Saturday, February 27, 2010

Carl Crawford, "Street" And Prejudice

Yesterday, Rob from Bronx Baseball Daily wrote a interesting and thoughtful post about some comments that Steve Lombardi from Was Watching made in reference to Carl Crawford. Rob made some even-handed commentary on a delicate subject but more has come up since his post was written and I wanted to take a moment to highlight the issue here.

Riffing on a report from Jon Heyman about the Yankees possible interest in Crawford, Lombardi stated matter-of-factly:
Two things about Carl Crawford: One, he’s very “street.” Think Mickey Rivers meets Rickey Henderson – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Okay, we all know "street" is a another term for "ghetto", but with a slightly less overt racial connotation. You can say that there "isn't anything wrong with that", but the fact of the matter is that you're still judging someone that you don't personally know based on a few things you've gleaned from watching them on TV. Why Steve even felt the need to point this out, I don't know, but he then went on to say:
Two, I dunno why…but… I just have this feeling that he’s one of those players who will be out of the game by the time he’s 35 years old. Granted, that’s not until 2017. And, I could be totally wrong on this… and he’ll be a Tim Raines type who plays into his late 30’s.

I’m just saying… if it were me, I’d be careful about giving him a very long term deal once he hits the free agent market. I’d be very concerned about going more than 5 years on an offer. But, that’s just me…
Lombardi has since denied that those two "points" (if you can even call them that) were connected, but if the hunch about Crawford being out of the game when he's 35 isn't related to the presumption that he's "street", then where did it come from? As Tom Tango is fond of saying, "Summary opinion without evidence is the very definition of bullsh!t". And Steve's statement is either A) prejudiced, B) bullshit, or C) both.

Additionally, given how much Lombardi criticizes Brian Cashman, I find his "analysis" of the Crawford situation to be endlessly amusing. Steve just has a feeling that Carl Crawford won't have a long career, so the Yankees should be careful about giving more than 5 years (as if any long term signing wouldn't be made with care). At least the Yankee GM bases decisions on tangible things that can be supported with evidence, as opposed to abstract feelings and hunches that admittedly can't be explained ("I dunno why... but...").

Predictably, people jumped on him in the comments about this, particularly the use of "street" and Lombardi attempted to "clarify" himself:
Just to clarify the “street” comment…

If you’ve ever heard Crawford interviewed, you probably understand this…

His communication skills are very far from polished. He’s not Jeter, Granderson, A-Rod or Teixiera like in terms of the way he presents himself verbally.

Further, have you seen the huge tattoo on the side of his neck? Somehow, I don’t think you’ll see Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte running out and getting one of those too.
Carl Crawford isn't under consideration to be the Yankees' next official spokesperson, so I'm not sure why his communication skills or the placement of his tattoos are relevant. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and many other players have a ton of tattoos. Joba Chamberlain isn't very good with the media. Would you like to use those things to infer things about their respective characters, Steve?

Late yesterday, Lombardi again attempted to "clear up" his comments about Crawford by citing the fact that he is a fan of Rickey Henderson:
Yeah, Rickey Henderson – who is really no different from Carl Crawford in terms of his image or whatever you want to call it. Really, the only difference between Henderson and Crawford is that Henderson had a better batting eye and played in the majors for a quarter-century whereas Crawford just has eight season under his belt, to date.

So, if I were a racist, explain to me why I have so much respect and admiration for Rickey Henderson – and have a picture of him hanging in the rooms of all my children? Does that sound like a racist to you?
"I respect Rickey Henderson as a baseball player. HOW COULD I POSSIBLY BE RACIST?!?!"

Let's ditch the R-word. Because apparently if you respect an athlete of a certain race and hang a picture of them in your children's rooms, that absolves you from being a racist in any other capacity.

What were talking about here is prejudice, which, to be clear is, "a preconceived belief, opinion, or judgment made without ascertaining the facts of a case". The biggest problem with Lombardi's statements is not the fact that they may or may not have racial connotations. I take issue with trying to draw conclusions about a person's character based a few interviews and the placement of one tattoo.

Rob from BBD actually took the time to ask a Rays blogger about Crawford's reputation as a person, instead of just assuming he already knew what he was about. Here's a bit of what Devon Rodgers from Rise of the Rays told Rob:
From all I have seen he is a very positive person. When I am hanging around by the field before the games, he is always joking around with the players, batboys and security staff. He is very well liked by the players and he is one of the fan favorites.
Kinda makes the tattoo and the PR skills seem irrelevant, doesn't it?


  1. i read his defense of his staments earlier myself. total BS-- I generally like what he has to say, but unfortunately he feels compelled to find a negative story line - i know that's the "vibe " of his blog, but it does turn off some readers like myself. his insane obsession against cashman is a good example of this.

    he easily could have said " i don't want to sign crawford because i'm worried about how playing on turn in St Pete for 7 years will impact his knees as he grows older" in fact that IS a legit concern and one reason why i was all for going with matt holliday in LF instead of waiting for crawford. i think holliday's skills will age better.

  2. I'm going to go on record in saying that Steve Lombardi is an asshead, not just for his ridiculous commentary, but also for the poor, superficial way in which he handled its backlash. The guy totally missed the point of what Rob was saying about race and subtle forms of racism, then got his hackles up about the criticism he received--including from me, resulting in his deleting my account with WW. Just as well. Below is a post of mine in response to the very segment that Jay cited:

    "Steve, you appear to miss the entire point of this in your “Clearing Up Crawford Comments” post. Rob’s initial post, which referred to a previous post at BBD about race and sports by Brian Burkhart, which referred to a Moshe Mandel post about race and sports at TYU, which cited a Nicholas Kristoff article in the New York Times, which cited the work of Yale psychologist John Dovidio, addressed what Dovidio termed “aversive racism.” This quite clearly delineated racist statements and actions from unconscious racism, in which one makes particular assessments based upon race by addressing other, more “discussable” aspects of a black person–in this case, one’s tattoo and speech as “street”–that one does not for whites. Whether or not you agree, that’s what you did, and can explain why it is that you revere Rickey Henderson and his play, yet also seem quote capable of making biased value judgments toward a black player with criteria not applied to white players.

    In fact, your response also smacks of the “some-of-my-best-friends-are-black” defense by citing Henderson–whether or not you realize that, either. I often prefer to refer to such characterizations as “racialist,” which removes the accusatory stigma that “racist” brings while at the same time pinpointing and emphasizing aspects of race present in a characterization and its interpretations. It explains your characterizations as implicitly about race, i.e. racial, whether or not you initially or subsequently saw them as such."

    From all this, it is not difficult to deduce that Lombardi is painfully obtuse, for he simply didn't get that I, and others such as Rob at BBD, let him off the hook about racism per se, and characterizing his comments in a way that tried to probe the terms he used and their socio-racial context. Yet he was beyond defensive and lacked the circumspection to analyze his own writing and its subtext.

    He's an idiot, and his extreme anti-Cashman rants are a prime example of that.

  3. This isn't surprising. I don't know why anyone reads this clown anymore.

  4. I stopped reading his blog quite a while ago...I can't stomach the negativity and lack of critical analysis. That he wrote those things about Carl Crawford do not surprise me at all.