Team Player

As a noun, the word ‘Team’ means “a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.” As a verb, it’s defined as “coming together to achieve a common goal, match or coordinate.”

You would think Cleveland Indians pitcher Zach Plesac knew the meaning of this word, seeing as he’s been playing baseball since childhood. But after his “apology,” or lack thereof earlier this week, and now his six-and-a-half minute IGTV video, it seems someone should teach him how to type ‘’ into the search bar.

To recap, during an away series in Chicago, Plesac and fellow pitcher Mike Clevinger violated MLB’s stringent health and safety protocols. After a game against the White Sox, they left the team hotel, dined at a restaurant with a group of people, hung out in a friend’s home, and stayed out past curfew.

Plesac was caught and sent home to quarantine. Clevinger actually flew with the team before being outed as Plesac’s partner-in-crime and forced to self-quarantine as well.

As athletes and celebrities often do when they find themselves in hot water, Plesac took to social media earlier this week to make a statement. But instead of making a sincere and simple apology to his teammates, manager, and fans, he made sophomoric comments that struck a hypocritical chord.

Despite the (justified) backlash, Plesac seemed to not understand the potential impact of his choices. And then, all plausibly deniability that maybe he was just a well-meaning kid who didn’t have the right words or the foresight to consult the team’s media relations department, went out the window today, when he recorded a lengthy video on IGTV. He titled it “Not an apology. Not a justification. The Truth.”

He also decided to record it while driving. 

There are too many choice soundbites to list, but a few highlights include:

“The media really is terrible, man… they do some evil things… truthfully, I’m disgusted the way the media’s handled this whole situation.”

“Things are inevitable. You’re going to see people. You’re gonna socially interact, you can’t sit in a room all day, is the truth of the matter.”

“The last thing I would want to do is put anyone at risk.”

Conspicuously absent from Plesac’s word vomit? The phrase “I’m sorry.” 

Plesac’s attempt to sound intelligent by waxing poetic about the CDC guidelines only further highlights his lack of accountability; he gives off cocky frat-boy vibes, trying to make deep comments to distract from his misdoings. If MLB was only abiding by CDC guidelines, Plesac wouldn’t be in trouble in the first place. But MLB has their own, stricter rules in place, and they’re stricter than the CDC because they have to be. Enacting these protocols was necessary in order to bring baseball back, and those are the rules he broke, so Plesac claiming his behavior was within the parameters of the CDC is irrelevant, just another way of trying to avoid owning up to his choices. It’s like a student doing homework for every class but his own and then saying “At least I did homework at all!” As they say in Judaism, “The law of the land is the law.” If Plesac didn’t want to follow these rules, he should have opted out of the season. 

What’s so crazy about this whole thing is that Plesac doesn’t deny he broke the rules; he admits that he broke them but paints himself as the victim, acting affronted that people dare report on or have feelings about him breaking the rules in the first place. Unlike most people in this country, he is currently able to travel, do his job – and a very fun job at that – and be around his teammates, many of whom are his friends, or were before this debacle. He’s also well-compensated for his livelihood, something millions of Americans are not. For him to flout restrictions and then speak about it in this manner is a slap in the face to fans and the industry. And to then paint himself as a ‘noble renegade/maverick/whatever toxic-masculinity bro adjective he prefers’ and say that he can’t wait to return to the game and “start shoving it up people,” whatever that means, only makes him look more obnoxious. It’s also worth noting that the caption on his video ends, “without letting it affect our quality of life,” which doesn’t inspire confidence that he won’t make another selfish choice if he’s allowed to return to his team. Plesac doesn’t seem to realize how much better his quality of life already is compared to most people in this world.

Since the talks of bringing sports back began in earnest, players and executives around the league have echoed the sentiment that the only way MLB can happen during a global pandemic is if everyone complies with the protocol out of respect for themselves and everyone around them. The issue was magnified times a million when Eduardo Rodriguez developed viral myocarditis from COVID-19 and had to miss the entire season, and dozens of players around the league began testing positive. Numerous athletes have spoken out about how debilitating and scary this illness is, and how hard it is to recover. Many people, myself included, did not think the plan for baseball’s return was sufficient or safe.

It’s sad that Plesac and Clevinger don’t value their own safety and careers, but that they didn’t care enough to behave themselves for the benefit of their teammates and staff is much worse. For starters, Plesac’s brother is diabetic, and their mother is a nurse; you’d think he’d know better than to put higher-risk people like his brother in danger. Instead, he used his family members as excuses in his video yesterday, not realizing it only makes his choice to break the rules look even worse. ‘My brother is diabetic, so I understood the severity of coronavirus, and flouted protocol anyway’ doesn’t exactly prove your point, sir.

Then there’s his team. Fellow Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco is high-risk, after undergoing cancer treatments last season. Their manager Terry Francona is high-risk as well. Multiple people within the organization are high-risk simply due to their age. On Tuesday, Plesac and Clevinger’s teammate Adam Plutko, who had to pitch in Clevinger’s place, told reporters, “They hurt us bad. They lied to us,” and went on to say that the duo would have to earn everyone’s trust back. Francona echoed the sentiment the next day saying his pitchers “got some trust to earn back, and they’re gonna have to earn that back.”

Plesac has had every opportunity to apologize, either publicly, or at least privately to his very upset teammates and the club. Bare minimum, he should stop talking, because he’s only making this worse for himself. But regardless, the Cleveland Indians should not allow Plesac to return this season. His error in judgement was bad enough, especially given the medical situations his teammates and manager face, but his choice of words in multiple instances since show a clear lack of accountability or remorse. Plesac claims his actions were not malicious, but carelessness is equally reprehensible given the seriousness of the situation. He isn’t sorry that he broke the rules, because he doesn’t think the rules matter in the first place. 

Baseball is a team sport. Plesac is no team player.


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