New York Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran is disappointed that Major League Baseball hasn't made a better effort to provide teams with translators for Spanish-speaking players. Now he's speaking out on the subject hoping it will soon inspire a change.
According to Jorge Castillo of the New Jersey Star Ledger, Beltran specifically mentioned Michael Pineda's recent media gathering following Wednesday's incident where he was caught — and ultimately suspended 10 games — for using pine tar to gain a better grip on the ball. Beltran says Pineda, who speaks English as a second language, was in a tough position facing tougher questions, several of which it appeared he did not completely understand based on his answers. That led to some confusion in the aftermath, specifically regarding whether or not manager Joe Girardi had communicated the possible repercussions to him if he was caught using pine tar again.
Pineda indicated no initially, but later with the help of a translator set the record straight that both Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild spoke to him about it.
"It's a problem, of course, because he can't express himself the way he wants to," Beltran was quoted as saying to the Associated Press. The story also notes that Yankees bullpen catcher Roman Rodriguez was available to translate for Pineda, but the 25-year-old right-hander elected to face the questions on his own because he wants to continue speaking and learning the English language.
That's an admirable decision, but under the circumstances obviously every effort should have been made to ensure a clear dialogue was taking place. To that point, the Ledger article also notes that the Yankees have three professional Japanese translators in the clubhouse assisting their three Japanese stars, but no professional Spanish translator that's available to step in when needed.
So while Ichiro Suzuki (40 years old, 14-year major-league career) and Hiroki Kuroda (39 years old, seven-year career) each have substantial experience in the United States, neither (nor rookie Masahiro Tanaka) are required nor expected nor have ever conducted English interviews with an interpreter serving as a filter.
“In the big leagues, we aren’t given an interpreter,” Beltran said. “Personally, I understand that it’s also on the player to find help if he doesn’t feel he can express himself in the way he wishes to. But, like I said in spring training, there should be something available for these situations because at the end of the day I know it’s a difficult moment for him as a person.
"At the same time, he needs to make sure he understands the questions that are being asked 100 percent and that he also has the help so he could express himself the way wants to. It’s something that MLB or the Players Association has to address.”
Of course, the general response you'll hear is that players who want to make it in MLB and in the United States should learn the language. The thing is, that effort is being made even before players come over. MLB has invested millions of dollars in English classes in academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and that education continues when they reach the minor leagues.
Many players eventually find some comfort speaking English, but it's not always a flawless process. There will always be situations where a translator can help, or at least provide clarity, and to Beltran's point having one or two available in the clubhouse would probably make everybody a little more comfortable.
Not to mention it would give Spanish-speaking players another source to interact with who can move the process along at a smoother pace.
It's an interesting topic that will undoubtedly be met with varying degrees of opinions. But it certainly appears there's room for continued growth and improvement to ensure everybody is on the same page.
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