Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Admiration Tango

  • A spin so dizzying, it starts to make sense:

I'm a fan of audacity.

No so much a fan, but a grudging admirer of those that can speak nonsense with a sincerity that makes it almost believable. For years, I've watched the infomercials of flim-flam kingpin Kevin Trudeau. Relentlessly amused, bewildered and occasionally disgusted at his sheer lack of interest in anything aside from selling his junk and making money, I've grown to respect him in a "well, you hafta give the guy credit" way because he's such an unrepentant and cunning scumbag with no concern about consequences as he bounces from one scheme to another.

With the self-assured nature of a pure salesman and the ability to blame the invisible "evil", he's had no qualms about playing to the fears of society while making preposterous claims of being able to "grow new brains with coral calcium" or to cure cancer with his "Natural Cures" book that the hideously evil and undefined "they" don't want you to know about. Able to perform legal gymnastics to vault from one collapsing get-rich-quick scheme to the other and land on his feet takes talent and a lack of humanity.

There's always some other plot once one shady (at best) business is shut down for good. He sold memory tapes; golf instruction videos; vitamins designed to cure anything and everything; wrinkle cures; self-defense manuals; and Atkins Diet guides. Shut down from continuing with the vitamin ads----ads that were straight out of fantasyland and designed to prey on the desperate, ill, infirm and stupid----he took advantage of the right to free speech by publishing books designed to promote natural cures; to lose weight; to get out of debt; to receive free money from the government; and he reinvented himself as a self-proclaimed "consumer advocate" and bestselling author.

The books are inane, poorly written and farcical. The reviews on Amazon.com are clear evidence of what people thought of his claims (you can spot the difference between the ones he planted and the real deal); of how his consumer advocacy was little more than the advocacy designed to put money into the coffers of Kevin Trudeau; but what difference did it make? There was always another scam available; another lurking beast to blame for all the ills of the public; and Trudeau is constantly there as predator interested in nothing more than getting his hands on your money----one way or the other.

As much as you want to condemn it; despise it; regulate against it, you still have to tip your hat. You still have to say, "Wow, I couldn't do that". Still.

Cynical pragmatist that I am, I still hold out that small shred of hope for society; that there's a positive end somewhere; that eventually, an evolution will render unnecessary pretense and disingenuousness for self-justification and public consumption.

Call me a hopeless (hapless) romantic if you want, but under all this stuff in me (after you get past the knives and the slapjacks) I still think we're salvageable. On some level. This is why I shake my head in befuddlement when I see the text of press conferences such as Johnny Damon's welcome to the Tigers. An additional shred of hope disappears.

Here are the relevant quotes:

"This is where I wanted to be..."

"The Tigers were my first choice. I love it here and think I am a good fit...

"The Tigers are a scary team, and the fact that this team has gotten even younger makes it a lot more fun."

"It is where my family wanted to be. Contrary to what has been reported, I wanted a place where I could win right away. I have always been truthful and Detroit was always my first choice, and my wife and I are going to love it there."

"This is so much different than the last time..."

"This is the first time I feel at home."


All I can do is shrug and wonder when how long after the press conference agent Scott Boras folded Damon up and placed him into the carrying case in which one totes their ventriloquist dummies to the next gig.

I'm not going to bother dissecting the quotes. It's not worth it. But think about this: if he only ever wanted to be in Detroit, then why did it take so long for him to agree to a contract when the news broke of the offer two weeks ago? Why stay on the market? Was he waiting for the next "place he wanted to be"? And why negotiate with the Yankees; with the Braves; with the Rays; with the White Sox? Was he playing hard-to-get with the Tigers? Was he hoping someone would panic? Or was he mouthing the words scripted from carefully orchestrated and choreographed play that is a Scott Boras-player signing?

It's almost sad when a grown man is reduced to doing what he's told, when he's told and why he's told; but Johnny Damon has no one to blame but Johnny Damon. He's the one who listens to his agent; he's the one who is either too lazy or is completely unable to think for himself that he parrots whatever lines are fed into what passes for his brain; and this is why when a player shuns Boras to do what's best for himself----Alex Rodriguez; Felipe Lopez----or a club says, "I'm not dealing with this guy anymore" as the Angels have, you salute them just as readily as you credit the tap-dancing and nonsense that emanates from the player and his agent in press conferences like yesterday's.

It works both ways.

Like with Kevin Trudeau, in order to succeed in selling garbage, there has to be someone willing to buy it; and I can guarantee you the lunacy of the Johnny Damon press conference is an example of the puffery so dumbfounding that you'd have to believe it was true even if all logic indicates that it's not.

