Friday, March 12, 2010
When you point one finger at MLB ...
Uh-oh. Here we go again ...
"People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they're African American," Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter says. "They're not us. They're impostors.
"Even people I know come up and say, 'Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?' I say, 'Come on, he's Dominican. He's not black.' "
Baseball's African-American population is 8%, compared with 28% for foreign players on last year's opening-day rosters.
"As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us," Hunter says. "It's like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It's like, 'Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?'
"I'm telling you, it's sad."
Since this appeared, Hunter has claimed that he was misquoted, or taken out of context, blah blah blah.
Fortunately, Ozzie Guillen, that well-known Voice of Reason, has weighed in on this subject (as has another Voice, Craig Calcaterra), relieving me of the responsibility.
Let's instead turn to something else from the same conversation, but instead from everyone's favorite agent, Scott Boras:
Baseball spends $8 million to $12 million a team, Boras says, scouting and developing players in Latin America countries. Yet that same amount might be better spent in the USA, the committee says, developing American kids.
Boras notes there has been a paucity of South Korean impact players — four have had careers longer than five years -- relative to the money spent scouting there.
"The bottom line is that your money is better spent here," Boras says. "If you add up the money spent in the Asian markets in the last decade and took that and set up a true inner-cities system — using former players and an administrative body sponsored by baseball — we would reach more people.
"We will lose this game if the best athletes are not playing baseball."
Seems a bit hyperbolic, doesn't it? It's been some time since the best (North American) athletes played a lot of baseball, and to this point the game's still right in front of us (and making Scott Boras a great deal of money, last time I checked).
Look, it's entirely possible that "baseball" has over-invested overseas and under-invested here at home. But don't you think baseball goes overseas (or into the Caribbean) not because it's easy, but rather because that's where the young baseball players are? It's one thing to round up a bunch of 16 year olds and teach them baseball, but the nice thing about the Dominican Republic is that the 16-year-olds have already been playing baseball, just about every damn day with "gloves" made of cardboard and "baseballs" made of old rags, since they were 6 years old? Has anyone figured out a way, with or without Major League Baseball's help, to convince little Americans to give up television and video games and hit the sandlots every day after school? Good luck with that.
Baseball teams do stupid things. They are not, on the whole, stupid. If black kids were playing baseball, like they did 50 and 60 years ago ... but they're not. Not according to most accounts, anyway. Is that Major League Baseball's fault? I suppose there's plenty of blame to go around. MLB could do better, but then again how many people do you know who are doing everything they can do?
I'm not. Scott Boras is a wealthy and talented man, who represents a large number of incredibly wealthy and talented athletes, many of them black. Are they doing everything they can do? I honestly don't know. I do know that finger-pointing is just about the easiest thing in the world.