Around the Horn – Remembering Jackie Robinson, Ozzie’s Return, Kemp/Braun Matchup & More

Welcome to this week’s edition of Around the Horn where we will cover:

  • The Valentine-Youkilis saga in Boston
  • The matchup of NL MVP finalists Kemp & Braun
  • A look back at Jackie Robinson day around the league
  • And prepare ourselves for the return of Ozzie Guillen

The Boston (Feelings) Massacre

In a season that is eerily starting off similarly to 2011, the city of Boston is in full meltdown mode after Bobby Valentine publicly criticized what he felt was a lack of commitment (mentally and physically) from Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis.

It’s one thing for a manager who has been with the team for a while to question a player’s commitment – but something entirely different for a new (to the team) manager to say the same things.  At the end of the day, Youkilis’ teammates came rushing to his defense, leaving Valentine alone on an island with little room to backpedal. Furthermore, these comments weren’t made in Oakland or Kansas City – they were made in Boston where fans and media show little love to anything apart from the Sox.

A perennial contender, the Red Sox find themselves sitting in last place in the AL East. They are all too familiar with the phrase “Every Game Counts” after missing the playoffs by one game last season.  This team can ill afford another poor start and the pressure seems to be getting to everyone – players and coaches.  Is this a sign of how the entire season will go, or just some early-year jitters?

National League MVP Rematch

Technically baseball is a team sport, but there isn’t a baseball fan alive who isn’t taking an interest in this week’s series between the Dodgers and Brewers.  In 2011, the NL MVP was pretty much decided by a coin flip, with many believing the advantage went to Braun as he suited up for a playoff team.

This year the roles are reversed a bit, as Kemp’s Dodgers hold the best record in The Bigs, and Kemp himself is on pace to make sure there is no doubt who this year’s MVP is.  These are two of the brightest stars in baseball, and our only regret is that this series can’t be settled with a good old fashioned home run derby.

Remembering Jackie Robinson

While there might have been instances before him, everyone officially recognizes Jackie Robinson as the player who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.  He was hand-picked by Branch Rickey as someone who not only had the talent to play baseball at the major league level, but the mental strength to handle the flurry of racism and degradation that would likely ensue.  Robinson accepted Rickey’s offer to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers, despite much opposition from even his teammates.

If not for Jackie, who knows how long it would have been before minorities would be able to freely play sports and compete at the highest levels.

Ozzie’s Crazy Train

If you aren’t familiar with Ozzie Guillen’s comments regarding Fidel Castro, I will let you read it firsthand (with some censoring). In an interview with Time magazine, Guillen said, “I love Fidel Castro … I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother****er is still here.”

It’s not the first time that Ozzie has been chastised for his comments in the Media, but this is probably the first time that he has made a comment that sparked controversy at the international diplomacy level.  Ozzie is set to return on Tuesday April 17th, which is ironically the date that the Bay of Pigs Invasion was launched (can you say PR nightmare).  If this were a normal person returning back from a suspension, I would expect it to pass relatively quietly, but this is Ozzie, so have your censor buttons ready.