Sports Illustrated’s Phillies preview contains an anonymous scout’s quote about outfielder Odubel Herrera. The quote was so bad — so full of old school racist dog whistling you used to so often hear about athletes of color — that SI went back and softened up the quote a few minutes ago.
Here’s the original version, answering the question, “Name the guy (or guys) on this team you would never want in your clubhouse.”
Herrera. I’m an old-school guy who likes guys who run balls out and run off and on the field and are focused on playing the game the right way. He’s the antithesis of Brett Gardner. He’s like a clown. From what I understand, it was a controversial signing internally, because none of their baseball people could stomach him, but Matt Klentak liked him because he’s a likable goofball kid. So they ended up putting the cash in his pocket, and what they’ve gotten out of it is a f****** dog who’s hurt them more than helped them.
Let’s break this down on the Telestrator:
- At the start we’ve got a self-proclaimed “old school” guy who likes players who “play the game the right way,” which is a well-known, indefinable phrase, often deployed against players of color. Why don’t you like that player? “Well, he doesn’t play the game the right way.” How so? “HE JUST DOESN’T GO ABOUT HIS BUSINESS RIGHT, OK?”
- Then we’ve got an unfavorable comparison to a white player, which, obviously.
- Then we’ve got “clown.”
- Then we’ve got one in “cash in his pocket,” which is a bit more subtle but which sticks out if you’ve read a little bit and if you’re familiar with some of the older racial stereotypes. Sure, cash is green, not black or white, but there’s a long history of stereotypes about an alleged or assumed lack of financial responsibility on the part of people of color, often referenced by them having “cash in their pockets” or “big rolls of cash” or something. The idea, which I’ll grant is a subtle one but which is very, very real in venerable stereotypes — go read some mid-century detective fiction if you really wanna see this one in action — is that people of color either don’t trust banks and/or carry around money from under-the-table sources and/or always want cash on hand for superfluous or irresponsible spending or what have you. I really don’t think a white player who this scout would’ve not signed has “cash in his pockets.” He’d have “signed a contract” or “agreed to a signing bonus” or, maybe, “got paid”;
- He’s “a f****** dog” is, of course, on the other end of the subtlety spectrum.
As soon as those quotes started circulating someone must’ve called someone else because now the quotes reads like this:
Herrera. I’m an old-school guy who likes guys who run balls out and run off and on the field and are focused on playing the game the right way. From what I understand, it was a controversial signing internally. What they’ve gotten out of it is a [player] who’s hurt them more than helped them.
There is a disclaimer at the top of the article now which says “Editor’s Note: This article has been updated; the original version mistakingly included language that may be considered inappropriate or offensive. We regret the error.”
The worst part of this is that the story will likely cause people to turn this into a referendum on Herrera and his skills and attitude and stuff rather than scrutinizing a bunch of crappy racial dog-whistling. Let’s dispose of that, shall we? No, as far as baseball skills and, at least from what we’ve heard in various reports over the years, work ethic and deportment go, Herrera is not Mike Trout or Torii Hunter or any number of other players you can name. That’s not the point, though. The point is that it’s entirely possible — or at the very least should be entirely possible — to explain why you would not want Herrera on your team without trafficking in this trash.
At the very least, in case you wondered if there were still old school scouts who characterized guys like this, well, yeah, there are.