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.

Rockies activate Ian Desmond from the disabled list

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The Rockies activated first baseman Ian Desmond from the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, the club announced. Cristhian Adames was designated for assignment to create roster space. Desmond is in Sunday’s lineup against the Diamondbacks, batting sixth.

Desmond, 31, signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies in December. In March, he was unfortunately hit by a pitch and suffered a broken left hand. He underwent surgery to repair the damage.

Desmond had been playing in extended spring training as a precursor to rehab games, but he looked so good that the Rockies decided to activate him from the disabled list a little early.

Aaron Sanchez exits game after one inning with a split fingernail

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This wasn’t how Aaron Sanchez was supposed to make his triumphant return from the disabled list. The Blue Jays’ right-hander was activated for his first start on Sunday after undergoing a minor surgical procedure to have part of his fingernail removed. According to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, the surgery should have accelerated the healing process for a troublesome blister, and the team appeared confident in the right-hander’s ability to take the mound for the tail end of their homestand. Instead, Sanchez lasted just 13 pitches before exiting the game with a split nail on his right middle finger.

The team has yet to address Sanchez’s revised timetable for return, but Chisholm points out that they should be able to roll with their current rotation through May 9. If he sits out longer, the Jays could turn to left-hander J.A. Happ, who should be eligible to start sometime next month after he makes a full recovery from a bout of left elbow inflammation.

Sanchez, 24, entered Sunday with a 4.38 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 6.6 SO/9 through 12 1/3 innings with Toronto. He was replaced by right-handed reliever Ryan Tepera in the top of the second inning.