Skip to content

Why Torii Hunter’s comments about having a gay teammate matter

Dec 31, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

Torii Hunter AP AP

As we noted yesterday, Torii Hunter was quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying that having a gay teammate would be “difficult and uncomfortable” for him because such a person is anathema to his religion.

A fairly popular response to these comments is, basically, “hey, it’s just his opinion, man.” Hunter is merely speaking his mind (as we sportswriters all wish more athletes would), and how dare we jump on a guy for merely saying how he feels? A more specific version of that response is to say that Hunter is entitled to his own religious/political/social convictions, and that we shouldn’t criticize a guy for them, even if we personally disagree.

Baloney. Hunter’s views on homosexuality and his right to speak his mind are a red herring. Totally beside the point. Indeed, one can agree 100% with Hunter’s religious views and/or his take on gay people and still find his comments here out of line. Not because of political, religious or social reasons, but purely for baseball reasons. His comments suggest he’s a bad teammate.

Hunter is essentially telling past, present and/or future gay teammates — which there likely have been, are, or will be on teams for which Hunter plays — he has a problem with them despite them never actually butting heads with him on any matter. And he’s doing so in the press, not one-on-one. Try to think of any other situation in which that would be considered acceptable from a clubhouse/professionalism standpoint:

  • “For me, as a Mike Scioscia guy … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who manages differently than Mike Scioscia because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a guy who thinks pitchers should bean guys after home runs … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t bean a guy after he hits a home run because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a guy who thinks it’s OK to steal signs … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t steal signs because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a hitter who uses all fields … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who always tries to pull the ball because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as guy who always gives interviews … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t talk to the media, because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as an Arkansan … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone from Texas because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a pop music fan … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who listens to country music in the clubhouse because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”

If any player said stuff like that to the press, people would be all over him. Not because of the substance of the opinion — what kind of music Hunter listens too is between him and his ears — but because he is unnecessarily alienating teammates. He, as a well-respected veteran, is signaling that some stuff will fly with him and some stuff won’t, and preemptively saying that teammates who don’t adhere to his view of the world are going to have a much harder time with him. We would never find that acceptable.

And so it goes for these comments too. Even if you think homosexuality is an abomination (I don’t), and even if you think Hunter has the absolute right, as a citizen, to say what he wants about it (I do), the fact that he is calling out potential — and possibly actual — teammates in the press in a negative light is significant for baseball purposes. Teams expect players to put aside their differences and come together as a unit. When they are unable to do that, teams expect the matter to be handled in-house, among players, and not have the conflicts aired in the media.

Here, however, we have a player publicly telling teammates that he’s going to have a hard time with them and that, as a result, they are going to be less welcome in a Torii Hunter-led clubhouse than others. And if you’re the Detroit Tigers, this should bother you.

Latest Posts
  1. The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare

    Aug 22, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT

    cubs logo

    This has been such a fun story so far. So why NOT throw politics into it?

  2. Robinson Cano: “I don’t have any regrets” about leaving Yankees

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    Robinson Cano AP

    Robinson Cano has a $240 million contract, his new team has a better record than his old team, and he’s hitting .329 with an .865 OPS that’s slightly above his career mark.

  3. Adam Loewen is a pitcher again

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT

    New York Mets Photo Day Getty Images

    Can he make it to the bigs on a new path for a third time?

  4. Twins GM on manager Ron Gardenhire: “He’ll be back”

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    ron-gardenhire-twins AP

    If any team is going to keep a manager after four straight 90-loss seasons the Twins are the one to do it.

  5. Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to sign with the Red Sox for $72 million

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT

    Rusney Castillo Getty Getty Images

    The Red Sox paid a lot of money to get this guy. Expect him in the Sox’ outfield early next season.

  6. Position player pitching alert: Skip Schumaker, again

    Aug 22, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    Skip Schumaker Reds AP

    With the Reds down 8-0 to the Braves last night manager Bryan Price decided to save the bullpen and turned to utility man Skip Schumaker to work the ninth inning.

  7. An important note on nostalgia

    Aug 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    yaz

    It’s cool to love what you loved when you were 20. It’s not cool to claim that what you loved when you were 20 is the only thing worth loving.

  8. Aroldis Chapman returns from “achy” shoulder

    Aug 22, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    aroldis chapman getty Getty Images

    Aroldis Chapman gave the Reds a big scare when he walked all four batters he faced Sunday and then was unavailable for several days with an “achy” left shoulder, but the flame-throwing closer was back in action Thursday night.

  9. FYI: The “Homer at the Bat” episode will air this morning at 11:30AM Eastern

    Aug 22, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

    Sideburns

    Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder!
    Barney: Lord Palmerston!
    Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder!
    Barney: Okay, you asked for it, Boggs!

  10. And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

    Aug 22, 2014, 6:33 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 6.32.11 AM AP

    Another Washington walkoff. Another dominant Clayton Kershaw start. And some unusual stuff happened too.

  11. Joaquin Benoit expected to avoid the disabled list

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT

    Joaquin Benoit

    Padres closer Joaquin Benoit hasn’t appeared in a game since last Wednesday due to soreness in his throwing shoulder.

  12. Report: Rockies pulled Michael Cuddyer back off waivers after hamstring issue

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:51 PM EDT

    Michael Cuddyer AP

    Impending free agent Michael Cuddyer will almost certainly finish his season in a Rockies uniform.

  13. MRI comes back negative on Salvador Perez’s knee

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Salvador Perez AP AP

    Royals catcher Salvador Perez was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup with tightness in his right knee, but an MRI on Thursday revealed no structural damage.

  14. The Nationals extend their winning streak to 10 games with another walk-off victory

    Aug 21, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    4c6175926c38d231dc81e90954473530-2 AP

    Here’s hoping Nationals manager Matt Williams has been practicing his Babe Ruth home run trot, because he has a promise to fulfill.

  15. Yan Gomes exits game with concussion-like symptoms

    Aug 21, 2014, 6:57 PM EDT

    02e1eef82480ad08381dc3cd40aa3625 AP

    Gomes was hit in the mask in the bottom of the fifth inning by a ball that deflected off the arm of Kurt Suzuki on a hit-by-pitch.

  16. Phil Hughes rolls to 14th win, sports third best K/BB ratio ever

    Aug 21, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT

    Phil Hughes Phil Hughes

    But not the best among major league starters this season.

Featured video

Who's to blame for Cubs tarp fiasco?
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Castillo (4280)
  2. M. Cuddyer (2689)
  3. K. Bryant (2419)
  4. G. Richards (2238)
  5. A. Garcia (2118)
  1. A. McCutchen (2058)
  2. W. Myers (2052)
  3. J. Werth (2007)
  4. H. Ramirez (1935)
  5. Y. Molina (1882)