Jered Weaver Altercation Parallels Presidential Politics
Anaheim Angels pitcher Jered Weaver threw on the same night as the presidential debate and was ejected for possibly throwing at an opponent. Some politicians choose a similarly perilous course of action.
The fact that Weaver, a pitcher who happens to be from the city where the GOP presidential debate was held, started for the Angels on Wednesday night would at first seem to be mere coincidence. But I believe that Weaver’s incident on the field has a lot to do with how politics works today.
Kyle Seager of the Seattle Mariners requested a timeout by briefly leaving the batter’s box. When he returned, he raised his left hand, then put it down and back up again. The umpire did stand up at one point to indicate that a pitch should not be thrown. Weaver was upset and spoke up to Seager, who may have uttered an expletive when he told Weaver he was ready. Weaver threw a pitch to him and it hit his arm. After the game, Weaver claimed that the ball was not intended to hit Seager, but was actually a well-targeted pitch gone wrong. Seager of course disagreed and stated that Weaver’s throw made him look like he was “tired of pitching.” In any event, Weaver was ejected.
The presidential race this year has been dominated by “targeted pitches” gone wrong that some claim are intentional hits against a racial group. The most obvious example is Trump using the “Latinos crossing the border are rapists and murderers” argument to attract Caucasian and African-American voters. Another would be how Ben Carson likened Obamacare to slavery.
These types of statements, made to gain favor in a particular situation or from a group of voters also have the potential to “eject” a candidate from the election by alienating key voting blocks. Also, even to their base, these remarks make candidates like Trump seem like they are less serious about their candidacy, leading to speculation about him dropping out. To use Seager’s words, maybe he’s tired of running for office, though that seems implausible given the time elapsed.
Just like in Weaver’s case, apologies or claims that intentional hits are not your MO do nothing. Trump said that he likes Latinos and that Latinos like him, which is more of a punchline than a way of addressing the issue at hand. That’s not to say that perception is reality, of course. Carson is himself black, yet there is still speculation that black voters will turn against him due to remarks of the aforementioned type. And for all we know, Trump might actually like Hispanics.
The solution for these candidates is to first make sure that they never say anything that they wouldn’t say to the entire public, which should be obvious (except for marketing practices that divvy up the electorate by every possible category from age to race to preferred selfie positioning that heavily guide their campaign). That means not saying or doing anything that makes you look like you are racist or particularly angry with a person or group without a sufficient and easily distinguishable reason. This especially applies if you are at a disadvantage with a specific group of voters, like Republicans are with minorities. Weaver was not afforded the benefit of the doubt as easily because of one prior incident that garnered him a six-game suspension for throwing a ball at a player as retribution for a prior player’s ostentatious celebration of a home run.
In this case, the best action (if at all possible) would have been to remove the aggression from the discussion with Seager and leave the situation as-is once the ambiguous timeout request was clarified. That would have made Weaver look better and perhaps a different choice of pitches would have avoided the hit. Of course you don’t want to compromise getting the win so that’s not to say you can’t throw your best pitches, just throw them carefully and without so much as the semblance of aggression or unneeded antagonism. That goes for pitchers on both mounds and podiums, throwing baseballs or policy ideas.
Conservatives are starting to get the message and most Republicans avoid Trump-like rhetoric, even if they are tough on immigration. There are even groups like the LIBRE Initiative that provide free services to Hispanics and gently inform them about conservative positions. However, there is still work to be done. Some conservatives still make targeted pitch after targeted pitch that works with their audience but might hit someone the wrong way.
If Weaver threw the ball at Seager deliberately, that brings up another important point for our politicians and activists. Some groups on both the left and the right seem to only exist for the purpose of agitating people without actually affecting change. They might not always do that intentionally, but they do let their anger get the best of them. If Weaver’s pitch was intentional, I cannot think of a better example of how politicians, and even everyday people improperly deal with precarious situations. Throwing a pitch or a bad remark at someone to get even over a bad situation is no solution.
Politicians should think about what their words and actions would look like on a baseball field. Are they hard pitches thrown to hit someone or something that will ultimately only get them in trouble? Are they targeted pitches that might backfire? Or do they have just the right mix of control and velocity? Those podium pitches should have both, in that order to help get the win.