By Nelson Santana
August 9, 2017
Last week ESENDOM published an article noting Adrian Beltré’s milestone when he became the 31st Major League Baseball player to record 3,000 career hits. In that same article, we noted that Major League Baseball has been peculiarly silent on the accomplishments of Dominican baseball players, citing the little fanfare toward Albert Pujols’ remarkable entry into the 600 Home Run Club earlier in the year and Beltré’s 3,000 hits. This of course, is the result of the MLB’s attempt to whitewash baseball by placing white ballplayers (Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw) on MLB’s pedestal in favor of players of color.
Seven days removed from ESENDOM’s article, MLB has suspended one of the game’s longest tenured umpires. Starting his MLB umpiring career in 1976, the 64-year-old Joe West—or the “cowboy” as some refer to him—called his 5,000th regular season MLB game earlier this year at Coors Field on June 20. As of this morning, MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, has yet to post news of West’s suspension on its website.
During an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today, published June 20, West was asked who was the biggest complainer in baseball and he responded by naming Beltré. West stated, “It’s got to be Adrian Beltré. Every pitch you call that’s a strike, he says, ‘Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!’ I told him, ‘You may be a great ballplayer, but you’re the worst umpire in the league. You stink.’’ In the interview, West notes Albert Pujols as “probably the best right-handed hitter” he ever saw, and also clarified to Nightengale that he and Beltré are on “friendly terms.”
West’s suspension highlights not only the hypocrisy of Major League Baseball but the overall hypocrisy of United States society. For one, the milestones reached by Pujols and Beltré did not receive as much fanfare that 600 career homeruns and 3,000 career hits have previously generated. The media went abuzz and baseball joyfully celebrated number 600 for Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez and 3,000 for Derek Jeter and Craig Biggio. However, West’s suspension is generating more buzz than Beltré’s 3,000 hits and Pujols’ 600 homeruns. Clearly, something is wrong with this picture!
Recently, Fox’s Doug Gottlieb went on a tirade linking Beltré to now retired Latino baseball players accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) more than a decade ago, prior to Beltré’s arrival to the Texas Rangers organization, and Gottlieb also alleges that Beltré’s success can be attributed to PEDs and being born in the Dominican Republic. Why do the careless and racist comments of an irresponsible journalist not garner the attention that West’s blunder has attracted? Is it because it is acceptable to bash, demonize, and downplay the accomplishments of Dominicans, and it is perfectly fine for white Americans to defend the honor of one of their own when punished for making unwarranted “friendly” comments toward a Dominican?
Respect is a two-way street. In the same manner that professional athletes are expected to respect the game and carry themselves with dignity, sports officials and administrators too must be held accountable for their actions and should adhere both to the established rules and the recently enforced morality “code of conduct.” It is likely that Beltré would have been fined had he made similar remarks about West or any other official. Beltré, though, is a respectful and dignified human being whom is loved by his peers. Beltré came to the defense of West, agreeing with the World Umpires Association that the suspension was unjustified. In a statement, the union responded by writing, “Joe West is the most senior umpire in our ranks, having served MLB since 1976 under six different baseball commissioners. Joe has upheld the rules of fair play for more than 5,000 Major League Baseball games and is on his way to the record for more career games ever worked by an MLB umpire. He should be on the field today.”
West’s conundrum highlights a bigger picture in U.S. society. Baseball society has downplayed the recent accomplishments of Dominican baseball players, partly, due to the demonizing of Dominican ballplayers during the Steroids Era. It certainly is telling of a society and culture when they downplay the accomplishments of immigrants, yet rile up when one of their own is reprimanded for a careless choice of words when others have not been reprimanded for doing worse, such as spewing hate or conflating one thing with another, as noted in the Gottlieb example above. Go figure!
Asterisk aside, Bonds will go down in the record books as one of the greatest hitters of all time, while Jeter and Rodriguez played in the biggest market—New York. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, Biggio played in Houston—smaller than New York, but still a major market, and Biggio is white. More talented ballplayers of color have been left out of the Hall of Fame or had a more difficult time to be enshrined when compared to Biggio; some of these baseball players include Juan Marcihal and Orlando Cepeda, two stars who eventually made it! It has been noted that one reason Marichal did not make the Hall of Fame ballot initially is attributed to the unfortunate incident in which the pitcher hit catcher John Roseboro on the head with a bat.
Nelson is the producer at ESENDOM and he splits his time between New York and the Dominican Republic. He loves comics as much as he loves bachata and típico. He is currently an assistant professor and collection development librarian. His work has appeared in diverse publications including the first translation project pertinent to the writings of Juan Pablo Duarte. Feel free to hit him up at nelson.santana[at]esendom.com.