Yoenis Cespedes homers, drives in another run in a spectacular spring training debut

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Yes, I know it’s spring training and that spring training doesn’t matter. But I believe in Yoenis Cespedes. I am, officially, a Cespedesphile.

Wait. That doesn’t sound quite right. We have time to work on it, though. It’s spring training for wannabe members of the not-yet-invented Yoenis Cespedes fan club, too.

Anyway, a full house — or close to it — here in Phoenix today saw A’s center fielder Yoeins Cespedes make his spring training debut in Oakland’s 6-3 win over Cincinnati. And it was a great one.

His first at bat was not, technically, an at bat. He walked on six pitches, never once taking the bat off his shoulder. I suppose you could say that was anti-climactic . But you could also say that it was good that he was willing to take pitches and look and see what a guy he’s never faced before — Johnny Cueto — had to offer.

And heck, I would too, as Cueto seems to have changed his delivery and now does the full-blown Luis Tiant thing, which is pretty cool. Lots of crazy looks from him these days. Love it.

Cespedes’ next plate appearance came in the second inning. One out, runners at the corners. This time he swung the bat twice. First to foul one off, the second time to knock a single up the middle, driving in the A’s third run of the game. Welcome to the majors, Yoeins.

The big at bat came in the fourth, leading off. He fell behind Jeff Francis 1-2, and then was way ahead on three straight sliders, fouling them hard past third. People in the press box made noises about him being set up for high heat (never mind the fact that Francis doesn’t have high heat). Nope: Cespedes waited and jacked the next pitch over the left field wall for a homer and his second RBI of the day. It was not a cheapie. Not by a long shot.

On the defensive side, he had his first defensive chance in the third inning, snagging a Brandon Phillips fly ball. It didn’t require any serious ranging or anything. Another fly ball from Daryl Jones in the fourth. I’m still wondering if he’s gonna stick at center field. Hard to justify it with Coco Crisp around unless — as Crisp says — he’s a demigod. As it was, there was nothing in today’s game to give us any indication. Which was frustrating because I want to know the answer to every conceivable question about the guy now, in one spring training game. DON’T MAKE ME WAIT FOR THE REGULAR SEASON.

Sorry. Got a little carried away there. I think the Arizona sun is getting to me. Or maybe it’s Cespedes Fever.  Because, guys, I have it.

Brewers won’t punish Josh Hader for offensive tweets

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Some old tweets of Josh Hader‘s surfaced during the All-Star Game on Tuesday, containing offensive and hateful language. Major League Baseball responded by ordering Hader to attend sensitivity training and attend diversity initiatives.

The Brewers won’t punish Hader themselves, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. GM David Stearns says the club is taking its lead from MLB, which has already handed down its punishment to Hader. Additionally, the Brewers’ lack of punishment has to do with the tweets occurring when Hader was younger — 17 years old — and not involved with professional baseball.

Stearns also said of Hader’s tweets, “I don’t think they’re representative of who he is. I think they’re offensive. I think they’re ill-informed and ignorant but I don’t think they represent who he is as a person right now.” Stearns added, “I don’t know how he’s going to work through it. The truth is he has put himself in this situation. And he’s going to have to work very hard to get through it.”

Hader apologized on Wednesday, saying, “I was 17 years old, and as a child I was immature, and obviously I said some things that were inexcusable. That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today.” Hader said, “I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve said. I’m ready for any consequences that happen for what happened seven years ago.”

Lorenzo Cain, a black outfielder and teammate of Hader’s, said, “I know Hader; he’s a great guy. I know he’s a great teammate. I’m fine. Everybody will be O.K. We’ll move on.” Cain further defended Hader, saying, “We’ve all said crazy stuff growing up, even when we were 17, 18 years old. If we could follow each other around with a recorder every day, I’m sure we all said some dumb stuff. We’re going to move on from this.”

First baseman Jesús Aguilar also came to Hader’s defense:

However, Aguilar also retweeted a tweet from Scott Wheeler of The Athletic which had screencaps of Royals 2B/OF Whit Merrifield and Angels outfielder Mike Trout using the word “gay” pejoratively in tweets. Merrifield also used the word “retard” pejoratively.

The “he was 17” defense rings hollow. At 17 years old, one is able to join the military, get a full driver’s license (in many states), apply for student loans, and get married (in some states). Additionally, one is not far off from being able to legally buy cigarettes and guns. Given all of these other responsibilities we give to teenagers, asking them not to use racial and homophobic slurs is not unreasonable. Punishing them when they do so is also not unreasonable.

A study from several years ago found that black boys are viewed as older and less innocent than white boys. A similar study from last year found that black girls are viewed as less innocent than white girls. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Cameron Tillman, among many others, never got the benefit of the doubt that Hader and countless other white kids have gotten and continue to get in our society. When we start giving the same benefit of the doubt to members of marginalized groups, then we can break out the “but he was only 17” defense for Hader.

We also need to ask ourselves what our inaction regarding Hader’s words will say to members of those marginalized communities. Will it tell them that we value the comfort of those in power above everyone else? Will it tell members of marginalized groups that they are not welcome? In this case, it absolutely will. It communicates the message that, as long as you are white and can perform athletic feats, there’s no level of bigotry the league won’t tolerate. Furthermore, as the league and its 30 individual teams make more efforts towards inclusiveness with events like “Pride Night,” the inaction comes off as two-faced and hypocritical. This is why Major League Baseball — and the Brewers — should have done more to respond to Hader’s tweets.