Red Sox TV host and analyst Jerry Remy is not a big fan of having a translator on the pitch. According to him, it should not be allowed and players should learn “baseball language”.
The player concerned is Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka joined the New York Yankees three years ago from his former Japanese team Rakuten Eagles.
The Japanese translator joined Tanaka during a meeting at the mound in yesterday’s game. Upon realizing this, the following dialogue between Jerry Remy and Dave O’Brien ensued:
Remy: I forgot with Tanaka they take out a translator. I don’t think that should be legal.
Dave O’Brien: Seriously?
Remy: I really don’t.
O’Brien: What is it you don’t like about that?
Remy: Learn baseball language. Learn — it’s pretty simple. You break it down pretty easy between pitching coach and pitcher after a long period of time.
O’Brien: I would say that probably they’re concerned about nuance being lost in some of these conversations.
This sparked reactions in social media. Remy even had to apologize publicly for these comments.
But O’Brien makes an interesting comment at the end. And we agree with it 100%.
The translator is there to remove any chance of miscommunication
The thing is, Tanaka already speaks “baseball language”. He probably understands most of the instructions the coaches give.
But when you translate from English to Japanese, the devil is in the details.
That’s why some soccer coaches like Marcelo Bielsa or players like Lisandro Lopez in their time still gave interviews in Spanish when they were in France. They spoke French, and understood it. But you don’t want to risk saying something wrong because you are missing some cultural reference.
That’s the same thing for Tanaka. He gets paid $22 million per season. With that kind of money, everything you can do to put that player in the best conditions possible is chump change. Tanaka’s job is to play baseball, the translator’s job is to help Tanaka. To each their own expertise.
And he has the right to communicate with his teammates and coaches.
Is the Japanese translator giving the Yankees an unfair advantage?
Having instructions clearly translated for Tanaka is an advantage. Let’s not hide that fact. But is it more advantageous than hiring one of the 99% of pitchers in the MLB who has English as a mother tongue?
Any team can do this. It’s not a second coach. It’s just a translator. When the Red Sox hire another Japanese pitcher, they’ll have the right to give him a translator too.
Remy is not the first commenter to make similar comments. Earlier that day former player Mike Schmidt said Obudel Herrera could not be the centerpiece of his team because of “language barriers“.
Maybe what these commenters should do is visit Japan or Venezuela. Surely, they’ll appreciate the help of a translator there. That’s what we are here for. We facilitate communication. We don’t win baseball games though. If we were that good at sports we probably wouldn’t be translating. So let Tanaka have his translator by his side if he wants to.