Thearon W. Henderson
I honestly doubt that most of the people at ESPN even watch baseball; they basically are just casual baseball fans who have a TV network and talking points. Colin Cowherd says a lot of controversial things, just like many other talking heads at ESPN, but his statement on his Wednesday radio show that: "Robinson Cano plays a lot harder in those [WBC] games than he does for the Yankees," is just flat out stupid and has been called stupid by pretty much everyone, but I also think that this issue speaks to a larger issue not just with ESPN but with sports and how we watch athletes in general.
First off that Robinson Cano is top 5 players in the MLB, plays 160 games a year and is without a doubt the best second baseman in baseball. He's been an MVP candidate in each of the last 3 years and is the best position player in the AL East. Despite all this you know what comes up when you Google "lack of hustle" memorable quotes from Heavy weights, but after that you get article after article about players lack of hustle and many of them are about Robinson Cano and his perceived lack of hustle on the base paths or in the field. Many fans have crucified Cano for this stating that he has no heart and that the Yankees should let him walk because of this perceived lack of intensity, apparently Colin Cowherd, who I doubt actually watches baseball, listens to these people because why else would he think that an MVP candidate played harder in the World Baseball Classic than he does for the New York Yankees? Don't get me wrong Cano is less than perfect and to us as fans a player needs to be perfect at all times in order to be acceptable and in that quest we can ignore how great a player like Cano really is. Cano has nearly 1500 hits, 177 Home runs and has hit .308 over his first 8 seasons in the majors; Bill James gives him a 32% chance of getting 3,000 hits. He's had over 40 doubles six times in eight seasons, just missing 50 twice and despite what some think he is one of the best defenders in the game. How much better is he supposed to do if he is apparently such a lazy bastard according to Mr. Cowherd? Cano has done everything that is expected and wanting more from a player isn't wrong, but the casual racism of Colin Cowherd and many others in this manner is wrong.
Before I get into the issue of Casual Racism in baseball let me making a short statement. This is not simply an issue relating to just baseball it’s in all sports and it’s in all sports because it’s in our society as a whole. Also I am a White male living in Connecticut and so I have never experienced racism directed toward myself, but we all know "that guy" (and for all I know you could be that guy) who has said some less than nice things about another person based on their race and we have all probably made an unfair judgment about someone based on it as well. This does not make any of those statements any less wrong and when media figures do it they should be called out for it, which is what I am doing here. There is a problem in baseball that many people have called out in which Hispanic and Black players are often called lazy or lacking hustle and it’s not cherry picking answers, I mean watch a game of baseball or just talking heads talk about baseball they always find time to call out some kid who didn't hustle on ground ball and chances are that that player is Black or Latino. I wasn't joking when I said that I googled lack of hustle, here are some of the black and Latino players who came up when I did this:
Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, ROBINSON CANO, Edwin Encarnacion, Starlin Castro, Alex Rios, Domonic Brown, Justin Upton, BJ Upton, Alfonso Soriano.
How about White players: David Wright (article from 2009) and Lucas Duda. That's its nobody else, I seriously doubt that all white players are 100% focused all the time during a 162 game season and while we as fans may hope for that not to be the case it is. There were also several articles about the racism of this situation, but we still do it I mean Kevin Towers has gutted a team that won 94 games two years ago because his players were not GRITTY enough, so he traded Chris Young and Justin Upton and replaced them with Cody Ross and Adam Eaton because they are gritty and have fire. I am going to say that Kevin Towers is a complete moron if he believes that Cody Ross is better than Justin Upton. Trading Justin Upton because he isn’t “intense” or “fierce” like Cody Ross, or that he isn’t a leader, or that he makes the game look too easy, is another way of saying he’s black. And that in lies the problem, Gritty players are what everyone loves and you know what players described as gritty are, white. Does this mean that the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office and everyone who thinks like them are racist? No. But our social constructs influence the way we evaluate players and that's why people like Colin Cowherd buy into the idea that Robinson Cano is lazy and doesn't try because he isn't diving head first into first base at every ground ball. Does Robinson Cano make every play that he should, no and you know what nobody does including great players like Ichiro Suzuki or Joey Votto and most of the time it’s not because of a lack of effort. John Harper, of New York Daily News, said it best last September after Cano was blasted for not getting a ball in a game against Tampa "Cano’s history of nonchalance, most of which he has overcome, still gets him unfairly labeled as lazy. The real issue is that he’s the best defensive second baseman in the majors, and as a result, he thinks he can make any play at any time....He made a costly mistake on Monday (referring to the in game mistake) — a mistake in judgment, not effort." Unfortunately this isn't an issue that will go away any time soon and undoubtedly someone will blast Cano, or any other Black or Hispanic player, the second he doesn't make a play that somebody think he should have.
P.S: I just want to point out that players who play really hardnosed ball "gritty baseball" hurt themselves all the time and as much as it’s fun to see Brett Gardner dive head first into first base or lunge at a ball it’s not fun when they hurt themselves and most of the time the injury is not worth the results.