Friday, July 23, 2010

Almost A Manifesto...

  • ...but not quite; this is not the deranged rantings of an unhinged lunatic...

Or is it?

After seeing a couple of mentions of Mike Francesa on Twitter referring to a rant he was on about the Mets, I came up with some good lines to incorporate into a posting that would deal with Francesa's decline from somewhat reasonable, respected----though torturously pompous and arrogant----analysis from years ago.

Naturally, in order to add the lines into said posting, I would have to have a reason to discuss Francesa, which meant I'd have to do something I have chosen not to do in recent times----listen to his show.

And I did. WFAN Mets beat reporter Ed Coleman was on with Francesa discussing the latest plummet of the team (by my count the fifth of which has occurred this season) and another managerial death watch has started for Mets manager Jerry Manuel.

Then, as the day wore on, I realized I didn't need to listen to Francesa to come up with a way to add my crafty lines (you'll have to identify the ones I think were good enough upon which to base an entire posting yourself); all I needed was the futility of sports analysis in general and the way individuals transform while analyzing in particular. That evolution is not always positive.

You have to wonder what the agenda is in today's age of information at the click of a button.

Gone are the days in which the reporters and commentators were doing something that appeared to be from another world; almost untouchable----a place where one had to have some semblance of qualifications to receive the forum to begin with.

One of the reasons that the hard core media is so threatened by bloggers is that bloggers are making them have to step up their games to a level they may not be able to reach. There's no crime in having limitations, but when pushing the envelope to maintain a position, an explosion is imminent.

What's the thinking? Do reporters and commentators see that their time is coming to an end and they're going the way of the dinosaur? That people no longer care about capricious and self-serving statements meant to draw attention as if they were drawn up by a PR firm or commercial entity? That eventually, a segment of the public will recognize quality work and honesty rather than behave like sheep and listen to what everyone else is listening to; following the crowd and doing what's popular rather than what's right?

Francesa began mailing it in long ago. His personality has darkened to the point where he's totally unlikable. It's all about him. There's no concern with accurate, opinionated appraisal; everything he says and does is either a knee-jerk reaction based on partisanship or a conduit to increase the attention drawn to himself.

It's almost as if he sees himself as a Godfather type persona----benevolent, kind, family oriented and brutal when the time comes and all other avenues are exhausted in pursuit of justice.

While in the movie, that was Vito Corleone, Mike Francesa is nothing like that. He is the epitome of fiction and narcissism.

The important factor in determining which entities to take seriously in terms of commentary are how they got to their current position in the first place. Do people go on Francesa's show because he's respected even if he's disliked? Do they listen because they know they're getting his truth even if it's unpopular? If they disagree? Or are they making allowances for their own ends? Because he's still able to subtly and not-so-subtly twist public opinion into the direction he chooses? And that they need him?

There's a difference.

A big difference.

Rational self-interest is an imperative part of functioning in daily life and if that means that people from the Mets have to take Francesa's abuse and still guest on his show for long term mutual advantage, you can't fault them for it.

Does Francesa get this? Or is he so immersed in the ego that has made any attempt on his part to admit he was ever wrong about anything begin to sound like Fonzie from Happy Days? "I was wr-wr-wr-wr----wrong"?

This posting is not about Mike Francesa although he's a perfect vessel to use as a means to deciphering and tearing apart this phenomenon.

One of the beautiful things of the previously mentioned information age is the access to the true and immediate thinking of those in the position to provide the news before they have a chance to proofread and edit. Whereas their true intentions are clear when reading between the lines, it was never as obvious as it is now that they provide running commentary on entities like Twitter or in live blogs.

Those that consider themselves "true" writers like Buzz Bissinger attack bloggers for their supposed lack of qualifications; but it's only from bloggers and those without a hidden investment in current events that true opinions are provided. In many cases, it could be the rantings of an ill-informed and borderline psychotic personality, but at least it's real. At least there's not a Mike Lupica-type who's sitting at his desk being contrary just for the sake of it.

You see the mean-spiritedness; the laziness that comes from the paid personalities more now than you ever did before because of access to their work in progress and running thought processes.

This terrifies them because they know their time is coming to an end.

