Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Torii Hunter and his "Imposter" Comments

Torii Hunter was part of a USA Today baseball panel on what can be done about improving things within Baseball and some things that he said have caused an uproar. Here is what he said:

Fans look down from their seats onto the baseball field, see dark-colored skin and might assume they are African-American players.

But increasingly, the players instead hail from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Venezuela.

"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.' "

"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."

There are certain parts of his assessment that I agree with. As I have stated in a previous post, the academy system in Latin American does favor the teams since they can sign the Latin players at pennies on the dollar to what the teams play prospects here in the United States. Ozzie Guillen adds his two cents to debate by saying:

"I was laughing because when he said, `They go there and sign for potato chips,' I said, `Well, we've got Chapman. They gave him $12 million. [Cincinnati actually agreed to a $30.25 million, six-year contract with pitcher Aroldis Chapman.] We've got [prospect Dayan] Viciedo. They gave him $10 million. I remember in my time, one scout goes [to Venezuela and] 30 players show up. Now, 30 scouts go there and one player shows up.

It is true about Chapman and Viciedo, but I think that the amounts they signed for are a rarity among Latino ballplayers not born here or those who have been raised here in the United States.

But for Hunter to say that the Latino players are "Imposters" is totally bogus. Dark skinned Latinos faced the same discriminatory practices that the Black players faced in the 1950's and 1960's. The fact that they were dark skinned Latinos gave them no advantages when faced with the hate of the times. They didn't just step into the places originally held by the blacks and all was "hunky-dory". They faced the same insult and rants often not realizing why they were being hated since where they were from the idea of color wasn't seen as negatively as it was here.

There was something else Guillen says that leads me to the next point:

"In our country, we play baseball. That's no choice. Here you can play basketball, you can be another athlete, you can do so many things when you have the opportunity. And that's why there's not many [African-American] players out there."

Whether or not that is the truth, I have always said that if you were African-American and had the talent to play professional sports, why would you go through a long period of playing in the minor leagues when you can play at the top level almost immediately in the NBA and the NFL.

Hunter also touches a point that I believe is entirely accurate in certain African American communities:

"I looked at all of the (charity) work I've been doing, and 60% to 70% of the African-American homes are single-parent homes. And they're all mothers. It's hard for a mother to take their kids to practice every day, pay the $1,200 a month to travel and $1,200 for a tournament team."

If Tori Hunter has a gripe with how he (and other players) feels that Major League Baseball has turned their attention away from the inner cities to abroad then he needs to take it directly to MLB. The players are not to blame if the league is choosing to expand their operations and presence overseas. Programs like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities have made progress in helping to bring Baseball back to the inner cities. But more needs to be done. Baseball has become a pay-to-play sport. In inner city neighborhoods it is often easier (economically) to play Basketball since all you need is a ball. It is easy to find hoops and if one can't be found, a box nailed to a telephone pole is often enough. The article states that the representation of African-American ballplayers 8% of al Major Leaguers compared with 28% for foreign players on last year's opening-day rosters (foreign players includes Latinos, Asians and players from other areas). It is s problem that needs to be continually addressed. The question is how to solve it.

Had Torii Hunter stuck to addressing the deficiencies of Baseball in inner-city African-American communities, rather that taking the us vs. them approach then he would not have caused the uproar that he did. He says he won't apologize. Should he? I'm not sure. He said what he meant to say. He was honest about it. It just shouldn't have been said. Sometimes the freedom of speech is not being able to say anything you want, but to have the freedom to know what to say and when to say it. What do you think.


For Further Reading:

- Here is the original article in USA Today
- Here is the article from ESPN that Ozzie Guillen is quoted in

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