Any normal thinking person wouldn't believe someone would have that kind of temerity; but Damon did. Just look at the quotes and see.

  • Viewer Mail 2.23.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Dodgers and Khalil Greene:

I have no sympathy for the Dodgers and their Manny situation. Any team that utilizes his services knows what type of drama they're getting into ahead of time.

As for the social anxiety disorder, this seems to be a new age dilemma, though I doubt it really is. Greene, Votto, Willis, Greinke... these guys have all come forward because now it is okay, it is acceptable to come forward and call it what it is. In the 40s and 50s and 60s one would be shunned and ridiculed to admit as much, which proves the social zeitgeist continues to morph. I wonder what other dynamic shifts are in store for us this decade...

Manny gets away with it because he hits, period. There are concessions a team has to make for the greater good and with Manny, you have to accept the negative part of Manny being Manny if you want to get the positives; the only thing any club can do when dealing with him is hope that the positives outweigh the negatives long enough to get what they need from him before it explodes. In retrospect, the Red Sox did get two championships that they probably wouldn't have won without Manny; so I think it's a fair trade-off. I'd certainly take it.

With the "social anxiety" stuff, I do have empathy, but that can't affect business as usual. The Royals dealt with Greinke because of his physical gifts and money invested and it paid off; Votto's not going anywhere because he can hit. Greene is not in a similar position and the Rangers have to look at the big picture and not worry about a player who wasn't going to help them that much----if at all----anyway.

Ric Nunez writes RE Koby Clemens:

That kid sure can put some great numbers. Will this guy play well in the majors? Time will tell.

I was stunned to see he put up those stats. Stunned. It's a safe bet he's going to make it to the big leagues not because of his name, but because he can clearly hit and play a position that is notoriously hard to fill----catcher. His pedigree won't have anything to do with it.

The BrooklynTrolleyBlogger writes RE Koby Clemens and Manny:

Pete Rose Jr. comes to mind. He had an 800 pound gorilla on his back and kinda caved. He put together a nice little independent career for himself, for what it's worth.
And you're dead on about Manny. I have my reasons for knowing but he's very cerebral about hitting and preparation.
I'm not even touching that social anxiety disorder. Pfff.

Pete Rose Jr wasn't that great a prospect as I recall, but considering the amount of pressure that must've been on the son of a famous star like Rose, even making it as far as he did was an accomplishment.

With Manny, people think he's an imbecile because he wants people to think he's an imbecile; and he's a hitting savant who's far smarter than he's given credit for.

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE Koby Clemens:

Well, I am not very adept at minor league numbers. But Clemens is 22 and still in A-ball. Also, the parks and leagues in the minors vary for how easy it is to hit. I have no idea how that affects Clemens, but it needs to be looked at.

All you have to do is look at how his teammates and opponents have hit in comparison to Koby Clemens and you can get a gauge on how much better he was regardless of the parks and leagues----2009 California League. As buried as you are in stats, I shouldn't have to explain this to you unless you're deliberately trying to take things out of context as is the modus operandi of the common, everyday stat zombie.

J. Michael Blanks writes RE Koby Clemens:

Prince, Koby was a star pitcher in HS who happened to hit well and play 3B, he chose to not pitch. He had a good rookie season, but then fell off. He rebounded last year and I believe he did get a call up to AA Corpus Christie. Koby's, and the Astros problem is that he must have some hole in his game defensively. He keeps getting moved around (3B, DH, OF & C). If He had major league talent defensively at either 3B or catcher, you would think the Astros would be inclined to have pushed that development. As it is, if he can make the jump to AAA this year, he may hold some value later as a trading chip to an American League team. BTW, you always write good stuff, and I have read your take on things since you were part of that "other" site.

Thanks for the compliment and for reading.

With Clemens and his position, I've never seen him, but if he can catch adequately, I'd think he'd be able to carve a big league career for himself even if his name was Koby Jones. He was in Double A for five games. His caught stealing percentage behind the plate has been around 25%, which is good enough if he hits.

Worst case, there's nothing wrong with being a roving utility player who gets 250-300 at bats a year. There are more workmanlike players in the majors than is generally discussed. It's only when said players are forced into being more than what they are that they're exposed; some players are only supposed to be part-timers. If Clemens is able to create a niche for himself even if he's not the mega-star his dad was, more power to him; and there's nothing wrong with using his last name to his advantage; it also helps that he's not a pitcher so he's clearly climbing the minor league ladder on his own merits rather than because of his famous father. As I said yesterday, there are many, many players who hang around the majors with no discernible use like Eric Bruntlett; Clemens can likely contribute somehow, which would render his name meaningless.

