ST. PETERSBURG — Heaven help me, I’m here to defend Aubrey Huff.
Not because I like him. During his time in Tampa Bay, I thought he was one of the most insufferable boors ever employed by the Rays.
And it’s not because I agree with his world view. He’s neither as funny, enlightened or devout as he seems to think.
No, I’m defending Huff because I think the San Francisco Giants have erred by refusing to invite their former first baseman to the 10th anniversary of their 2010 World Series championship due to his obnoxious social media persona.
Because, in the process, they have turned an Internet troll into a political martyr.
This is not about whether Huff’s tweets are offensive. They are. They are also childish, mean-spirited and purposefully inflammatory. And it’s perfectly acceptable for the Giants to point out just how distasteful they find Huff’s ramblings to be.
It just seems there are better ways to preach inclusivity than by excluding someone.
Not to mention, it’s a little disingenuous for the Giants to suddenly be alarmed by Huff’s personality. They’ve always known who he was.
They knew it 10 years ago when he was, by his own description, a scumbag. They knew it when, according to his book, he was taking illegal stimulants before games and drinking himself to sleep afterward. They knew it when Huff stuck his hand down his pants during the World Series parade and removed the thong that he had christened as the team’s good luck charm.
I guess it’s easier to have standards when a player is no longer your best hitter.
And now, by snubbing Huff, the Giants have given him an even greater platform to complain that he is being punished for his conservative political views, even if the team’s complaints have more to do with his lack of tolerance than his political leanings.
The problem is the Giants are opening themselves up to accusations of being selectively outraged.
Think about some of the greats who have had their uniform numbers retired by San Francisco. Orlando Cepeda — served time in prison in the 1970s after picking up a shipment of 165 pounds of marijuana at an airport. Juan Marichal — hit Johnny Roseboro in the head with a bat during one of the ugliest on-field brawls in baseball history. Gaylord Perry — threw an illegal spitball for years and bragged about it in a book.
And Barry Bonds — a surly, often unpleasant man who became the face of baseball’s sordid steroid scandal.
I’m not suggesting any of those players should be shunned all of these years later. But there is an acknowledgment of human imperfection and forgiveness that the team seems to be forgetting when it comes to Huff.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Consider how Giants CEO Larry Baer reconciled Bonds’ history in the days before his uniform was retired in 2018:
“Sure, there were a lot of tough times with him, challenging and contentious times,’’ Baer told USA Today. “But if something happens with somebody in your family, you don’t disown him ... you love him unconditionally.’’
Baer, by the way, is the same guy who was suspended by the commissioner of baseball less than a year ago after a public spat with his wife that included her tipping over in a chair while Baer tried to forcibly remove a cell phone from her hand.
The point is, none of us are perfect. And we don’t all view the world in the same way.
Huff says a lot of his more infamous tweets were meant to be funny or sarcastic and are being taken too seriously by the politically correct crowd. Perhaps that was true once or twice. But if you sound like a jerk often enough, you might want to consider whether you’re just a jerk.
On the other hand, this constant tsk-tsking and pointing out of flaws may not be the best way to learn to live with one another.
A few months ago, a politician spoke about that very topic when addressing a room full of college students.
“This idea of purity and you're never compromised and you're always politically woke and all that stuff? You should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and share certain things with you."
In case you didn’t know, that was Barack Obama at his foundation’s summit.
I wonder if, on that topic, the Giants and Huff might agree.
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.