And now for something completely…summarizing

January 29th, 2007 → 11:30 am @

In other news:

* Schilling wants to see how many up-and-down years he can tack on to the end of his career, declaring he’ll play in 2008. He also says, “”It wouldn’t be in New York. No. I could not make that move.” I love when Red Sox folk heroes lay it on the line and say they’ll never play for the Yankees.

* Phildaelphia Inquirer columnist Jim Salisbury makes the point that revenue sharing is having some not-so-great effects on player salaries and small-market spending. Weird. I feel like I’ve heard something like that before.

* The world of baseball writers can be a pretty clubby place; it’s why I love guys like Keith Law, who think nothing of spanking colleagues for voting for Justin Morneau for MVP: “The reality of baseball is that a great offensive player at an up-the-middle position is substantially more valuable than a slightly better hitter at a corner position. And when that up-the-middle player is one of the best fielders at his position in baseball, there’s absolutely no comparison. Joe Mauer was more valuable than Justin Morneau this past season. … I have a hard time fathoming why any voter would put Morneau at the top of his ballot with so many obviously better candidates — Mauer, Jeter, Ortiz, Jermaine Dye, unanimous Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana or the criminally neglected Carlos Guillen (the best player on the AL pennant winner) — and in reality, more than half the voters did just that.”

Along those same lines, Sunday provided me with a reminder of why I love Bob Ryan. His column about the boneheads who left Ripken and Gwynn off their Hall of Fame ballots is a true classic; it’s not every day a sportswriter calls out his brethren for being, well, retarded. Some choice quotes:

“What if someone actually thought I were one of the eight who didn’t deem Cal a legit Hall of Famer or the 13 who didn’t think Gwynn had done enough to get in? I may not leave the house without a bag over my head.”

“Can you honestly look me in the eye and say that this man should not be in the Hall of Fame? Yes or no?”

“The primary reason, we are often told, is that some members of the voting body have a personal policy not to vote for someone the first year he is eligible. I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of such idiocy.”

“But please don’t think I’m one of them. I did the right thing. I swear.”

Awesome: the man is actually embarrassed that someone might confuse him for someone else from his profession.

Post Categories: Bob Ryan & Curt Schilling & Keith Law & Slate & Sports Reporters

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

August 24th, 2006 → 10:53 am @

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

The dean, the truth, and how to avoid looking a whole lot worse

August 22nd, 2006 → 1:08 pm @

For decades, Bob Ryan has been referred to as the dean of Boston sportswriting. Most of his renown has come from his writing on the Celtics — and deservedly so — but today he shows why he’s worth reading on almost any subject. His column, titled “Warning: These truths may hurt,” does a better job of encapsulating the disappointment with the 2006 Red Sox than almost anything I’ve read.

Ryan’s critiques can be more or less summed up as follows:

* The absence of a legitimate number 5 hitter
* The loss of Johnny Damon
* The disappointment of Coco Crisp
* The enigma that is Josh Beckett
* The failure of the bullpen
* The absence of a lefty reliever

I think Ryan’s right-on, both not only because these are obvious problems but because they’re all the result of legitimately second-guessable decisions. Unlike folks who were in favor of the Arroyo-Wily Mo deal when it happened, opposed to it when Arroyo put up ridiculous first-half numbers, and in favor of it during those first several weeks of August, Ryan’s raising serious concerns that could have (and perhaps should have) been addressed.

Ryan also points out – as Nick Cafardo did yesterday — the very real monetary difference between New York and Boston. (There are those who think that’s simply a result of the Sox’s pecuniary conservatism; I disagree, but that’s a topic for another day. Don’t worry: that day will come soon.) In spite of this, Ryan argues that Yankees are – dare I say it – a fun team. A team that, for those non-Red Sox fans out there, it’s pretty easy to root for. As painful as it is to admit it, it’s hard not to agree. Putting aside the question of buying a trip to the playoffs, the Yankees – from Melky Cabrera to Robinson Cano to Jeter to Damon to Williams to Mariano – are oddly appealing, Cabrera and Cano because they’re youngsters coming up big; Mariano and Bernie because they’re vets still plugging away; Jeter because he’s one of the fiercest competitors out there; and Damon because he’s growing a porn-star mustache and still loves his naked pull-ups. (Sheffield, Johnson, and A-Rod are most definitely not appealing; Dumbo, er Posada, is on the fence.)

But Ryan’s most crucial point comes towards the end of his column. He writes:

“The truth is that this is not a good time to be Theo Epstein. For two years running, he has been unable to construct a viable pitching rotation. (We haven’t mentioned Matt Clement, a very nice guy; no one is in a hurry to see him come back, because it’s clear he wasn’t cut out for Boston.) Theo was cut one year of afterglow slack, but overheated fans, already in a bloodthirsty mood, are downright rebellious now that the Yankees have humiliated their team with a five-game sweep. …

“The truth is that in this perverted sports climate, the other team is never just allowed to be better, even for a day, let alone a series or a season. No, no. 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 truth is we need to sit down and figure out what sports are all about. We’ve lost our way.”

Amen to that, brother. This is baseball, folks. This is a game in which senior citizens are asked to put on unflattering uniforms if they want to manage. The Sox have clearly made some mistakes and miscalculations; they’ve also had a lot of success. It sucked ass to lose five-straight to the Yankees. It sucked so much even my friends who are Yankees fans feel bad for me. But let’s not let a disappointing season result in hate mongering. It’s not going to make anyone feel any better. And it’ll make Red Sox fans look a lot worse.

Post Categories: Bob Ryan & Red Sox Fans