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Major League Baseball needs more players like Zack Britton

With players usually shying away from any declarative statements for the sake of the team, Zack Britton’s comments were a breath of fresh air.

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New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

While it seems almost inevitable, one outcome I don’t want to happen as a result of this piece is to focus again on Domingo Germán. He did an awful thing, and that’s not really up for debate. There’s also no need to debate what the “circumstances” were or if this was an isolated event. What he did cannot simply be chalked up as a “mistake.” I don’t particularly care for the topic of discussion about whether he needs to be banned from the league, cut from the team, or “deserves” a second chance either. I, personally, struggle with where I land on the subject, as I don’t believe that strict zero-tolerance policies work, and in fact could be more detrimental than anything.

That being said, what I really want to focus on today is one of Germán’s teammates: Zack Britton. Major League Baseball, professional sports, and the world need more men like Zack Britton. When pitchers and catchers reported for spring training in Tampa, Britton was asked about Germán, and he did not really hold back.

Once again, as a reminder, Britton was specifically asked about Germán. He was not just randomly talking about him or his situation. But the answer he gave was more than I expected anyone to give. He did not insult Germán or anything like that, but was simply direct about his feelings toward the whole matter. Generally, we hear some sort of generic vanilla quote about “making mistakes” that somehow manages to be worse than saying nothing at all.

Take former Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, for instance, who recently discussed disgraced outfielder Odubel Herrera being invited to Phillies’ camp:

Herrera needing to earn his way back to the Phillies and giving him a chance to prove himself is fine, but Girardi’s quote? That’s a problem. Normalizing this type of behavior and saying “well, none of us are perfect” is not okay. We’re not talking about an actual mistake like overthrowing a pitch or misreading a sign here.

I don’t envy Girardi’s position though. As a coach, I’m sure he wants his players to know that he has their backs and will support them, and I believe Girardi probably had the best intentions in merely trying not to stir things up too much, but knowing that this is actually not okay to say is part of the cultural change that’s needed.

Right now, I get happy when players or coaches on the Yankees don’t say anything to make matters worse. Just give a simple “that’s something we’re doing to discuss internally” or “I’d rather not comment on that” and I’ll be glad that they’re not putting their feet in their mouths. These low expectations are a consequence of years of disappointing quotes and a society that accepts boorish behavior — especially from a team that employs both Randy Levine and Lonn Trost, and the nonsense they provide.

That’s why I applaud Britton and wish more players, coaches, or executives spoke up like he did. He gave a candid and honest response to a question that really has nothing to do with him. Britton was later challenged on Twitter and emphasized that he was asked the question and didn’t try to backtrack:

This isn’t the first time Britton has taken to Twitter to show support for social issues. He tweeted support for CC Sabathia and his family when they were taking part in the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. And more recently, after the Mets’ scandal with Jared Porter broke, reporter Britt Ghiroli — who covered Britton’s Orioles — shared her story of facing sexual harassment from a player in 2012. Once Ghiroli revealed this encounter, Britton shared an important message:

It’s as simple as that. Even if we aren’t the ones committing these heinous acts, we still need to do better to help foster a cultural change that makes it a safer and better world. I hate that we need to applaud Britton for just showing some basic human decency and taking a hard stance, but we still live in a world where these things happen on a daily basis. Countless times, they get swept under the rug or don’t even come out. So until we truly “do better” we need more men like Britton to step up and use their platform for good.

“We need to do better.”