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Matters of race are never easy to discuss or write about. In today’s media landscape, where short blurbs and slideshows dominate content, the difficulty of writing about complicated things like race is especially hard.
In baseball, the number of African-Americans is dwindling and players from Latin American countries are on the rise. Add in ownership, media that covers the sport and a fanbase that remains predominately white, there is always potential for disconnects about race.
I’ve written about race before, trying to understand how during the 2011 offseason how there wasn’t a single African-American interviewed for any of the then-five managerial openings in baseball.
I wonder if Jackie Robinson — who was in the last days of his life during the 1972 World Series when he chided MLB for not yet having hired an African-American manager — would prefer everyone wearing “42″ on Jackie Robinson Day, or MLB making sure its teams were adhering to policies the sitting commish put on the books himself?
For weeks I have been asking current African-American coaches about this non-existent market for their services. Each one has declined to be interviewed, even off the record, for fear of potential blowback. The baseball beat writers I have contacted have each given a collective shrug at the question. One went even farther than that:
“Not sure I understand your point. should teams put on a show?’
I’m not telling anyone who to hire, but unless teams expand the talent pool and include African-Americans in their respective managerial searches, how can a qualified candidate get the exposure he needs to get to the next level?
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is very high on his third base coach Bo Porter, but he hasn’t gotten a single call this offseason. Porter is a fantastic instructor and could be an asset to any club. Yet he sits and waits.
To the credit of the Houston Astros this offseason, they not only granted Bo Porter an interview, they were so impressed with his presentation, he got the job.
But let’s be clear; I’m not happy that Bo Porter got a job because he was black, I’m happy that an organization that is looking to change everything about how it has done business in the past has also embraced the responsibility of making sure it has crossed all of its T’s and dotted all of it’s i’s.
Ultimately, I am pleased because I think Bo Porter is going to be fantastic manager.
I took my share of heat for writing the article, folks accusing me of playing “a race card” and such. But facts supported my argument. I also made sure that I spoke to several people in baseball about the issue; a former GM, a broadcaster, several coaches, and a few players. For me, having multiple sources on board creates as close to a fail-safe position as any journalist can have, especially when discussing and asking such issue such as race.
It’s not as apparent, especially recently, that every writer takes those same measures, and the end result is accusations about agenda, faux controversy and tabloid directives.
Recently, both Andy Martino, former Mets beat writer now baseball columnist for the New York Daily News and Adam Rubin, the beat writer for ESPNNY reported an incident that recently occurred between Mets minor league proapects Zach Wheeler and Aderlin Rodriguez.
Zack Wheeler, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, was reprimanded last weekend along with teammate Aderlin Rodriguez for an on-field incident that led to ethnic tensions in the Mets’ minor league clubhouse, according to organizational sources.
In a recent intrasquad game, Wheeler drilled third base prospect Aderlin Rodriguez in the hand with a pitch, and Rodriguez feared his hand was broken. Sources said Rodriguez subsequently told Wheeler that if he missed Opening Day, Wheeler would too. (Not a good career move to allegedly threaten the top prospect in the organization, by the way.)
Rodriguez had pimped a home run off Wheeler during a previous intrasquad matchup. Some in the organization were glad Wheeler displayed a mean streak in retaliating with the suspected purpose pitch, although not thrilled about having an in-house plunking. (It’s still not officially established Wheeler hit Rodriguez on purpose. Wheeler has denied it.)
It turned out Rodriguez’s hand was not broken, and he actually homered again in a regular minor league game days later.
Rubin, who has covered the team far longer, is the only reporter who covers the team as an organization (often traveling on his off days to check in on the Mets’ top prospects during the course of the season) is no stranger to reporting controversial Mets issues. Yet, there’s no mention of any “ethnic tensions” in his article.
Where did the ethnic tension come from? Because Martino quoted a source saying that “The American guys and the Latino guys were yelling at each other”? Were there any punches thrown? Nope. Were there any racial epithets or slurs used in the argument? Apparently not because Martino didn’t report it. So why the “ethnic tensions” in the headline, in the subhead and in the body of the story? Because Wheeler is American and Rodriguez is Dominican?
Both Rubin and Martino say Rodriguez was “pimping” after he hit his home run. Using Martino’s logic, can’t I now accuse these writers of racial bias? Do Latino players ‘pimp’ and white players just “hot-dog” or “show-up” the pitcher? Sounds silly? Yes, because it is, and so is Martino’s “story”. If you have a racial slur being used, the you have a story. If not, you have zilch.
But then again, race and rabid speculation is a Martino staple.
There were a few players turned off by how the Dominican Republic team was celebrating during the WBC Martino asked David Wright about whether his old teamate Jose Reyes and his DR teammates were acting. Shockingly Wright had no problem with it. But some others did, and that, according to martino is clearly racist:
Guys like Willie Bloomquist instead decided to furrow their brows.
