Before I talk about Josh Hader the human being and citizen, the part that has been put into question over the past few days, let’s talk about Josh Hader as a player. A young lights out pitcher with a fastball that tops at 97 and an absolutely devastating slider. One with a delivery that reminds me of Randy Johnson and hair that makes it look as if Noah Syndergaard cloned himself and made himself left-handed.
Originally acquired in the Carlos Gomez deal from Houston, Hader was called up by the Brewers in June 2017 and made his major league debut. Before then, he was rated as a top left-handed pitching prospect. Hader was number 33 overall in baseball, but after a bad showing as a starter in AAA to start the year (5.37 ERA, 14 HRs in 12 starts), the Brewers opted to move him to the bullpen.
The move was beneficial, as Hader seemingly turned into one of the better relievers in baseball. In just 35 games, he recorded a 2.08 ERA (215 ERA+), and struck out 68 batters in 47 2/3 innings, all good for a 1.9 WAR.
In 2018, he has taken a step forward and currently has a 1.50 ERA. That alone is remarkable, but to add to that, in his 48 innings, he has allowed just 19 hits (3.6 H/9), and has struck out 89 (16.7 K/9) of the 177 hitters he’s faced. For those not mathematically inclined, that’s slightly more than half of those 177 hitters striking out at 50.2%. If that’s not enough, those 19 hits among the 156 at-bats against Hader lead to a .122 average, and only THREE of the 19 hits he’s allowed are against left-handed batters (.057 against LHB).
With those numbers, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that Hader was selected for the National League All-Star Roster. However, when he came into a tie ballgame in the 8th inning, nobody could’ve predicted that his night would go so wrong.
To start the top of the 8th, Hader would pitch for the National League. Five pitches to an already red-hot Shin-Soo Choo ended with a single to left. Bregman would go down swinging, but George Springer followed with a single to left. Final Vote winner Jean Segura would step up to the plate.
Seven pitches later led to a dropped catch on a foul ball by Joey Votto. On the very next pitch, the ballgame was no longer tied.
Hader was removed from the game immediately afterward, replaced by Brad Hand. The NL would come back with two homers from Christian Yelich and Scooter Gennett, but back-to-back homers from Astros’ Alex Bregman and George Springer in the 10th would prove to be the difference.
As for Hader, his night—overhyped exhibition game or not—was bad enough, but it only got worse…
At almost the exact moment after Hader was removed from the All-Star Game, there were leaked reports from numerous Twitter users, namely MLB Insider Dinger (@atf13atf), on his past tweets from around 2011 and 2012, when he was 17.
The quick soliloquy about them? They’re pretty terrible. Some refer to women as being used only for sex, others displayed numerous use of the n-word (spelled exactly how you would picture it), some displayed homophobia (and homosexuality), and there was one tweet that either showed praise to the Klu-Klux-Klan or showed praise for a three-strikeout performance.
And perhaps the most ironic of them all:
The immediate aftermath was berserk, to a point where friends and family of Hader were given generic Brewers jerseys to wear. The outcry was so intense that Hader deleted the tweets, privatized his account, then eventually deleted his Twitter page. He spent the next two and a half days apologizing to fans and crying in front of his teammates — a clubhouse that includes numerous minorities, including first baseman Eric Thames and Jesús Aguilar, and outfielder Lorenzo Cain — while also stating that the tweets did not express his views today.
“There’s no excuse for what was said,” he said. “I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve said and what’s been going on. That doesn’t reflect any of my beliefs now.” (from The Washington Post)
Josh Hader addresses the tweets that surfaced during the game pic.twitter.com/Zzh6uS2frH
— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) July 18, 2018
Major League Baseball released a statement the next day, stating that Hader wouldn’t be suspended, but “The Office of the Commissioner will require sensitivity training for Mr. Hader and participation in MLB’s diversity and inclusion initiatives”. Which brings me to my next point…
The Reaction and Outcry
As a young, black male living in America, stereotypically, I should be offended and outraged, and to a certain extent, I am. The outcry, for the context of the tweets, was perfectly warranted, especially in our current American society where racism and homophobia are put into the spotlight again.
