Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Some Thoughts On the Pillar Incident

The Kevin Pillar incident obviously needs addressing here, and I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not sure I’m in the right frame of mind to do right now that without somehow fucking it up *makes drinky-drinky motion*. But I also don’t want to be silent about it, because I think that would be a form of complicity. We can’t pretend that it’s not what it is: not only an offensive statement seemingly made by a Blue Jays player in uniform, but also the most talked-about Jays story of the moment, and one that demands both attention and some genuine thoughtfulness.

After Wendesday night’s game in Atlanta, Pillar was contrite about an incident in which he “exchanged words” with opposing pitcher Jason Motte. One of the words he exchanged was believed by many watching on TV to have been a homophobic slur, and the fact that Pillar made an apologetic statement to reporters following the game, and made clear he intends to apologize to Motte, appears to tacitly acknowledge that. I can’t say with total certainty if that’s the case, or what was said, but players exchange words on the field regularly without feeling the need to say things like this afterwards:

It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for. It’s part of the game, it’s just, I’m a competitive guy and the heat of the moment. Obviously I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to reach out and apologize and let him know he didn’t do anything wrong, it was all me. Obviously something to learn from, something to move on from. Don’t let it define me but really I think it was just frustration from coming off a really good home stand and really just not even being in any of these ballgames.

The fact that he didn’t outright deny it almost certainly makes this an acknowledgement, but still… I don’t want say he said it and not be right. I also don’t want to seem like I’m trying to suggest he didn’t — nor do I want to make this post about going over the video like it’s the goddamn Zapruder film. It seems to me like he did say it, though I’ll acknowledge that knowing what was supposedly said probably makes it easier to see that word when you’re trying to read someone’s lips.

In other words: I have no expertise here, and I’m really trying not to be irresponsible in either direction.

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Yet if the suggested slur was said, and if Pillar’s words after the game were meant to diffuse or address it, we have a bit of a problem. The things Pillar offered contrition for aren’t what was actually hurtful about what was said. In fact, what he did with those comments displayed a genuine failure to really comprehend the issue at all, which actually makes the whole thing worse.

This is all a bit tricky to write about, of course. Again, I’d hate it if all of what’s being whispered tonight is news to Pillar, who thought he was simply apologizing for an uncharacteristic outburst that caused the benches to clear (though if that turns out to be what he claims, I’m certainly not saying I’ll buy it — in fact, I’d probably call it a load of intelligence-insulting horseshit). But if Pillar said what seems to have been said, Motte isn’t who needs to be apologized to, dismissing it as “part of the game” is wholly unacceptable, and worrying about whether having said it defines Kevin Pillar is a long way from the issue anyone here should be most concerned about.

Assuming it was an acknowledgement, I suppose it’s nice that Kevin knew he did something wrong and had the good sense to understand he ought to do right by it — or at least had the good sense to listen to someone who told him as much. But with shit like this it’s really not enough to simply acknowledge that you know your behaviour is wrong. And by addressing it as vaguely as possible, Pillar didn’t really even manage to do that.

A dog can be taught to understand when its behaviour is wrong. For us humans it’s vital we understand the why, and there’s not a whole lot of that going on in Pillar’s statement.

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Granted, coming to that kind of understanding isn’t necessarily the simplest place for a person to get. I’m sure we all know this, but when it comes to the way we talk and act, especially outside of polite circles, it’s sometimes is easier to just go with the flow. And in a lot of situations — especially, in my experience, among young dudes ignorant of and not particularly curious about how anybody else experiences the world, or even somewhat aware and yet still not self-assured enough to call their friends out for being assholes — the casual use of this kind of language can pretty easily become where that ends up.

That’s a thing we need to confront, and hopefully are confronting, but for now it’s still very much a part of a whole lot of our culture. And it’s precisely because it’s so easy for so many to go with the flow that my instinct is, on one hand, to have a bit of sympathy for someone like Pillar, who — despite really fucking needing to know better — has maybe never had to reckon with this stuff in his own mind very much, and certainly not quite so publicly.

The instinct on the other hand is to be vigilant about calling this bullshit out for what it is.

It is not difficult to not say demeaning, hurtful things about people who have to endure real life repercussions from those attitudes. Obviously. And anyone rushing now to moan about PC culture or “guys being guys” is simply too lazy or too dumb or too much of a coward to confront his or her (or, let’s be honest, his) own ability to empathize. Full stop, end of story.

