It’s pretty simple, really: Yunel Escobar shouldn’t play another game in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform this season.
A three-game suspension is not enough for his homophobic slur, but these things are of necessity bargained with the Major League Baseball Players Association. The solution now is to send him home once the suspension is over, to bid him well in the sensitivity training program he has agreed to attend in return for a less harsh suspension and tell him to get started on that advocacy work and, well, see ya next spring. I wouldn’t bother telling him he’ll be traded.
This has been a lousy season, with injuries all over the place and real questions about the talent level at several key positions. No one can say this club is closer to the playoffs now than it was at the end of last season, but even as the Blue Jays faded into the American League East cellar there was the hope offered by the connection the team made with the city and country. Television ratings were through the roof when they were contending, the Rogers Centre showed signs of being a destination once again and, in Brett Lawrie, the Jays seemed to at long last have a Canadian star.
Yet that connection is still at the stage where it must be nurtured, more so this morning than on Monday.
The stupidity and arrogance of Escobar and his teammates have done more than torched currency with the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community; it has given other peoples of diversity cause to second-guess, and that is deadly in this age of social media and high-tech marketing in a city as diverse as Toronto.
Many of us have been proponents of giving manager John Farrell an extension as Blue Jays manager, even if the Boston Red Sox aren’t snooping around. But on Tuesday morning a lot of us stopped wondering how close or how far this team is from being a success on the field and looked at the bigger picture. Farrell says he did not notice the offending words “TU ERE MARICON” (which can be translated as: You are a faggot) that Escobar wrote on his eye-black, that you’d have to be looking into Escobar’s eyes to see it and that at any rate the shortstop was always writing things on his eye-black meant to be “uplifting” or “inspiring” to his teammates.
Leaving aside the logistical matter of how words that aren’t big enough to be seen can be inspiring, the broader issue here is about the Blue Jays clubhouse. Escobar used the same defence that Luis Suarez used in the English Premier League last season when he was suspended for eight games for a racial slur directed at Patrice Evra – that cultural differences blurred the context of the word – but that’s a lazy excuse. Every baseball player, whether or not they speak Spanish, knows the full contextual, um, “glory” of the word. That none of them took matters into their hands may not necessarily mean they dislike Escobar; but it certainly suggests a lack of caring, and here’s hoping it’s only because we are getting close to the time of year when, as Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Van Horne would say at the end of another brutal Montreal Expos season, “We get to choose our friends again.” Or that with injuries to the likes of Jose Bautista and J.P. Arencibia and Ricky Romero’s battle with his own pitching hell there is a sort of empathy vacuum.
At any rate, this was not a banner day for the Blue Jays. Farrell seemed surprisingly tone-deaf, especially after general manager Alex Anthopoulos – as disappointed as I’ve seen him – spoke about how further education was needed and offered the hope that Escobar could become an advocate for a good cause. Anthopoulos was right about one thing: A suspension won’t make homophobia, racism, or any other societal ill go away. Like Mitt Romney, he can’t heal the planet. But he damned sure better heal his baseball club.
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