Gary Sheffield’s Got A Theory.

And I’m not sure MLB will like it very much. Basically, the Tigers slugger expressed to GQ magazine (sadly, not online, so we cannot put it in context, and I’m not coughing up money for GQ, frankly) that he believes that there are fewer African-American athletes in the League these days because, all things being equal in terms of talent between a black player and a Latino player, the Latino player is easier to control.

“I called it years ago. What I called is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out. … [It’s about] being able to tell [Latin players] what to do — being able to control them,” he told the magazine.

“Where I’m from, you can’t control us. You might get a guy to do it that way for a while because he wants to benefit, but in the end, he is going to go back to being who he is. And that’s a person that you’re going to talk to with respect, you’re going to talk to like a man.

“These are the things my race demands. So, if you’re equally good as this Latin player, guess who’s going to get sent home? I know a lot of players that are home now can outplay a lot of these guys.”

Touchy, touchy quote on the surface. The problem is, we’re not going to be able to judge what the real intent is unless someone buys the issue, and I’m not going to be that guy. So Sheffield could be talking about taking orders from a manager, but I think it also has to do with paying players what they’re worth — the language barrier and the development of academies for baseball in Spanish-speaking countries have developed a pipeline of cheap talent that isn’t paid as much from the start sometimes. However, as Tom Fornelli at the FanHouse notes, someone might want to ask Placido Polanco, Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen — if they feel that they’re easier to control.

Sheffield may not be completely wrong, though — a language barrier and difficulty will inevitably result in a relationship where the player is more likely to do as they’re told on the field. However, don’t managers generally look for guys that take direction well? That’s called being easily coachable, from what I remember, and managers and front office guys are generally looking for top-flight talent that will listen to them and do what they believe is best for team.

If he means something more along the lines of being willing to put up with abuse, that I’m not so sure about. And it begs the question — why are these guys he knows sitting at home if they can outplay the Latin players on the field? Context is everything. I suspect he might be referring to the “respect” in terms of a contract — certainly, GMs can get Latin players cheaper at the start of their careers.

Really, the basic reason why there aren’t as many black athletes in baseball is easy: the NBA and NFL dominate African-American culture nowadays, as far as sports go. So, as the opportunities to play in those leagues have expanded (and their stars have gained cachet in the community), then the athletes going into MLB have decreased.

The rest of the bits are fairly interesting — especially on Bonds and the steroid era.

You Will Not Control The Sheff’s Mind [AOL FanHouse]
Sheffield has theory on why fewer blacks play MLB [ESPN]
(Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Gregory Shamus)

10 Responses

  1. Actually, you can go to Lou Dobbs on this one. There are other reasons why blacks, in particular, aren’t in MLB more (Dave Winfield is a good source on this), but the reason there are more Latin players is easy.

    1. Baseball to the DR, Cuba, et. al. is like football to the South.

    2. It’s cheaper to get a Latin player than an American player. I forget the exact calculations, but I think it involves cash in developing the player through the minors and all that jazz.

  2. The signing bonuses for the academy types developed in Caribbean countries actually do wind up being less money in development and salary. And obviously, you’re right about the DR and Cuba in terms of baseball’s importance.

    Eventually we’ll probably be talking about the lack of U.S. talent in baseball.

  3. […] Here’s the story. […]

  4. […] Gary Sheffield’s Got A Theory. [image]And I’m not sure MLB will like it very much. Basically, the Tigers slugger expressed to GQ magazine […] […]

  5. Isn’t it funny how Gary Sheffield can blatantly behave like a racist, and yet the media doesn’t call him out as such? Lucky for him that latino Americans don’t have high profile analogs to race baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. If they did, and it speaks well of them that they don’t, then Sheffield would join Don Imus in retirement. But no, let the crazy, racist black man say whatever he likes. Coddle him.

  6. Sheffield is another race baiting loser..Whats he wants to do IS DO WHAT HEW WANTS TO DO without being told what to do by any manager or GM!!!!! I guess when we the general go to work we should keep this in mind and see how long we have a job…remember he is from a ghetto and has no class…

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  8. It pisses me off that when a black person is racist it doesnt matter but any one else says it its wrong or a hate crime. Hes just mad because LATINOS are dominating baseball now

  9. Talk to the Angles and Cubs and ask them if players like Zambrano and Jose Guillen are really easy to dominate

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