That all said, I also understand that, on the other side, watching people like me end up talking about “teaching moments” or perhaps giving too much benefit of the doubt when these sorts of incidents happen must get incredibly frustrating as well. When will enough “teaching moments” be enough? I don’t want to be the person nudging the conversation in that direction, either. So… I can’t pretend to know that I have the right answers or things to say here. Have him apologize to the fans and the community he denigrated? Fine or suspend him? Sounds like a damn good start to me, because obviously baseball and the Blue Jays shouldn’t allow this kind of thing to be tolerated. Mostly, though, I felt I had to at least say something about it, even though, when you get down to it, the whole thing about this stuff is that we really need to be better at not actually saying anything at all and just fucking listening to each other.

This was something I thought was worth listening to:

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  • Knuckle Balls

    Under the heat of the moment and frustration a sews, anger does lash out and things are said, these things are learnings, but they should not define you . 30 years ago such statements were common place and ignored to a large extent, today you are walking a fine line on egg shells. So one has to aware of behavior and what is said and how. It is unfortunate incident on Pillar who is a fan favorite and have a good season. It reminds me of Alomar and the spitting incident and comments he made to the umpire.

      • Tuloshyperbaricchamber

        I understand what you’re saying and there are moments when people are taking politically correct too far; however, when you use derogatory words for an entire segment of the population as a specific way to insult another human being then the “PC Police” and decent humans in general need to tell him why his words were wrong so that bullshit like that stops, especially for all the young fans of the game grow up with a deeper understanding of why that stuff is unacceptable.

  • Oz Rob

    So what is really the difference between this incident and Josh Donaldson caught on tv yelling ‘Suck my c**k’ to the Angels pitching coach a few years ago? We all had a chuckle…I don’t remember an outcry.

    • The Humungus

      Because there’s a difference between telling someone to suck your cock and accusing them of sucking cock in a derogatory/inflammatory and downright offensive manner.

      It’s really not a huge difference, to be honest. Really just splitting hairs. But, there is a difference.

      It’s like the difference between accusing a black person of being “ghetto” and calling them the n-word. Neither are right. One is less right. But the difference is really splitting hairs.

  • The Humungus

    So, here’s an interesting thought I heard that opened my mind to something way deeper.

    If this was Mike Ohlman instead of Kevin Pillar, he gets released, right?

    Does Pillar get a less harsh punishment because he’s “good at baseball”? Probably. Look what happened to Steve Clevinger, he’s been blackballed because he was, at best, a fringe major leaguer. Pillar is playing like an All-Star at the moment, so he’ll likely get suspended and fined, but there’s no way they release him for it. And even if they do, someone definitely gives him a second chance.

    Is it wrong that he gets off “light” because of his relative skill level?

    • if you’re a fringe MLB player, then chances are, you’ll be getting release/waived/demoted whatever regardless of your behaviour. not to say that a double-standard doesn’t exist, but the punishments have to fit the crime, and you’re being a bit over-the-top here.

      • The Humungus

        Hardly. My point remains the same.

        If it’s Ohlman, they issue an apology, release him and bring up Salty. I’m pretty sure of that. It’s an all-star level player (at the moment), though, and I’m sure it’s a team fine and they sit him tonight pending MLB investigation.

        Which gives us a Bautista-Carrera-Cecilliani outfield in a major league game in 2017. Which goes to my point about how the punishment may not fit the crime (I don’t think anyone should be released for this), but there would be a double-standard of punishment applied if it wasn’t a “good” player.

        • Knuckle Balls

          So what did Alomar get for his spitting and comments he made to the UMP about his family? To me that was damaging and a personnel attack. For PILLAR MLB could make an example out him based on the racial comments flying recently from Boston Games and so forth. But I only maybe seeing him fined XXXX dollars and suspended XXXX games. However, if he keeps playing at this elite level I would not be surprised he probably will not be voted into the ALL STAR game or chosen by the manager or win gold glove or anything.

          • The Humungus

            So, he’s not being made an example of if he gets fined and suspended?

            That Alomar incident was 21 years ago now. Times have changed, tolerance levels have decreased. He probably won’t be an all-star, unless Francona makes him a managers pick.

            A suspension is good. A fine is good. Public shaming is good. Make him take sensitivity training. Have him meet with community leaders. Toronto has the biggest Pride festival in the world, I’m sure they’d love to have Pillar been taught a lesson on humility and hurtful language.

