Maybe it should be called “mediacrity”...by John Brattain
May 21, 2008
O.K. just so we’re clear—this is not about Barry Bonds. This is about the media, period.
Whether it was pre-1947, the Peter Ueberroth era, the aught (ownership paid a settlement as part of the last collective bargaining agreement negotiations) collusion could not happen without the aid and assistance of the media. Before Jackie Robinson, the press toed the party line that blacks lacked the wherewithal to compete in the big leagues. After the game began to integrate, the common philosophy was that you could take away his [a black player’s] power by pitching inside.
This was the remnant of whole “they cannot compete in the major leagues” mindset.
In the 1980s the press informed us that it was a “coincidence” that every franchise in both leagues had discovered ’fiscal responsibility’ and ’financial restraint’ at precisely the same time. It wasn’t collusion, the media told us, it was that teams had finally ’gotten smart’ and besides, players were paid too much anyway—which oddly has always been the consensus opinion within ownership since the 1869 Cincinnati Redlegs.
From 1998-BALCO/“Juiced”/Mitchell Report the press set us straight that baseball did not have a problem with performance-enhancing drugs. The players that came forward were either delusional, had an agenda or exaggerated. All the record-shattering performances we witnessed were due to better training and nutrition, smaller ballparks and diluted pitching. Despite these things, the feats we witnessed were the genuine article by players who did it the right way. Oh sure, there may have been the odd bad (shrunken?) apple here or there that might have been tinkering around with the stuff but they were fringe guys—not the superstars who didn’t need that sort of help.
In each case, it was collusion—whether planned or the parties had come to a collective understanding about an issue, be it salaries or drugs. The media dismissed those who smelled a rat as conspiracy theorists.
The bottom line is this: collusion cannot happen absent a lazy or complicit fourth estate.
Just so you know, I am about to demonstrate why so many in the media despise bloggers. Fifteen years ago a columnist/reporter could write a piece that would be accepted as is, safe in the knowledge that his mediocre effort would be lost on most readers.
I am about to do what the press despises about the blogosphere and expose (1) how collusion happens because of the media not doing their job and (2) hold accountable the segment of the press that publishes such ill-informed articles. This is a column from the Salisbury Post (that was originally printed in the Sacramento Bee). I am going to be a nice guy and not mention the writer by name. The title of the column is Baseball: Price for Bonds too high and it demonstrates why it has always been so easy for the sport to collude…
But while Bonds, his agent Jeff Borris and the Major League Baseball Players Association might have you believe the still-unemployed home run king is being blackballed as part of some diabolical scheme orchestrated by the commissioner's office, that complaint should fall on deaf ears.
Here we see the writer spouting something that looks more like it is a statement released from the commissioner’s office—it truly is a 100 percent bona fide endorsement of MLB official stance on the issue. As we have seen during other collusions, those who are suspicious that the sport is acting in anything less than an honorable fashion are to be ignored.
So let's get this straight: No one wants to sign a soon-to-be-44-year-old clubhouse cancer with brittle knees who refuses to stretch with the team, just might take time out of his busy schedule sitting in his easy chair in front of his big-screen TV to pose for the team photo and just so happens to be facing a gaggle of streamlined federal perjury charges—and, oh, yeah, he wants $10 million for his troubles?
Where to start? As we’ve discussed, the only evidence that Bonds is the Worst. Teammate. Ever is from folks who write the sort of error-filled, petty tripe we’re discussing here, so it has to be taken with a grain of salt large enough to de-ice an interstate.
He talks about a player in his 40s with health issues as a reason not to employ him without taking note of other examples of clubs that did precisely that? Moises Alou is soon 42 years old and the Mets picked him to be their left fielder for 2008. Alou has played in more games in a season than Bonds just thrice since the millennium dawned—and Alou played in 185 games the last two seasons to Bonds' 256 (games). I’m willing to bet he didn’t write a single offseason column about how foolhardy it would be for the Mets to pick up Alou’s option because of age and a brittle body.
I wonder if he wrote about the insanity of a team employing a 41-year-old to play shortstop (Omar Vizquel) or for a club to have a 45-year-old starting pitcher (Jamie Moyer)? For that matter, what sort of idiot franchise uses a 44 year old with a cranky back and equally cranky personality to be a starting pitcher?
Well, that’s what the Diamondbacks are doing with Randy Johnson.
The whole “who refuses to stretch with the team, just might take time out of his busy schedule sitting in his easy chair in front of his big-screen TV to pose for the team photo” fails to take into account that (1) a team can make stretching with the team/no chair/no TV/team photo as a requirement of his employment; he can only have these considerations if the team allows it.
Secondly, his Barcolounger—that supposedly is fitted to help alleviate his well-documented back problems—has become the media's way to stereotype Bonds akin to bloggers writing (while) in their underwear and living in their mother’s basement. The Barcolounger has become the main evidence that Bonds is a poor clubhouse influence and is becoming synonymous with that accusation. Where is his indignation about the block of lockers Ken Griffey Jr. enjoyed or that he tried to directly influence roster decisions on both of his teams?
