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Let's start the day with something non-controversial: racism

Feb 11, 2010, 7:57 AM EDT

Moshe Mandel at TYU wants to know if it’s not curious that some writers assume that Felix Hernandez will be more likely to become complacent and lazy now that he has a big contract than Justin Verlander will.  Or whether there is any rational explanation for thinking that Dustin Pedroia “cares more” about his team and winning than Robinson Cano.  What’s really at play here, Mandel wonders:

Baseball fans are commonly exposed to this sort of dichotomy, in which
white players are often presented as gritty and do everything they can
to maximize their talents, while minority players are “athletic” and
“smooth,” and “make it look easy out there.” The successes of white
players are attributed to effort, while the successes of non-white
players are explained by inherent ability. Failures by minorities
players are often explained by pointing to a lack of effort. Failures
by white players have a way of occasionally being rationalized away or
even forgotten.

The scientific name for this is aversive racism, and it’s pretty rampant. Orlando Hudson is fast. The white guy is a “possession receiver.” The black leftfielder is “gifted.” The white second baseman is scrappy and likes to get his uniform dirty. And as Mandel points out, what is the deal with Paul O’Neill not getting any crap for not running out those ground balls in Game 3 of the 1999 World Series?

Thought provoking stuff, definitely worth a click-through to TYU this morning.

  1. ChrisKol - Feb 11, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    I had no idea that Rod Carew was black until I started playing The Bigs 2 on my 360. Just sayin’

  2. Jonny5 - Feb 11, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    Honestly Jay, I think people take to much stock in Race. I think people are entirely too sensitive when it comes to race. I think people make race an issue when it isn’t. And my strongest opinion on race is …. Who cares? That’s just me. But you do have a point with this “And to suggest that you, as a white person or a black person, don’t let race affect your judgment AT ALL, or have some effect on the words you use to describe people, is just naive and delusional. To suggest that makes you a racist is also delusional.”
    You do have to be careful with words you use,and now it’s even when you talk about white people as being scrappy…or hard working. LMAO!

  3. Old Gator - Feb 11, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    Hard working white people. What a concept.
    Before I log off, mop up the last of my strawberry pancakes and head over to the Hyatt for the next Grateful Dead session at the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture Association conference here in unnaturally cold Albuquerque, I gotta say that I should have brought a bag of popcorn. Observing this thread from a safe distance is almost as much fun as watching high-tech American genocidal warfare against innocent civilians in a third-world armpit as recorded by embedded right-wing shills on Fox News.

  4. scatterbrian - Feb 11, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Miguel Tejada was certainly a fan favorite in Oakland, and Rajai Davis is one to a lesser degree…

  5. moreflagsmorefun - Feb 11, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Racism in baseball is just craZy talk.I wonder what the ball players in the Negroe League will think about this.
    Craig, you done did it now…………

  6. moreflagsmorefun - Feb 11, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    Racism in baseball is just craZy talk.I wonder what the ball players in the Negroe League will think about this.
    Craig, you done did it now…………

  7. Tommy - Feb 11, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    Why is race always an issue? The best player in the game today is neither Black or White he is Latino and that is Albert. Derek comes from a mixed family so what is he black or white? The best homerun hitter of all time happens to be black – Hank Aaron. Yes, I discounted the roid user Barry Bonds. Yet, the best base hitter of all time is Pete Rose. Are the races equal I would think so. God created both in his image since He created man. It does not say in the Bible He created Black/Brown/Yellow/White/and Red it just says Man.

  8. The Common Man - Feb 11, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Ohhhhhhhh, you’re “flipping the script.” How clever of you.
    A couple of points: If we cannot talk about relevant examples of a phenomenon because to do so would be to unfairly cast aspersions on the motives of others, then we cannot talk credibly about the phenomenon itself. That’s not at all productive, because then we can never work on whatever racial baggage we have as a culture.
    Also, my irony meter is off the charts: Despite Moshe’s repeated statements (in his article and in these comments) that he is not calling these men racists or active proponents of racism, you have read into his words that he is calling these men racists. Meanwhile, you argue that we should not make assumptions or speculate about what beliefs and prejudices go into the evaluations Moshe quotes, but instead take their words at face value

