Thursday, August 5, 2010

More Latino Milestones

Keeping with the theme of a few of the last posts, here are a few Latino milestones of note in MLB.

- Ivan Rodriguez Joins the 300 Homerun Club for Catchers

With his second homer of the season coming against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park, Ivan Rodriguez joined a select club. In registering his 300th career homerun as a catcher, Rodriguez joins Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra and future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza.

Rodriguez currently has a career .298 batting average with 2783 hits (563 2B 51 3B 307 HR) and 1294 RBI. Rodriguez has a career .802 OPS (.353 OBP% .468 SLG%). He has 1422 K's, 497 BB and 127 stolen bases. This doesn't even take into account that Rodriguez is one of the best defensive catchers of not only our generation but of all time.

During a current 20-year career, Rodriguez has caught 2358 games while playing a total of only 8 games at both 1st and 2nd bases. He is prolific at throwing runners out that try to steal on him by throwing out an amazing 46% of all runners (754 allowed 638 caught stealing). By comparison, Bench threw out 44% of runners (610 allowed 444 caught stealing), Fisk threw out 34% (1302 allowed 665 caught stealing) and Berra threw out 47% (428 allowed 384 caught stealing).

I believe that it is only a matter of time before Ivan Rodriguez joins his fellow 300 homerun club in Cooperstown.

- Alex Rodriguez Joins the 600 Homerun Club

Alex Rodriguez with his 1st inning homerun off of Shawn Marcum of the Toronto Blue Jays became the 7th member of the 600 homerun club. In doing so, he became the youngest player to do so (at the age of 35) and is the second Latino to reach the milestone (Sammy Sosa 609) . Rodriguez joins the following players in the club:

Barry Bonds 762
Hank Aaron 755 (HOF)
Babe Ruth 714 (HOF)
Willie Mays 660 (HOF)
Ken Griffey Jr. 630
Sammy Sosa 609

Under normal circumstances A-Rod's achievement would be considered a free pass into Cooperstown but his admission to using performance enhancing drugs (PED's) during the 2001-2003 seasons puts his enshrinement in jeopardy. No doubt many baseball writers, who hold the power of enshrinement into Cooperstown with their vote, will vote to keep Rodriguez out. But I believe that a telling aspect to his career will be how current Hall of Famers see his accomplishment.

Hank Aaron, who some believe is still the Home Run King of MLB , had the following to say about Rodriguez's 600th homerun:

"When you reach that plateau, no matter where it is, whether you're playing in the Majors or the Minors, it's a tremendous accomplishment," Aaron said. "It means an awful lot to whoever reaches this achievement."

When asked about Rodriguez's achievement in the era of PED's, smaller parks and diluted pitching staffs due to expansion, Aaron had the following statements:

"It really doesn't matter what kind of asterisk you put by it -- 600 homers is something special," Aaron said. "It's been so long since I reached that mark, I really don't remember how I felt. But I'm sure I was excited, probably even more than Alex because there weren't as many people who had done it before."

Others were not as positive towards Rodriguez as Aaron is. Here are a few more comments from Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, and Gary Carter:

Sandberg: "That's a lot of home runs," Ryne Sandberg said. "It's really something for anybody who does that. It's a small group. And he joins that group. But that's all I've got to say about it."

Smith: "Basically, there will always be questions, always be doubts, whether the home runs were legitimate," Ozzie Smith said. "That's it in a nutshell. He came up in an era when everyone used. So it's very questionable."

Carter: "I think it's great, but obviously, he'll always have hanging over his head the allegations about the drugs he took," Gary Carter said. "In any event, he's one of those kids who had the tag of 'superstar' on him when he was drafted, and he became a superstar. So he'll always be recognized as a great player. But 600, that's an incredible milestone. Not too many players have gotten there. And if he stays healthy, there's a chance he might one day be the all-time home run guy. We'll see."

Time will tell how Alex Rodriguez is seen five years from the time he takes his last at-bat. Being under contract to the New York Yankees until 2017 that puts him eligible for the Hall of Fame in the year 2022. Who knows how the steroid era will be seen by then. Like I said, only time will tell.


