We should be enjoying things this week. Things like the Astros’ staggering dominance of the American League West and maybe baseball itself, the bombing of Yankee rookie Aaron (Here Comes The) Judge, the near-classic pitching duel between Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg, the four-homer game of an obscurity named Scooter Gennett, the 600th home run of Albert Pujols.
But no. Baseball is played and governed by human beings, and human beings are only too fallible. Consider:
* Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt spoke clumsily about whether Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ treat of an outfielder, could assert himself as a team leader due to language barriers. Schmidt apologised publicly and to Herrera himself, and Herrera accepted the apology while disagreeing with Schmidt, but the question becomes whether Schmidt didn’t have a point.
It isn’t disrespectful in and of itself to Latino or Asian players to ask aloud whether language barriers do affect their interpersonal relations on baseball teams, which would affect leadership caliber communication. (David Ortiz, to name one example, made a point of transcending such barriers, as have numerous Latinos.) Any more than it’s disrespectful to a Hall of Famer to ask aloud whether he might not have found a more effective way to raise the point.
* The issue arose again when Yankee pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was visited at the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild and interpreter Shingo Horie Tuesday night. Just hours after Mike Schmidt’s gaffe, NESN broadcaster Jerry Remy, himself a former Red Sox infielder, questioned the “legality” of translators as part of mound visits. He, too, apologised subsequently.
Baseball instituted a rule allowing interpreters for mound conferences, in 2013, a rule that benefited Red Sox relievers Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara en route the Red Sox’s third World Series triumph in ten seasons. Remy might have been told Horie’s presence was perfectly legal under the game’s current rules, and he might have been wiser to question whether disallowing foreign born major leaguers from learning baseball’s most common language is by itself wise.
* Nobody seemed able to explain why MLB abruptly closed an auction for the jersey Hunter Strickland wore when he drilled Bryce Harper over a pair of nearly three-year-old home runs to launch a bench-clearing Memorial Day brawl between the Giants and the Nationals. The bidding actually reached $1,500 when MLB closed the auction, which may tell you something about the perversities in some fans’ thinking.
Nobody at this writing seems able to explain why MLB elected to auction the jersey in the first place. (Note that there’s no report of the jersey Harper wore in that plate appearance and scrum going on auction at all. So far.) Voluminous condemnation published Wednesday may have prodded the auction closure. But I, too, would like to know why baseball government thinks its kosher to try profiting from something they condemned with suspensions, however dubiously determined the suspensions were.
* Last year, Addison Russell was a critical element in the Cubs’ run to the place they hadn’t been since the (Theodore) Roosevelt Administration, an All-Star shortstop. This year, Russell’s struggled enough that Javier Baez has begun getting more shortstop playing time. A key reason for Russell’s struggles might be on the home front: his wife has accused him of infidelity with powerful hints of a divorce in the offing, and a comment on her Instagram post concerning the accusation implied physical abuse.
Mrs. Russell’s now-deleted post read, “Being free to be able to make your own choices for your own happiness beats being cheated on, lied to, & disrespected any day. #herestonewbeginnings #onlygetsbetterfromhere.” Baseball government—which previously drydocked Aroldis Chapman (likewise a key to the Cubs’ World Series run, before re-signing with the Yankees), Jose Reyes (Mets infielder and near the end of the line), Jeurys Familia (Mets closer, now gone for the season after blood clot repair), and Hector Olivera (Braves) over domestic violence—is investigating.
* Lenny Dykstra thinks the Mets should draw up Terry Collins’s execution papers and replace him with former Met third baseman/slugger and subsequent coach Howard Johnson. “Terry Collins has lost the team,” Dykstra told the New York Daily News, “and the players have no confidence. It’s pretty obvious. It almost seems like he’s managing from a textbook.”
Johnson, now a coach in the Rangers organisation, demurred. “I have a job with Texas, and I feel good over here,” HoJo told the News. “No disrespect to Terry. It’s not a good place for me to comment on someone else’s job.” It’s also not a good place for a man like Dykstra, who could barely manage his own self, to comment on someone else’s managing.
Especially when said someone else is really having to manage according to medical texts rather than baseball information and healthy player performance.