What would a Red Sox/Yankees game be without the embittered beanings of John Lackey? Lackey, determined to exhaust any good will or leniency his off-field challenges might earn him, took exception to the “fiery” preening of replacement-level backup catcher Francisco Cervelli after Cervelli took Lackey deep for the third home run of his career.

Beanballs flew back and forth as numerous messages were sent and received and everyone gave their chests a healthy puffing. After the game, BoSox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia voiced his concerns with the relative levels of Cervellli’s swag that started the entire tired exercise.

The Boston Herald quoted Salty innocently enough when he was asked about what got Lackey’s goat enough to empty both benches:

“That’s the kind of guy he is,” the Red Sox [team stats] catcher said after last night’s 5-2 loss to the Yankees. “He’s real emotional. When he gets on base, after every strikeout that ends an inning, he pumps his fist. To me, the clap at home plate . . . he hit a home run. Second of the year. Good for him.”

Nothing wrong here. A harmless shot across the bow of a mediocre back-up catcher, a role Salty knows nothing about. Later in the same gamer, the plot thickens.

“The game, it’s changing,” Saltalamacchia said. “Younger guys are coming in. I’ve seen it. (Rangers shortstop) Elvis Andrus, (Yunel) Escobar over at short (for Toronto), a lot of players. It’s the way they play the game.”

Interesting! The Herald leaves it up to us to read between the lines, that way YOU’RE the racist one. Which is odd, since other reporters in the same scrum transcribed a slightly different quote.

From the files of Comcast Sports Northeast comes this altered soundbite:

“The game’s changing,” Saltalamacchia said. “A lot of Latin players, that’s how they play. It’s OK to an extent. But sometimes you’ve got to step back.”

The plot, she thickens further! CSN cites Saltalamacchia use of Elvis Adrus as an example of a flashy player before publishing some follow up comments from the Red Sox catcher, who realized he’d stepped in it and called back the assembled press horde to clarify:

“I basically wanted to clarify and say I wasn’t trying to say `Latin’ players or any of that stuff,” Saltalamacchia said. “I was just saying he was an emotional guy and a lot of the younger guys coming up were emotional players and they’re young guys coming up, wanting to make a name, and stick around. The game’s changed a little bit from when the older guys were coming up and veterans were a key in their development. So, basically, I was saying he’s a real emotional guy and I have no issues with him, doing what he does, because that’s the player he is.”

Okay! Glad we cleared that up!

Killing Salty doesn’t really accomplish anything here. Are we naive enough to think this isn’t the way the majority of baseball players think? Ever catch any of the Jays when they join local zoo crew/fart joke traffickers on morning radio? Rarely do their jokes stray far beyond the “Ricky Romero is Mexican” line of attack.

Not to excuse any of their actions but there is a certain cultural element to the baseball world at play here. These lines are often drawn in clubhouses – across language, religion and just about any separation we can think of. It happens.

The bigger question centers on the editorial decisions to toy with Salty’s quotes. Did the Herald consciously choose to exclude the potential hot-button word “Latin” or did they simply not get that quote? The New York Daily News certainly gave Salty rope and let his own words tell the story. Why did CSN use the catch-all Latin rather than Saltalamacchia’s very specific player references? Curious decision making across the board.

Making an example out of Jarrd Saltalamacchia isn’t likely to accomplish much. I hereby advocate MLB-mandated re-education for every member of the Players Association as pictured below. It’s the only way to get through to these bigoted ball players. They’ll never learn without our help and guidance!

Image courtesy this awesome resource.