The New York Times deemed it useful to wade into the muck that is the "playing the right way" debate in baseball. While it was in there, it pulled out a turd of a quote from Ian Kinsler.
In a preview of Wednesday's U.S.-Puerto Rico final in the World Baseball Classic, Times writer Billy Witz tried to indict Team USA for being too cool for school. He framed the tournament in general as a clash of the "staid" and "emotionally calibrated" Americans vs. the "bat-flipping, chest-thumping, flag-waving" world. That ground is well-trod and infertile.
Kinsler, the Tigers/USA second baseman, offered up himself as a useful tool in support of Witz's narrative.
“I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays,” Kinsler was quoted as saying. “That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”
That's the rare daily double: "With all due respect" and a backhand toward parenting and mentoringin one quote. It's difficult to believe, in that context, that Kinsler was being complimentary.
Kinsler is correct that the U.S. is showing emotion in this tournament. Anyone who's paying attention knows the Americans are jacked up about playing in the WBC. Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen and Pat Neshek all have had moments of exuberance that would have fit in anywhere in the world.
But why give tacit support, even if unintended, to the position that U.S. major leaguers and, by extension, Americans are more respectful than the rest of the world? That leads to nowhere.
Kinsler figures to be playing with more than a half-dozen Latinoteammates this season in Detroit: Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Francisco Rodriguez, Anibal Sanchez and Bruce Rondon from Venezuela; Jose Iglesias from Cuba; and Steven Moya from Puerto Rico. In addition, he'll line up with U.S.-born players J.D. Martinez, Nick Castellanos and Alex Avila. Kinsler better keep hitting, or clarify his remarks, or else he might turn into an enemy in two languages.
UPDATE: Kinsler revised and expanded his remarks Wednesday. He told ESPN.com he's fine with kids emulating players from different cultures and that all he meant was "everyone has their own style." He also noted he is an emotional player on the field.
From the ESPN.com article:
Asked if he believed Latino players play the game "the wrong way" because they can be much more demonstrative of their passion, Kinsler said "absolutely not."
"This is what this tournament is for, to demonstrate the game in all walks of life, all over the globe. You saw the way Japanese players play; they play different than us. The Latin teams play different than us. Everyone should be celebrated. That is what this tournament is about, and that's why everyone loves it, 'cause you get to see people play [in front of] people from their own country and the different styles of baseball. One is not better than the other; they are just different."