Abolishing America's National Sport (contd.): Why Not Limit Foreign Players Like the Caribbean League?
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As a teenager growing up in Puerto Rico, I always looked forward to what the locals called "winter."

They defined the word by the calendar season only—Puerto Rico's weather is the same, save for a degree or two, all twelve months of the year.

But winter in Puerto Rico brought Caribbean League Baseball and with it many of Major Leagues' most outstanding players. A few of the more recognizable: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Víctor Pellot Power, George Crowe and Rubén Gómez.

In a lifetime of following sports, I have never seen rivalries as intense as those among the winter teams. The most passionate emotions erupted when the San Juan Senators met the Santurce Crabbers.

Fans entering the historic Sixto Escobar Stadium for games between the Senators and the Crabbers were asked to identify the team they rooted for. Depending on your response, you were directed to either the left or right field side of the park—"for security reasons."

Stadium management deemed it unsafe for a fan of one squad to sit in a hostile environment. Fans of the other team might not appreciate their enthusiasm. And since Cuba Libres were sold at concession stands, ardor grew with each passing inning.

Watching those great players and the competitive games they played instilled me with an appreciation for the skills of what are generally referred to today as "Caribbean players." Since the time I left Puerto Rico through today, I marveled at the talent of Juan Marichal, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Luis Aparicio and many others too numerous to name.

I'm walking you down memory lane for a specific reason.

My last two VDARE.COM columns (here and here) have expressed grave reservations about the growing participation of foreign-born players in major league baseball and the inordinate hoopla that surrounds them.

I raise my objections because of the force-fed baseball diversity. See, as examples, this year's "Merengue Night" at Shea Stadium and Hispanic Heritage Night at Washington Nationals Park wherein the line-ups and the National Anthem were announced and sung—in Spanish!

Not only are fans are unwillingly and unnecessarily subjected to "embracing diversity", but their suffering is made more acute because, as I wrote in my last column, my research indicates that foreign-born players are a zero-sum game as far as their collective performance is concerned.

Some are outstanding and carry on the tradition established by the stars I followed in Puerto Rico.

Others, however, are total duds.

Examine the showing of two starting pitchers who took the mound last week in PNC Park in my new hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

In one game, the Colorado Rockies' Dominican-born Valerio de los Santos gave up two hits and six walks in four innings; the following night, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Cuban defector Yuslan Herrera allowed ten base runners in five innings.

Those pathetic outings are consistent with de los Santos and Hererra's major league career records (such as they are—neither de los Santos or Hererra has done any starting pitching of any kind, either in the minor or major leagues or in Cuba, for several years). So the case is easily made that American players on your local college campus would do as well.

For the sake of today's column, we'll not return to an analysis foreign-born players' diamond skills—or lack thereof—but instead ask simply: does diversity in baseball serves a common societal good, as its advocates insist? Or is it, too, a product of epidemic Political Correctness?

Since my last essay posted, one name has dominated baseball news:

All the news about Ramirez is ugly.

In June, as every fan knows, Ramirez threw 62-year-old Boston Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the clubhouse floor in an argument about how many free tickets Manny would receive for an upcoming game. Ramirez, on short notice, wanted many more than his allotment and became infuriated when McCormick indicated it might be a problem.

Assaulting an elder is a felony, chargeable anywhere…except  in Red Sox Nation, where superstars are coddled and their extreme behavior forgiven out of hand.

Subsequently, Ramirez entered into a contract dispute with the Red Sox over his $20 million 2009 option. To emphasize his displeasure, Ramirez variously took himself out of the line up claiming one type of injury or another, dogged it to first base, tanked at-bats, whined about how he is under-appreciated and carped about the ogres who manage the Red Sox organization.

Here are some things about Ramirez you won't read on the sport page.

  • On his official website, Ramirez, while claiming that children have a special place in his heart, is sparing with his hitting advice. He reminds youngsters merely to "keep their eyes on the ball" and assume a "comfortable" batting stance. This is the stuff of Little League coaches.

Under no circumstances would I ever suggest that any athlete be held up as a role model. But Ramirez, save for his batting skills, offers a great example of how not to conduct oneself, either in public or on the field.

When the disgruntled Ramirez accused the Red Sox of lying to him about his status with the team, owner John Henry found the charge "personally offensive" and shipped him off (plus agreeing to pay the $7 million on his contract) to the naïve and unsuspecting Los Angeles Dodgers.[Red Sox Send Ramirez's Homers and Headaches to LA, By Howard Ulman, Associated Press, July 31,2008]

Another Dominican player who got unfavorable ink is:

In the first inning of a game against the Dayton Dragons, Castillo hit two batters, one in the head. His third pitch, a high and tight fastball, triggered a bench-clearing brawl. (See it here.)

During the ensuing melee, Castillo fired the baseball toward the Dragon's dug out. But he missed and hit a fan sitting in the stands who ended up in the hospital [Fan Goes to Hospital, 17 Ejected After Minor League Brawl, ESPN.Com, July 25, 2008].

Castillo— only in the U.S. one month—was arrested and jailed on a felonious assault charge. He surrendered his passport and faces up to eight years in jail plus a $15,000 fine.

"This charge is a result of outlandish and inexcusable conduct by a professional baseball player," Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck Jr. said in a statement.[Pitcher Charged With Felonious Assault After Minor League Brawl, USA Today, July 26,2006]

On a brighter note:

Tatis, an indifferent player from 1997-2003 with the Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos, sat out (involuntarily) in 2004 and 2005. But when Tatis realized that his town needed a church, he knew that the only way for that to happen was if he returned to baseball, earned the money to buy the land and built it with friends.

So he made some calls to find a job. First Tatis landed with the Baltimore Orioles, then with the Mets where he currently stars in left field.

And about his completed church Tatis said: "You put something in your mind and when you see the reality, and when you see the church is so beautiful, so big. It's amazing."[ Building a Church Brought Tatis Back, By Ben Shpigel, New York Times, July 29, 2008]

Major league rosters are stocked with good guys and bad guys from all countries. Nevertheless, few are as petulant as Ramirez or as violence prone as Castillo. Unfortunately, there aren't many like Tatis either.

Assuming that neither Ramirez nor Castillo will return to the Dominican Republic, it's hard to imagine what contributions they may make in the United States when their playing days end. Ramirez's millions could create something positive—but given his juvenile personality, I can't picture it.

Here are two interesting footnotes:

  • As of August 1st, among the top 30 American and National League players in the key offensive and pitching categories—batting average, home runs, runs batted in, wins, strike outs and earned run average, 27 are Americans.

  • In the old Caribbean League, no team could have more than three stateside-born players on its roster. The idea was that the league was a Caribbean thing and while it could easily stock its roster with outstanding American-born players eager to spend the winter in Puerto Rico, it preferred its own.

Perhaps major league baseball's addiction to diversity has gone way too far to expect any radical shifts that would bring it back to the great American pastime that we knew, loved and miss.

But at least we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that, no matter what you may hear or read, the best baseball players in the world come from your hometown.

Joe Guzzardi [e-mail him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor. In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.

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