Thursday, April 15, 2010

Right Idea, Wrong Approach

I begged for the Twins to sign Orlando Hudson two offseasons ago. This past winter, when they actually did sign Hudson, I was ecstatic. I repeatedly called Hudson the team's biggest offseason acquisition and lauded his ability to upgrade this team at the second base position and at the second spot in the batting order.

Thus far, Hudson has been a disappointment to me. Not just because he's failed to produce much on the field and has fizzled out in several key spots already, but also because of some recent comments he made off the field. In an interview with Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Hudson implied that the main reason players like Jermaine Dye and Gary Sheffield have failed to find work this season is the color of their skin.

It's an outlandish accusation. Sheffield does indeed have a Hall of Fame caliber resume, but he's 41 with a reputation for pushing people the wrong way, and it doesn't take a tenured scout to see that his bat speed has dropped significantly in recent years. Dye, meanwhile, has turned down offers from multiple clubs this offseason. If he were willing to sign a deal that approximated the one Jim Thome got from the Twins, Dye would have been signed by December. (In fact, he probably could have gotten twice as much as Thome, as Dye reportedly turned down a $3 million offer because he didn't want to settle for a fourth outfielder role.) The reason clubs haven't signed black players like Dye and Sheffield -- not to mention white players like Jarrod Washburn and Joe Crede -- is because they don't want to be stuck overpaying aging players with diminishing skills when those players expect to be getting paid for production they're probably no longer capable of.

Of course, Hudson isn't the first guy with Minnesota ties to become vocal on this subject. Torii Hunter has lamented the dearth of African-American players in the game many times in the past, and made some waves earlier this spring when he told USA Today that dark-skinned Latin players are "impostors" who ostensibly give the false illusion that Major League Baseball's lack of black players is not a problem.

As Greg Doyel pointed out in his excellent article on the topic for CBS Sports today, the percentage of African-American players in the majors is nearly identical to the percentage of African-Americans in the overall U.S. population. Doyel also points -- as many others have -- to the expense of playing baseball as a reason that the sport isn't as popular as it could be among youngsters in the inner-city and urban communities. To his credit, Hunter has backed up his passionate words by putting a lot of his own money into helping create more opportunities for inner-city kids to get on the diamond; certainly that's a lot more helpful than making the type of bizarre accusational statements he -- and now Hudson -- have made.

Today, organizations and fans across baseball are celebrating the amazing accomplishments of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier some 60 years ago. It's certainly an appropriate time to discuss the racial issues which undeniably affect all aspects of society, including baseball. Yet, contrary to what my good friend Twins Geek says, comments like Hudson's and Hunter's don't help advance productive discussion. Claiming that major-league front offices across baseball have some sort of collective bias against American-born black players or that the dark-skinned Latin players who are helping increase the game's diversity are frauds only serves to rile folks up and perpetuate racial tensions.

I think that Hudson and Hunter, along with others who have come forth with similar sentiments, have their hearts in the right place. They look around them and see what they perceive as a small and ever-dwindling percentage of black players in the game, and they want to stem the tide. That's something I can absolutely get behind. But there are better and less contentious ways of addressing this important issue that won't cause the same type of defensiveness and divisiveness. Personally, I think that's what Jackie would have wanted. But maybe that's just me.

25 comments:

Ian said...

It seems you want Hudson to not speak on issues of race since it makes you uncomfortable. As Twins Geek said, race bias does exist. Besides the articles he mentioned, the Vikings not so long ago fired their GM (or assistant GM, I forget his title in that pyramid of dorks) for refering to a black player as "boy." I don't think Hudson did anything wrong when he points out these problems. I wish we had more information - are certain types of players given up on too soon in the minors? Are certain type of players, with diminished skills "good clubhouse guys" while others aren't? Do certain type of players "hustle" more than others.

Musk21 said...

Why is there no mention made of the NBA, where 71% of the players are African-American, while only 8-10% are Caucasian-American.

Nick N. said...

It doesn't make me uncomfortable, otherwise I wouldn't have written about it at all. Of course racial bias exists and I made sure to acknowledge in this article that that's an undeniably true fact. But Hudson's accusation is absurd and stirring the pot with that kind of crap is wholly counterproductive.

Anonymous said...

"But there are better and less contentious ways of addressing this important issue that won't cause the same type of defensiveness and divisiveness."

Like what?

On top of that you remark in your comments "But Hudson's accusation is absurd". So let me get this straight, you have definitive proof proving him absurd as you claim? How about "you find Hudson's accusation absurd", neither of you is right and neither is wrong. For you to say he is absurd makes you look like a closed minded bigot.

Nick N. said...

Like what?

I don't know, maybe bringing the issue up in a manner that doesn't involve accusing every major-league front office of being racist? What Torii Hunter is doing in urban communities is admirable; if he could do that without publicly belittling other races and ethnicities, I'd have a ton of a respect for his approach.

