The debate over what belongs in baseball is usually not black and white. It should be argued in the gray areas or, to steal a cliché from another sport, between the 40-yard lines. Time and place must be considered.
The Toronto Blue Jays have found themselves at the epicenter of these debates with regularity over the past few years. This latest Jays-fueled incident, however, is different than the rather innocuous ones prior.
An inning later, Bautista launched a solo home run and flipped his bat to a) send a message and b) celebrate reducing the deficit to four runs. Benches emptied again. The Braves answered by plunking Devon Travis, who had no reaction as he took his base.
The ethics of quick-pitching and post-homer showmanship differ among reasonable minds. But the adjudication of nebulous “unwritten rules” is — and always has been — an over-covered part of Major League Baseball. We can debate until we’re red-faced over the actions taken by Motte and Bautista and walk away with different conclusions.
One aspect of last night’s fracas is black-and-white, with a clear answer. Homophobic slurs have no place in baseball and are infinitely more antiquated and obsolete than any unwritten rule.
Pillar seems to grasp this as Major League Baseball investigates.
“It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for,” Pillar said after the Blue Jays’ 8-4 loss. “It’s part of the game, it’s just, I’m a competitive guy and heat of the moment. Obviously I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to reach out and apologize and let him know he didn’t do anything wrong, it was all me.”
That said, there’s something missing from that apology: a direct address to the LGBTQ community. Motte may have been the intended recipient of Pillar’s reported words, but the shrapnel spreads much wider.
He later tweeted the following, which solved the most pressing issue with his first apology:
Perhaps it’s my naivety and bubbled existence that’s contributing to the disappointment a player’s first reaction would be a hateful slur. Perhaps it’s a bridge too far to suggest it could be an unusual response to the same underlying stimulus that fuels so many baseball dustups — that being a misguided code of masculinity.
A quick pitch is one of the more harmless things a player could endure. We’re not talking about high cleats or high heat or anything else that presents a significant injury risk. A quick pitch is more of a Bush League move — a dirty trick or, depending on one’s point of view — a “sissy” move.
One cringeworthy response, for now, is just that. Perhaps this is outlier behavior. Or, this type of retrograde thinking is still prevalent in baseball, waiting to come out when provoked.
If prudent, MLB should send a strong message to show there’s no place in the game for hate. And not only because it’s the moral thing to do. The cold reality is that the sport is already hemorrhaging relevancy, especially among younger generations. Alienating them further with out-of-date standards for behavior won’t help reverse the trend.