Josh Hader Is Rob Manfred’s Failure
With the news the Mets may be pursuing Josh Hader, there have been some who have been quite vocal about his comments when he was 17 years old. For those who have forgotten, and it does not seem to be many, Hader had made racist, sexist, and homophobic comments.
The important note here is those comments came when he was a 17 year old high school student. Now, he is a 25 year old man and a two time All-Star. That makes him an older and hopefully more mature person. It also makes him a very visible part of the sport.
Sports Illustrated reported about his remorse, and how he cried while apologizing to his teammates. With this being put out there by the Brewers to report, it is fair to be skeptical as to how apologetic he is and how much it resonated with his teammates. On that note, it’s notable the only Brewers quoted in the article, other than Hader, were Brett Phillips and Craig Counsell, both of whom are white.
For their part, Major League Baseball had assigned Hader to sensitivity training, and they had him speak with Billy Bean, MLB’s vice president for social responsibility and inclusion. On that point, Bean did speak to Hader’s remorse.
It has been approximately a year-and-a-half since those comments surfaced, and people are still bringing it up whenever Hader’s name in mentioned. This is indicative of how Major League Baseball failed to really take advantage of what should have been an opportunity.
Before going further, we should revisit when Hader made those comments. He was a teenager who was a high school student at Old Mills High School in Millersville, Maryland. According to School Digger, this is actually a culturally diverse high school with a white student like Hader being in the plurality. Put another way, we can’t quite say his ignorant comments came from a place of pure ignorance.
From there, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 MLB Draft. Notably, this was a year after some of his most offensive comments. During his minor league career in the Orioles, Astros, and Brewers farm systems, he would play for managers like Ramon Sambo, Omar Lopez, and Carlos Subero. That left him answering to and learning from the very people he offended and insulted.
On that 2018 Brewers team, he was teammates with players like Lorenzo Cain, who was not only African America, but a real leader. Not only did Hader get to know him and many other minority players on the team, but he also had to answer to them once his comments became public.
This was baseball’s chance to meet this challenge head-on and show how the sport itself makes players better people, and they completely whiffed.
It’s very possible Hader has grown as a person, and it is possible he has shown real remorse. It’s also very possible he hasn’t. Those tears he was reported to shed could have been remorse, or they could have been fear or being upset he was caught. We don’t know, and baseball has really failed to control that narrative.
This is on Rob Manfred. As the commissioner, he needed to speak about the legacy of Jackie Robinson. He needed to embrace what Hader said, and he needed to speak about how the multi-cultural aspect of baseball has made Hader a more mature, tolerant, and better person. He also needed to have Hader prove it.
Hader should have been a part of the RBI program. He needed to very publicly visit schools, YMCAs, and other places. Essentially, Hader needed to meet with people, speak about how he became a better person and encourage others to be better than he was.
Instead, Major League Baseball tried to sweep this under the rug. As a result, whenever Hader’s name comes up in trade rumors, this is going to arise. When he moves to another team, this will potentially alienate part of the fanbase of his new team. This is not remotely good for baseball.
No, Manfred needed to be a true leader. He needed to make Hader show his remorse and prove he’s a different person. He didn’t do that, and now, we don’t know if Hader is any of those things. Jackie Robinson and his legacy deserve much better than that.