Managers getting fired gives them something to write and talk about. Teams that were supposed to be one thing and instead have degenerated----for one reason or another----into something else gives them sustenance. Is a firing the answer? Or is it a question? Is the repeated wonderment of the job security and calling for one's job have an end point or is it a zero sum game?

Would these writers, safe within their protective cocoon of faceless sources and fantasy-created rumors, like it if someone was constantly suggesting that they be fired? It's safer and easier to be on the sidelines making bland assertions that change within the day; the hour; the minute; the second. There's no responsibility. No one has to capacity or self-confidence to say, "Y'know what? I was wrong" for fear of losing the veneer of inside information; of expertise.

It would blow their cover.

Perhaps it's a byproduct of complacency that has caused this shift.

Are there circumstances where a firing; a trade; a change of some kind is the right thing to do based on a myriad of factors? Of course. But it should happen with reason. Organically. You can't force it, but that's what is attempted by the "experts" who have a forum.

Their strategies are obvious to those that see through them. You can tell----just feel----when you're getting conviction----right or wrong. It's reactionary and it's meaningless when you read about the potential firing; the trade rumors; the editorials because what's beneath the surface is there to see if they want to see it.

Is Jerry Manuel in trouble as Mets manager?

Did Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson deserve to be fired?

Did the Royals make a mistake in holding out to trade David DeJesus?

Are any and all of these speciously reasoned statements based on accuracy or on what might be useful in the moment to "say" and appear to relay a definitive opinion?

I can answer the questions I posed above easily enough.

I can add more questions----about the McCourt divorce; about Roy Oswalt; about anything and everything----if I so choose. It's the same as the media focusing on one small story that's relevant or easy about which to discuss because it's topical and a ratings or traffic booster.

Jerry Manuel is in no more trouble now than he was earlier in the season. Fans want blood and firing the manager is the easiest thing to do to placate their anger for a time. The media doesn't care one way or the other on a professional level----it gives them something to say without having to do any legitimate work. Is he going to be fired? Possibly. Will it help? Who knows?

What needs to be understood about the Mets is that their season, put into context, is still very much alive and in far better straits than those in the same media suggested as they did their hatchet jobs in the winter attacking every facet of the organization. If you were told in January when the savagery was at its height that the Mets would be 49-47 on July 23rd, 4 games out of the Wild Card lead, would that look good or bad? Considering that an utter collapse was predicted just about everywhere, of course it would be seen as a positive that they're in position to make a run regardless of their hot and cold streaks.

It's all about perception.

Did Milt Thompson deserve to be fired as Phillies hitting coach. Firing any coach aside from the pitching coach is a maneuver designed to do something just for the sake of doing something. Is the struggle of the Phillies because of Thompson? Is it inner turmoil? Is it injuries? Or is it the aforementioned complacency that comes from repeated success?

If the Phillies go on a hitting tear now with Greg Gross as their hitting coach, it will be seen as the turning point, but if they still struggle, it will be seen as a desperation decision that didn't work. If Thompson got the credit for the devastating lineup the Phillies have been in recent years, then by all means, he should get the blame when things aren't going according to plan. In both cases, it's silly to dole credit or blame even in hindsight.


David DeJesus injured himself running into the wall on Derek Jeter's long fly ball last night in the Royals' loss to the Yankees. DeJesus has been the subject of trade rumors that are probably now gone because of the injury. Jayson Stark of ESPN (whom I respect as one of the few credible voices ESPN has) exemplified the inherent flaws with the immediacy of rapid response when he said on Twitter:

#Royals have been taking time waiting for a team to pay hefty price for David DeJesus. Hurt thumb tonight. Might be out past deadline. Oops!


Stark----to my knowledge----has not been among the number to use Royals GM Dayton Moore's mistakes as a means to suggest replacements of the stat zombie variety to get another of their "own" into a position of power based more on belief systems rather than competence----he's no cheap shot artist----but to suggest that this was another mistake on Moore's part is absurd.

The trade deadline is a week away.

DeJesus is an inexpensive, versatile and useful player who would be an excellent addition to any contender. He got hurt a week before the trading deadline trying to make a catch. That's life. That's how things fall sometimes. In retrospect, since the Royals won't be able to trade the injured DeJesus, it could be seen as a windfall if he is either traded in the winter or is held onto and continues to improve.