  9. Jonny5 - Feb 11, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    What phenomenon? The one where people are wrongly accused of being biased? or the one where people are biased? The only “racial baggage” (bag of poo) I saw today was when I read that article.
    ” Despite Moshe’s repeated statements (in his article and in these comments) that he is not calling these men racists or active proponents of racism, you have read into his words that he is calling these men racists. Meanwhile, you argue that we should not make assumptions or speculate about what beliefs and prejudices go into the evaluations Moshe quotes, but instead take their words at face value”
    If a person says he isn’t smacking you in the face, as he’s smacking you in the face, what is he doing? Why does moshe get to imply things while saying he isn’t, but I can’t? That hardly seems fair. If I were not the same race as him, that could be considered racist of you….. Well by Moshe at least it could….

  10. The Common Man - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    “The only “racial baggage” (bag of poo) I saw today was when I read that article.”
    Respectfully, that’s because you either don’t recognize it where you see it or simply aren’t looking where it’s happening. Here’s an article from Deadspin (, there are countless websites questioning whether the President is a citizen, a Muslim, a terrorist, etc., Milton Bradley and his mom are accusing the whole city of Chicago of racism, and the Washington Redskins are still the Redskins. These are the fruits of this country’s complicated and troubling history with race. They exist.
    “If a person says he isn’t smacking you in the face, as he’s smacking you in the face, what is he doing?”
    Well, that’s your interpretation because you can’t see the difference between being a part of a culture that is racist and being A racist. If we’re playing the analogy game, here’s mine: I know how to ride a bike; in the past, I have ridden a bike; that does not mean, even if I’m currently riding, that I’m an avid bike rider. Moshe’s article simply acknowledges that we all implicitly understand this coded language, and sometimes we use it. But if we really thought about it, we don’t believe the assumptions behind them. There are differences in degree, level of enthusiasm, and motivation that separate participants in a racist culture from capital “R” Racists. No one is accusing Bob Klapisch of being in the Klan.
    Finally, I think you just made my point for me. It’s ludicrous for you to criticize someone else for making an assumption when you yourself are making an assumption that they are making that assumption. It all comes back to, again, your blind spot over the difference between internalizing a set of beliefs and having those color your perception and being A Racist.

  11. Jonny5 - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    Ohhh buoy……… You aren’t going to get me to agree, no matter how much more dung you heap onto the pile there common man, don’t you get it yet? I don’t agree with that article, i never will. Your analogy doesn’t buy it for me, Live with it…
    You are taking non racist descriptive words that may or may not be used on multiple players, who may or may not be multiple races and strewing about saying it’s because of a racist culture. Don’t you see how deluded it is? Your devotion to this and Moshe is quite cute btw…

  12. wewillsee - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Lets do our best to find racism in every situation possible. I disagree with the whole concept. We get to enjoy the worlds greatest baseball players from around the world. We do not care about the color of your skin, your home country, or your off the field history. Your numbers speak for themselves, we luckily in baseball have the greatest stats of most sports. As a matter of fact Baseball has been great at showing the opposite. Jackie Robinson started a trend, if you can play ball, guess what you get to play, if your skin is colored or tattooed, if you speak another language, if you do not cheat “for the most part” you get to play against the greatest to ever play the game. Ask Albert Pujols how much time he spends honing his skills in the cages. I would say he is gritty.

  13. The Common Man - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    Don’t YOU get it? I honestly don’t care what YOU think. You’re giving yourself too much credit there Jonny. This was never really about you (though I’m sure someone thinks you’re special). It’s clear how you perceive this issue, and that you’re intractable. The argument is about the principle itself, and that’s what I care about.
    For what it’s worth, I don’t know Moshe; this is the first I’d read his stuff. But I think he’s right on on this topic.

  14. Dick - Feb 11, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    I’m white and I think this is obviously happening. I don’t understand why people get so angry at Craig or whatever. This is an issue people would be better to calmly and openly talk about. The fact that people are so apt to get hot or excited means this is most certainly an issue.

  15. JudyJ - Feb 11, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    It is all a matter of perception. I personally dislike when people play the r card under any circumstances. Every baseball team is diverse and it all speaks for itself. Let’s move on.

