The Dodgers' J.P. Howell and hazing vs. bullying
J.P. Howell of the Dodgers has opened up about bullying and hazing in the clubhouse.
"Not in the clubhouse, never by teammates. I was asked if Puig had been bullied and I said yes, but I meant by fans and media and people on the outside that don't know him. Never in the clubhouse. Are you kidding? People early in the season said our clubhouse wouldn't have chemistry, and it turned out to be an awesome clubhouse -- everybody got along."
The Dodgers also released the following statement:
"Bullying is an issue we take very seriously. We’ve discussed this with Yasiel and he has assured us that he is comfortable with the clubhouse environment as well as his teammates, coaches and support staff. As an organization, we will continue to be proactive in monitoring what goes on in and around our clubhouse."
The post below has been updated to reflect this information.
Over at the Los Angeles Times, Bill Shaikin has a compelling profile of Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell, his wife Heather and their campaign against bullying. Specifically, Heather has written a children's book on the subject, and J.P. has opened up about his own experiences with bullying under the guise of hazing. Here's what Howell tells Shaikin about his own experiences:
In the clubhouse, Howell said he had no problem with the tradition of directing a rookie pitcher to carry gum and sunflower seeds to the bullpen in a little girl's backpack. He had a huge problem, he said, with pressure in some clubhouses to party and drink late into the night.
"You have to know that you can say no and you'll be all right," Howell said.
When he broke into the major leagues, he owned one suit, a gift from his father. A veteran player — Howell would not identify him — cut up the suit and did not replace it.
"I didn't know how to handle the situation," Howell said. "I wish I would have. I was distracted. I was scared to be around him in the gym. If you're intimidated by somebody because of their actions, that's bullying."
I don't claim to know where the line between hazing and bullying is, but, yeah, shredding a guy's suit, which is what happened to Howell, strikes me as being on the wrong side of it. I'm sure if you drew a Venn diagram on the subject, then not all hazing would fall under the catgory of bullying. But what's the point of hazing in the first place?
We're not talking about the hootenanny of arrested development that is a college fraternity. Rather, we're talking about a professional workplace. I don't really care about their playing dress-up -- I have no idea how the same joke is still funny after being made since the days of Greek theater, but that's another matter. Tearing up a guy's personal property just because he's a rookie and just because the towering models of the past did it to you, though, is self-evidently stupid.
This is a professional baseball team, not a tree fort. If a player wants to do his job and keep to himself without being "initiated" into the clubhouse culture (such as it is), then he should be free to do just that. From the standpoint of the team and its interests, it's entirely possible this sort of thing is anathema to the long-term development of some young players.
Anyhow, nothing's more predictable than flinty, rough-hewn denizens of the Internet bemoaning a complete stranger's imagined loss of toughness and then pronouncing the demise of the republic, so I'm sure that's to ensue. The larger point is that, in light of the Richie Incognition-Jonathan Martin fiasco in the NFL, baseball can strengthen its position as the plainly more civilized of the two sports by discouraging this kind of pointless stuff. If you need to build esprit de corps, then go do some trust falls and a ropes course.