Take It Easy on Ian Kinsler

I saw a notification from Bleacher Report on Wednesday that said the following, verbatim:

 “Team USA’s Ian Kinsler knocks Latin teams showing emotion in WBC — ‘They were raised differently.’ “

Based on the quote they included, the headline seemed a bit sensationalist. Naturally I wanted to investigate, so I clicked the full article (which you can find here) and the title of that article was equally as sensationalist:

Ian Kinsler doesn’t think Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic players play the game the right way

Not only was that not what he said in any regard, it didn’t even seem like he was insinuating that. Here’s the full quote:

“I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays. That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”

I read this as Kinsler saying not that Puerto Rico or DR do it worse than the American players, but rather that he hopes that the beauty of the game isn’t lost on fans who want to see the flashiness that the Puerto Rican and Dominican players exhibit. Personally, I love to see some flare when players play; the unwritten rules of baseball are, frankly, stupid. But more on that later in the post.

I’m really not supposed to do this, but I’m going to criticize some folks for the reporting that was done on this story. I know that everything today is written just to get clicks, so the sensationalist titles make sense, but how can NBC Sports put up a story in good faith essentially alleging that Ian Kinsler is a racist? Kinsler, from the quote, clearly does not take a huge issue with the way Puerto Rican players and Domincan players conduct themselves on field, so why are all the reporters making such a big stink about the quote? I think we all need to take a step back and try to examine what he’s really saying here: players from different upbringings play the game differently, and I hope fans can appreciate all styles of play. Yes, it’s not necessarily as fun to watch guys hit home runs and then stoically round the bases (as Kinsler did on Wednesday after hitting a HR in the World Baseball Classic championship game, which the United States won 8-0, for the record), but that shouldn’t take any appeal away from the accomplishments of the players on the field, and it shouldn’t make fans turn away from the game.

I also want to call out the NBC Sports writer who posted the original story for getting on Team USA manager Jim Leyland’s case (his name is Bill Baer, in case you were wondering). In the article, where Baer accuses Kinsler and Leyland of wanting to “squelch” other cultures, he uses a quote from Jim Leyland without any context: “We’re trying to make America great again.” Leyland, according to this article, chuckled after saying it, but Mr. Baer insinuated that Leyland was in on the anti-fun, “racist” stance of Kinsler, by saying “Jim Leyland got in on the action,” in reference to Leyland’s “Make America great again” quote.

So much for reporting without bias (or even a sliver of integrity, for that matter.)

If we want to get outraged with someone’s comments, let’s get outraged at Adam Jones. I don’t think what he said was particularly bad, but it was far more of a jab than Kinsler’s statement (which he later defended, article here). Here’s Jones’ full quote, courtesy of the LA Times:

“We are very, very emotional, very passionate. We just exude it in a little different way.

“I love it when you see the Dominican and Venezuelan teams, Puerto Rican teams jump all over. I love when you show a passion for something that you really enjoy doing. That shows that you care. … We just show our emotions in a tad bit different way. But it’s no disrespect to any other country and how they show it, because at the end of the day you’re playing a game, and you should play the game with passion.

“You have to take it with a grain of salt. You know, the bat flips that you see in the WBC, that’s not going to happen during the season, unless it’s certain people — Miggy, Beltre, Cruz, the big dogs, they can do that kind of stuff because they’ve earned that right.

“But some of the stuff I’ve seen, it’s probably not going to happen in the regular season. But, hey, this is the tournament for it to happen. If you’re going to do it, do it now and do it in winter ball.

“But I think the younger guys who have exemplified a little more perro caliente [hot dog], a little more of that, they know during the regular season, they have to respect the major league pitcher on the mound a little bit more.”

Jones’ comments are the ones I really have an issue with. As I mentioned before, I’m not a fan of the “unwritten rules of baseball,” and that seems to contrast with Mr. Jones. Obviously nobody likes to play against guys who show off unnecessarily or act like pompous idiots, but a little flare is not a bad thing. Take this video of Javier Baez, for example. Baseball purists will probably take Baez’s flashiness as a way of showing up the other team, but what’s not to celebrate? Molina made a picture-perfect throw down to second and beat the runner by quite a bit, so Baez celebrated in kind. Why should Baez now have to step into the box with an increased possibility of being thrown at, just for getting a little excited? He’s not one of the big dogs Adam Jones named in his quote, but should it matter? I think not. People should be allowed to play the game how they want to and enjoy themselves, because as much as you want to respect the game, it’s exactly that: a game.

We also have to keep in mind that this sort of flare and celebration is making baseball more enjoyable to watch. Whenever I go to games, I usually only get up to get food when my team is in the field, because there is typically nothing special about watching a little defense (to be fair, though, the Mets are not a defensive standout of a team). Baez is changing that. Baez himself said, “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

But hey, maybe the American players are doing something right. We did win the World Baseball Classic after all…

(Image Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

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