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.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.

Raines to wear an Expos cap, Pudge to wear a Rangers cap on their Hall of Fame plaques

1990:  Outfielder Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos in action. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
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There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.

Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.

Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.

With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.

Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.