I didn’t choose the game (Don’t hate the player edition)

August 24th, 2006 → 10:53 am @ // 6 Comments

My post yesterday was divided into three main parts. Here’s a Cliff Notes summary.

Part 1:
* Manny Ramirez was freakishly good in the Yankees series
* He’s among most unsung superstars in the game
* Last weekend, Manny really was like Superman

Part 2:
* According to a Sean McAdam article, Manny had to be convinced to play Saturday’s game because he didn’t get credit for a single
* For years, Manny’s hamstrings have been what’s been cited whenever he’s needed personal days

Part 3:
* Sportswriting is unique in that it’s the only place where writers fill the roles of columnists, investigative reporters, and critics
* Omniscient sourcing is used in the sports section far more than it is in other sections of the paper
* McAdam’s column may very well have been the result of this type of situation
* Because of the fact that he reported — accurately, I assume — what happened, he gets boatloads of hatred directed at him

Here are some of the reactions I got to said post:
* I was taking cheap shots at Manny
* Nobody cares when Manny takes a day off
* I am a dork
* I am carrying water for Dan Shaughnessy
* This is a non-story because Manny is on pace to play 150 games this year
* Manny really is hurt and I’m a dick for saying that he’s not
* Sportswriters are patronizing
* Fans don’t want to know this kind of crap
* I’m a misogynist, my imaginary wife hates sex, and I don’t want to hear about Cynthia’s twins
* This is making a mountain out of a molehill
* I am attacking Manny’s approach at the plate
* I am a pissant.

***

Before people get all upset again, take a deep breath look at what’s actually going on (and what I actually wrote). Sean McAdam did not write a column ripping Manny for making up hamstring injuries. His column, titled “Sox lose game, and perspective,” described “the way the team seems to be unraveling from the inside.” His main example was the situation with Manny and the phantom single. Another example was David Wells throwing up his hands in disgust when Javy Lopez pulled a Rich Gedman, circa Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. And a third example was when, in the middle of a game, one player loudly questioned why a teammate hadn’t been given an error. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a clubhouse in need of a group hug.

Finally, McAdam wrote, “It’s not much of a leap to think that Ramirez’s early exit from yesterday’s game — he pulled himself out of the lineup after the fourth inning, telling trainers he was suffering cramps in the right hamstring — was connected to the events of the previous two days.

“One player yesterday noted that while Ramirez had played hard for much of the season, the events of the last few days seemed to hint at an upcoming ‘episode’ involving Ramirez, in which the slugger takes a decidedly indifferent approach to his play — if he appears in the lineup at all.”

That’s a player, not McAdam. If, in the middle of an epic swoon, there’s a player calling out Manny, I want to know about it.

(A quick note: McAdam is not one of the Red Sox beat writers I was friends, or even particularly friendly, with. He was always perfectly polite, but I don’t think the two of us have ever had a non-professional (or even a non-recorded) conversation. There are plenty of beat writers I am friendly with, and plenty I’m still in touch with. McAdam isn’t one of them.)

***

I’m not sure how many times, or in how many ways, I can say that I think Manny Ramirez is a great player. I don’t know how I can be more emphatic about the fact that Manny was one of the rare bright spots in a depressingly feeble weekend.

I also don’t know how anyone finds it hard to believe that when, after the double-header loss on Friday, there were those teammates, coaches, and front office employees who found it frustrating that time had to spent on Saturday coaxing Manny into uniform because of a non-single the night before. This is frustrating — not for me, but for the team — regardless of whether Manny had gone 8-for-8 with 6 home runs and 2 triples the night before. This is frustrating regardless of whether Coco Crisp stranded 58 runners in scoring position and whether or not Javy Lopez can catch balls that don’t land directly in his mitt. Again, this isn’t frustrating to me: I was enjoying watching Manny put on another hitting clinic. This is frustrating to teammates.

One of the comments on my post reads, in part, “[McAdam’s] duty to the public is to report the facts of what happened: the team (ASIDE from Manny) collapsed.” Does that mean it’s reporters’ duty to the public to report the facts of what happened so long as what happened doesn’t include anything bad about anyone the public really, really likes? (I’m not talking about Dan Shaughnessy’s column, which I haven’t read, and I’m not talking about conjecture concerning what is or isn’t going on with Manny’s hammies. I’m talking about what actually did happen on Saturday, and I’m talking about actual reactions from actual teammates.) Because that’s not reporting; that’s propaganda. And it’s hypocritical: when Jeter and A-Rod are squabbling because of some on-field (or clubhouse tiff), or when Sheffield starts pissing about how the Yankees haven’t picked up his option year, Red Sox fans (and I’m generalizing here) want to read and hear about that. Dare I say, if the New York media didn’t report that, they’d be pilloried for papering over the reality of the situation.

