed of players of widely different backgrounds, working together towards a common goal.

“Our nation continues to wrestle with serious issues regarding immigration, prejudice and the protection of individual liberties.  Those matters will not be resolved at Chase Field, nor on any baseball diamond; instead they will be addressed in Congress and in statehouses and in courts by those charged to find the right balance among the competing and sincerely held positions brought to the debate.  Meanwhile, at the All Star Game, Major League Baseball makes good on its promise to field the best in the world in the only way it can — by allowing the world to play.  That truly is an occasion to celebrate and, perhaps, from which we all can learn.”

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