“I’m not saying what they’re doing is wrong,” the infielder said of the DR theatrics, according to Anthony McCarron. “They’re playing with emotion and that’s fine.
“How you show your emotions, I think, is another thing. It’s just a matter of your view on the game of baseball and what your view is on respecting opponents and the uniform.”
Oh stop. No, seriously, please lighten up. If Captain America does not think that the Dominicans “disrespected the game (and what a loaded and dreadful term that is)”, everyone else needs to chill, yes? And did Wright find all the dancing disrespectful?
“No,” he said, with an answer quick and firm. “It’s energy. It’s intensity. And different teams show it different ways. That’s what made the atmosphere so great — you had the contrast in styles. It really was awesome.”
And you know what would be even more awesome for Wright, the Mets, and fans of outer-borough baseball? A little more flair on the field and in the stands, like it was in the old Los Mets days.
Granted, his accusations were subtle in that doozy of “a story”, but Martino has q fep as a writer who inserts race in his work.
The headline is all you need for this doozy:
Mets fans have lost patience with second baseman Luis Castillo, and it is hard to ignore race factor
Mets fans have lost patience with second baseman Luis Castillo, and it is hard to ignore race factor
Luis Castillo got booed because he was not a very good baseball player. Yes, he played hurt, and yes, he hit hit .300 in 2009. But yes, he was a terrible signing. And given that his contract was immovable, many fans looked at Castillo ( and lefty Olkver Perez) as one of the reasons it was hard for Mets to improve during terrible seasons in 2009-11. But race? Aside from the fact that Martino doesn’t give any reason for his charges in the story — outside of his own speculation and that of a “friend” — it’s just another example of a writer pushing his own agenda.
I’ll go even further to point out some realities for Martino, who regularly provs he has as much of handle on Mets history as the team’s ownership group.
Pedro Martinez, Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Jose Reyes, Cleon Jones, Tommy Agee, Ed Charles, Felix Milan, Edgardo Alfonzo, Al Jackson, Rafael Santana and Hubie Brooks number among some of the Mets fans’ favorite players over the 51-year history of the team. To accuse the fan base of racism because they didn’t cheer for Luis Castillo is appalling. Almost as appalling as Martino including the “Mets fans are racist” theme in the later chapters of “The Mets” the hardcover retrospective that the Daily News put out last season.
Yes, Andy, racism is a part of our society, baseball, the Mets and in the stands. But one of these days, it’d be nice of you could actually prove it when you choose to “report” it.
When I was a young boy growing up on E.39th Street in Flatbush, most of my days were spent on wondering if the Mets dealing Tom Seaver to the Reds was somehow my fault. Perhaps if I had spoken directly to M Donald Grant, I could have told him that Doug Flynn would never hit a lick, Steve Henderson was simply not good enough, Dan Norman a suspect, not a prospect and that Pat Zachry was made of paper mache.
Why the passion? Blame my dad. After his first two sons showed little interest in sports, let’s just say that when I started to mime swinging a bat at two years old, he knew he’d have someone to watch a game with. Not that he loves me any more than he does my brothers or sister (he doesn’t; he’s a great dad to all of us), he just knows that when he wants to know who the Mets are planning on using as their left-handed specialist, he knows who to call. Otherwise, I’m just one of his four kids. That’s fine with me.
Maybe one of the reasons that my father is such a good one is because he grew up with nothing at all.
Ron Healey spent most of his childhood at St. Vincent’s Home for Boys. My siblings and I don’t know much about those days for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that he likely doesn’t remember them too fondly.
Most of what I know about his times there are the good things; playing ball with his buddies like Hank, Sep and Sarge, and getting to – on the weekends – go to their houses from time to time for a taste of a real home. I’ve often wondered what that must have been like, having to go back to the darkness after a glimpse of the light. But to his credit, and my everlasting gratitude, he never complained about it, never was consumed with bitterness about it, and sure as hell never took it out on any of us. He was adamant that his kids would have everything he didn’t.
For him, not being far from the shadows of Ebbets Field was an escape from loneliness. Cheering for his Brooks was probably the greatest joy he experienced during those dark days. It was during those rare afternoons of getting to go to a game that more than likely turned mere fandom into baseball fever.
He handed down that wonderful gift to me, the love of the Great Pastime, and it’s the main reason you’re reading these words right now.
Whether it was his story of running into a young, athletic “guy who looked like a ballplayer (Willie Mays) so we ran after him and got his autograph” or his taking me and my buddies (when he really couldn’t afford to do) in the 1974 Dodge Dart (Special Edition) to see the dreadful post-Seaver Mets of the late 70′s, I was hooked and hooked early.
My dad’s a Mets fan these days (and has been since the Dodgers left Brooklyn), and he still won’t read (or says he doesn’t) read anything I write about the Yankees. “I hate the Yankees,” he says, quite matter-of-factly, as if it were a natural state. ”I want them to lose every game they play.”
