Gary Sheffield’s recent comments in GQ magazine, in particular, the portion where describes Latin players as malleable compared to their African-American counterparts, were characterized by yours truly as either a) a possible misquotation or b) Sheffield being “full of shit.”
Someone far more qualified to speak on the matter of the Latino players’ experiences, however, concurs with Sheffield. From the Detroit Free Press’ John Lowe.
Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen (above) said Tuesday that he agrees with teammate Gary Sheffield’s recently published assertions on black and Latin players.
“I’m happy he said it,” Guillen said. “I’m glad somebody spoke up.”
Guillen said he knew from his own experience exactly what Sheffield was talking about. Guillen left his home in Venezuela to break into pro ball with the Houston Astros organization.
“I left my country to come here and to make money and play baseball,” Guillen said. “I left my school because I wanted to play baseball here.
“In my first year, in rookie league, I hurt my elbow and I played DH,” he said.
“In my first at-bat, I hit a double, and I missed first base. I was out, and they screamed at me.” (He declined to say who did the screaming but hinted it was his coaches.)
“I didn’t know what to say. If I had said anything, they would have sent me home. I was afraid to talk.
“That happens to every Latin player. They are afraid to talk.”
Guillen echoed Sheffield’s comments when he talked about how young black players react differently than young Latin players.
“Black guys are different because they are already here at home,” Guillen said.
“They understand what they (the people in charge) say, and they know what to do. They know the rules. We don’t know the rules. So what are you going to say?
“Sometimes a Latin coach treats American players better than Latin players, because he is afraid to get fired fighting with an American player.”
This is how it’s worked in the sports media for eons: We bitch and moan that players are little more than mantra-spewing robots. We long for a guy who’ll speak his mind. We find a guy who speaks his mind. We rush toward him. He speaks his mind. He’s a dangerous moron who says inane things like, “Where I’m from, you can’t control us” and “If you’re equally good as this Latin player, guess who’s going to get sent home?” We excitedly work our butts off to try to coerce him to say even more inane things (Oldest trick of the trade: Start with softball questions, transition slyly into the hard stuff). He does. Then we hang him.
Well, I’m no longer playing that game. I refuse to bash Sheffield for his words because, quite frankly, the man is a dolt. He has as much business holding court on non-see-ball-hit-ball topics as I do analyzing the collective works of Shannon Hoon. I don’t care what Sheffield thinks about the Latin-American versus African-American ratio of players because:
A. Within two days he’ll express a completely different opinion.
B. Within four days he’ll switch back to his original opinion.
C. Within a week he’ll be demanding a trade or contract extension.
If indeed, Sheffield’s near pathological inconsistency in discussing his contractual arrangements is the sort of thing that should preclude him from commenting on more general topics, I’m not even gonna bother to ask if he thinks big leaguers oughta be tested for Boost Plus.