A couple of weeks ago, The Atlantic published a feature report on the language that Major League Baseball announcers use to describe different players based on their ethnic origins. The findings, hardly surprising, suggested that baseball broadcasters apply a subtle racial bias to their work by being more likely to comment negatively when judging the effort of non-white players than they are for white players.

This isn’t merely a problem for baseball. It’s something that permeates most of the developed world. While progress has been made in terms of racial equality, it’s foolish to suggest that racism has been conquered and eliminated. While outlandish displays of prejudice based on skin color or background are easily spotted and often labelled as bad behaviour, we still struggle with the inherent racism that acts as an antiquated remnant of our past mistakes.

It thankfully remains a relatively rare occurrence to see overtly racist outbursts, but nonetheless they do occur. And according to Cincinnati Reds second baseman, one occurred last night in his team’s extra inning victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The incident of which Phillips tweets is believed to have occurred in the bottom of the eighth inning of yesterday’s game when Phillips was hit in the left leg by a pitch from Pirates reliever Jared Hughes.

After getting hit, the second baseman paused before walking over to the baseball that hit him, picking it up, and tossing it back to the mound.

Hughes didn’t see it right away, and after it landed, he began shouting at Phillips as the base runner made his way to first base.

Phillips remained fairly quiet, merely glaring at the relief pitcher as the umpires rushed over to the mound to contain any chance of things devolving further. Once play resumed, Hughes threw the ball to first base in a mock pick off attempt with Phillips still standing on the base.

At the end of the inning, Phillips, visibly upset, spoke with Andrew McCutchen as the Pirates outfielder made his way to the dugout.

He also explained why he was upset with an umpire.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, and presumably Major League Baseball, are aware of the accusations that Phillips is making, and it’s expected that there will be something of an investigation into the entire affair.

Personally, I hope such an investigation isn’t merely done for the sake of optics, and that MLB takes a real stand if Phillips’ accusation ends up being true and is supported by testimony from those on the field. We see the heavy hand of judgment that the league uses when dealing with banned substances, and part of the justification for that is to dissuade younger fans from mimicking their baseball playing heroes.

Sadly, racism is more accessible than performance enhancing drugs for most children, and MLB would do well to show that this type of behaviour is of the most intolerable in the sport.

And The Rest

Roger Clemens will definitely not be pitching in a Major League Baseball game this season for the Houston Astros. [FOX Houston]

The Chicago White Sox get some distance from the Detroit Tigers with a win last night. [South Side Sox]

The Oakland A’s get a measure of revenge against the Los Angeles Angels. [Athletics Nation]

Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is playing like the Justin Morneau that we remember. [Baseball Musings]

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is a 10 WAR player. [Halos Heaven]

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost discusses lineup construction. [Fangraphs]

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria remains confident about his team’s chances in 2013. [Fish Stripes]

Tim Lincecum knows what Stephen Strasburg is going through. [MLB.com]

The Houston Astros have released reliever Francisco Cordero. [MLB Baller]

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman will have surgery today, and could be done as a Major League Baseball player. [Viva El Birdos]

The National League also-rans who are still also-running. [Baseball Nation]

Mistake swings and forbidden steals. [Baseball Prospectus]

Comments (17)

  1. MLB certainly has an issue with how it handles these situations. They have taken a stance against performance enhancing drugs that they simply are unwilling to follow in other cases such as racism, drunk driving etc.

    The last thing you want to do with all of the shenanigans happening in the world of soccer is to look like you’re going to have the same tacit approval to players who say things in the heat of a game which run contrary to the ideals of fair-play and sport.

    Who knows what was said last night – Hughes is innocent until proven guilty, but there are absolutely brutal examples out there in the past 12 months of what can happen if we don’t actively seek to squash racism in sport.

  2. “we still struggle with the inherent racism that acts as an antiquated remnant of our past mistakes.”

    white guilt much?

    • Strong analysis. Thanks for sharing.

      • … “*our*” past mistakes? it’s not clear who the “we” parkes is affecting is.

        whether parkes means to responsibilize blacks by including them in his “we” whose “past mistakes” surely include the legacies of slavery and colonialism may be meant to call out the compradores who co-operated and operated the slave trade in West Africa, but outside of academic circles if you tell black people that slavery was their fault, i don’t think you’ll get too far. and given the tone and direction of the article, i don’t think that evoking this discussion was his intent.

        nor is it clear how racism is a “remnant” of past mistakes which can somehow be accredited to individual(ized) subjectivities in such a way that responsibilizes discrete actions outside of any kind of framework in which such actions take place. put plainly, suggesting that racism exists because people (ie. individuals) WERE racist in the past (but not anymore! mostly! at least not enough for there to be racism like in the past!) …and the only reason there is racism now is a result of a past that we’ve learned from seems to me to ignore the very real forms of discrimination that do manifest themselves quite loudly in the form of islamophobia, homophobia, sexism (see for example the response to the Bautista story last year)…etc.etc.etc. are not products of the same actions, discursive formations, and so on as the racism that parkes is referring to.

        anyway, if parkes had just omitted the “our” in the sentence, the effect would have been what (i assume) he intended: racism affects us all, and is a result of a history that implicates us all in working to rid the world of racism, and racist thought, etc.

        i don’t think parkes is racist. i like his writing, but small slip ups like that make a big difference to how a reader might interpret things. i understand the article to be advocating an anti-racist position, but i only meant to highlight the difficulty of talking about race is complicated by the stickiness of language, etc.

    • It’s all so overwhelming sometimes.

  3. Look at the pirates catcher. BP heading to first, catcher gets in Phillips’ ear, and then BP stops, throws the ball.

  4. Nothing changes, years ago any player who wanted to get under someones skin would call them a half ni**er, regardless if they were all white or mixed of any kind. Guys would say that to Ty Cobb, not cause they thought it was true. Just to try and get him off his game, which never worked. What did Phillips say was said? It better be true, cause the only thing worse than racism is when someone says they heard a remark just cause they are mad for being hit by a pitch.

    • It’s true and gross.

    • The only thing worse than racism is being falsely accused of racism? What??

      • I was meaning that if Phillips just said that cause he was pissed off for getting beaned, that is worse…. to me anyway. He does have a bad reputation. If its true then I hope for a suspension, If not true I think Phillips should be suspended for falsely accusing someone of that.

  5. The truth is the catcher called Brandon Phillips a Cleveland Browns fan which was more of an insult than Phillips could tolerate…

    • Lol, that is a huge insult. Worse would be calling Phillips as good as a player, as the Browns are as a team!

  6. anyone who puts any confidence in brandon phillips’ version of anything (his peers ranked him as the 5th most phony player in mlb, and his mouth is evidence enough of his foolishness and immaturity) is just not paying attention.

  7. To be clear, the report in The Atlantic didn’t find a racial bias against black players. It found an nationalist bias against non US/Canada players. International players are overwhelmingly latino, but the data was insufficient to determine whether the bias was against latinos or all foreign players.

  8. Very interesting points you have noted , appreciate it for putting up. “The only thing worse than a man you can’t control is a man you can.” by Margo Kaufman.

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