According to Luke Scott, “Obama does not represent America.”
This article is not an ideological rant or a political statement. That is just the sort of thing that baseball does not need, and it is what Luke Scott provided in his recent “Answer Man” interview on Yahoo! Sports.
For those who missed it and those who won’t click this link, In an interview, Baltimore Orioles outfielder, Luke Scott was talking about some recent hunting trips he’d taken. He was then asked about gun control and responded about communism and socialism.
Next he was asked about Barack Obama and went on to talk about how America is losing its values. Shortly thereafter he was asked, “You don’t believe Obama was born here do you?” To which he replied, “He wasn’t born here,” and provided a short rant about how Obama is obviously hiding something.
The next day his team publicly distanced itself from Scott’s opinions, and there was a small uproar amongst baseball fans on forums across the Internet. Undoubtedly, there are many baseball lovers who see no problem with what Scott said.
One thing needs to be made clear. Luke Scott did not pull a Kanye. He didn’t grab the mic and rant. He was being interviewed, and he didn’t impose his beliefs on anyone, because anyone reading was expecting to hear from the depths of Luke Scott’s mind.
That’s generally the point of interviews. He was asked a question, and his response was not completely irrelevant to the question(s) he was asked. It was still wrong though.
The game is pure in the sense that it unites people who play it, watch it and love it. It makes us forget politics, and at its best, makes us forget what divides us and angers us. We don’t need to know very much about the players as people. In fact, often we don’t care.
Politics seems so at odds with baseball. Baseball, or a majority of its fans at least, reject personality. The only values that are relevant are those relating to what you do on the field.
Fans respect a “team first” mentality. We respect players who sacrifice their sweat and blood for their team. Talent is never enough. Heart goes a long way.
Don’t let the abundance of advertisements fool you. MLB is not an MTV reality show. Alex Rodriguez learned this the hard way. This year, young pitchers jumped at the opportunity to board the anti-A-Rod train. [I don’t care what Dallas Braden says, he would not have yelled at his mom for walking across his pitcher's mound.]
Anger is not a welcome sentiment among players. Milton Bradley has bounced from team to team because of his constant altercations with teammates, management and fans. We love players who play with intensity and with passion, but the best of them leave it on the field.
They don’t take that out into their public life. They have two identities, the baseball player and the person. Often we care only about the first. In the case of Milton Bradley, the message from baseball’s higher-ups is clear. They will only tolerate so much.
It’s amazing how well I tend to think I know a player based on a page full of numbers. I can look at the raw stats; I can look at their progression over time; I can read the scouts’ assessments. Never do I wonder what’s on the player’s iPod, what he ate for dinner, what he thinks of the New York City public school system, etc. It’s all about what the player has done on the field and what he will do on the field next spring.
The Baltimore Orioles immediately made it clear that they did not endorse Scott’s comments. When a team goes as far as to make a public statement about something a player said, that means something.
It means they don’t want to hear divisive statements. They don’t want to be associated with such talk. They’re about baseball. That’s it. Check everything else at the door. Especially things that might become a distraction.
Someone in the front office wishes Scott had kept his mouth shut. It’s not because anyone thinks what Scott says will have any lasting affect on our nation. It’s because it changes the tone around the organization.
The Orioles clubhouse does not need distractions. The Orioles organization does not need that sort of climate hovering about it. An air of controversy hangs over outspoken ballplayers.
His right to speak freely is not in question.
I come down hard on baseball players who I think act childish or show disrespect for the game. I lost respect for Brandon Phillips when he created fire between his Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals by ranting about how much he hates them. I lost respect for Nyjer Morgan in August after he started behaving like a frat boy at a kegger.
Luke Scott has now become a polarizing player. A solid hitter, like himself, generally earns a degree of respect if not outright adoration based on his play. There is a contingent who will readily stand behind Scott. Some will agree wholeheartedly with his comments and put him on a pedestal for having the courage to speak up.
Luke Scott is a man who used to bring a gun to baseball games. He makes acceptable points about guns being a potential mode of protection. Something is off there.
What did he need protection from in Houston? Was Roger Clemens trying to sleep with his sister? What could he possibly need protection from at Oriole Park? There aren’t enough fans in the stands to storm the field.
Throwing a baseball to another human being is one of the most communicative exercises one can engage in. In its purest form, personality is utterly removed from the equation. One element of teamwork is being on the same page, being unified. Strong ideological differences could stand in the way of that. It helps when strong personalities are left out of the picture.
Make no mistake, Luke Scott has the right to say what he wants. We aren’t debating freedom of speech. We all deserve to say what we want, but the caveat is that there are things we should and should not say in certain situations. There is no room in this game for grand, divisive political statements.
And, it doesn’t help that the editor of the very article who printed the original conversation went out of his way to show some of Scott’s “opinions” are anti-factual.
Things like this that make me look past the stats and skills for a moment. I don’t want to, but I can’t help it. The realization that I might not like these people as human beings adds an odd dynamic to this game that I love.