To suggest that this one incident is worthy of more contempt heaped on an embattled GM in Moore (who, for the record, I don't think knows what he's doing) is a shaky premise. Were they supposed to rush on a trade they deemed inadequate because of a concern that DeJesus was going to get hurt? What would be the reaction if Moore did something like that and admitted it? Wouldn't it be a bigger "oops"? Wouldn't that be gross incompetence and fear?


You can point to anything in sports and life as a means to hammer home this point. As you read the stories in the gossip columns about athletes and admonish them for a lack of commitment to their jobs, you have to take it a step further and understand that the game may not be as life-and-death to them as it is to a hard core fan.

On the record, if a hitter is slumping, goes 0 for 4 with four strikeouts and responds to questions regarding his performance with some standard cliche such as "I was overmatched"; or "I'm in a slump", it's possible that the real response is that he stayed out too late the night before; or he had a fight with his wife or girlfriend and was distracted; or one of his children has a cold; or he's worried about trade rumors; or some other more truthful justification of his failure.

In this vein of humanity, I always go back to a story I heard from a friend regarding former big league lefty Allen Watson. As a rookie, Watson was scheduled to start for the Cardinals on August 24th, 1993 in San Diego against the Padres. The story goes that Watson was sitting around the clubhouse----basically by himself----looking around and wondering where everyone was before coming to the terrifying conclusion that he had forgotten to change his watch to West Coast time and the game he was scheduled to pitch was going to start momentarily.

As a rookie, Watson had a choice: tell manager Joe Torre what happened and run the risk of a reputation as an idiot and/or a flake and possibly get sent down to the minors never to return; or go out to the mound having barely warmed up and hope for the best.

You can check the pitching line from that day to determine what route Watson took---he got rocked----and you can't argue with him considering his longevity in the majors. It was a human mistake. Similar to the mistake that Don Mattingly made managing in place of the ejected Torre with the Dodgers in which he accidentally made two trips to the mound within seconds of each other by turning and saying something to close Jonathan Broxton as he was walking off.

It was a human error that happens again and again.

Can you really rake someone over the coals for it?

Only if you're intentions are something other than acceptance of humans being what they are----flawed and forgivable in most cases. It takes a blast of reality to understand that there are players in sports who are more interested in getting paid and laid than they are in winning championships; that they don't have the rabid desire that fans want them to have; that the fans have.

It's humanity and it has to be accepted to grasp the nature of what's said; what's written; what's done; and what happens. It could sap some of the enjoyment from the diversion, but at least it would be honest.

And if that's what you're looking for that's probably why you're reading me to begin with.

  • Viewer Mail 7.23.2010:

Lisa Swann at Subway Squawkers writes RE George Steinbrenner, Lou Piniella, Joe Torre and the Yankees:

Good piece. I agree with most everything in it.

One minor quibble. You write:

"He would've been the obvious choice to replace Torre every year he was managing in Tampa; and by the time Torre was relieved of his duties, Steinbrenner wasn't at his decisive, bloviating best to overrule his baseball people and hire Piniella."

IIRC, The Boss had had enough of Torre in the fall of 2006 and wanted Piniella. Lou supposedly turned it down, because Torre was still the manager. Or at least that's the story as has been reported.

By the time Torre was gone, Lou was already under contract with Chicago.

Anyhow, I hadn't read your blog before this. Will have to bookmark it!

Bookmarking is always a good thing!

It depends on who you listen to and believe regarding Piniella's desire for the Yankee job. In Bill Madden's book, he says that Piniella was interested in the Yankees job after 2006 and that Piniella's agent told the Yankees they'd have to move fast if they wanted his client.

Could Piniella have been trying to drive up his price for any and all interested clubs? Force the Yankees' hand? Make the Cubs or Yankees move more quickly with the threat of the other job being available? All of the above?

I can't imagine that Piniella would've let Torre's contract influence him either way. If Steinbrenner went to Piniella and suggested he take over as manager before Torre was fired, it's possible that Piniella would have refrained from openly angling for another man's job, especially one he respects; but if Steinbrenner told Piniella that Torre was out regardless and he wanted Piniella to take the job, the Torre contract wouldn't have stood in the way.

