In a sport that too often communicates via clichés, Ozzie Guillen’s outspokenness can be a good thing. Unfortunately, Guillen often speaks without thinking things through. As a result, the White Sox manager has diminished his impact, leading many to tune him out altogether. That’s too bad because he often has something important to say. So, instead of simply dismissing his latest rant about the relative treatment of Latin and Asian ballplayers, let’s take a closer look at each comment (as quoted by AP or transcribed from the original audio) to see if any have merit.
I say, why do we have Japanese interpreters and we don’t have a Spanish one. I always say that. Why do they have that privilege and we don’t?“
The answer to that question should be fairly obvious. Heading into this season, approximately 200 players from Spanish speaking countries were on Opening Day rosters, compared to 14 players from Japan. When you add in coaches and front office personnel, the number of Spanish-speaking employees on most major league clubs is fairly substantial. The same is not true, however, of those who speak Korean or Japanese. It makes little sense to employ a Spanish translator when so many already exist on the team. Asian players, on the other hand, need a translator. Otherwise communication between those players and their coaches and teammates would be near impossible. So, this isn’t an issue of privilege, but of necessity. Incredibly, Guillen actually concedes the point about the relative number of players from each background (he asks why one Korean player gets special treatment when 10 Latin American players on the team do not), but fails to realize the connection.
Don’t take this wrong, but they take advantage of us. We bring a Japanese player and they are very good and they bring all these privileges to them. We bring a Dominican kid … go to the minor leagues, good luck.”
On this point, Guillen couldn’t be more wrong. The reason Asian players come to the United States with privileges is because they have already established a professional career. Most Asian players are older and accomplished because they must first fulfill certain requirements before becoming eligible to play in the major leagues. To a lesser degree, college players are also in the same boat. They come to the majors with more experience and therefore command more privileges.
Of course, there is a tradeoff. Both Asian and college players are beholden to the reserve system by either the Japanese posting system or Rule IV draft, respectively. Latin players, however, are not so restricted. They are free to sign with whichever team they choose, allowing them to attract the highest bid possible. Because there are so many Latin prospects, most can not command the privilege of an Aroldis Chapman, for example, but all technically have the freedom to try.
When you draft an American kid, he is 22-23 years old. If you aren’t 16 in Latin America, they don’t sign you. Why do we sign 24 year olds here, but 18-years old in Latin America are too old. That’s the wrong way to do it.”
Again, Guillen completely misses the distinction. The reason major league teams sign older American players is because their is value attributed to the 3-4 years of development at most college programs. An older kid from Latin America, however, has not had that advantage, meaning the major league team will be responsible for providing the necessary education. Meanwhile, most major league clubs sponsor youth academies throughout Latin American, providing underprivileged youths with talent an opportunity to make the big leagues. Ironically, many African American players have argued that these academies represent an unfair advantage for Latino players that is denied to inner city youth.
Finally, there is no evidence to support Guillen’s claim that teams refuse to sign Latin players above the age of 16. Every season, scores of international free agents between the ages of 17-20 are signed to major league contracts.
I’m the only one to teach the Latinos about not to use. I’m the only one and Major League Baseball doesn’t [care]. All they care about…how many times I argue with the umpires, what I say to the media. But I’m the only one in baseball to come up to the Latino kids and say not to use this and I don’t get any credit for that.”
This is Guillen’s most absurd comment because it is demonstrably untrue. Not only does baseball currently test for performance enhancing drugs in the minors, but all organizations conduct related training. Furthermore, it’s incredibly arrogant of Guillen to suggest that he is the only one who seeks to educate Latin players on the topic. How could he possibly know if that is true? Besides, exactly how much time in his busy day does he devote to this calling?