Carl Crawford

Fan who allegedly yelled racial slur at Carl Crawford is a police officer, could lose his job

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Remember last week when a fan allegedly yelled racist stuff at Carl Crawford during a rehab game in New Hampshire? Well, the next day the fan took to the Internet and called in to a radio station to defend himself. And in doing so, he seems to have outed himself.

Turns out he’s a Leominster, Massachusetts police officer. One who, as you’ll see below, has apparently had a tragic past year, and now, in light of the Crawford business, could lose his job:

Leominster authorities launched an internal investigation into whether one of the city’s police officers is the heckler responsible for shouting a racial slur at Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford during a minor league game last week in Manchester, N.H. … Leominster officials opened the investigation earlier this week after receiving a number of tips and complaints.

The mayor of Leominster says in this NECN report that the officer could lose his job over this.

Reader BigLeagues passed those links along to me, as well as some stuff from last week I missed about who this police officer is.  When he called in to WEEI the day after the alleged incident to defend himself, he identified himself as “Thomas,” and said he didn’t yell any slurs at Crawford, only heckled him over being a big money, no production ballplayer. In the comments section to the WEEI story, he used the name “Thomas Johnson” and “Tom from NH.”  The comment name links to a Facebook page under the name “Thomas Johnson” with a police department patch as its avatar, but not a Leominster one.*

BigLeagues was curious about this story and did some Googling.  He tells me that on WEEI, Thomas/Tom from NH/Thomas Johnson said he was 32 years-old, raced cars in his spare time and, last fall, he and his wife suffered the loss of his baby son.  A search by BigLeagues reveals this story about a Thomas Johnson who is 32 years-old, lives in a New Hampshire town about 30 miles from Leominster, races cars and lost his son last fall. Sounds like the same dude.

What to make of all of this? I don’t know. It’s unclear if this guy yelled slurs at Crawford (the reports reveal this to be a Crawford’s word against Thomas Johnson’s word thing at the moment). If he did, he might get fired. And if it’s the same guy from that last story, I think it’s safe to say that he’s having an awful year and probably could use help from someone.

*A Twitter follower tells me that the police patch on Thomas Johnson’s Facebook page is from Greenland, New Hampshire. This spring four officers were shot, and the police chief killed, in a shootout in Greenland back in April, which presumably makes the Facebook pic a tribute. Gosh, this is all kinds of horrible.

(big thanks and props to BigLeagues for handing me all of this stuff)

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.