So let's assume baseball knows more than the rest of us, that Grand Dragon John Rocker can actually visit a fancy psychologist and be pronounced cured of his hate.
So then what?
He walks back into a major league clubhouse that is arranged like nearly all major league clubhouses.
White guys dress in one corner. Black guys dress in another corner. Latin guys in a third corner.
He walks into a major league stadium populated like nearly all major league stadiums.
The white faces are the ones in the seats. The black faces are the ones selling the popcorn. The brown ones are the ones selling the programs.
If he has a problem, he talks to a front office that looks like nearly all major league front offices.
The general manager is white. The president is white. The owner is white.
It is not John Rocker who needs treatment.
It is professional baseball.
At age 25, the cornerstones of his belief system stuck firmly in the Georgia clay, John Rocker is a lost cause.
Referring to a black teammate as a ''fat monkey?''
Noting that, ''I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. ... How the hell did they get in this country?''
Saying this stuff though a guy sitting next to you is writing it all down for a national magazine?
You can't treat that sort of ingrained ignorance. You can't fix that kind of casual racism.
Rocker is beyond repair.
Baseball, however, is not.
The most shocking aspect of Rocker's statements should not have been the words, but that he was so comfortable saying them.
He apparently said ''fat monkey'' as if he were saying, ''Good morning.''
As if he's says that stuff all that time. As if he has lived in an environment where few would challenge it.
Anyone who has been around baseball longer than five minutes can imagine that he has.
Some of the best players I covered in my 10 years as a baseball beat guy have been some of the most homophobic and racist I have met. Not only the white ones, but also the blacks and Latinos.
On many teams, the blacks keep mostly to themselves, in a group, often referred to as a posse.
There's also a group of a whites referred to as rednecks, and another group of whites known as Bible thumpers.
Then there are the Latinos, a group often unnamed and ignored.
While Rocker's comments seemed to reveal a deep-seated hatred that is probably rare among players who generally work together well on the field, his awkwardness with diversity is not.
Remember this quote?
''I mean, you've got (Hideo) Nomo from Japan, Chan Ho (Park) from Korea. You've got guys from the Dominican Republic and Mexico. So what do people expect? That all of a sudden, we're going to be one big happy family?''
And this quote?
''Obviously, I'm going to gravitate toward Eric (Karros) and (Todd) Zeile. Brett (Butler) is going to hang out with his group, and the Mexicans are going to hang out together and the Dominicans are going to hang out together. ... I don't think there's anything anybody can do or say to change those cultural and background differences.''
Yep. That was Mike Piazza, 1997, talking about the Dodgers' chemistry problems.
Piazza is a kind soul who is as different from John Rocker as concrete is from oatmeal. At the time, he thought he was simply stating fact.
The problem is, he was.
To understand the solution, we must realize that these players didn't become this way the minute they buttoned up their first major league jersey.
It starts in the minor leagues where, unlike in basketball and football, many kids are thrown together without the benefit of a diverse college experience.
Racial attitudes are not broken down, they are reinforced. Ignorance is not challenged, it is often embraced by others just as ignorant.
On a bus in the Appalachian League. In a clubhouse in the Carolina League. Standing in the outfield on a warm night in Durham, or a cold day in Danville.
It doesn't help that, unlike in basketball and football, most of the young players are white.
Baseball needs to catch its players here. It needs to send the fancy psychologists not to John Rocker, but to the small towns and tiny clubhouses where there are teenagers who can still be taught.
Ignore baseball's vow to fix Rocker today. Demand, instead, that it establish sensitivity programs that can silence the John Rockers of tomorrow.
As for the Rocker of the future?
Baseball could ban the Atlanta Brave reliever for life, but the courts would allow that to stick for about as long as it takes you to say, ''Latrell Sprewell.''
The Braves could release him, but somebody else would sign the hard-throwing left-hander in about 10 seconds, and that would only allow him to get a fresh start in a new clubhouse that he could enter without bodyguards.
No, the worst thing the Braves can do to John Rocker is nothing. He chose to make his bed with the sheet over his head? So make him sleep in it. Make him stay on the team.
He spends spring training bumping elbows in cramped Florida clubhouses with players he slandered; the catcher from Puerto Rico, the center fielder from Curacao, the black right fielder from Baltimore.
He faces, on a daily basis, that ''fat monkey'' and all of his friends.
He plays in the city of Martin Luther King Jr., working amid people who have worked all of their lives to overcome his sort of hate.
And maybe, if the Braves are really lucky, on his way out of the clubhouse one day or every day, John Rocker bumps into Hank Aaron.
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