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Steve Clevenger reflects on racist remarks he made on Twitter last year

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Last September, then-Mariners backup catcher Steve Clevenger published a pair of tweets criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and then-President Obama following protests in Charlotte concerning another black person shot to death by a police officer. The protest turned violent as one protester was killed and two others were injured. Six police officers suffered injuries as well.

Clevenger wrote, “BLM is pathetic once again! Obama you are pathetic once again! Everyone involved should be locked behind bars like animals!” He followed up by writing, “Black people beating whites when a thug got shot holding a gun by a black officer haha [stuff] cracks me up. Keep kneeling for the Anthem!”

The Mariners issued a statement expressing disappointment with Clevenger’s comments. The backstop later issued a mealymouthed apology, saying, “I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I really feel.” The Mariners shortly thereafter suspended Clevenger without pay for the rest of the season.

So, here we are now. Clevenger is still a free agent and hasn’t received a single contract offer. Presumably last September’s incident has been a factor.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports caught up with Clevenger, who says he “spent all offseason trying to become a better person.”

“My words were wrong. I regret every day that I wrote it, and I wish I could take it back,” Clevenger told Yahoo Sports in his first interview since the tweets. “They were harsh. They were mean. They angered a lot of people. And I’m sorry for it. I can only ask for forgiveness.”

[…]

“I’ve spent all offseason trying to become a better person. Learn different cultures. The history of the United States.”

Throughout the winter, Clevenger engaged with a number of black people inside and outside the game to better understand their place within it as well as society. Between conversations about racial inequality and suggestions of documentaries to watch, including “Slavery by Another Name” and Ava DuVernay’s “13th, ” Clevenger said he gained a clearer perspective on why his tweets were wrong.

“I see how people could be hurt,” he said. “I see how people can take it as being racist. I don’t have hatred in my body because of race or religion or gender. If I had to do it all over again, I definitely wouldn’t have posted those tweets. That’s not the person I am.

Clevenger has had a change of heart with regard to those who choose to kneel in protest when the national anthem is played, popularized recently by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “He’s free to exercise his rights,” Clevenger said. “I don’t hold it against him. I’m just not for it. But he has his right to kneel for the anthem.”

As for those who have protested police brutality and President Trump’s election, Clevenger said, “I’m all for people protesting. I’m all for people exerting their rights in the United States to demonstrate peacefully. I don’t agree with violent protests, attacking people, burning things down. I can’t condone that. That’s not who I am and not what I believe in.”

Passan also points out that Clevenger did not vote in the Presidential election this past November and considers himself “not political.”

It’s great that Clevenger has taken the initiative to broaden his horizons and to, in his words, “become a better person.” Many people, when they receive even a tiny fraction of the pushback that Clevenger dealt with, become defensive and stubbornly refuse to admit fault. Hopefully, Clevenger continues to read and watch media about the lives of those different from him. To recognize one’s privilege and try to lift oppressed communities up is a lifelong struggle. One offseason of reading shouldn’t be the end of his road of learning.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.