The second half of the MLB season is here and USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale has the story lines all fans should know leading up to the playoffs.
WASHINGTON – Josh Hader was well-known in baseball circles before Tuesday night, his blazing fastball and devastating slider creating one of the most dominant relief weapons in baseball and sending him to his first All-Star Game.
With greater notoriety, however, comes greater scrutiny. After the Milwaukee Brewers left-hander served up a crucial home run, a Hader nobody knew emerged: A 17-year-old who did not hesitate to send out racist, homophobic, misogynistic and threatening tweets.
By the time he returned to the clubhouse after yielding a three-run homer to the Mariners’ Jean Segura, Hader was informed that intrepid Internet users, their interest likely piqued by his goat turn in the All-Star Game, unearthed tweets that cast a star pitcher on the cusp of adulthood as a paragon of hate.
“White power lol”
“N—–bot? The (expletive)! That just made my night! Smh”
“I hate gay people.”
The tweets were sent between 2011 and 2012, some coming less than two months before Hader’s 18th birthday – and less than four months before he was a 19th-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles.
After the American League defeated the National League 8-6 in 10 innings at Nationals Park, Hader was left to defend the indefensible, and explain the unexplainable: That a 17-year-old’s thoughts on social media somehow do not represent the 24-year-old man he is now.
“There’s no excuse for what was said,” Hader said early Wednesday morning. “I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve said, and it doesn’t reflect any of my beliefs going on now. I was young, immature and stupid, and there’s no excuses for what was said or what happened.”
Yet Hader proceeded to pose excuses, based on his age and the time that lapsed since. Twice in a four-minute news conference, he referenced “what happened seven years ago.”
Twice he referenced the fact he was 17. “As a child, I was immature and obviously said some things that were inexcusable. That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today, and that’s just what it is.
“We’re still learning who we are in high school. You live and you learn. This mistake won’t happen again.”
Hader also said: “I’m sure it’s some rap lyrics being tweeted. I really don’t know exactly what all’s out there.”
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Following his remarks, Hader’s damage control took a more personal turn, as he sought out Brewers teammate and fellow NL All-Star Lorenzo Cain, who is African-American, to explain his comments.
Cain did not specify whether Hader apologized, and hadn’t seen Hader’s tweets beyond knowing they were “hate comments.” He did not believe Hader to be a hateful person.
“When anybody does something like that, you’re always surprised,” said Cain, in his first season with the Brewers. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to give people a second chance, you understand you have to forgive people, move on from it.
“For me, it’s over and done with. He said it; it got out there. I’m moving on from it individually, anyway.”
Hader still has a clubhouse of teammates to convince, and will likely face a strong rebuke from Major League Baseball. While it cannot impose discipline for matters that occurred before he was drafted, MLB could suggest Hader undergo sensitivity training or urge him to meet with Billy Bean, its ambassador of inclusion.
MLB chief legal counsel Dan Halem said Tuesday night that the league may issue a statement later Wednesday.
“I’m ready for any consequences for what happened seven years ago,” Hader said.
Those consequences will begin immediately. Hader was slated to fly out of Washington with Brewers teammates Cain, Christian Yelich and Jesus Aguilar on Wednesday morning. As the door to the NL clubhouse swung open in the late innings of the game, Hader could be seen in the doorway consulting with officials.
Outside, a gaggle of family members wearing his jersey awaited in a tunnel. Hader grew up in Millersville, Md., just a 30-mile drive from Nationals Park.
The homecoming went from bad – Segura’s homer – to disastrous, once the tweets emerged.Hader made his Twitter account private soon after. Even after midnight, Hader was huddling with a Brewers PR official thumbing through his phone.
“That’s one reason why I don’t have social media, for things like this,” Cain noted. “You always get in trouble for things you said when you’re younger.”
Said Yelich, who had not yet seen what Hader tweeted: “I don’t know what he did or what happened. The guy I know, he’s a great guy with a kind heart.”
Hader likely has much more work ahead to convince others the same.