If ESPN.com columnist Jeff Pearlman were a surgeon, he’d likely eschew the scalpel for the hacksaw. The Pearlman hacksaw was on full display Tuesday, his sights set on Detroit Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield, with a column carrying the subtle headline: “Sheffield Is One Dangerous Moron.” What, exactly, does that mean?
“In major league baseball, there are morons, and then there are dangerous morons…. They are, to be kind, dim,” Pearlman writes. “What makes dangerous morons dangerous, however, is not stupidity–but, rather, an uncanny inability to recognize one’s own shortcomings. Unlike the moron, the dangerous moron believes he is wickedly intelligent, with volumes of fascinating musings just waiting to be dispensed.”
Considering the “dangerous morons” turning the world into a flambé of horrors, surely Sheffield’s sin must be grand. Maybe he let oil company execs write our nation’s energy policy, or didn’t fix the levees in New Orleans, or called WMDs in Iraq a “slam dunk.” In the era of Bush, Cheney and Tenet, the bar on dangerous morons has been raised considerably.
Sheffield, a lifetime .300 hitter closing in on 500 home runs, has rattled more than a few batting cages with a recent GQ Magazine interview about the tensions between African-American and Latino ballplayers. This has caused Pearlman, and many other sportswriters, to jump on Sheffield with both feet. It’s frankly not hard to understand why.
Sheffield, one of the now only 8.5 percent of African-American players left in the game, spoke about his frustration over baseball’s current ethnic mix.
“I called it years ago,” he said to GQ. “What I called is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out…. [It’s about] being able to tell [Latin players] what to do–being able to control them. Where I’m from, you can’t control us…. These are the things my race demands. So, if you’re equally good as this Latin player, guess who’s going to get sent home? I know a lot of players that are home now can outplay a lot of these guys.”
Pearlman pledged to not waste a keystroke commenting on the substance of Sheffield’s remarks:
“I refuse to bash Sheffield for his words because, quite frankly, the man is a dolt…. I don’t care what Sheffield thinks about the Latin-American versus African-American ratio of players.”
Pearlman’s condescending prose neglects the fact that Sheffield’s words are going to become grist for debate at a time when Latino immigrants off the field are becoming the Willie Hortons of the 2008 elections. So they need to be taken seriously.
Have Major League owners shown a preference for developing Latin American talent? Absolutely. Every club has a Latin American scouting department. Teams plow millions of dollars into baseball academies south of the border. But they don’t do it because Latino players are docile sheep. They do it because the young of Latin America live in dire poverty and they can sign 15-year-olds for $2,000. The Dominican Republic, called the Republic of Baseball, is particularly attractive. Its allure lies in its love of baseball and cornucopia of talent and–surely, this is just a coincidence–the fact that steroids are sold over the counter.