In a league with pretty much 30 percent of all its players born outside the United States, you would think that we could stop having the conversation that Major League Baseball is a monocultural and monolingual game.
On Tuesday, two former players from the time when baseball was more white and “American,” seemed to take issue with baseball’s changing face.
First up, Philadelphia Phillies legend and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who said this about current Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera, who hails from Venezuela. In this clip from local sports radio, Schmidt was asked if the Phillies should build the team around Herrera.
My honest answer to that would be no because of a couple of things. First of all, it’s a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can’t be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game. Or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game. Or come over to a guy and say, ‘Man, you gotta run that ball out.’ Just can’t be —because of the language barrier— that kind of a player.
Soon after Schmidt said this, he had to issue a statement through CSN Philly, the sports channel that employs him as an analyst for Phillies games:
It’s been made known to me that my answer on a radio interview this morning to the question, ‘Can the Phillies build a team around Odubel Herrera,’ was disrespectful to Herrera and Latin players in general. I’m very sorry that this misrepresentation of my answer occurred and may have offended someone. I assure everyone I had no intention of that. Odubel is a dynamo on the field, and as he becomes more comfortable with the language, his leadership skills will improve, and no doubt he will be a centerpiece in the Phillies future.
By the way, Herrera talked about Schmidt’s comments, and was pretty classy about it:
Later on Tuesday, it was former player and current Boston Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy, who shared these thoughts about translators, when a translator joined New York Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild came to the mound and met with reliever Masahiro Tanaka.
— Sports Funhouse (@SportsFunhouse) June 7, 2017
Here is the exchange (thanks to SI):
Remy: I don’t think that should be legal.
Dave O’Brien: Seriously?
Remy: I really don’t?
O’Brien: What is it you don’t like about that?
Remy: Um…Learn baseball language. It’s pretty simple. You break it down pretty easy between pitching coach and pitcher after a long period of time.
O’Brien: I would say that probably they’re concerned about nuance being lost in some of these conversations.
MLB allows for translators on the mound. It has been doing it since 2013 and even when Remy had a chance to back down from his comments, he said this after the game: “I’ve got no comment on that. Really.”
Hit it, Gollum:
Later in the week, Remy finally apologized: “I made some comments that offended a number of people. I sincerely hope you accept my apology, thank you very much.”