Manny Ramirez was upset that he didn’t get credit for a single. People on the team were upset he was upset. Sean McAdam told us that. And now he’s the one who’s a jerk. If I was a psychologist, I might wonder if this was a case of displaced anxiety. With so much time and emotion and energy invested in the Red Sox, it’s too painful to direct our anger and frustration at the team itself. But this guy? (Or these guys?) Not so hard. In a way, that’s exactly what Bob Ryan was saying: “Blame must be affixed. Heads must be severed. Once upon a time, losing brought a brief period of sorrow. Now it brings rage. The rest of the season, I fear, will not be much fun.” The Red Sox got swept in a five game series? Well goddamn, that reminds me how much I hate Sean McAdam — who didn’t come with 100 miles of blaming Manny for the losses — and the rest of those snivelling sports columnists.

***

Two more quick points. For those who think the Boston sports media is relentlessly negative, open your eyes. If A-Rod (or Jeter, or Mussina, or Randy Johnson) had asked out of Saturday’s game, it would have been back page news on the tabs for days on end.

And: a lot of the comments were along the lines of “no one cares about this crap.” But in the 22 hours after a post went up praising Bob Ryan’s column for its clear-eyed perspective, 11 comments were posted; in the 14 hours after yesterday’s post went up, 24 comments were posted. And more than 550 more readers read “Manny and his hammies” than read my post on Ryan’s column.

Finally, speaking of comments, another reminder: when you’ve made your point, there’s no need to repeat yourself. Let’s keep the level of invective to a minimum; it brings down the Socratic level of discourse. OK? Great. I’ll see you all soon.


Post Categories: Bob Ryan & Losing streaks & Oblique references to Ice-T lyrics & Sean McAdam

6 Comments → “I didn’t choose the game (Don’t hate the player edition)”


  1. Beth

    11 years ago

    please, for the love of god, fisk the everloving crap out of shaughnessy’s “Don’t Look Now” column. an exercise in futility, maybe, but it would make my day.

    Reply

  2. gmschmidty

    11 years ago

    Seth-

    It’s really not my way to pick apart bits and pieces of arguments or to take lines out of context (although judging by your cut and paste of one single line of my previous response, you dont have a problem doing so.) However, a few passages from today’s blog really stick in my craw, and I have a feeling I won’t be alone here. Most specifically:

    “Here are some of the reactions I got to said post:
    * I was taking cheap shots at Manny
    * Nobody cares when Manny takes a day off
    * I am a dork
    * I am carrying water for Dan Shaughnessy
    * This is a non-story because Manny is on pace to play 150 games this year
    * Manny really is hurt and I’m a dick for saying that he’s not
    * Sportswriters are patronizing
    * Fans don’t want to know this kind of crap
    * I’m a misogynist, my imaginary wife hates sex, and I don’t want to hear about Cynthia’s twins
    * This is making a mountain out of a molehill
    * I am attacking Manny’s approach at the plate
    * I am a pissant.”

    See the thing is I did not see the complaints about McAdam, or your support of his article, as falling into ANY of these categories, generally. Personal attacks aside(and shame on those posters for stooping so low) you did specifically refer to my post, which was an analysis of McAdam’s article and had little to do with what you had written, except that I disagreed with your stance on McAdam’s article. I think the biggest complaint was that people saw McAdam’s story as wholly missing the point of what transpired over the weekend. But as you have mentioned this point has already been made. I just wish you wouldn’t insist that those of us who disagree with you are all to be lumped into one category as a group whose taking personal attacks on you.

    Please go back and re-read my comment in full. To suggest that I was pleading for the Boston media to write only the cheery, popular articles, is downright unfair. Immediately after the gobbet that you extracted, I wrote: “Of course, this doesn’t preclude him from the privilege of analysis: why the team (ASIDE from Manny) collapsed. But instead of attempting to analyze why the series blew up n the Sox face, McAdam made the beef of the article an analysis on the one component of the team which was actually respectable over the course of the story.” In other words, isn’t it fair for the reading public to question whether the sportswriters they are reading are putting in the leg-work to bring them the best possible product? McAdam failed to even document the action of the games, failed to document the atrocities of any of the players who actually deserve criticism, opting instead to write another tired “Manny being Manny” rant. Those who subscribe to the ProJo deserve better (and fortunately they USUALLY DO GET BETTER.)

    There’s obviously no “right” or “wrong” in this argument–that’s what makes it a great one. But the fact is, your blog (which I enjoy) is an open forum. Because it is about an issue that A TON of people are passionate about, you are going to get some heated debate, and people are not going to agree with everything you say. I think if you take a look at the responses, and at the reaction of the fans who pay the most attention to the team (ie SoSH) you will notice a trend on this issue: most people feel McAdam’s article was unfortunate, innacurate, and most of all misguided given the circumstances. You happen to have placed yourself in McAdam’s camp on this issue. And right now amongst the die-hards, that’s an unpopular place to be….although, any press is good press, right? Keep up the good work.

    Geoffrey

    Edit: Geoff: Fair enough; I may have taken your comment out of context. That wasn’t my intention, although I was trying to make a larger point that I still think holds. (And those were all reactions to the posted item, both in comments and in emails that were sent in to me via the site.) I don’t think it makes sense for the two of us to debate individual points back and forth (the fact that McAdam didn’t document the action of the game is because the ProJo ran a game story. And in his Monday notes piece, McAdam praised Manny; the headline, after all, was “When it comes to Manny, there’s no denying his stats.” Anyway, you and I should move on. I hear you, I hope you hear me, and there’s plenty more to focus on: Manny’s knee, for starters…

    Seth

    Reply

  3. crimsonohsix

    11 years ago

    Yea, I didn’t think you ragged on Manny in yesterday’s post either. To be fair, though, you do paint a pretty poor image of him in your book.

