When Buck Showalter spoke so eloquently two summers ago about the protests in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, one couldn’t help but admire the man and the organization he worked for.
“You hear people try to weigh in on things that they really don’t know anything about. … I’ve never been black, OK? So I don’t know, I can’t put myself there,” Showalter said after his team won 8-2 in an empty stadium, closed to the public for safety reasons. “I’ve never faced the challenges that they face, so I understand the emotion, but I can’t. … It’s a pet peeve of mine when somebody says, ‘Well, I know what they’re feeling. Why don’t they do this? Why doesn’t somebody do that?’ You have never been black, OK, so just slow down a little bit.”
If only we all could be so thoughtful and sensitive when it comes to matters of race. If only we all would be so careful with and conscious of the power of our words, and willing to embrace the humanity and dignity of people we don’t look like and whose experiences we shouldn’t ignore or pretend to understand. All of us, like, for example, say, Showalter’s boss Dan Duquette.
MLB.com: You expressed no interest in Jose Bautista this offseason, saying, “Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I’m not going to go tell our fans that we’re courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles because they’re not going to be happy.” How often do you consider something like fan reaction when considering potential acquisitions?
Duquette: (Laughs) Well that was an easy one; our fans just don’t like Jose. We play those guys 25 times a year and he’s the face of the Blue Jays. He’s the villain in the play whenever we play the Blue Jays. I like our guys. Our guys are good. [Mark] Trumbo is like a working-class-type baseball player. If he was going to work every day on a construction site, you would understand that he brings that kind of work ethic every day. That’s the kind of player that our fans identify with. We try to get gritty players that work hard every day and give their best effort every day. Our fans seem to like that and respond to it.
And you want to be my latex salesman?
This statement is truly remarkable. Bautista, by just about every account there is, is off the charts when it comes to his work ethic, his preparation, and his determination to defy the aging curve — all things Travis Sawchik tackled in an excellent piece on José back in January at FanGraphs. For fuck sakes, this is a guy who remade himself into an elite player at age 29, not some aloof creature coasting along on god-given talent. And holy shit, the “working-class-type” “construction site” guy he’s talking about is a multi-millionaire!
He’s also white. And Bautista isn’t. And while I appreciate that there are some people out there who can’t stand race issues being brought into everything, it’s hard to understand these comments through anything but the prism of coded racial language that is deeply ingrained in this game and in this culture. How else does it make sense that anyone could hold up a player as the virtuous alternative to Bautista — a base-running madman, a conditioning junkie, and a man so committed to perfecting his craft that he sometimes can’t help himself but show up an umpire — because he works hard and gives his best effort every day?
I’m sure that for fans of literally every team but the Blue Jays, there are sensible enough reasons not to like Bautista. That Duquette couldn’t come up with one of those and went here is pretty ridiculously not cool. And, like racism — intentional or not, coded or not — always, always is, it’s dumb as fuck.
Orioles fans should be livid at him for speaking on their behalf that way.
Hey, but at least a whole bunch of people do get it:
Ah yes Chris Davis and his nine-figure salary, so working class.— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) March 22, 2017
Shut up. https://t.co/mxytPSXesL
The two most popular Orioles players are Adam Jones and Manny Machado.— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) March 22, 2017
Welcome back to 'Fun With Coded Language'. On this week's episode... https://t.co/jpL9089J6I— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) March 22, 2017
Fuck the Orioles https://t.co/LJjuXZNX1X— Døug Fjord (@DrewGROF) March 22, 2017
"It stays whiter out a little later at our ballpark, and the fans respond to that. Wait, I've said too much."— Døug Fjord (@DrewGROF) March 22, 2017
Do you know how hard you need to work to act more small time than the Blue Jays? Duquette gets there with ease— Døug Fjord (@DrewGROF) March 22, 2017
All this shit about Bautista when the Yankees gave a boatload of money to Aroldis fucking Chapman this winter. I mean, for fuck sakes…