If Major League Baseball ever wants to stop being the third wheel, behind the NFL and the NBA, then it will have to start by getting rid of all the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, racist antics that people of color have always realized are a part of “America’s Pastime.”
After dealing with what happened with Adam Jones in Fenway Park only weeks ago, Major League Baseball is dealing with even more racism and bigotry this week.
On Tuesday, Phillies legend and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, a current Phillies broadcaster, decided to let the world know how he really feels when he said that teams can only be constructed around English-speaking players.
“First of all, it’s a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can’t be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game,” said Schmidt as he commented on Phillies star Odubel Herrera. “Or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game. Or come over to a guy and say, ‘Man, you gotta run that ball out.’ Just can’t be — because of the language barrier — that kind of a player.”
Mind you, 42.33% of the players on non-DL active Opening Day rosters this season were either Black, Latino, Asian or not White, according to the 2017 MLB Racial and Gender Report Card. On top of that, Herrera is one of 11 Latino players on the Phillies’ roster. And between Herrera, Freddy Galvis and Andres Blanco, the Phillies’ best three players are all from Venezuela.
Schmidt then went on to say that he’d probably hate playing against Herrera because of his “antics on the field.”
And THAT right there is why people of color tend to have a problem with baseball. Because “playing the game the right way,” usual means playing it the “white” way.
If you show any emotion of any kind, showboat, play with some flair or commit the ultimate crime of flipping a bat after a home run, then you’ve “disrespected the game.”
However, bench-clearing brawls are “a part of the game.” But if the slightest tussle happens in sports like basketball and football, where the rosters are dominated by athletes of color, then players are quickly slapped with the “thug” label. Did anyone call Bryce Harper a thug for charging the mound last week and firing his helmet (and missing badly) at reliever Hunter Strickland, before striking Strickland with his fists? Nope. Most of the baseball world said his actions were justified.
During the World Baseball Classic in March, Detroit Tigers infielder Ian Kinsler confirmed some of those notions.
“I hope kids watching the WBC can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays,” Kinsler said. “That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”
Translation: “Make American Baseball Great Again.”
But back to Schmidt. As his words caught the wind, Schmidt decided to release a statement that may be the worst apology ever crafted.
“It’s been made known to me that my answer on a radio interview this morning to the question, ‘Can the Phillies build a team around Odubel Herrera’ was disrespectful to Herrera and Latin players in general,” Schmidt said. “I’m very sorry that this misrepresentation of my answer occurred and may have offended someone. I assure everyone I had no intention of that. Odubel is a dynamo on the field, and as he becomes more comfortable with the language, his leadership skills will improve, and no doubt he will be a centerpiece in the Phillies future.”
Mike Schmidt doesn’t even know that what he said was offensive, or why. In his mind, he was speaking the truth.
But wait, it gets better.
Also on Tuesday, Boston Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy complained during a NESN broadcast that Yankees’ pitcher Masahiro Tanaka had a translator on the mound. “I don’t think that should be legal,” Remy said. He followed that up by saying that Tanaka should “learn baseball language.”
After the game, Remy said this about his comments.
“I’ve got no comment on that. Really.” NESN then released a statement Wednesday saying Remy “regrets” his comments.
Stay classy, Boston.
In the past few weeks, White baseball fans have had three blatant answers to the one question they love to ask: “Why don’t more people of color play baseball?”
Because of what happened on Tuesday, that’s why.
Major League Baseball has a ton of issues. The games are too long, and it isn’t appealing to younger audiences. But until they decide to actually fix their continued problems with race relations, and cultural differences, things will continue to be the same.
But if MLB commissioner Rob Manfred wants to get the ball rolling, making sure that Schmidt and Remy get fired and stay off the airwaves would be a start.