That said, we have to remember that Hader was 17 and still in high school at the time when these tweets were sent. There was no way that MLB could suspend anyone for something that happened while they weren’t employed under their affilates. The best they could do was to put him in sensitivity training and hope this isn’t a reccurring thought that happens in his mind.
“For me, it’s over and done with.” — Lorenzo Cain, speaking on the Josh Hader tweets
Now, most 17 years olds know what race and homosexuality is, so I’m going to assume at the moment that Hader was then a racist and a homophobe. The truth is, especially in America, if you’re a racist and homophobe at 17, there’s a likely chance you are still a racist and homophobe seven years later. Can we read Hader’s mind? No, we can’t. So we have to take the current evidence we have.
From what the public can research, his somber and emotional response to the leak, the increased presence of teammates that are people of color since he was drafted by the Orioles, and current teammates that happen to be minorites backing him are somewhat proof that maybe Hader has matured since those tweets were sent. Additionally, while I don’t support the use of the n-word in any form, the context in which he used the word shows that he did not know the difference between the “African-American Vernacular English” version of the word and the racial slur. If you look at the tweets in which Hader states were “rap lyrics”, one tracks back to Juicy J’s “Durr She Go”, the other tracks to the intro to Lil Wayne’s intro to “Tha Carter IV”.
Should Hader have deleted the tweets at some point before he made his big league debut last year? Of course he should have. As with every prominent star, one or more of the following was on their mind:
- He didn’t believe the tweets would be public by the time he became a star (if we know the internet by now, anything can be found at anytime)
- He completely forgot he had sent those tweets, which would agree with his point that he does not have those beliefs, and/or…
- By the time he remembered the tweets existed, there was no way to find them since they were sent so long ago (Twitter only allows you to go back 3,200 tweets on one’s profile).
Because of that and for whatever other reason, Hader never deleted the tweets, and now his career is tainted at the moment. I must reiterate though that his tweets from then do not necessarily display his thoughts today unless he shows that it does. So far, as far as the general public knows, he has not, and he has shown that over the past week:
“I was really convinced after a couple hours together today… that his experience as an athlete and a professional in an integrated, diverse environment has created the person that he is today.” — Billy Bean, MLB vice president for social responsibility and inclusion.
To conclude, I get the public outrage and the calling for Hader’s head, but let’s calm down a little bit, and give the All-Star a second chance to prove that he has changed. Something that happened or was said seven years ago should not ruin a player’s career, especially when he still has a good ten plus years to come back.
Regarding accusations of racism: I’m Venezuelan and with the skin color that I have, can tell you that it is a lie. Obviously he’s not racist.
He’s a great player and a better person. Great teammate.
And you know it
— Jesus Aguilar (@JAguilarMKE) July 18, 2018
Let me just sum it up like this: the tweets that Hader sent about seven years ago are awful. They show racism, sexism, and homophobia, whether that was the intention or not.
The key words here are seven years ago. Seven years ago, he was a high school senior. In that time, he could have changed his views, as his actions have shown, or maybe he’s a really good actor and he really hasn’t changed his views, putting out these statements as a way to hopefully get this scandal off his back. It’s obviously a huge sign when his teammates have made it clear that they have forgiven him for his mistakes.
Having said all of that, there is one certainty: Josh Hader will no longer just be known as a unique pitcher with the long hair, wipeout slider, and outstanding K/9 ratio — and let’s be personally honest, had Hader not had those qualities, he would be riding the unemployment train.
This will hang over his resume for a long time, and possibly for the rest of his career. He has a lot more to do over the upcoming future of his career before the general public is ready to forgive him.
“He deserved his rough night. But barring any unseemly recurrence of this sort of ignominious behavior, the kid has been punished enough.” — Jon Heyman, Fansided
Follow Payton Ellison on Twitter (@realpmelli14).