Everyone says baseball would accept a gay player. But would it really?

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Andy Martino of the Daily News has a somewhat provocative item today. A day after Jason Collins came out of the closet, he wonders whether baseball would truly be accepting of a gay player in its ranks.

He acknowledges that, publicly, yes, it would. As the reaction to Collins’ announcement yesterday made clear, almost everyone in any sort of prominent position knows the right things to say. Most of them believe it. But there are likely some, Martino says, who would only be doing so as an exercise in p.r. or damage control while actually harboring negative or hostile feelings. By way of example, Martino passes along some observations from clubhouses over the years:

Baseball once led the country on race, but there are many reasons to believe it will lag behind basketball and other sports on the defining civil rights issue of this moment … What if one of your teammates is, for example, the player who I once saw sprawled on a clubhouse couch, watching an “It Gets Better” ad on TV, shaking his head and sighing?

“This is how P.C. the world is now?” he complained, while a few others chortled. “I can’t even say f-g?”

Martino also speaks with Billy Bean, who came out after his eight year playing career ended in the mid-90s. Bean agrees that it might very well be tougher in baseball than in any other sport.

And it may. But I think the concern about those who would harbor secret hostility is a sort of beside the point.  The racists didn’t leave baseball in April 1947. There are likely still many on rosters even today. The point is that it has become socially unacceptable to be an open racist and to discriminate against minorities. And, as we’re increasingly seeing today, it is becoming socially unacceptable to be an open homophobe and to discriminate against gay people.

Ideally you want to change hearts and minds along with the policies. And, of course, life would be much easier for a gay player if said hearts and minds were changed too.  But it’s not likely or even necessary that such a thing happen. Pushing those who harbor fear or hatred against minorities into a closet of their own is good enough for the time being. Maybe once they’re in there, they’ll realize that they are, increasingly, the isolated minority.

Odubel Herrera flips his bat on a fly ball, gets benched for lack of hustle

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Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera has been a polarizing figure in his young career. He’s talented and at times has shined, inspiring the Phillies to give him a long term contract this past offseason. At other times, however, he’s aggravated the snot out of his manager, his teammates and his team’s fans. Last night, in the Phillies-Astros game, he did the latter and was the subject of mockery of the opposing team to boot.

In the first inning he hit a long fly ball to center. He thought it was going out but . . . it didn’t. When the ball came off of his bat, however, he flipped his bat like he went yard. You know our view about bat flips — who cares? Flip away! — but you flip at your own risk. Just because you’re allowed to flip it whenever you want doesn’t mean you’re not gonna get mocked if you flip prematurely. That’s what Herrera did, and he was mocked for the flip by the Astros from the dugout:

If that was all that happened in the game, life would go on just fine. I mean, it’s just a bat flip. But later in the game he committed a more substantive transgression: he failed to hustle in a hustle situation.

In the sixth inning Herrera struck out swinging on a 1-2 curveball. The catcher didn’t hold on to it, though, and the ball went in the dirt. Herrera didn’t bother to run to first base and Pete Mackanin pulled Herrera from the game in a double switch right after that. Asked if Herrera was benched for not running that ball out, Mackanin said “It had something to do with it . . . I’m going to talk to him tomorrow.”

If you’re a veteran and you have hamstring issues or something you can take a dropped strike three off and no one is gonna say anything. If you’re hitting like Herrera has been hitting of late (i.e. pretty well) and you otherwise have no issues with your manager along these lines, it’s doubtful anyone will hold that sort of play against you either as long as it’s an isolated incident.

Herrera is not in that position, however. He’s raised Mackanin’s ire in the past for ignoring signs and taking what Mackanin believed to be a lackadaisical approach to the game. Whether that’s a fair assessment of Herrera or not — we can’t fully know everything about their interaction from the outside — is sort of beside the point. He has to know by now that Mackanin is going to get after him for that stuff and he has to know that him not being in the game is neither good for the Phillies or for Herrera.

Are these growing pains or a signs of a growing problem? That, it would seem, is up to Odubel Herrera.

Video: Minor leaguer bounces a home run off of an outfielder’s head

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Jose Canseco hit 462 homers, was the 1986 Rookie of the Year, the 1988 MVP and played for 17 years in the big leagues, winning two World Series rings and making the playoffs five times. Yet he’s not remembered for any of that. At least not very often.

No, he’s remembered for his ignominy. For his role in participating in and, subsequently, exposing baseball’s PED-fueled world of the 1990s. For his continued insistence that he was blackballed by Major League Baseball and his continued attempts to play via the independent league route. For his crazy post-playing career antics in which he spent a few years tweeting about aliens, conspiracy theories and non-sequiturs of every stripe.

Mostly, though, people remember Canseco for one random play: the time he helped the Indians’ Carlos Martinez to a home run when a fly ball bounced off of Canseco’s head and over the wall back in 1993:

 

Well, Canseco now has a friend in infamy. That friend: Zach Borenstein of the Reno Aces, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate. Yesterday Borenstein pulled a Canseco on what should’ve been an Alex Verdugo F-9:

Borenstein’s glove may have gotten a piece of that — the announcer seemed to think so anyway — and I have a hard time figuring that his head would give it that much bounce. I mean, look how far he was from the wall! He wasn’t even to the warning track. That’s a serious assist.

Still: gonna rule this a Canseco anyway. It’s too good not to.