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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017 — No. 21: Fans hurl racist epithets at Adam Jones

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We’re a few short days away from 2018 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2017. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

In late April things got a bit chippy between the Red Sox and the Orioles, with some hard slides, Red Sox pitchers Matt Barnes and Chris Sale throwing at Manny Machado, and other assorted beefing during a series in Baltimore. The following week the teams met again at Fenway Park and things got even uglier. Not between the teams, however, but between some fans and Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.

Jones was berated by racist taunts and one fan even threw a bag of peanuts at him. Jones said that, in the past, he had been subjected to racist heckling at Fenway Park but said this incident was the worst he had ever experienced.

While the incident itself began and ended on that Tuesday night in May, it led to what, unfortunately, is all so common when racism rears its ugly head: denial, deflection and a discounting of both the words and the experiences of the victim by people who are in no position to do so.

It was utterly unsurprising when an ostracized buffoon like Curt Schilling called Jones’ account into question, but such doubts were not limited to guys like him. Most notably, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB demanded “proof” from Jones that the racial slurs were, in fact, hurled. Never mind that a witness’ unrefuted account of an event is, in fact, proof and never mind that several other players including Red Sox players such as David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr. confirmed that, yes, racial taunts from fans in Fenway Park are not uncommon.

Those two were not alone, of course. As so often happens when such incidents occur, a host of fans, readers, listeners and commenters emerges to discount, or in some cases, deny the event took place. To rush right past the account of the victim in order to proclaim that “not ALL [city/team] fans are like that” and to defensively decry anyone who would say they are, as if that’s the most important matter in all of it. Some of that is just your standard-issue sports fan tribalism, of course. Some of it, though, is in keeping with America’s long history of denying that racism still exists and a denial of society’s complicity in its persisting. It’s about refusing to believe someone when they said something bad happened because (a) that bad thing never happens to them; and (b) they do not want to examine whether they have any responsibility for it or to stop it.

Thankfully, though, the Boston Red Sox and Major League Baseball took some responsibility. They apologized to Jones immediately. The Red Sox and other Boston area sports teams likewise began running anti-racism public service announcements on the scoreboard before games, featuring athletes calling on fans to take a stand against racism and hate speech at sports venues. It makes sense, in that a fan’s willingness to behave in such a deplorable fashion is likely reduced if he knows or suspects that his fellow fans will call him out for it. In August Red Sox owner John Henry said he was “haunted” by the racist past of former team owner Tom Yawkey and suggested renaming Yawkey Way, which runs outside Fenway Park.

It was nice to see the Sox and MLB act and to hear Henry speak out like that, but it’s far less important for us to listen to people and institutions who are in power than it is to listen to people like Adam Jones when such incidents occur. To listen to them talk about their lived experiences and to believe them. To that end, Jones opened up in interviews about the incident and the larger topic of racism in America and in American sports. About what is to be one of only a handful of black men in Major League Baseball and why it is, in his view, that there are only a small handful of black men in the sport to begin with.

Here’s hoping people listened.

New York Yankees roster and schedule for 2020

Yankees roster and schedule
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The 2020 season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The New York Yankees roster and schedule:

YANKEES ROSTER (projected) 

When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Yankees roster to begin the season:

Catchers

Gary Sánchez
Kyle Higashioka

Infielders:

Luke Voit
Mike Ford
DJ LeMahieu
Gio Urshela
Miguel Andújar
Gleyber Torres
Tyler Wade

Outfielders

Aaron Judge
Aaron Hicks
Giancarlo Stanton
Brett Gardner
Mike Tauchman

Starters

Gerrit Cole
Masahiro Tanaka
James Paxton
J.A. Happ
Jordan Montgomery
Jonathan Loaisiga

Relievers

Aroldis Chapman
Zack Britton
Adam Ottavino
Chad Green
Tommy Kahnle
Luis Cessa
Jonathan Holder
Tyler Lyons
David Hale


BREAKDOWN:

It’s weird to say this but the delay to the season due to the pandemic actually helped the Yankees a fair amount. Because of new injuries and extended rehab from older injuries, the very injured 2019 New York Yankees were poised to begin the regular season with many key players on the injured list, including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and James Paxton, among others. It’s not 100% clear if all of those guys will be back and at full strength when the club starts play next week, but Stanton and Paxton seem like a go right now and Judge and Hicks are ramping up.

Obviously the biggest change for 2020, though, is Gerrit Cole, the Yankees big free agent acquisition last winter. Adding arguably the game’s best starter will take a lot of pressure off of the other guys in the rotation and ease the workload of a bullpen that, however deep and talented it is, could still use a break here and there.

With health, hopefully, not the concern it was back in March or last year, we’re left with a Yankees team that (a) has one of the most loaded lineups in the game; (b) features a much-improved rotation with a clear and solid top-four; and (c) has fantastic bullpen talent and depth. Last year’s team, despite all of the injuries, won 103 games. This year’s team is considered the favorite in the American League and, by extension, in all of baseball.

YANKEES SCHEDULE:

Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.

Yankees home stands will be July 29-Aug. 2 (Phillies, Red Sox), Aug. 11-20 (Braves, Red Sox, Rays), Aug. 28-Sept. 2 (Mets, Rays), Sept. 10-17 (Orioles, Blue Jays) and Sept. 25-27 (Marlins). Their rivalry games against the Red Sox will be July 31-Aug. 2 (Yankee Stadium), Aug. 14-17 (Yankee Stadium) and Sept. 18-20 (Fenway Park). Rivalry games against the Mets will be played Aug. 21-23 (Citi Field) and Aug. 28-30 (Yankee Stadium).

The entire Yankees roster and schedule can be seen here.