For Further Reading
- Click Here for Mark Bowman's article named Aaron Impressed by A-Rod's Milestone from
- Click Here for Barry M. Bloom's article named Hall of Famers Weigh in on A-Rod from
- Click Here for an Interactive Timeline Amanda Cox and Kevin Quealy on the seven members of the 600-Homerun club from The New York

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ozzie Guillen: Right, Wrong or Just Misunderstood

ESPN Chicago reported on Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's comments about how he perceives that Latino players are at an disadvantage when compared to the Asian players who come to play in the United States. Here are some of his comments:

"Very bad. I say, why do we have Japanese interpreters and we don't have a Spanish one. I always say that. Why do they have that privilege and we don't?" Guillen said Sunday before Chicago played the Oakland Athletics. "Don't take this wrong, but they take advantage of us. We bring a Japanese player and they are very good and they bring all these privileges to them. We bring a Dominican kid ... go to the minor leagues, good luck. Good luck. And it's always going to be like that. It's never going to change. But that's the way it is."

Guillen, who is from Venezuela, said when he went to see his son, Oney, in Class-A, the team had a translator for a Korean prospect who "made more money than the players."

"And we had 17 Latinos and you know who the interpreter was? Oney. Why is that? Because we have Latino coaches? Because here he is? Why? I don't have the answer," Guillen said. "We're in the United States, we don't have to bring any coaches that speak Spanish to help anybody. You choose to come to this country and you better speak English.

"It's just not the White Sox, it's baseball," he added. "We have a pitching coach that is Latino, but the pitching coach can't talk about hitting with a Latino guy and that's the way it is and we have to overcome all those [obstacles]. You know why? Because we're hungry, we grow up the right way, we come here to compete."

Author of Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line (University of California Press, 2007) Adrian Burgos Jr., had commented on his book's page on Facebook asked whether or not Guillen's comments were a case of Ozzie being Ozzie or is he hitting on a systemic flaw in MLB practices? Here is how I responded:

I found similarities in what Ozzie said to how foreign players are treated in Japan compared to the Japanese players. The gaijin get interpreters and most times the players are paid more than the Japanese players in the league. You Gotta Have Wa (Vintage Departures 2nd Edition, 2009) by Robert Whiting highlights many examples of this occurrance.

I'm really not sure which way to take his argument. If there were as many Asian players as there were Latino players I'd be more open to agreeing with him. I guess teams save money by utilizing those bilingual Latino players as interpreters rather than hiring personel that will only translate. If the Latino players were offered that luxury when they first entered the league as the Asian players have then I would see no point of Ozzie's complaints. But we know how hard those first Latinos, especially the dark skinned ones had it trying to acclimate to a society that treated them badly on numerous fronts. The question is this: If there is a problem, what can be done to solve it without alienating a group of players.

The other dimension to this that many of the Asian players are professionals that played in established leagues before coming over to the majors and are paid more money than the Latino prospects. A worldwide draft would help to level the playing and paying field. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

On ESPN's Outside the Lines, the subject that Guillen brings up and the comments I made was covered in detail by group discussion. Among those involved were Sankei Sports MLB writer Masa Niwa, former MLB and NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball League) manager Bobby Valentine, former MLB and NPB player Eduardo Perez and Senior ESPN writer Jorge Arangure Jr. Click here to see the footage of the discussion. ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian also gives his perspective on Guillen's comments. Click here to see Kurjian's comments.

Guillen has now tried to backtrack somewhat on what he said by saying that his comments were taken out of context. I think the situation with his comments is similar to Torii Hunter's comments earlier this year about Latino Players compared to African American players. Without re-hashing what was said by Hunter, I believe that his comments weren't too far off the mark but it was how he said them. Same thing with Guillen.

Ozzie Guillen also went into the subject of performance enhancing drugs (PED's) in Baseball and how it related directly to Latino players. Here I believe he was more on the mark with his comments as how it described why players took these drugs in their home countries:

"It's somebody behind the scene making money out of those kids and telling them to take something they're not supposed to," Guillen said. "If you tell me, you take this ... you're going to be Vladimir Guerrero, you're going to be Miguel Cabrera, you're going to be this guy ... I'll do it. Because I have seven brothers that sleep in the same room. I have to take care of my mother, my dad. ... Out of this I'm going to make money to make them better."

I think he hits the nail directly on the head here. There is no excuse for the taking of the drugs but the reason is a valid one. Where Guillen screws up is by saying that he is the only one who is trying to educate the Latino players on the dangers of using PED's. For that he got firmly rebuked by MLB. Guillen is someone who will always be outspoken and shooting from the hip with his comments. Most times he is on the mark with his sentiment just not with the choice of words. Should he change? I don't think so. Simply put he is who he is.