It was a similar situation when Torre was in trouble after both 2006 and 2007, only with the Mets as the threat; the Yankees were said to be concerned that the Mets would fire Willie Randolph and hire Torre. I can't imagine that Torre would willingly have taken his close friend Randolph's job, but if the job was open, it was open. I'm sure Randolph would've given Torre his blessing to take the job had he been fired in either year. Had Steinbrenner fired Torre and Piniella was taken by the Cubs, there were names----Buck Showalter for example----who would've jumped at the chance.

The way I saw it with Torre after 2006, he was asking to be fired. Batting Alex Rodriguez eighth in the ALDS was a ridiculous, petulant call on the manager's part and a direct challenge to the Boss to do something about it and pay him off to leave. He survived that year as manager, but not after 2007.

With Piniella, there was always a big ego to add to the mix. How would it have looked for him to go to the Cubs and be the man in charge when their curse was broken? The club had guaranteed to spend money as the Devil Rays did, but it was going to and did happen with the Cubs. They were talented enough to win and the argument could be made that they didn't win because of mistakes Lou Piniella!

Knowing what his life would still be like under Steinbrenner and having to spar with the media and the front office to get what he wanted, it was presumably easier to take the Cubs job. It didn't work out, but who knows what would've happened in 2008-2009 with Piniella in place of Joe Girardi? He might have made a mistake that could've cost the Yankees as it did the Cubs in both 2007-2008. It worked for the Yankees, not so much for the Cubs.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the McCourts of Los Angeles by way of Boston:

I was very hopeful when the McCourts bought the Dodgers. They did do a lot of good things. But you make a good point about the team being of greater value to sell if they don't leave it in disarray.

The alterations in scouting and front office turmoil could eventually lead to things coming apart on the field for the Dodgers without a total teardown with the dumping of veterans.

Owners are always in the crosshairs no matter what they do. They can be quietly determined and involved like Arte Moreno of the Angels; or they can be absentee, hands-off like David Glass with the Royals; or they can be out front like McCourt is and George Steinbrenner was. Whether or not they win is always the ultimate barometer. The Dodgers have won under the McCourts.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Cubs and Ryne Sandberg:

I know Cubs fans are giddy about possibly promoting Sandberg, but I think -- like most sentimental things the Cubs tend to do -- it's gonna end up a sour situation.

I'm just going on past experiences; and the past says: the Cubs just can't get right.


I'll withhold judgment on Sandberg until I see him manage. His resume is solid and he'll get a pass for awhile because of who he is. The Cubs have a lot of young talent as well; we'll see what trades they make at the deadline and what kind of front office shakeup there is after the season. Of course, the Cubs history is what it is and that's not good.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I have an appearance scheduled for later today with Sal at SportsFan Buzz.

Prepare for hurricane like conditions is my advice.2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


Jeff said...

Getting to see the "legit" writers' wheels spin via Twitter and the like is a pleasure for me. Like you mention, sometimes they say the dumbest things.

(Heyman does this a LOT!)


"Oops" is for the playground.

She-Fan said...

First it was "Fire Manuel!" Then it was "Keep Manuel!" We've seen this many times before in the media. A team wins and the manager is safe. It loses and the manager is fire fodder. Just how it goes.

Gabriel said...

I agree with Jane, the media is always in favour of a manager if a team is doing well, and asking for his/her head if the team's losing. It happens all around the globe, and in every team sport with a manager involved. That said, most of the time the statements are made to sell. Right now, more than before, they have to grab attention, and controversial statements are the easiest way to generate interest. I saw on "Private Parts", the Howard Stern movie, that people who liked and disliked Howard Stern tuned in just to hear what he was going to say. It's the way the media has always worked, and until bloggers can cover a team and become beat-bloggers, it's the way it's gonna be.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Power to the Bloggers!
Milt(Phila), obviously is a sacrificial lamb, but it was a pro-active move. I'll say that. Will it work? Milt wasn't the problem so who knows. Guess Amaro was firing a shot across the bow. And Francesa is just way too smug for me. He's too everything else for me also. I tuned him out a decade ago. He makes my ears bleed. Am I really missing something by not being on Twitter?

Joe said...

Hey, my JD Drew pajamas don't care anymore and won't fit me. Do you know where I can find Keith Law pajamas with little Keith Law faces all over them?