|Yunel Escobar (Flickr / james_in_to)|
Nevertheless, at the press conference he claimed in Spanish that "It was nothing intentional directed at anyone in particular. I have nothing against homosexuals. I have friends who are gay. I’m sorry for what happened and I can guarantee that this will not happen again in my career…I didn’t mean for this to be misinterpreted by the gay community." He added that the words were meant to be a joke and often used in baseball with no meaning. He also asserted that they didn't have the same impact as the translation would in English, but joke or not, the latter assertion is nonsensical.
Escobar's antics might have passed unnoticed and uncommented by teammates, team management or fans had not Blue Jays season ticketholder James Greenhalgh, sitting near the dugout in Rogers Stadium, not snapped a shot of Escobar and posted it on his Flickr site. Thereafter fans and the media noted the phrase, posted the image and words and Twitter, and baseball's authorities eventually responded.
Blues Jays management will donate the $28,000 Escobar will lose during his suspension to You Can Play and The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). He will also participate in an outreach initiative to "to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation," though it strikes me he might benefit from some education about the impact of such terms, whether or not he has any "gay friends," as he claims he does, and whether or not the phrase is used regularly without any "meaning" in baseball, or wherever else he rolls.
More generally, the season is winding towards its end, and instead of the usual suspects in the playoffs, this October could feature several new squads gaining airtime. In the American League, with 14 to 15 games left, the division leaders are the Texas Rangers (3 games ahead of the Oakland A's) in the West; the Chicago White Sox (3.0 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers) in the Central Division; and the New York Yankees just 0.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the East. To put it another way, any of these six teams could end up division leaders, and any (as well as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) in a Wild Card slot too. The Rangers, the AL's best team last year and World Series losers to the Saint Louis Cardinals, have the best record at 87-60, but nearly the all the other top teams aren't far behind. I expect Texas to repeat as league champions, but it would be exciting to see Baltimore or Oakland in the Series, after their long absences.
In the National League, the Washington Nationals, the league's newest team and, in its earlier incarnation, a perennial also-ran, leads the East division by 6 games. In the Central Division, the Cincinnati Reds top the standings, with an 11 game lead over the Cardinals. In the West, the San Francisco Giants are nine games ahead of their next closest competitors, the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a result, the scramble really is for the Wild Card slots, and Atlanta, the Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are all within 2 to 4 1/2 games of a berth. Although I have no deep affection for the Senators, I would love to see them make the World Series, especially if Baltimore were the AL pennant winner. On the other hand, a reprise of the 1989 earthquake-jolted series between San Francisco and Oakland. (Oakland won that matchup 4-0, though San Francisco beat Texas two years ago, 4 games to 1.) Chicago or Detroit vs. Cincinnati wouldn't be uninteresting either.
As for the Yankees and Cardinals, I wouldn't complain if either or both teams ended up in the Series, but fresh faces wouldn't be so bad for a change, and given that the Cardinals won just last year (and before that in 2006), and the Yankees won in 2009 (which meant that I was able to attend the celebration in Lower Manhattan), I can go a few years or so with other teams succeeding to the main stage.