    The fact is that his offensive production in 150 games a year despite not always running out ground balls is better than 99% of pro baseball players who play 162 games a year and run their hearts out, every single darn year, so most of us don’t give a darn if he makes up a lie to get out of an optional game he doesn’t want to play in. Hell, I lied and told my gf I was working late last night because I didn’t want to eat dinner with her.

    Reply

  4. magnetichf

    11 years ago

    all manny does is play in about 150 games per year, bat around .300, hit around 40 HRs, and drive in around 120-130 runs. and yes, once or twice a year, we’re subjected to some “episode” or another involving manny not wanting to play for some period of time. why? is he just being a prima donna? is he inordinately selfish? who knows? all we get is “this player said that” and “this player told me this”. well, what player told you that? does that player like manny? does that player maybe not agree with the way manny approaches the game?

    in today’s globe, we’re treated to this quote from papi:

    “He was hurting for real,” Ortiz said yesterday. “Look at all the balls he had to run down in left field last weekend. He was hurting. People are just making up stuff.”

    well gee, that’s weird. we’re constantly told how great ortiz is, what a great player and teammate he is. i can not remember reading a single negative thing about ortiz, ever. and yet, here he is aligning himself with satan. doesn’t he know how lazy and selfish manny is?

    mcadam will not write a headline saying “ortiz defends manny”. but all he needs is one source (who will not go on the record) to say “manny’s sandbagging it”, and he’s got his crusade.

    manny’s annual episodes used to piss me off. it was beyond me how somehow who got payed so much to play a game could pull stunts like that. then a couple of things occurred to me:

    (1) the sox would be a far worse team without manny. because he’s really, really good and plays really, really well for them.

    (2) i didn’t really care

    i really don’t. i don’t care if manny wants a day off. i don’t care if he whines about errors that he wanted to be hits. just like i don’t care that schilling campaigned for our neo-fascist president. just like i don’t care that theo has questionable taste in music. if i cared about that stuff, i’d stick to people magazine.

    if i thought that manny was a clubhouse cancer, if i thought that his contributions to the team were outweighed by his antics, i would care. i don’t see this guy as a cancer anymore. i conjecture that manny’s teammates take him as he his. they do this because they know that he is far better as baseball than they will ever be, and what he does to help them look good goes well beyond whatever annoyance he causes them.

    once in a while, i’m sure the annoyances get a little, well, annoying. hence the “this player told me this” routine. it’s no coincidence that these things usually happen when the team is struggling, and frustration is at its peak. eventually, the rest of the team starts playing up to manny’s level again, and all is right with the world, and mcadam has to find something else to write about.

    baseball is a meritocracy. if you are really good at what you do, you are cut a certain amount of slack. this holds true in many professions. i’d be willing to bet jack welch could be a real asshole to work for. i heard alan greenspan used to steal people’s lunches out of the breakroom fridge to save money. jeff skilling always threw paper in the wastebasket instead of the recycling bin. wayne huizenga is rude to his administrative assistant. if we’re going to start holding millionaires accountable for their actions, i’ve got a list of a few other folks that we should probably start with before we get to manny.

    Reply

  5. miles44

    11 years ago

    Seth, you could spend your whole life trying to win over bitter commenters. One thing I’ve learned since leaving Boston is that Beantown is filled with more angry fans than anyplace besides Philly. Today on Cold Pizza, they said someone from Boston emailed in comparing Manny to Albert Belle. Did I miss the time Manny tried to run over some kids in Southie in his SUV? Or plunked Shaughnessy with an “errant” toss? Or got caught corking his bat?

    While the Bloodthirsty Shut-Ins call/email/post the most, 95% of us read your blog and say, “Yeah, he’s basically right,” and go back to surfing for the latest pictures of Eva Longoria.

    Reply

  6. pondaz

    11 years ago

    You write that McAdam did not accuse Manny of faking the hamstring injuries, that it was a player. But that’s not how the column reads. McAdam writes, “It’s not much of a leap to think that Ramirez’s early exit from yesterday’s game — he pulled himself out of the lineup after the fourth inning, telling trainers he was suffering cramps in the right hamstring — was connected to the events of the previous two days.” That’s not even vaguely sourced information, that’s editorializing. While the idea may have been fed to him by a disgruntled teammate, that line seems to me to be a clear indication that McAdam is drawing the conclusion that the two incidents are probably related. He goes on to quote the player saying that there may be a coming “Manny episode,” but that language is fairly ambiguous and certainly does not draw the connection between the two incidents. I think it’s the presumption on McAdam’s part that the two incidents correspond that offends people (and Shaughnessy’s column goes even farther in drawing out that conclusion and attacking Manny), particularly as it’s revealed that maybe Manny really is hurt after all.

    Reply

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