As if the Toronto Blue Jays' season weren't going badly enough, a photo has now emerged showing shortstop Yunel Escobar wearing eye black with a strangely homophobic message.
A photo of Escobar with the controversial three-word insult spelled out on his face quickly made the rounds on social media. It's the latest episode in what has been a trying season for the Blue Jays, who came into the year with hopes of a playoff berth but have been out of the postseason hunt for several weeks.
The man who posted one of the first photos of the eye black on Flickr, known by the member name "james_in_to", explains in the picture description that he was initially unsure about whether he would post it:
I have been conflicted about posting this picture since last night. I have a privileged seat near the Blue Jays dugout and allows me a close up of some pretty awesome moments. This one, however, is really disappointing. For those whose Spanish isn't fluent, have never seen Scarface or fail at google, Yunel's eyeblack "TU ERE MARICON" translates to "You're a faggot".
As mentioned by National Post writer John Lott, the eye black was also visible in a picture distributed by Getty Images.
Andrew Stoeten, writer for the popular Score baseball blog "Drunk Jays Fans," laid out a detailed post about the incident. In it, he explains that the term is actually used frequently by Latin players throughout Major League Baseball and certainly isn't isolated to Escobar (not that this fact makes it okay to trot out onto the field during a game with such a horrible message on your face.)
Escobar didn't play Sunday after apparently contracting a last-minute flu virus - though some are speculating that the eye black controversy was the real reason for his absence from the final game of a weekend series with the Boston Red Sox.
Messages from the majors came in fast and furious via Twitter:
If that image is real, Yunel should be suspended for the season
— keithlaw (@keithlaw)
(Law, a former Toronto Blue Jays front office employee and current ESPN writer, has long spoken out against generally stupid actions in the majors, making this a perfect sounding board for him.)
Folks, you can't expect 'em to think before they act, they're baseball players! It's like expecting 11 year old boys not to giggle at farts
— Dirk Hayhurst (@TheGarfoose)
(Hayhurst, a former Blue Jays pitcher-turned-author, believes Escobar was the victim of an ill-advised prank that simply went too far. He goes on to suggest that the incident will end up being swept under the rug.)
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney says baseball is looking into Yunel Escobar eye-black situation. Nothing more at this point.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick)
(Crasnick, an ESPN writer, is as dialed in with league executives than anyone.)
The team issued this statement Monday night:
"We do not support discrimination of any kind nor condone the message displayed by Yunel Escobar. The club takes this situation seriously and is investigating the matter."
It will be interesting to see how this impacts Escobar's status with the club. Rumors persist that the club has grown weary of the 29-year-old, who faced similar questions about his clubhouse presence before he was traded to Toronto by the Atlanta Braves in 2010. With rookie Adeiny Hechavarria making the fast-track to the majors and the other middle infield spot spoken for, it's quite possible Blue Jays fans are seeing the last of Escobar in a Toronto uniform.