On top of that you remark in your comments "But Hudson's accusation is absurd". So let me get this straight, you have definitive proof proving him absurd as you claim? How about "you find Hudson's accusation absurd", neither of you is right and neither is wrong. For you to say he is absurd makes you look like a closed minded bigot.

I don't know how anyone in their right mind can find it plausible that front offices across the league are conspiring against black players just because Jermaine Dye didn't get offered as much money as he wanted. Racial biases surely exist in baseball, but to claim that it's the main reason Dye and Sheffield have not been signed is flat-out ridiculous. It's a totally unsupportable position. I don't need "definitive proof" to take that stance.

Kevin said...

I agree with you for the most part here, but I think Hunter's statements got taken out of context. What I think he was trying to say is that the MLB spends too much time and money outsourcing players from all over Latin America when there is just as talented black youth in America. Essentially, he's advocating for more African American children and teens to get involved with baseball, and for Major League Baseball to play a bigger part in making this happen. Hunter also completely backs these comments with how much effort he puts into developing baseball in urban areas.

Anonymous said...

Hudson seems to have no problem working for racists. I guess he's just a real understanding guy, putting on the Twins uniform every game even though they underpay him because he's black and signed Thome instead of Dye for the same reason. But maybe the Twins get bonus points for having fewer impostors than some clubs.

Nate said...

Um, this just isn't one of your better thought out posts. You create an absurd caricature of the actual argument, then claim your caricature is absurd. Well done.

Do you think this is what Hudson actually said: "major-league front offices across baseball have some sort of collective bias against American-born black players" or that "front offices across the league are conspiring against black players"?

If yes, you have a reading comprehension problem. If no, then congratulations on tearing down that strawman you worked so hard to build up.

Nick N. said...

I agree with you for the most part here, but I think Hunter's statements got taken out of context

In fairness, Hunter did come out and apologize later, explaining that he didn't mean it that way it sounded. But he still said it in the first place.

Nate -- what's the difference? Really? Hudson's argument doesn't need to be caricatured, it's ridiculous enough on its own. If he thinks that the reason Dye didn't get signed by a single team this offseason is because he's black, the implication is that there is a systematic bias against American-born black players across all front offices in the league.

Yawn Gardenhose said...

Nate, Hudson basically said Dye doesn't have a job cause he's black. No, Dye doesn't have a job because he turned down offers. Is that the "fact" you're looking for?

If JJ Hardy, for example, came out and said, Joe Crede and Jerrod Washburns don't have jobs because they're white, would that be a reasonable statement to you?

How about, the NBA is racist because there's way less white players now than there used to be?

Or, there aren't enough white running backs in the NFL?

It's so simple to just play the race card on these issues instead of diving into more complex societal issues. Such as, say, the lack of inner city playing fields, teams, funding for equipment, etc. But that would require some deep thinking and creative solutions, which is something Hudson and others unwilling to undertake. Too much work, you see. At least Hunter is trying to rectify the problem, some of his comments notwithstanding.

Nate said...

Nick,

It's interesting that you don't quote a single word that Hudson actually said. And you also don't link to the actual interview where an interested reader could find Hudson's words, instead or your warped interpretation of them.

Maybe that was an inadvertent mistake; maybe your first link was supposed to go the interview. But if not, it's almost like you're afraid to confront the actual argument. You seem much more comfortable with your absurd caricature.

And just to show how demented your caricature is: Do you think it's possible that perhaps, just maybe, a certain number of front offices had legit reasons for not signing Dye and Sheffield, but others chose not to sign him for reasons related to race? Because if you think that's possible, then you have to admit that this is a horribly ill-informed thing to say: "If he thinks that the reason Dye didn't get signed by a single team this offseason is because he's black, the implication is that there is a *systematic bias* against American-born black players across *all* front offices in the league." [emphasis added]

I have no idea if Hudson is right or not, but it's clear you're not really adding to the discussion by mischaracterizing his argument.

Yawn Gardenhose said...

Nate,

Here's what Hudson said:

"You see guys like Jermaine Dye without a job. Guy with [27 home runs and 81 RBIs] and can’t get a job. Pretty much sums it up right there, no? You’ve got some guys who miss a year who can come back and get $5, $6 million, and a guy like Jermaine Dye can’t get a job. A guy like Gary Sheffield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can’t get a job. We both know what it is. You’ll get it right. You’ll figure it out. I’m not gonna say it because then I’ll be in [trouble]. Call it what you want to. I ain’t fit to say it. After I retire I’ll say it. I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to say after I retire. There are some things that go on in the game that shouldn’t be going on. But it’s part of baseball. It’s part of life. Deal with it.”

So he didn't have the courage to actually say what he meant. Please, though, characterize his comments for us.

CA said...

