Archive for September, 2012

My last post on the Yunel incident

Baseball is supposed to be an escape from the real, crappy, ugly, stupid world out there. That’s always been a big part of why I love it so much. It’s why I loved going to a game with my dad when I was 7 years old. For a few hours, we could sit in the sun while eating a hot dog and marveling at a game like no other. No homework or chores. Just a diamond, nine men and a hat … and well, you remember the rest. To the Blue Jays organization, I ask — please get your act together and put the focus on what’s on the field. When you have a clear corporate mission to deliver a winner, stuff like this shouldn’t happen.

This blog is not a forum for my views about sexuality, politics or the economy. It’s a blog about the sport I love and the team I root for.

And that’s my biggest disappointment about this whole thing. It’s not that I don’t care about bigotry or hate – of course I care about it. But we can’t change how people feel about things — and for the record, no I do not think Yunel meant this out of any kind of intentional hate — we can’t be the thought police. It doesn’t matter how he feels about anything really. As long as he doesn’t choose to express things while he’s in uniform. When he’s in uniform, I just want him to help us win. That’s it. And getting back to the intention of this blog, his failure to focus on that is what concerns me.

This whole incident has just brought attention to the Blue Jays for all the wrong reasons. And I’m not sure what it says about my favourite baseball brand.

Right now, it could say that there is no actual leadership on the field, in the clubhouse or at higher levels. At the very least, it says that the Blue Jays are amateurs when it comes to damage control (the Yu Darvish incident was a tip-off that Rogers is bad at letting the wrong message get out of control).

And when it comes to the fan in me, which this page was constructed to give an outlet for, it brings up doubts about the ability for this organization to bring a contender to our field.

Shouldn’t the players’ priorities be on winning? Are they all mailing it in now and more concerned about practical jokes? And were all the players and coaches (yes, even John Farrell) okay to let this go until someone else flagged it? Everyone in that clubhouse and on the field is paid good money — our money that we pay through our loyalty to this club — to play baseball. And after a terrible season, the focus should be on that. Can any of them say with any believability now that that is the case? It betrays our trust as fans and supporters of this club. Especially those that defended them all year (it was the injuries!).

The silver lining from this is it may force Rogers to overcompensate this winter. They have lost the trust of a lot of casual fans through this incident (and some die-hards) and it will take a winner / perception of trying to win to even give them a shot at making amends with some people.

I don’t need the stands to be full with 50,000 people to be a fan. But I do know that the more people that come out to see this team, the better the on-field product is going to get.

The Jays, as much with their handling of this incident and the incident itself, may find they have a tougher hill to climb now.

And when it comes to this page, that’s what I care about.

I want a Championship, dammit.

 

 

 

Disappointment

I’m very disappointed in the Blue Jays.

I actually believe Yunel when he says he didn’t mean to use the term in the derogatory way that it’s been interpreted. We’ve all heard locker room talk like that or heard the term ‘retarded’ or whatever used in a way that is meant to make a statement but not necessarily towards that particular group. It doesn’t make it right and he certainly should have shown better judgement. You are free to be livid or laugh at the incident. It’s not my call to make for you.

The incident itself is not why I’m disappointed in the Blue Jays.

I’m disappointed because we, the true fans, have stuck with this team, defended the poor play and lack of moves by the GM and ownership. We’ve come out to the park. We bought the new logo-ified gear.

And now for us as real fans wearing the gear and supporting this team — at least for the rest of this year — makes us look like chumps. The Jays had a chance to make a real statement here. To put this thing to bed swiftly. They could have done this two ways — coming down hard on Yunel by suspending him for the rest of the season or for at least 15 games or so — or they also could have handled the press conference with more finesse. And they did neither. Aside from (lack of) content, they just looked lost. Did they not go over what their game plan was? Amateur.

I’m not sure I believe that people that play for our sports teams need to be role models or even good ambassadors for the city. That’s not their role. They’re athletes. I want them to positively impact the team I support in the sport I love. Yunel’s actions hurt the team. Whether I brush off the incident as a joke gone wrong, or that he’s a gay basher. Doesn’t matter. Forget the bigger issue of ‘right vs. wrong’. From our standpoint as fans that want this team to do well, it hurts the brand.

And the way the Jays handled this situation makes the organization look like a joke as well.

And now we, the fans that have given them the benefit of the doubt all off season and this season — we’re the joke by association.

Wear a Blue Jays hat today around town and you’ll see the conversations that come up. Wear one tomorrow in Yankee Stadium and you’ll see…

Yes, Yunel is an embarrassment to himself and his teammates, unintentionally or not.

But the Blue Jays just embarrassed all of us who have supported them this year.

Yunel-gate

The Jays are all over the baseball news late in September but unfortunately not for their stellar play or being in the thick of the Wild Card race. For those of you who haven’t heard, it seems that Yunel Escobar played Saturday’s game vs. the Red Sox with a message written in his under-eye paint — ‘Tu ere maricon’. Which, roughly translated, is ‘You’re a fag’.

MLB is investigating and the Blue Jays have made the obligatory statements about how they do not support discrimination or hate of any kind. The Blue Jays know, as we do, that this incident won’t go away with the statements but at least they have acknowledged that the incident occurred and they will do their own due diligence to get to the bottom of it. But this is going to get (more) interesting in the coming days.

Speaking to a friend of mine who is fluent in Spanish, he confirmed the translation, but noted two things. First of all, that the meaning is meant to be playful locker room type of ribbing (kind of like the unfortunate use of the term ‘retarded’ these days) rather than a true statement of hate against the gay community, and second, that the phrasing is indicative of Caribbean Spanish.

I note these two things because I have a feeling that this was a locker room prank that went awry. This doesn’t excuse Yunel of course, but at least we can be hopeful that this doesn’t mean the Jays clubhouse is full of a bunch of hateful bigots. And also, that if Yunel didn’t write the statement himself (as is speculation in some quarters), the phrasing was meant for him in some way — what I’m saying is that we can be fairly certain that Brett Lawrie didn’t use Babelfish for this.

It will be interesting to see how this affects Yunel’s ‘likability’ index in this town, and how baseball reacts or punishes him. If the Jays were thinking of trading him (or if they are now), it certainly won’t help his value.

In any case, I actually think this reflects the worst on John Farrell. Yes, we’ve all had questions about his on-field abilities. We’ve questioned his lineups and his use of the bullpen. We’ve wondered if he’s ‘fired up’ enough to manage this team. And recently we’ve wondered about his loyalty to the Jays.

But we’ve always thought that he had control of his clubhouse. Unlike Bobby Valentine, or (allegedly) Terry Francona, we always thought he had the final word about how his players played the game and presented themselves on or off the field as members of the Toronto Blue Jays organization and a member of John Farrell’s team.

This brings up a lot of doubts about the above. We’ll wait for some statements, but I think John Farrell and his coaches have as much (if not more) explaining to do as Yunel Escobar does.

*NOTE: The Blue Jays have called a press conference tomorrow at Yankee Stadium — Escobar, Anthopoulos, Farrell and Luis Rivera will be on hand. I expect John Farrell to jump on the grenade slightly. And for Yunel to be fined or suspended in some way. The Jays have to put this one to bed quickly, with finesse, and also by making a statement to the gay community. I believe they will, just for the record.

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