Bill Baer

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 28:  Steve Clevenger #32 of the Seattle Mariners heads back to the dugout after striking out  with two runners on base to end the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Safeco Field on May 28, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

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.

Report: Royals to sign Travis Wood to a two-year contract

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Travis Wood #37 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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Update (6:08 PM EST): The two-year contract is for a total of $12 million, Heyman reports.

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Royals are expected to sign pitcher Travis Wood. It will be a two-year deal, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

Wood, 30, pitched out of the Cubs’ bullpen last season, posting a 2.95 ERA and a 47/24 K/BB ratio in 61 innings. Right-handed hitters hit him pretty hard, compiling an .865 OPS, but Wood held lefties to a .447 OPS.

Wood is expected to compete for a spot at the back of the Royals’ starting rotation, Crasnick notes.

Chase Utley once dressed up like a batboy to discreetly speak with the home plate umpire

DENVER, CO - APRIL 22:  Chase Utley #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up onthe on deck circle as he prepares to take an at bat against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 22, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Dodgers 7-5. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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In an article published on Monday, Peter Gammons provided some interesting anecdotes about second baseman Chase Utley, who recently returned to the Dodgers on a one-year, $2 million deal.

Phillies fans are very familiar with Utley’s personality and Dodgers fans have been getting acclimated with him over the last year and a half. He’s all business on the field and willing to put his own health at risk to make a play or to send a message.

Anecdote No. 1:

Coaches tell the story of a game in which the Dodgers had a big lead in the top of the eighth inning when one younger, enthusiastic teammate stole second base, which ticked off the opposition. When Utley got to the plate in the ninth, he told the opposing catcher to have the pitcher drill him. Then his teammate would understand there are consequences for showing up the opposition.

This isn’t surprising. Utley led the majors in HBP three seasons in a row from 2007-09 and his career total of 190 HBP is by far the most among active players. It ranks 10th all-time.

Utley also understands the politics of baseball, so he went to great lengths to not show up the home plate umpire in a game last season.

Anecdote No. 2:

Then there was a game last year in which Kershaw wasn’t getting strikes he thought he’d thrown. When the Dodgers got back to the dugout, A.J. Ellis was hollering at the home plate umpire. Utley warned Ellis not to get ejected. Chase grabbed a batboy’s skull cap,a jacket,  got a towel and rounded up a bunch of fresh baseballs and went out to give the umpires the balls, which is the batboy’s job. When the umpire asked him what he was doing, Utley told him he was not going to embarrass the ump, that no one would notice he was out there, but Kershaw had to have some of those pitches. Having spoken his peace, Utley ran back to the dugout like just another clubbie batboy.

In a perfect world, an umpire is mature enough to take criticism and not hold it against that player’s team, but we don’t live in that perfect world. Utley understands this and found a way to say his piece in a way that almost certainly wouldn’t negatively impact his team.

[Cap tip: Matt Mullin of PhillyVoice]