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.