What hath #jerkball wrought?

This is a Blue Jays website, and as such, I feel it appropriate that I put my two cents in over the Yunel Escobar eyeblack controversy. A situation which has, ironically, given the Toronto Blue Jays organization a black eye. First, I certainly don’t condone the sentiment expressed by Mr. Escobar. I would think long and hard about referencing someone’s sexual orientation, either playfully, or insultingly, and I don’t think he should have done it, either. Here’s the thing though, I’m not Yunel, and he isn’t me. I don’t expect that he and I would behave the same way under the same circumstances.

Before I get any further along about Escobar specifically, I’d like to remind those fans out there who’ve been around since the end of last season about #jerkball. Specifically, the idea that a certain amount of swagger, attitude and entitlement was part of a winning attitude. Joanna at Hum and Chuck praised the hard playing, win with attitude types in this post. Jerkball was a good reason to go after the discontented Logan Morrison. If we were going to compete, it wouldn’t happen by playing nicely with others.

The thing people seemed to leave out of the equation is that jerks, being who they are, tend to be the same way on and off the field. Like, at a hockey game, say, they tend to act more like frat boys, and less like politicians (maybe not politicians… maybe university professors is a better image here). This is not an excuse for this behaviour, it is a reminder that gritty, in-your-face playing is done by gritty in-your-face jerks, more often than not.

Alex Anthoupolous has made it clear that part of his organizations path to acquiring talent is to get it from places where it isn’t wanted so much. Sometimes you get the very polished and image conscious Jose Bautista. Sometimes you get the cerebral and understated Brandon Morrow. Sometimes, you get Yunel Escobar and Colby Rasmus. There is a danger in taking the outcasts from other organizations, sometimes they were outcasts for uncomfortable reasons.

Yunel is saucy and plays with a lot of strut and bat twirl. He picks up the foot of a runner who has just slid into second base and tags it. Quite regularly. And still thinks it’s funny. This is your guy. I can’t say for certain, that he would wear an ‘I’m With Stupid’ t-shirt to a party, but I think he might laugh at it. The fact that this particular guy put a message on his face that insulted everybody who looked at him, this doesn’t surprise me. Not in the least. It’s #jerkball.

It also doesn’t surprise me that nobody on his team stopped him. They haven’t been able to stop him from catching every single infield popup in the last month. The haven’t ever stopped him from whistling on the field. I haven’t heard a word from him about whether or not he appreciates having Omar Vizquel around to ‘help him mature’. I just don’t see why any of his teammates would want to try to be Escobar’s boss, or his caretaker. I’m not sure why anyone else thinks that there was a great responsibility to tell him he had crossed the line, either. Without specific authority, people tend not to take any action. This how every place I’ve ever worked has operated. Most employees get enough grief from their boss, they don’t want more negative attention by nagging on their co-workers.

As far as the boss, John Farrell? He has over 30 players in the dugout, plus coaches and trainers. He is trying to win a ballgame. I doubt very much he read Escobar’s face and wondered if he should get a translation.

So, from my perspective, what we have is one guy, acting like an idiot, or an ignoramus, or both. While doing something he thought was a goof, he crossed a line that a whole pile of fans felt was un-crossable. And to quote Andrew Stoeten, it “Blew up real good.”

And now Yunel Escobar is untouchable, and unforgivable.

I say “Slow down.” Take a breath. Really. This is not, as some of you would have me believe, a hate crime. It is a case of cultural implosion, like eating with your left hand in India. It leaves a bad feeling all around.

That Escobar came off with clichéd and awkward responses in his press conference to address the issue, is further evidence that he did not know how deeply he had cut into expectations about his conduct. He is not Jose Bautista.

Bautista went to college, came from a well to do family, and speaks letter-perfect English. Those are not the most important differences between Yunel and him, however. Jose Bautista understands that he is a brand. Bautista’s twitter account reads like a corporate website. He tweets about baseball, football, and basketball. Sometimes his teammates birthdays. Often he links to products he endorses. Frighteningly dull stuff. Dull, and professional every step of the way. Hit bombs, smile for the camera, talk about winning, get paid. Repeat. That process, of creating a ballplayer only brand, will save Jose all kinds of grief in the long run. He didn’t even want the fans know he had left teh team to see the birth of his daughter. It wasn’t part of the brand. Branding like that is a real, directed effort. An effort most players don’t realize they should be making. They just focus on playing ball.

The fans need to realize that playing ball may be the only thing that most professional athletes will ever be good at. Just remember the best three or four athletes at your high school. If you weren’t on the team with them, what kind of people were they? Jocks more than anything else? Not too interested in music and computer club? The majority of them were sports only people where I come from. It isn’t a culture that lends itself to sober thought and considered opinion. Toughness and team concept are much more important values.

So, Yunel’s been suspended for three games, and he’s learned, and will still learn a lot more about how words, in our culture, have more weight and meaning than they do in his. I’m not sure why calling for him to be run out of Toronto, and never put on a Blue Jays uniform again, sends a coherent message. Firstly, if you have never uttered the word ‘fag’ or called someone ‘gay’ or ‘a retard’ or even a ‘ho’ in your whole life, well good for you. And go get him, I’m sure pounding a man’s career into dust over one stupid thing he did will make you feel better about yourself. And don’t bother giving him a chance to redeem himself with his actions. That would just mess with the narrative.

Also, if you consider yourself a Christian, consider this: Nowhere in the bible does it say ‘And if someone offends you, run that loser out of town by sundown.’ I’m not a big bible reader, but I’m pretty sure it talks about forgiveness. If you aren’t a big believer in all that scripture type stuff, then just take a deep breath.

Now consider the stupidest, rudest, most inconsiderate thing you’ve ever done.

Would you want to lose everything you worked for over that one stupid act being exposed for all to see? Would you have deserved it? Would you want another chance?

As far as I’m concerned, that’s all I have to say about this. If the radio and TV talking heads have nothing else to talk about, well, let them go on and on. They can feel like they’ve got the right to keep hammering away at Escobar’s mistakes. I’m ready to see what’s next. I’m hopeful that hardship is an opportunity worry lees about the punishment, and more about acceptance.

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