      • Stolen Prayers

        Teams/league/fans are far more likely to forgive the (actual) indiscretions of Chapman, Miggy or Reyes than (the hypothetical ones of) Goins, Leonys Martin or some backup catcher somewhere. Is it right? No. Is it going to change? Also no.

    • CdnBacon

      Fringe MLB player or superstar, I think the wrong answer is to simply release the player. It’s obviously wrong in every sense of the word, and I’m in no way downplaying using that word, but this should also be a teaching moment for fans.

      Whether we like it or not, these players – and especially a guy with the flare for the game like Pillar – are role models to young fans. These fans seeing their favourite players using language like this is wrong, but I think the other end of this is to allow fans to understand that these guys are still human and they make mistakes.
      To me, what’s best for the MLB and the Jays to do is to have Pillar own up to his mistake. Apologize for it, deal with the repercussions (suspension, fine, sensitivity training, what have you), and hopefully be better for it.

      This is more complicated than how Pillar described it – “learn from it and not let it define him”. It very well may define him for a number of years, but for me, the best thing for everyone involved is to make sure he’s defined by how he handles it like an adult who made a mistake, and not just by someone who used a hateful word.

    • El Cabeza

      I don’t think that’s an injustice. Players more valuable to the team will be given longer ‘behaviour leashes’, simply because they’re more valuable to the team. Eg. If Ohlman came into the clubhouse as an arrogant prick that nobody liked, that might cause him to be released. If Morales came in the same way, management would work with him to be a better teammate because they have 33m invested in him.

  • Jeff2sayshi

    I don’t know what the right course of action on something like this is. What I do know, is that if a major sports site like ESPN can’t be bothered to mention it, nothing is going to change.

  • Dbaggins

    No story on Joey Bat’s ridiculous bat flip? The guy is hitting .190 and the Jays were down by 5 runs and the guy does that? The bad karma around this team is justified at this point. Its fucking embarrassing to be a fan of this team right now.

    • Knuckle Balls

      I looked at the bat flip, it is nothing really. People are making a big deal about it; they are looking for something negative to say. He could of really over emphasized it and this bat flip does not compare (emotionally) like the one he did ALCS.

    • El Cabeza

      It really ruins the argument of “the batflip” being a manifestation of emotions capping the historic seventh inning of ALDS Game 5.

      That being said. I still don’t give a shit, as spud64 posted – I want everyone to flip their bats until bat flips aren’t a thing anymore.

  • ice_hawk10

    lots of people making a stink about the “part of the game” comment, but to me he was pretty clearly talking about the quick pitch, which, being totally legal in that situation, he had no place getting bent out of shape over. doesn’t change the ignorance of what he said, and we totally still have to go through the motions on this, but lets not reach and make it something it isn’t either.

  • The Humungus

    So, here’s where we’re at:

    Jays pitching has hit 7 Barves since Monday.

    Freddie Freeman has a broken wrist and is out 8-10 weeks.

    Pillar called Jason Motte a 3 letter word that means cigarette in fictional works about England.

    Bautista flipped the fuck out of a meaningless homerun.

    First, someone is getting thrown at tonight. First inning.

    Second, Stroman is on the bump for the Jays, so you know there will be retaliation.

    *grabs popcorn* I was going to get drunk and listen to Soundgarden tonight, but this is going to be better theatre than Beyond Thunderdome.

    • The Humungus

      Especially since the Jays and Barves likely won’t play again until next year (East-East is the interleague next year, so it’s pretty much a guarantee)

  • Carl Jung

    The key thing to remember is that Kevin Pillar is white and Yunel Escobar is black.

    Pillar will retain his humanity and be allowed to use this as a “learning experience”.

    The “liberal” white men will hide behind women’s/LGBT rights to hide their racism.

    • Jeff2sayshi

      Because Yunel Escobar was run out of the game entirely? Out of Toronto, maybe, but that had more to do with the fact that his incident happened at the end of the year, on a go nowhere team.

      • Carl Jung

        In the internet era where every media member knows the game, if you don’t understand that white athletes are treated completely differently from non-white athletes, you are probably racist.

        • good to have you here, cpt obvious.

          re. yunel, and this has been mentioned elsewhere, it’s entirely possible that his penalty was harsher simply because he did what he did with clarity into his actions; he thought about doing it, then acquired the necessary tools, then meticulously wrote – clearly, legibly – on eye black patches his slur of choice.

          no excuses, but pillar reacted in the moment. to me, it’s like the difference between murder & manslaughter.