First, Ozzie Guillen torched his relationship with Miami’s ethnic Cuban community (among many others).
Then, Bobby Valentine picked an odd time to casually rip one of his team’s best and most beloved players.
Now, this: Delmon Young was arrested in Manhattan on a misdemeanor charge of “aggravated harassment hate crime” during the Thursday/Friday overnight.
From ESPN’s story:
Police say Young was standing outside of the Hilton New York, not far from Times Square. A group of about four Chicago tourists staying there were approached by a panhandler wearing a yarmulke. As the group walked up to the hotel doors, Young started yelling anti-Semitic epithets. Police say it’s not clear who he was yelling at, but he got into a tussle with one of the Chicago group, who sustained scratches to his elbows.
… Young was arrested at 4 a.m. local time at 54th Street and 6th Avenue. He was hospitalized at first because he was believed to be intoxicated.
This incident, if true as described so far, would not be the first time Young’s outrageous behavior made headlines. Most casual fans first heard of him because of this bat-throwing incident exactly six years ago, which earned him a 50-game suspension from the Durham Bulls.
That outburst hasn’t seemed to hinder Young’s career; he was called up to the majors that same summer, and in 2007 placed 2nd in the Rookie of the Year vote. But this incident — barring any further details that substantially alter the story — could sound the death knell on his MLB career. I’ll hazard a guess that Young is the first active major leaguer to be charged with a hate crime, at least during the season.
It’s true that hate-crime statutes are themselves controversial. There’s the question of whether it’s unconstitutional to increase the penalty for an action because of accompanying speech that, by itself, would be protected; and there’s also the practical question of whether such statutes actually do any good.
But the legal issues only matter in the courtroom; they will not decide Young’s fate with the Tigers. A hate crime charge may prove to be like toxic pine tar. And the bottom line is that he’s just not a good enough player to be forgiven such public-relations disasters.
Coincidentally, on Thursday the Tigers released their longest-tenured player, Brandon Inge, a move that was prefigured by the offseason shift of Miguel Cabrera to Inge’s primary position, and which cost them over $5 million. Young, who’s making close to $7 million on a one-year deal, should be the next out the door.
It would be naive to think that baseball has fewer closet bigots than any other community. And it would be absurd to judge Young more culpable on the moral ledger than his teammate Cabrera, who has at least two serious drunk-related incidents on his sheet, including a DUI. But whatever the relative merits of the public’s reactions, what Young is accused of is likely to provoke more backlash. And the Tigers will have to protect their brand.