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Not too many things are certain in life, but as we enter September, conflict between the Red Sox and the Yankees is about as certain as the sun rising in the east. 2011 marks yet another year when the Sox and Yanks have been neck and neck for the division championship all year and as a result, tempers are high on both sides. The latest incident is in regards to a comment made by Red Sox catch Jarrod Saltalamacchia after the Sox dropped their Tuesday game 5-2 to the Yankees.
The play that led to Salty’s postgame remarks was Yankee’s catcher Francisco Cervelli home run off John Lackey in the fifth inning. The Yankees may view Cervelli as the future at the catcher position, but right now he is the backup to Russell Martin. As a relative newcomer to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and having only hit two home runs in his MLB career until that point, Cervelli was more excited than most to have hit a home run. Although he showed little sign of this while rounding the bases, he expressed his excitement at home plate by clapping in front of Saltalamacchia. This led to John Lackey hitting Cervelli in the seventh inning, on a pitch that was blatantly intentional. Cervelli then began to walk toward Lackey and Saltalamacchia intervened, exchanging words with Cervelli.
After the game when asked about Cervelli’s clap, Saltalamacchia stated:
“It’s just Latin players. That’s the way they play the game. It’s OK to an extent. If you go a little further than that, that’s when you need to step back.”
Saltalamacchia later clarified this statement saying:
“I basically wanted to clarify and say I wasn’t trying to say ‘Latin’ players or any of that stuff. I was just saying he was an emotional guy and a lot of the younger guys coming up were emotional players and they’re young guys coming up, wanting to make a name, and stick around. The game’s changed a little bit from when the older guys were coming up and veterans were a key in their development. So, basically, I was saying he’s a real emotional guy and I have no issues with him, doing what he does, because that’s the player he is.”
The irony of this statement is that Cervelli is actually of Italian decent, though he grew up in Venezuela. It’s clear that Saltalamacchia didn’t mean any harm based on his clarification. David Ortiz defended Salty saying “Salty’s a sweet dude. He comes (in here) every day and he gives me a hug, and I’m Latin … he’s a sweet dude. He’s a good kid.” Ortiz also agreed with the comments Saltalamacchia made about Latin players saying: “I mean, we are like that for real.”
But even though this situation seems to be diffused, it’s interesting to look at how this nearly became a sticky situation for Saltalamacchia. First of all, his statement groups all Latin American baseball players together, and as a rule no one wants to be heaped into a large group. But more importantly, this comment raised eyebrows because Saltalamacchia is white. Though he didn’t say it directly, any time a white player makes a comment about the playing style “Latin” players as a whole, it could be construed as resentment for corrupting an American game. As Latin American players dominate baseball more and more, the subject of Latin born-American born relations is a touchy subject. While I don’t think Saltalamacchia meant any harm with his statement, in this day and age he might want to be more careful of what he says in his next interview.