for the Atlanta Braves
. I believe he's left-handed
, meaning that even after he blows his arm out (and he will), he'll be guaranteed a gig somewhere.
Of course, he's now more famous for shooting himself in the foot. Or something.
It stems from a rivalry begun late in the 1999 baseball season, first in an important regular-season series against the New York Mets, then in the NLCS against those same Mets. It became a war between Mr. Rocker and the Shea Stadium faithful.
As a closer, Rocker's job requires him to walk the long distance from the bullpen to the pitcher's mound in the late innings of a ballgame. At Shea, it meant he had to navigate the insults and hurled debris of a rabid pro-Mets crowd. Not very nice, but it's a long-standing NYC tradition.
Rocker's revenge was to fight back via the media, complaining about the treatment he was receiving; that only served to escalate the hostilities. And, his team having won the NLCS, he had to face an equally anti-Rocker Yankee Stadium crowd in the World Series.
But post-season, he decides to get in a few final blows, spewing insults at a wider array of targets: a collection of Gotham stereotypes, like "welfare mothers", and gays, and criminals (as if NYC had a monopoly on crime), and more. If he had just kept his crosshairs trained on the baseball fans of the city, there would be no controversy. But Rocker was, perhaps, goaded into the heartfelt rant reported in the pages of Sports Illustrated.
The wise men of Major League Baseball, sensing loss of face, have apparently ordered Rocker to take sensitivity training classes. I think the best punishment for him is having to face his teammates (some of whom he also insulted) and coaches in a few weeks, when spring training begins - the multi-ethnic, multilingual, international roster of the Braves will be the best possible therapy.
The difference between Ted Turner and John Rocker, aside from a few billion dollars, is that Turner is, more or less, a comedian in his public persona - his "Mouth of the South" reputation comes, in part, from his occasional loose-cannon black humor. He may step slightly past the bounds of tastefulness, but he usually makes an apology, even if you have to wear an ear trumpet to hear it, plus he does many charitable works, mea culpa or no.
Rocker, on the other hand, really seems sincere in his hatred; he is certainly not unique in holding the opinions he does, but he represents a stellar franchise in a billion-dollar industry, and is given a public forum to espouse those opinions thanks to that industry. And his comments, fairly or unfairly, reflect upon that industry. Hence the suits scramble to cover their asses.
Al Campanis, one of the sweeter human beings in baseball, was forced to walk the plank when he, as an executive for the Dodgers, came up with a case of foot-in-mouth while trying to rationalize the absence of minority executives in sport - he was a guest on Nightline when foot landed in mouth. He was not a hating man, and I've always regretted that his most famous baseball moment was those few minutes on TV.
Rocker won't get fired, and until he has to undergo something like rotator-cuff surgery, he remains one of the more valuable properties in baseball. There is no need to worry about him or raise a fuss about how "fairly" he's being treated. He owned the foot that he inserted into his mouth - he willingly and gladly bears full responsibility for his remarks.
He will suffer all the way to the bank. Maybe we should worry more about the immigrants, HIV-positive individuals, recidivist criminals, and welfare mothers he chooses to attack. Many of them merely suffer, and they don't have the consolation prizes of adulation, TV exposure, and Mr. Turner's signature on their paychecks.