Why Torii Hunter’s comments about having a gay teammate matter

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As we noted yesterday, Torii Hunter was quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying that having a gay teammate would be “difficult and uncomfortable” for him because such a person is anathema to his religion.

A fairly popular response to these comments is, basically, “hey, it’s just his opinion, man.” Hunter is merely speaking his mind (as we sportswriters all wish more athletes would), and how dare we jump on a guy for merely saying how he feels? A more specific version of that response is to say that Hunter is entitled to his own religious/political/social convictions, and that we shouldn’t criticize a guy for them, even if we personally disagree.

Baloney. Hunter’s views on homosexuality and his right to speak his mind are a red herring. Totally beside the point. Indeed, one can agree 100% with Hunter’s religious views and/or his take on gay people and still find his comments here out of line. Not because of political, religious or social reasons, but purely for baseball reasons. His comments suggest he’s a bad teammate.

Hunter is essentially telling past, present and/or future gay teammates — which there likely have been, are, or will be on teams for which Hunter plays — he has a problem with them despite them never actually butting heads with him on any matter. And he’s doing so in the press, not one-on-one. Try to think of any other situation in which that would be considered acceptable from a clubhouse/professionalism standpoint:

  • “For me, as a Mike Scioscia guy … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who manages differently than Mike Scioscia because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a guy who thinks pitchers should bean guys after home runs … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t bean a guy after he hits a home run because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a guy who thinks it’s OK to steal signs … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t steal signs because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a hitter who uses all fields … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who always tries to pull the ball because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as guy who always gives interviews … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t talk to the media, because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as an Arkansan … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone from Texas because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a pop music fan … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who listens to country music in the clubhouse because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”

If any player said stuff like that to the press, people would be all over him. Not because of the substance of the opinion — what kind of music Hunter listens too is between him and his ears — but because he is unnecessarily alienating teammates. He, as a well-respected veteran, is signaling that some stuff will fly with him and some stuff won’t, and preemptively saying that teammates who don’t adhere to his view of the world are going to have a much harder time with him. We would never find that acceptable.

And so it goes for these comments too. Even if you think homosexuality is an abomination (I don’t), and even if you think Hunter has the absolute right, as a citizen, to say what he wants about it (I do), the fact that he is calling out potential — and possibly actual — teammates in the press in a negative light is significant for baseball purposes. Teams expect players to put aside their differences and come together as a unit. When they are unable to do that, teams expect the matter to be handled in-house, among players, and not have the conflicts aired in the media.

Here, however, we have a player publicly telling teammates that he’s going to have a hard time with them and that, as a result, they are going to be less welcome in a Torii Hunter-led clubhouse than others. And if you’re the Detroit Tigers, this should bother you.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 15, Brewers 2: What a bloodbath. As we noted yesterday, the Nats hit a lot of homers here. Five in the third inning alone, eight in all. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each hit two of them, with the former going 3-for-5 with four driven in and the latter going 2-for-5 with three RBI. Max Scherzer didn’t need all that run support — he allowed one run over six innings, striking out nine — but he’ll take it.

Indians 2, Angels 1: A lower scoring affair. Trevor Bauer pitched his best game of the season, allowing one run over eight, scattering seven hits and striking out six. Carlos Santana homered for the first Indians run, Francisco Lindor singled in the second. That’s seven straight wins for Cleveland. They’ve needed every one of them as second place Kansas City has won eight in a row.

Blue Jays 8, Athletics 4: We talked about the ump show in this one yesterday. Later it was the Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce show, with Morales hitting a solo homer in the ninth to tie it and Pearce hitting a grand slam in the tenth inning to give Toronto their second walkoff win in as many days. It was the first Blue Jays walkoff grand slam in nine years — Greg Zaun did it then — but the second walkoff grand slam in baseball this week, as Edwin Encarnacion did it on Tuesday.

Yankees 6, Rays 5: Brett Gardner was the catalyst and hero late in this one. He hit a triple in the ninth and then scored on a weird play in which the Rays infielders — Adeiny Hechavarria and Tim Beckham — let a grounder go through because they were shifted and didn’t know whose responsibility it was. Then in the 11th Gardner hit a walkoff homer for the win. The celebration was so intense Aaron Judge broke a tooth. Biggest hit he’s had in a while. That’s four wins in a row for the Yankees who are a half game behind Boston.

Marlins 4, Reds 1:  Chris O’Grady pitched seven scoreless innings for Miami as third baseman Derek Dietrich did most of the damage on offense. He homered, walked in a run and singled in a run. The Marlins have won five of seven, the Reds have lost seven of eight. This happened before the game:

I could find no followup suggesting that it was a real problem. I assume, however, that this will happen soon:

Cubs 6, White Sox 3: Kyle Schwarber has stunk up the joint all year, but maybe he’s coming around. Here he homered twice and drove in four runs as he Cubs won their third in a row and are now 11-2 since the All-Star break. Anthony Rizzo went deep too and Jon Lester allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings.

Diamondbacks 4, Cardinals 0Zack Godley — 65% of all pitchers in baseball are now named Zack, by the way — tossed seven shutout innings striking out seven and the relievers took it the rest of the way. J.D. Martinez continues to swing a hot bat since his acquisition by the Dbacks, hitting a fourth inning grand slam for all of the game’s scoring. He’s only 5-for-20 since the deal, but four of those five hits have been homers and he’s driven in 11 in his six games in the NL.

Padres 7, Mets 5Manuel Margot hit a homer, double and a single, driving in three and Dusty Coleman hit a three-run homer. There are not a lot of Manuel Margots in baseball, but about 65% of Impressionist painters had that name. About 47% of cowboys were named Dusty Coleman.

Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord

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John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press reports that current free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord for damage to the rented property as well as missing artwork. The landlord is asking for $80,000 after having kept Rodriguez’s $15,000 security deposit.

The lawsuit says that Rodriguez damaged a bedroom TV, a crystal floor lamp, glass shelves in the bar, glass tiles in the master bath, and a Moroccan mirror in the powder room. Additionally, the suit claims that the bedding is stained and paint has chipped, as well as other damages. And the piece of art that is allegedly missing, which depicts a tiger, is valued at more than $10,000.

Rodriguez has not yet been served with the suit, but the landlord has been speaking to his managers.

The Nationals released Rodriguez, 35, two weeks ago after having signed him to a minor league contract in late June. He started the season with the Tigers, but struggled to a 7.82 ERA over 25 1/3 innings before being released.