The fact of the matter is that a lot of superstar players have perks in their own clubhouse. Griffey’s prerequisites only became an issue in Seattle when his relations with the media soured and after he was traded to Cincinnati. These were used by the local press to kiss up to the Mariners' (br)ass in painting the deal as goodbye to bad rubbish. A player’s privileges only become problematic when the player is not media friendly; otherwise they go largely ignored by the press. Were Bonds a nice guy, writers would describe it as being a sign that Bonds goes to extraordinary lengths to stay healthy and play regularly going so far as purchasing a custom-made orthopedic chair that allows him to stay in the lineup despite severe back problems!
Finally, the $10 million he refers to has been debunked early, often and repeatedly quite some time ago. Also, there is almost zero chance that Bonds will not stand trial until the 2008 season is but a memory. Cannot he be bothered to be stay up-to-date about a subject of whom he’s covering? What does that do to his credibility?
Collusion? More like common sense, as a former player echoed this week.
Ah yes … the obligatory buzzword. In the 1980s it was ’fiscal responsibility’ and ’financial restraint.’
On numbers alone, and potential ticket sales for the ensuing freak show, there should be a market for such a stick, no?
Um, no. Not with all the baggage that accompanies such statistics.
We're talking increased media scrutiny, a new group of hangers-on, karma, radiation poisoning.
Baggage? You mean how the media defines it? I get the feeling baggage is a generic term for “he’s nasty to us.” After all, spousal abuse, drunk driving, assault and performance-enhancing/recreational drug use doesn’t give a player baggage (lots of those in the game but they lack the “baggage" of Bonds) but Bonds has enough of this commodity to suck the life out of any clubhouse. I am just curious who are these hangers-on causing radiation poisoning? Bonds’ entourage of who the club can bar from the premises as a condition of employment or is it a reference to segments of the press with axes to grind? It’s a pity the evil Roger Maris has shuffled off his mortal coil—he could inform us about the fair and balanced reporting we can expect from those covering the game.
Oddly enough both surpassed the home run feats of a beloved icon and both records are/were slagged by writers like the author of the column in question—one because of a longer schedule, the other due to PED use.
Of course "increased media scrutiny" is a nice way of saying "instead of looking hard for an interesting story to cover, we'll just blast Badman (Barry Bonds) and his sidekick the Barco Wonder."
You think the Tampa Bay Rays, the feel-good story of the season thus far—non-Billy Beane division—would be anywhere near the top of their division with Bonds sucking the life force and youthful exuberance from their clubhouse? Witness how excitable the Bonds-less Giants get after wins these days.
Not as excited as they were in 1997, 2000 and 2002-03 I'll wager. Of course when you win fewer than four times over every 10 games, a win may be cause for celebration. It should be noted that the Giants had such a stacked team from 1997 to 2004 that they could still reach the postseason four times, averaging 92 wins per year while Bonds was “sucking the life force and youthful exuberance from their clubhouse.”
Using this writer’s logic, Bonds’ presence on the team cost the team eight straight World Series championships and an equal amount of 120-win seasons due to being such an anchor in the clubhouse. I'm surprised that he didn't claim that Bonds sucked so much life out of the atmosphere at Fulton County Stadium that it slowed the ball just enough that it couldn't reach home plate fast enough to nail Sid Bream.
Once Bonds left Pittsburgh, the new refreshing atmosphere in the Pirates clubhouse catapulted the Bucs from a club that three-peated in the NL East from 1990-92 to a juggernaut working on its 16th-straight losing season that just celebrated its 1058th Bonds-free victory. (We'll just ignore those meaningless 1,319 losses since they were all moral victories.)
Using the slobbermetric formula of wins + moral victories (losses that are achieved absent Barry Bonds) x life-force/attendance + media members rolled in the Colonel's secret blend of herbs and spices divided by investigative reporting grade of the baseball press between 1998-2003 adjusted for home park, hyperbole, exuberance while subtracting placement in divisional standings and games played after October 3, we see that after jettisoning Bonds the Pirates have an Inconsequentialian win-loss record of 2,377-0 and are undefeated in postseason play!
No wonder teams are shying away from Bonds. Will moral victories become the new market inefficiency?
Plus, the longer Bonds is away from the game, the harder it will be for him to come back physically, as noted by his former manager Dusty Baker when he was in town last month with Cincinnati.
"And the longer he is out, who knows, the less likely he may want to come back," Baker told reporters.
So radioactive still is Bonds that Baker would not touch a question on how interested he'd be in signing the seven-time N.L. MVP and eight-time Gold Glove winner.
It vexes Houston outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., a one-time Giants teammate.
"I do not see why nobody would take a chance on him," Cruz said. "He's still super-productive. He hit 28 home runs in what, (340) at-bats, and his slugging percentage was .565? That's doing it, man."
What of the off-field issues?
"I would dare to guess that would be the reason," Cruz admitted. "A lot of teams now are so image-conscious, and owners are stepping in now and taking charge of the image thing.
"But from my perspective, I can't understand it."
It seems even former teammates cannot understand it either. I remember the good old days when teams were more conscious of winning rather than image. Then again, 20 years ago teams didn’t want the image of spending the game into bankruptcy or being “stupid” or “dumb” by trying to improve their clubs by spending on players. Ueberroth taught the owners that, as it was in the 1980’s, “image was everything.” Now the clubs are trying to give the image that they’re not colluding and the writer of the article we’re discussing is doing his part to help it along.
One of the reasons I feel so strongly that MLB is colluding against Barry Bonds is that it’s ill-informed journalists like this telling me that it isn’t happening.
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.