  16. Eric - Feb 11, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    Sports provide the only positive images of Black people that we have. Plain and simple.

  17. Jim - Feb 11, 2010 at 8:39 PM

    Ummmm, because he is lazy?

  18. dprat - Feb 11, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    Very late to this party, but for those still reading: I find it difficult to believe that any American entirely escapes the ongoing legacy of our racist past. (BTW, I suspect that might be true of most of the rest of the world as well, but I have far too limited experience to speak to that.) When I hear someone say, with respect to race, “I just don’t see color…” – well, either that person can read braille or I’m pretty positive I can’t trust anything that person says.
    Attitudes such as those Moshe describes are deeply imbedded in American culture. To pretend otherwise is to be one or more of the following: in denial, privileged, and/or ignorant. Much progress has been made, but damn near every bit of it was made by confronting the issues. (I remember my mother saying to me in the ’60s, “If colored people would just stop making trouble and just be a little patient, they’d get their equal rights.” She told me that as we closed in on the 100th anniversary of the 14th Amendment.) Moshe’s piece confronts subtler but still important issues and seeks dialogue that furthers that progress. Each of us can decide if we want to move forward in that dialogue or just stamp our feet.

  19. Rays fan - Feb 11, 2010 at 11:49 PM

    Of course there’s subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) elements of racism still in this country. Example–I went shopping with an African American friend of mine who makes the same 6-figure salary as I do and dresses just as well, yet we get followed around the store by the security goon–which I never had when I was alone.
    However, I would still rather be so damn good that people say that I “make it look easy out there” than to call me “scrappy.” Thus, I think the TYU article’s author should relook at what’s really the best compliment and whether really any of it means anything.

  20. brian - Feb 13, 2010 at 10:35 PM

    The thing that always amazes me about these articles is how much resistance they create. In my brain, I think “yep, probably.” and move on. No big deal. It is not a big threat to me or anybody, really. Everyone seems to want to argue about this. To me, THAT resistance is the proof of the double standard.

  21. KathyBaseball - Feb 22, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    Fantastic, Ralph! And I bet very few people pick up on it, hehe. Sad, really.

  22. flood - Feb 24, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    when i think “gifted” i think of guys who make it look so damn easy that its not even funny… like watching Ozzie Smith field, A-Rods homerun swing, henderson stealing, Rivera closing out games or old footage of guys like Mays… they did the improbable and made it look like it was nothing. These are skills that you cannot achieve by hard work.. you’re born with that ability and you are just better than other players by genetics.
    theres nothing racist about calling someone gifted.. hell its basically saying they are genetically better than the average person.

  23. Steve B - Mar 2, 2010 at 12:48 AM

    No one on this blog or comment section has argued at any point that when *you* (whoever you may be) call someone ‘gifted’ you are being racist. People are arguing that ‘gritty’ gets applied to white people more often than black people, for example, and a bunch of other things like that.
    No one is trying to take the word away. They’re just noting that terms aren’t consistently applied.
    My parents have this same reaction when I bring this kind of stuff up: “*I* don’t use that term that way and it doesn’t have to mean that so it’s not racist.” What does this come from? A misperception that any identification of adverse racism or subtle racism is trying to demonize a term or a group? A desire to confirm that I, myself, am not racist when I say a ballplayer is gifted? Or does it just come from like Mars or something? Have the people who blather on about the tyranny of political correctness actually managed to convince everyone that people who identify trends of subtle racism primarily want to take words away? If so, they have done an excellent job of screwing up that whole debate. Helpful.

  24. Dan - Mar 2, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    Moshe Mandel is quite the scrappy sports writer.
    People believe what they want to believe. People see racism as much as they want to see racism.

  25. PapiSox - Mar 9, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    I’ll give you a better example of this phenomena, and it comes from football.
    Google searches confirm this with stunning accuracy. Who is Raiders quarterback Demarcus Russell most often compared to? Doug Williams and Steve McNair. Who is Donovan McNabb most compared to? Randall Cunningham and Warren Moon.
    Seldom will a black player remind the writer/fan of a white athlete, and vice-versa. The idea that “people don’t see race” is inherently false and sorta condescending.

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