Major League Baseball says Gary Sheffield's recent comments about Latin players in baseball "hasn't hit the radar screen," but several people associated with the game have taken notice.
MLB vice president for public relations Richard Levin gave no indication that baseball is considering disciplining Sheffield, when asked by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but told the newspaper to "consider the source" of the comments.
In an interview in the June issue of GQ magazine, the typically outspoken Tigers designated hitter said Latin players have replaced African-Americans as baseball's most prevalent minority because they are easier to control.
"I called it years ago. What I called is that you're going to see more black faces, but there ain't no English going to be coming out. [It's about] being able to tell [Latin players] what to do -- being able to control them," he told the magazine.
"Where I'm from, you can't control us. You might get a guy to do it that way for a while because he wants to benefit, but in the end, he is going to go back to being who he is. And that's a person that you're going to talk to with respect, you're going to talk to like a man.
"These are the things my race demands. So, if you're equally good as this Latin player, guess who's going to get sent home? I know a lot of players that are home now can outplay a lot of these guys."
Eddie Perez, a former teammate of Sheffield's with the Braves who is now the team's bullpen coach, had a stronger reaction, however.
"That's going to hurt a lot of people," he said. "I don't know [if he'll be suspended], but somebody needs to say something."
Perez dismissed Sheffield's theory on why there are fewer blacks playing in the big leagues.
"I don't think we're taking anybody's food off the table. We're just putting food on the table for us," he told the newspaper
"They're paying Latin players lots of money. But it's not because they like us -- it's because we're doing good. When we play, we play hard. You don't hear too many Latin players talk a lot of trash."
Lisa Navarrete, a vice president of La Raza, the Latino national civil rights and advocacy group in Washington, told The New York Daily News that Sheffield was targeting the wrong group for the lack of diversity in Major League Baseball.
"He's targeting the wrong culprit, the players themselves. Then he resorts to the stereotyping that he himself is trying to fight. I don't want African-Americans to be stereotyped. Plenty of players belie Sheffield's characterizations. It's unfortunate, because at the end of the day, the situations faced by Latins and African-Americans have more in common than they are different," she told the newspaper.
According to a 2005 report by the University of Central Florida
Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, only 8.5 percent of
major leaguers were African-American -- the lowest percentage since
the report was initiated in the mid-1980s. By contrast, whites
comprised 59.5 percent of the majors' player pool, Latinos 28.7
percent and Asians 2.5.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen didn't want to comment directly on Sheffield's remarks, but told The New York Daily News but gave the newspaper his own theory on why there are more Latin players in the game now than African-Americans.
"I guarantee that Latin American people play more baseball than any people, because that's all we have," Guillen told the newspaper. "You have more people playing baseball in Venezuela or the Dominican than anywhere, so there are going to be more players from there."
Guillen also told the newspaper that he believes there are more Latin players in baseball than African-Americans because players from Central and South American and the Caribbean can sign as free agents while American players have to go through the draft.
"It's not that they can control us; maybe when we come to this country, we're hungry," Guillen told the newspaper. "We're trying to survive. Those guys sign for $500,000 or $1 million and they're made. We have a couple of dollars. You can sign one African-American player for the price of 30 Latin players. Look at how many Latin players have won Cy Youngs or MVP awards the last couple of years, how many Latin players have been in the All-Star Game; it's quantity and quality."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.