Re: Hunter's comments, I tend to agree with Kevin above. I think Hunter was trying to make a valid point about a relative lack of baseball opportunities for black American kids that isn't very obvious when one examines the racial composition of MLB, because there are several black players from countries other than the U.S.

The problem is (as Twins fans certainly know), Hunter's not exactly an articulate speaker with a diplomatic bent, so what he said sounded a lot worse than what he intended. Not to completely excuse him--his word choice was insensitive, clumsy, and inflammatory--but it's probably not unexpected. There are lots of players who don't exactly have a fantastic educational background, and plenty would no doubt have trouble expressing their opinions on complex social issues eloquently.

Hudson's comments, however, are just ridiculous.

Nick N. said...

Nate, the first link the post was indeed supposed to lead to the original Passan article, apologies for mixing that up. That said, it's really not that difficult for anyone to track down the article with a quick Google search. Thanks for producing the quote, Yawn.

You can take what you want from Hudson's actual words, but I don't think I'm irresponsibly mischaracterizing them at all. Hudson was vague in his statement, and that's entirely the problem. His tone was clearly accusatory and I don't see how anyone could view his remarks as productive. Why even say that kind of crap? If he thinks there's a legitimate issue at hand (and maybe there is), making these kinds of vague yet heavy accusations is a terrible way to advance the discussion.

My problem isn't with what Hunter and Hudson think. They're certainly more closely exposed to racial issues in baseball than I am. My problem is with the way they choose to address it. Calling an entire nationality of players "impostors" and making not-so-subtle accusations that MLB front offices across the league are racist toward black players does more harm than good.

Yawn Gardenhose said...

Nick,

I think I'd respect Hudson's comments a little more if he'd actually said what he meant rather than dance around it. I'd still find the comments absurd, but for him to open up this can of worms and then say "but I aint fit to say it," that's a little too convenient to me.

Erica said...

From all accounts, Hudson is a talker. If you just blurt out a random thought without consideration, you can end up causing all kinds of trouble, and that's what happened here. It's really too bad, since it kind of soured some of the fanbase (and Hudson isn't really producing at the plate right now, which doesn't help).

Hopefully, he (a) wasn't talking about the Twins specifically, (b) decides to either clarify his remarks intelligently or move on, and (c) starts hitting enough to get Twins fans on his side.

Nick N. said...

Hopefully, he (a) wasn't talking about the Twins specifically, (b) decides to either clarify his remarks intelligently or move on, and (c) starts hitting enough to get Twins fans on his side.

I agree. I really want to like Hudson and I'm not going to hold this against him too much. I think mostly he's just sour because he's had a tough go on the free agent market the past two offseasons.

Anonymous said...

I understand disagreeing with what he said, but I don't understand getting bent out of shape for him providing his opinion when asked.

Agree or not, he's entitled to his point of view on a subject on which he has plenty of perspective.

Maxwell Gene said...

what the guy has to say off the field is secondary. i'll cut him some slack when he finally gets a bunt down.

Pulverized Concepts said...

"Today, organizations and fans across baseball are celebrating the amazing accomplishments of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier some 60 years ago. It's certainly an appropriate time to discuss the racial issues which undeniably affect all aspects of society, including baseball."
_______________________

This concept is silly. Jackie Robinson, great athlete that he was, didn't break baseball's color barrier, Branch Rickey did. Robinson didn't kick in the door of the Dodger clubhouse and grab a uniform and then write his name on the line-up card. Branch Rickey put his own career on the line and selected the black player that he thought had what it took to succeed as a Dodger. He evidently made the right decision. But now nobody remembers it.

Anonymous said...

Some of these black athletes have such a skewed concept of what is fair, it's hard to even comment. Statistically they are appropriately represented. There representation is highly skewed in basketball but I don't think they have the capacity to comprehend this. And the fact they are so worried about promoting sports where there are very, very few positions available drives me nuts. Instead they should concentrate on promoting computer programming, server support, etc where there are millions of well paying jobs available and could actually help the black community on a larger scale rather than being mad that they don't have 50% of the baseball jobs.

Nick N. said...

Branch Rickey put his own career on the line and selected the black player that he thought had what it took to succeed as a Dodger. He evidently made the right decision. But now nobody remembers it.

You make a good point. Rickey deserves more credit. But to downplay Robinson's bravery in actually being the guy who took the field and the magnitude of what he symbolized is wrong, I think.

Anonymous said...

Well, why don't we have more whites in the NBA? Should we complaint about that glaring issue? It is about talent, NOT race.

Anonymous said...

I just think it is funny how black professional players complain about race in sports. Please, help me find a time when someone white complained about the only time you can find a white guy on a basketball court is either a) with a zebra shirt on b) with a suit on or c) 7 feet tall.... I think its bogus when every black PROFESSIONAL doesn't get what they want they throw the race card, nice way to be professional... Maybe next time think of a better excuse or find something else to complain about.

Anonymous said...

酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,
酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,
酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,