ARLINGTON, Texas - Detroit Tigers star Gary Sheffield insists he meant “nothing derogatory” toward Latin players when he said Major League Baseball found it easier to “control them” than blacks.
Sheffield said he was surprised his comments in the current issue of GQ magazine created such a stir. The slugger said he merely answered a question about why there were so many Latin players, as opposed to blacks.
“I said this a long time ago, this is a baseball issue. If they want to change it, they can change it,” Sheffield said before Tuesday night’s game at Texas.
“When you see a black face on TV and they start talking, English comes out. That’s what I said. I ain’t taking a shot at them or nothing. I’m just telling it like it is.”
Last season, only 8.4 percent of major league baseball players were black, the lowest level in at least two decades, according to an annual report by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. The report showed that 29.4 percent of players last season were Latino.
Sheffield’s comments Tuesday were similar to those in the magazine, when he expressed his long-held belief.
“What I called is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out. ... (It’s about) being able to tell (Latin players) what to do — being able to control them,” he told the magazine. “Where I’m from, you can’t control us.”
In expanding on his comment about control, Sheffield said Tuesday, “They have more to lose than we do. You can send them back across the island. You can’t send us back. We’re already here.”
“So there are a lot of factors involved you look at. I’m not saying you can tell them what to do and it’ll be ’yes sir’ and ’no sir.’ I’m just saying from a grand scheme of things.”
Sheffield, the nephew of former major league pitcher Dwight Gooden, said the large number of Latin players “is a big accomplishment.”
But Sheffield chastised baseball for doing more to recruit players from outside the United States than in the inner cities.
“The subject was players of my race and what we deal with and why they don’t look in the inner cities for that same talent that they do in other places,” he said. “(Latin players) have a backing, a support when they come off the island, and black players don’t. As far as authority figures, we’re only going to respond to people who care about us. That’s what I meant by it.”
While acknowledging that it’s “a complex question” on how to deal with the situation, Sheffield would like for baseball to do more to find minority players in the United States.
“When you see Major League Baseball putting academies in other countries, obviously that throws up a red flag. You wonder why they ain’t going up in our neighborhood,” he said. “Bottom line, what I see, I talk about. ... I see it over and over. if anybody can show me I’m wrong, then show me.”
Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who is from Puerto Rico, told reporters to “just leave the poor guy alone” when asked about Sheffield’s comments.
Rodriguez then went over to Sheffield, and the two shared a couple of laughs. Sheffield referred to Pudge as his friend.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland characterized Sheffield as a “total professional” who is popular with his teammates and is never a problem.
“I love Gary Sheffield. We have a great relationship. I don’t agree with everything he says,” Leyland said. “If you have different views on something and then you expose those views, you’re going to be exposed in some controversy, that’s just the way this is. I’m not going to tell my players what to say and what not to say. They’re grown men.”
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