It’s quite possible he might not read this, but I suspect that even if this piece was about the Bombers, he’d sneak a peak to see what his “Markito” has written.
We still talk as much baseball as we ever did. He probably watches as many (if not more) games than I do, and given the fact that he’s a dead-ringer for Terry Collins, the Mets manager, I think he roots for the Mets just a little bit harder lately.
I don’t love my dad because we share a love for baseball. I love my dad because he went from being an orphan with nothing, to loving and supporting a family all of his life. He was a rough and tumble street kid that was never ashamed to hug his kids. Despite having a really good city job, still went to night school to get his degree from Brooklyn College, because he wanted to instill in his children the value of a college education.
I could go on and on. But all I really want to say is, Happy 75th birthday, Pop. You’re the best.
And thank you.
I am always doing things I can’t do — that’s how I get to do them. ~ Pablo Picasso
Before you roll your eyes at the headline, just give me a few minutes of your time to explain.
I am the host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball”, which airs each Saturday at 10am-1PM ET on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio channel (Sirius 210 / XM 87). And I think is the best show you haven’t listened to yet. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be doing it. If you know me, then you know this isn’t simple egoism. If you don’t, all I ask is your consideration.
I hear and read and of complaining about sports radio these days, and frankly, almost every time I do, I say, “Well, have you heard my show?” Almost nine time out of 10, I get the same reply, “Well, i’m really not into Fantasy Baseball.”
I’ve been doing the show from the SiriusXM studios in New York City for three years now, and with each new co-host and each new baseball season, I remain convinced that our product is as good — or better — than any all-baseball programming that’s out there.
If self-confidence doesn’t sway you, or the simple love of the American Pastime isn’t going to get you to listen, let me appeal to your sense of helping out a guy who’s worked his butt off trying to make it as an independent publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster since leaving Associated Press in 2006.
I’m a big believer in the marketplace determining the success of anyone in media, but I don’t have the deep pockets of a corporate entity to hire a PR firm to promote myself or my show. So I’m hoping you folks, once you listen, will help promote the show for me.
If you’re a SiriusXM subscriber already, all I ask is that you give the show a shot.
If you’re not a current SiriusXM subscriber, please visit the Going 9 Baseball home page. If you click the “SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio” banner on the top, it will send you to the “Subscribe” page of SiriusXM. By using that banner, Going 9 will get the credit for a new subscriber, which gets the host and his show more exposure. It would be much appreciated.
I know it’s been a challenging time for a lot of people. many of us who are unemployed or underemployed and simply can’t afford another monthly bill. If that’s the case, try to sneak a listen on a friend or family member’s SiriusXM radio or mobile app. I would greatly appreciate it.
In the meantime, you can visit our website, our Facebook page or follow me on Twitter at @MHealeySports.com to keep updated. I also hope you’ll take the opportunity to give us your feedback on the show on the Facebook page as well.
Thanks so much. I really think you’ll enjoy the show.
PROGRAMMING NOTE – This week, Going 9 Fantasy Baseball will air on Sat Feb, 23 from 11am-2pm ET. Also there will be an additional show on Sunday Feb. 24 from 4pm-7pm ET.
“Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” which is about to open it’s third season on SiruisXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87) is looking for a Co-Host!
If you think you have what it takes to help our awesome audience how to draft, develop and WIN their Fantasy Baseball leagues, this is an excellent opportunity to do so with the country’s biggest stage for Fantasy Sports; SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio!
Interested candidates should send a resume, writing samples and a head shot immediately to email@example.com.
Appropriate to share today, which would have been Jackie Robinson’s 95th birthday, a archived podcast on which I talk about the roles that Negro League Legend Buck O’ Neil — including excerpts from my one-on-one interview with him just a few months before he passed away — and “Black Aces” author Jim “Mudcat” Grant played in the African-American journey to Major League Baseball.
For much of the last few years, Mets fans have been asking for someone to stand up in the New York Mets’ clubhouse, take charge, and lead the team. Now that he’s been designated as the “Face of the Franchise”, some would say that David Wright is that guy, and has always been destined to be that guy. He plays hard, plays hurt, and is accountable. But in the past David has not shown — to the public at least — that he’s willing to demand the same accountibility of his teammates. Mike Piazza was much the same way, letting his talents and supreme effort do his talking for him. While it isn’t fair to criticize either player for this approach, I think it is fair to wonder whether a vocal, emotional player can make a difference on a team that lacks a true veteran presence.
Compounding that lack of a “holler guy” is a front office that doesn’t seem to value those qualities in players and a manager who as reluctant as Wright o hold the players publicly accountable. That’s probably how the Mets themselves like things, nice, easy, loose, etc. And there are fans who like that as well, preferring the positive outlook and “small-town” approach.
