Every fanbase has their underbelly, as it were. Those fans that root for the same team as you do, but do so in crude, entitled, arrogant, jerky fashion. Again, there is that segment in every fanbase, I believe. It’s just that the Cardinals segment tends to draw a bit more attention from the world at large, probably due to that Twitter account that tries to blow any misspoken word or bad apple into a huge deal. (You know the one I’m talking about. If you don’t, you are better off. I rarely block Twitter accounts–I probably haven’t blocked more than five non-spam accounts in my eight-plus years on the service–but I’ve blocked that one.)
Dexter Fowler unfortunately found that underbelly yesterday, an uninformed section of Cardinal fans that couldn’t read past a semi-inflammatory headline before heaping criticism and abuse on the new centerfielder. “Cardinal Outfielder Fowler Disappointed with Trump Travel Ban” is how the Post-Dispatch titled their story. Seriously, that’s all it took for a portion of folks calling themselves Cardinal fans to tear into the newest Redbird. The headline isn’t even that bad, but when you read the story, it’s even less of an issue.
Fowler’s wife is from Iran and they were wanting to take their young daughter there to meet his in-laws and others on that side of the family, but they decided to postpone it due to the uncertainty around the president’s recent action. As far as I can tell, these are the only reported words from Fowler on this subject, as reported by Mark Saxon of ESPN:
“It’s huge. Especially anytime you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”
Bring out the pitchforks!
It’s ridiculous, as Tara and I talked about on Gateway last night, to go blaming Fowler for this. He didn’t call a press conference and light into the president or his policy. He didn’t advocate for change in this regard. He merely answered a question about this affected him personally and did so in a fairly innocuous way. What else is he supposed to do? One of the great things about Fowler has been his openness and personality. That openness extends to answering questions, even when they aren’t about baseball.
But let’s say for a minute that Fowler had been more outspoken in his comments. Would that be wrong? We tend to only argue that athletes should “stick to sports” when they express opinions we don’t agree with. I would guess that a majority of those that came after Fowler yesterday have no problem when Adam Wainwright and others express their Christian faith from their pulpit as major league players. Why should one person be able to talk about things that are important to them and another player shouldn’t?
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the political statements of athletes and celebrities, often because they are couched in unambiguous terms, brooking no argument or disagreement. They aren’t put across like “this is my view, but that’s just me, and others may have a different approach” at times. I would say that the athletes that have been more strident in their recent political opinions primed the pump, so to speak, for the reaction to Fowler. People thought “here goes another athlete” and attacked without reading what he actually had to say.
Divisions are stark in this country right now, with neither side willing to accept that the other side has a point. To see someone like Fowler express his opinion but do so in a non-inflammatory way should be celebrated, not attacked. It feels like things are never going to get better if we can’t come together and talk about our differences and how things affect us in a way that leaves respect and understanding on the table, even when we disagree.
Let me tell you the best thing about this whole situation, though. When hit with all these comments on social media, by keyboard warriors that would have likely asked for his autograph if he’d been in the room with them, how did Fowler respond? With amazing class:
Welp.Since I have a nice little chunk of people who hate me cuz I have an opinion.I’m going to do a nice giveaway away for the good people.
— Dexter Fowler (@DexterFowler) February 19, 2017
I love my #CardsNation !!!
— Dexter Fowler (@DexterFowler) February 19, 2017
I don’t know if I’ve seen any comments about Fowler’s religious preference. He may not have one, which is up to him of course. However, that’s the kind of response that we often don’t see out of professed Christians, where the whole “turn the other cheek” thing originated. When the Cardinals signed Fowler, I was glad but not overly enthused. Seeing his press conference when he signed helped win me over. Now? Next time I’m in St. Louis, a Fowler T-shirt is coming home to be part of my rotation.
Enough of that. There are players practicing and games start this weekend. Why are we wasting time on negative things? Let’s talk about a few other things that are happening in camp.
Such as Jhonny Peralta. Peralta says that last year was a lot for him, with the thumb injury and then trying to re-acclimate himself to third base. Put all that together and it’s not a surprise that he struggled figuring it all out. He says now that he’s 100% healthy (which, to be fair, most everyone would say that right now. If it wasn’t for the surgery, Alex Reyes would be saying it) and he did a lot more practicing at third in the offseason. Could it be that Peralta will surprise some folks? I would think it’s possible. I still think Jedd Gyorko will wind up with a good bit of time over there and it might be that whoever gets on a hot streak will wind up with the job most of the time. Writing off Peralta entirely is probably extreme, though tempering expectations is a pretty good idea as well.
It’s fun to read this story about the young catching prospects and how excited they get about spending time with Yadier Molina. Don’t get me wrong, that’s quite understandable. If you want to learn about your job, it’s great to learn from the best. It’s also great to see they are trying to work as hard as they can because they don’t want to let Yadi down. He’s put in some time with all of them, from the lowest on the ladder to Carson Kelly, and they want to live up to his standard. That’s a testament to the career Molina has had and the impact he’s had as well.
A little bit of housekeeping. Later this morning, we’ll look at the last few trades of John Mozeliak’s career, the ones he made in 2015 and 2016. This afternoon, Playing Pepper kicks off and we’ll take a look at the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Then tonight, at 7 PM Central, I’m going to try out my first Facebook Live on the blog’s Facebook page (you can find and like it here). We’re going to talk Cardinals, we’re going to talk Star Wars, we’re going to talk about whatever you want. I already have some questions but I’ll be soliciting more throughout the day and, since it’s a live session, you can ask some if you join us tonight. We can even talk more about this post if you like. I hope it’ll be fun and you won’t be too scared off by this ugly mug!