Who’s On Base?: Rocker and Racism

By John A. PooleW
Updated: February 21, 2008

GLEN BURNIE, MARYLAND — It was one year ago that John Rocker made his famous statement about riding the subway in New York City. While making several derogatory comments about homosexuals, immigrants, and New Yorkers, in general, Rocker made himself a national figure, but not the one he had wanted to become. All around the league, people were buzzing about the racial comments that came from the mouth of John Rocker. Everyone had an opinion, but, when it was over, Rocker was sentenced to a 45-day suspension, which was later lifted by Bud Selig, the President of MLB.

In 1999, Rocker was a savior to the Atlanta Braves. His energy, along with his strong left arm, gave the Braves a new look from the more reserved and quiet reputation they used to have. His patented sprint to the mound from the bullpen and his celebration after the strikeouts are what made Rocker’s name common around the league.

Now, in 2001, Rocker has found a new home. On Friday, June 22nd , Rocker was traded from the Braves over to the AL Central Cleveland Indians. The Indians are in need of someone who can hold on to a lead in the late innings. With the bats they have in the lineup, providing runs will be the easy part of the Indians’ game.

Rocker’s trade came with mixed emotions from the Atlanta Braves clubhouse. Brian Jordan, starting right fielder, said Rocker will be missed, while Chipper Jones, a previous NL MVP, said that it’s good to have the distractions gone. He did, however, say that Rocker was a pretty good teammate.

Despite the off-the-field distractions, Rocker’s numbers were very solid. Over the last 4 years, Rocker has compiled a total of 84 saves with the Braves, while allowing just 2.61 runs per every nine innings pitched. Unfortunately, Rocker will be remembered for his stupid comments made in New York. No one will remember his year with 38 saves and, if he happens to win another title with the Indians, Rocker’s name will still be associated with racism in baseball. Some people wanted to persecute Rocker for his comments. We hear remarks, such as his, far too often in this world. One thing is certain. He was not smart enough to keep them to himself.

As we all know, it’s sometimes very funny how life works out. Rocker may not be in New York City, where he would be surrounded by diverse individuals. No. Instead, he finds himself in Cleveland. A city that is known for very tough areas of living. So, as the season goes on, it will be fun to see how Rocker settles in with the fans — and maybe he can even hang out with the rap group, Bone Thugs and Harmony. I’m sure they would love to have a few words with the left-handed relief pitcher.

Elsewhere around the league, players are gearing up for the mid-season break and the All Star Game. The game is exactly 2 weeks away and, as the ballots are being counted, the biggest surprise of the voting is the AL 3rd base story. With Tony Glaus, Scott Brosius. Cal Ripken and Jose Batista, all in contention, the 3rd base job looks like it will be a tough one to decide. Oops, there seems to be someone missing from the list. Oh yeah, the ever so impressive David Bell from the Seattle Mariners. You may be asking yourself, who? Well, Bell is the starting 3rd baseman for the Mariners, whose stats are not even close to any of the players previously mentioned. As of Tuesday, June 26th , Bell had totaled just 7 HR’s and 34 RBI’s while batting just .250 in 64 games so far this year. With Ripken having a guaranteed spot from Joe Torre, there are sure to be some very upset players, come All Star weekend.

With Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter leading the position in votes, the shortstop position has not heard any complaints Voting would have been much closer if Nomar Garciaparra had not been injured the entire year. At 2nd base, Bret Boone, the league’s most unexpected power player (28 HR’s, 78 RBI’s, .324), and Roberto Alomar will be trading places. Because of the caliber of players at that position, first base is another position in the AL. Leading the voting are Seattle Mariners John Olerud and last year’s AL MVP Jason Giambi of the Oakland A’s.

In the outfield, the starters are, for the most part, locked in. With Manny Ramirez and Juan Gonzalez putting up almost identical monster numbers, there is not anybody else who could make a claim for their position. And who could forget about the international phenomenon, Ichiro Suzuki? Although his batting average has dropped to .352, Ichiro still leads the league with 117 hits and 25 stolen bases, and is running a close second in triples with 6.

The most dominated position in this starting rotation is pitching. Without a doubt, the starter for the AL will be Pedro Martinez. He is the best pitcher on the planet and nobody seems to disagree with that statement. Following Pedro will be Roger Clemens of the Yankees. Clemens, at 38- years-old, is bordering the 40-year-old mark, but he’s still “The Rocket.” Although his ERA is above 3.50 (3.57), Clemens is 10-1 this year with 108 strikeouts in 16 starts.

Rounding out the AL All Star voting are Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers and Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees, both of whom will be catching the AL pitchers. Rodgriguez is the best catcher in baseball, period! There is no one else even close. Posada may be the closest thing in the AL (I also picked him at the beginning of the year as a player to watch out for), but he’s still a few years away from being able to compete for the starting All Star position.

Please check back next week as we preview the NL All Star team and predict who will be the winner. Just as a side note: Barry Bonds is at 39 home runs, but Louis Gonzalez is right behind him, with 32.