But there’s also another portion of the Mets fan base that feels differently. Those who miss the emphatic curtain calls, the chip on their shoulder Mets who didn’t care if the rest of the league hated their guts. And as much as they like their new state of the art ballpark, there are those who miss the days of a noisy, rocking crowd that made visiting teams loathe playing in Flushing.
The Mets are young, and if David Wright is going to continue to be a quiet man, a leader is needed, and has been for some time.
Some might argue that Carlos Delgado was that leader, but others would say he was a failed and divisive one. Impact bat? Hell yes. But a leader? Leaders don’t manipulate the clubhouse, play politics behind the manager’s back, or encourage other players to do the same.
One very amiable sportswriter who covered the 2005-2008 Mets told me recently that he was very shocked at Delgado’s , “Based on what I heard about Carlos Delgado, I thought I was going to love the guy. He was progressive (referring to Delgado’s activism), was interested in politics and had the reputation of being a real stand-up guy. The reality? He was easily the biggest (bleeping) asshole I’ve ever met in baseball.”
Many would say, and I would agree with them, that one of the biggest differences between the 2007 Mets that blew one of the biggest divion leads in history anf the 2006 Mets team that dominated the NL East until falling to the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS was the absence of Cliff Floyd. Though no longer a full-time player, he was a valuable bench player for the Chicago Cubs in 2007. And in 2008, a lot of folks cited his leadership skills as of of several factors in the Rays getting to the World Series.
I interviewed Cliff Floyd more than a few times during his career, and the following is an excerpt from a article I posted on the old Gotham Baseball on February 26, 2006 (thanks to WayBackMachine.com for the link)
“This is New York, man. If you try to figure it out (alone), you will get in trouble.” – Cliff Floyd
In the past few days, the word out of spring training at Port St. Lucie is that Mets’ outfielder Cliff Floyd has had a very positive influence on David Wright’s young career, serving as a mentor of sorts to the third baseman. I chuckled quietly to myself when I heard someone say “so he makes [Wright] carry his bags, and that’s serving as his mentor? [Bleep].”
Fact of the matter is, it’s not the first time Floyd has played mentor it in his career, definitely not the first time he’s done it as a Met, and not even the first time he’s done it for the left side of the infield.
It was only a year ago around this time when the questions surrounding Jose Reyes were about his ability to stay on the field, not his on-base percentage. Injuries had taken most of his first two years with the Mets, and Reyes fielded questions all last spring about his hamstrings, not his walk total.
Floyd wasn’t worried about his young teammate.
“As long as he’s in the lineup,” added left-fielder Floyd said, “good things will happen.”
Though the team’s veteran players had all been effusive in their praise for Reyes, it was Floyd who really understood what Reyes was going through.
In 1993, while in the Expos’ system, Floyd was picked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball. The ranking got him the cover of the publication, and created a high level of expectation for the young first baseman. Tagged with star potential from the day he joined the Montreal organization, Floyd’s early career was stalled by a seemingly endless series of physical challenges, not only hampering his output, but threatening the career of the kid with the “Can’t Miss” label.
A wrist injury in 1995 that left him with six of the hand’s eight bones either broken or dislocated, nearly ended what was a potentially star-filled career after a collision at first base with then-Met Todd Hundley. Floyd said the injury may have caused doubts in others, but it allowed him to attack his rehab in a ferocious manner.
“I learned a lot about myself then,” Floyd said. “[Reyes] just needs to separate himself from the perception, and concentrate on his game. This is New York, man. If you try to figure it out [alone], you will get in trouble.”
Exactly 10 years later, the 2003 Top 25 prospect rankings by BA Listed Reyes as the No. 3 top minor league prospect, a fact not lost on the now-veteran Mets outfielder.
“It can be difficult [to have all of that expectation],” said Floyd. “He’s got a lot of talent, but you have to learn how to know your limits. We need him to be in the lineup every day.”"I think he’s handled everything really well, the way he’s battled back [after all the setbacks].”
For Reyes, having an accomplished All-Star caliber player like Floyd encourage him and assist him in his transition back into the Mets clubhouse was priceless.
“He has been so great.” said a beaming Reyes. “He’s been talking to me so much about how to take care of myself properly and how to keep the energy in my legs.”
“He says to take it day by day, and when I feel better, everything will be OK.”
(Editor’s Note – In 2006, Reyes had arguable the best season of his career; .300 AVG, 19 HRs, 81 RBIs, 64 SBs, .841 OPS)
Every time I hear or read about a former MLB player passing away, I feel as though I’ve lost a family member. I don’t know what it is but inside, I’m at a loss. I become reflective about the person, their accomplishments as well as the interactions I may have had with them. If for whatever reason our paths hadn’t crossed, I cycle through the memories I do have based on the things I’ve seen, read and/or experienced.