Regarding the "other" site (MLBlogs), it's a shambles over there from what I understand----strangely congruent to the way MLB itself is run. Every early blogger who participated; cared about what they were doing; and contributed from the beginning has been driven off by the disinterest and shambolic handling of the entity. There's a vindictive, self-serving and unprofessional aura that is unmistakable.

All you have to do is take a look at the characters involved in the tragicomedy and you understand why it's in such disarray. From MLBlogs to the MLB Network, it's bursting with ineptitude, disinterest and characters whose public faces and attempts at swagger and class are diametrically opposed to private behaviors. Given what I know, the revelation of such would make them look (let's be gentle) not....good.

Considering that fact and to hammer the point home, here's a quote regarding a fictional agent of chaos (not a genuine agent of chaos such as myself), the Joker:

No one's gonna tell you anything. They're wise to your act. You got rules. The Joker, he's got no rules. No one's gonna cross him for you.

Methinks I know too much...

Beeeebzy at Pretty In Pinstripes writes RE Khalil Greene:

Khalil Greene: Social Anxiety Disorder, Schmocial Schmanxiety Schmisorder. The man can't play baseball. Simple as that. At his best he was mediocre, at his worst he was abysmal.

If you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. To play any professional sport you need to be fit mentally as well as physically. If you're regularly unfit, then you shouldn't be a professional athlete. Especially if, when you're fit, your skills aren't even good enough. Hang up your cleats, put your bat and glove away, and start a blog, bitching and whining, like Schilling did when his skills declined.

Teams shouldn't have to nurse these players suffering from mental illnesses with no timeframe for recovery. Especially when the player himself doesn't seem to be making the effort to get better or learn how to play with his issues. With a physical injury, there's normally a timeframe you can work with. With mental illnesses, there's a chance they'll never go away. If the player can't overcome it and perform, and won't even try to, then you should cut the cord.

A team is not a player's biological family. They're not stuck with a player and his baggage. Ruthless as it may be, a player's own personal well being isn't the organization's true concern. Winning and making a profit are the organization's concern.

It's not personal, dear. It's strictly business.

Also, you
would mention Cody Ransom.

If anything, a player needs mental toughness more than he needs physical talent. How many players have had the gifts that other, lesser players haven't but have failed miserably? The first rounds of every year's draft are stacked with players who haven't made it for reasons aside from physical.

Even a Yankee fan can grudgingly appreciate how Dustin Pedroia spat in the faces of everyone who said he was too small; wasn't fast enough; wasn't strong enough; wasn't good enough and spun that into a Rookie of the Year, an MVP and a championship ring. Without the David Ortiz-sized chip on his shoulder, he wouldn't be as good a player.

The list of such players----whose mental determination superseded the lack of talent----is endless. Jamie Moyer was told to quit numerous times; could anyone look at David Eckstein while he was in the minors and say, "this kid's gonna fashion a 10 year big league career, win a World Series MVP and be the glue to two world champions"? No way.

I can hope for Greene to find the help he needs, but in the final analysis, this is not the Rangers problem.

With Cody Ransom, he does have use----he's the Phillies replacement for Eric Bruntlett and he'll do....what....Bruntlett, um....did.

Whatever that.....was.


She-Fan said...

What did you expect Damon to say? They all say that stuff when they come to the Yankees. "Oh, I've always wanted to put on the pinstripes." "This is where I've always wanted to play." "I love New York." Blah blah. Aren't we used to it by now? Was he supposed to say, "Oh, crap. I'm stuck in Detroit?"

Jeff said...

I think the Damon/Boras aberration could've have toned down the fake enthusiasm, or at least the lying part.

Trudeau... like ya say, I gotta admit, the man is very good at what he does. He just happens to lie, cheat and steal.

Beeeebzy said...

I especially enjoyed hearing Damon say (I'm paraphrasing here): "If the Yankees played the Tigers [instead of the Twins in the ALDS] the outcome would be different".

Anyway, I think that Damon and Boras aren't lovers anymore. Scott Boras didn't attend Johnny's press conference.

Now that the honeymoon's over, is there trouble in paradise? Could it be that Johnny Damon grew the testicles necessary to fire Scott Boras, or at least get angry with him?

I doubt it, but I'm bored and I currently have nothing better to do than to speculate about the reasons behind Boras' absence yesterday.