pineda getty

Baseball’s lack of interpreters for Spanish speakers is a problem

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There was some confusion on Wednesday night when Michael Pineda spoke to reporters — without an interpreter — regarding the pine tar business and there ended up being some mixed signals sent regarding what Joe Girardi and the Yankees told Pineda about pine tar and when. It seems Pineda did not understand some of the questions at first and initially gave the impression that Giradi had not talked to him when in fact he had. Pineda, after learning of his misunderstanding with the help of an interpreter, corrected the record.

In the wake of all of that, Jorge Castillo has a great article in the Star-Ledger about the lack of interpreters available for Spanish-speaking players in major league baseball. Castillo’s primary source for the story is Carlos Beltran who has a lot of insightful things to say about Spanish speakers in U.S. clubhouses and the difficulty many of them have learning English, responding to questions in press conferences and the like. His comments are definitely worth your time.

Interesting fact from the article: while the Yankees have three dedicated interpreters for their three Japanese players, they have no dedicated interpreters for their Spanish speakers. Instead, they relay on their bullpen catcher or whatever bilingual player happens to be available at the moment. Often no one is available. I find this interesting inasmuch as there are way more Spanish speakers in baseball, so you’d think teams would have someone around for that purpose.

Based on past articles along these lines, I fully expect some of you to say “hey, you’re in the U.S. now, you should learn the language.” I find these sorts of comments hilarious given how utterly lost said commenters would be if dropped down in another country for a little while. And that’s before appreciating the fact that ballplayers here aren’t simply looking for la biblioteca or el aeropuerto. They’re being asked often loaded questions from a press corps that is always looking for gaffes and controversies. It’s difficult enough for native English speakers to navigate that stuff.

I’m also reminded of the crap people flung at Sammy Sosa for using an interpreter during his Congressional testimony back in 2005 regarding PEDs. People mock and scoff at Sosa for doing so, as his English was generally good enough to navigate the ballpark, but such mockery is ridiculous. Talking to a radio guy about loving to hit home runs doesn’t require the same sort of precision answering questions under oath with the risk of a criminal prosecution hanging over your head. In the latter case you had DAMN WELL BETTER say what you mean to say, rending the use of an interpreter not just wise, but essential.  And, as I’ve argued before, doing so likely saved Sosa from a criminal beef. It was brilliant, actually.

Anyway, a very interesting topic. And a great article on it that you should definitely read.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.

Braves acquire Luke Jackson from the Rangers

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 16:  Relief pitcher Luke Jackson #53 of the Texas Rangers  throws during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Globe Life Park on September 16, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Texas won 14-3. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
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Tommy Stokke of RanRag Sports reports that the Braves and Rangers agreed to a trade. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Braves will receive pitcher Luke Jackson from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl.

Jackson, 25, is under team control through 2022. He has logged only 18 innings in the majors, yielding 14 runs on 22 hits and eight walks with three strikeouts. While Jackson has struggled with control, the Braves likely see upside because his fastball sits in the mid- to high-90’s.

Jenkins, 24, is also under team control through 2022. The right-hander made eight starts and six relief appearances in his first major league season in 2016, putting up a 5.88 ERA with a 26/33 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.

Feigl, 25, was an undrafted free agent and was signed by the Braves in 2013. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and briefly rehabbed in rookie ball this past season.