Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yunel ¡majadero! Escobar

So what, Yunel is an idiot! That's news? You bet it is.

NCAA banned eye black writing in 2011
Cliff Welch / Icon SMI

On Saturday, an alert fan took the offending photo of Yunel's face which had the offensive and charged slur, which (loosely translated) meant, "You are a faggot", and then published it to the world.

Those of us who know baseball know that Yunel's a bit of a blockhead. He was born and raised in Cuba, went to high school at Matires de Barbado in Havana, and didn't complete any college. He is about pure baseball, and that's it. 

Defensively, as an infielder, there is no doubt that he is excellent, in the top 5 in the majors in all major defensive categories for his positions. On the other hand, at the plate, he has been absolutely unremarkable, recording his worst year in the majors at .251 / .295 / .346 for a .642 OPS. Statistically this year he's a little worse (both defensively and offensively) as JJ Hardy of the Orioles. Offensively, we know that he's probably a .750 OPS player, which is just above average.

This year, we can attack Yunel's batting, but really, he has put the same number of balls in play as he has as last year. His BABIP is 45 points lower this year over last year, while his BA is 49 points lower this year over last. He has 32 less plate appearances this year over last, and he has 31 less walks (50%) than last. Therefore, you can say that he is lacking plate discipline and is swinging at bad pitches. But he has the same number of strikeouts. His ground ball / fly ball ratio is exactly the same as last year. So, what you can conclude is that he is electing to put balls in play instead of taking the walks, and that the pitches that he is swinging at are resulting in more outs. In short, Yunel is a superior shortstop defensively and a lifetime average hitter for that position. There is NO reason to get rid of him due to his quality of play.

Which brings me to Saturday's incident. Yunel's 30 years old now, and he's no kid. He's been in the major league system now for seven years with two organizations. He had displayed some issues on the field, mostly, his tendency to catch every single popup that he can get to. He might call this "de mando" or "el liderazgo" but most infield players have given him the glare when he catches something that clearly is a better play for another infielder. As a baserunner, he's made some boneheaded moves, and at the plate, he's missed signs. He is, simply, unwise, and not very intelligent, except when he is FIELDING.

Apparently, according to other team members and photos, Escobar writes stuff on his eye black at all times. And eye black messages have been written in other sports. The NFL blocks eye black writing. NCAA college football banned the messages last year -- Tim Tebow was famous for his bible verses on his eye black (which became the most popular search terms on the Google for a day after he wrote John 3:16 during the BCS game), and Reggie Bush had 619 on his eye-black, to denote his home town area code. And I am sure other players had some pretty indecent messages on their eye-black as well. Keep in mind too that football television broadcasts have much more tight focuses on player's faces, increasingly the likelihood that these messages would be seen.

Perhaps it is high time for MLB to invoke the same ban.

Now, I cannot believe for one second that no other single team mate did not recognize the message. I am pretty positive that even the non-latinos in the clubhouse recognized the word and its meaning. If Escobar is writing things on his eye black, it's for others to read. I am absolutely 100% certain, as are other baseball commentators that have played the game, that many in the clubhouse (if not everybody) knew exactly what was written.

Now, Escobar sat out the game on Sunday purportedly because of the flu, but perhaps this was already discipline from the management for what he did. It would make sense for Rogers to downplay the incident and put all of this on Yunel because if leadership admitted to knowing about and condoned the message, there would be a shitstorm from both Rogers' management and from their customers.

And Yunel is responsible. For him, truly, it was a joke, a clubhouse prank amongst the Latinos in the clubhouse, or perhaps a message written to an opposing player. I believe whole-heartedly that the use of the word "maricon" is used among clubhouses as a form of joking around. Of course it is insensitive to the gay community, but the joke was meant (to him) to be private. He displayed incredibly poor judgement by bringing it on the field. In my household, we make slurs of all kinds (including against ourselves) as jokes, intending it not to go outside of the walls of my home. On TV, jokes are made all of the time against minorities (think South Park or Family Guy) and they are viewed by millions.

Escobar truly did not understand the gravity of what he was writing, that it would be read and interpreted by english speaking fans, and would become a huge news story. He is sorry for the incident, but he doesn't really (still) understand why it's an issue. He's written stupid things on his eye black before that haven't been noticed, and got away with it. A big part of why he doesn't get it is his lack of education, machismo Latino upbringing, baseball's ingrained intolerance towards homosexuality, and insenstivity.

And surely, for the gay people in MLB (both on the bench and off), it's an insult to them as well, and just demonstrates the macho attitude that this particular sport has. Baseball has always been that way. Of all of the players in MLB in all the years, only two (Glenn Burke and Billy Bean) have been confirmed to be gay, but there are probably hundreds of players over the years that were and are gay. 

So, absolutely, it's a learning lesson for MLB and for the Blue Jays. It's absolutely correct for the gay community to jump all over this because it's high time for change within MLB. And Escobar, like it or not, is the scapegoat for this.

But let's not run the man out of town.

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