World Series champion – and class guy – Albert Pujols was to say he’s sorry. He wants to reach out to National League MVP Ryan Howard and apologize for insinuating that Ryan, who’s home run explosion helped the Philadelphia Phillies make an unrequited run at the playoffs, did not deserve to be voted MVP because his team did not reach the postseason. He made his comments en Espanol during an interview in the Dominican Republic a couple of weeks ago.
Pujols has since backed off his assertion, rightly so. No one should be excluded from consideration because his team fails to reach the playoffs. In essence the votes think that way anyway. Only four times since since 1995 has the MVP gone to a player who’s team did not reach the postseason. Two of the four were Barry Bonds during seasons when he was far and away the league’s top dog.
One aspect of the Pujols incident the media has missed is how illustrated that baseball has become a sport of two cultures – one English-speaking the other Spanish. It’s apparent on the field and in the locker-room where Spanish speaking players converse freely and comfortably. And it’s all-good. With the increasing presence of Japanese players, Major-League Baseball, like the NBA, is becoming a truly global game.
The challenge often occurs when a predominantly English-speaking press corps tires to cover the sport. Often times, words and meaning get lost in translation as Latin players articulate themselves in a second language. And players can rarely be portrayed as they would by Spanish-speaking reporters, who are able to gain more fully-formed quotes and nuances from players speaking comfortably in their first language.
A few years ago at Sports Illustrated, which had no Spanish-speaking baseball senior writers, the magazine assigned a feature on Vladimir Guererro to a Spanish-speaking freelance writer. The piece contained the sort of quotes and tales that a non-Spanish-speaking writer would never have been able to get – at least without a translator. Vlad was comfortable with the writer and thus opened up more. It proved to be an enlightening story.
These days, at least a few smart American sportswriters are learning Spanish. “I won;t try and conduct interviews in Spanish,” one national baseball writer told me. “But at least the players know I’m trying. That’ll help.”
Pujols may have thought he was safe speaking in Spanish while in the Dominican Republic, his home country. But word travels fast in today’s real-time world – and it gets translated even faster.
Baller: Albert Pujols
Gamer: Ryan Howard
Soundrel: Pujols? Not yet. I’ll give him a pass because it’s a first offense and because he’s retracting and offering an apology.