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Thursday, April 30, 2009
This morning I wrote that, while the facts are the facts when it comes to the A-Rod business, and that they will ultimately bear themselves out (or not), we should be mindful of the characterizations and judgments that accompany those facts:
Which in some ways illustrates my skepticism about the book. Not about the facts as such -- facts have a funny way of proving themselves right or wrong on their own, and once the book is out and A-Rod and his lawyers and publicists have their say, the allegations in this book will take on either an air of credibility or not. Lord knows after Clemens and Bonds and everything else, no steroid-related fact will shock me.
As some people mentioned in the comments, there is more than Roberts' previous work on A-Rod to be considered when assessing whether she has committed an act of responsible journalism or a drive-by character assassination. For example, there's Roberts' work on the Duke lacrosse case. Via Timeswatch.org, here's what Roberts wrote in March 2006, in a column that Timeswatch says "seethes with the presumption of guilt":
"The season is over, but the paradox lives on in Duke's lacrosse team, a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings. Something happened March 13, when a woman, hired to dance at a private party, alleged that three lacrosse players sexually assaulted her in a bathroom for 30 minutes. According to reported court documents, she was raped, robbed, strangled and was the victim of a hate crime. She was also reportedly treated at a hospital for vaginal and anal injuries consistent with sexual assault and rape.
Later, as the erroneousness of the rape charges and prosecutor Mike Nifong's perfidies came to light, Roberts took on a defiant tone. After noting how much hate mail she had received for earlier reporting, Roberts continued:
"What happens if all the charges are dismissed? There is a tendency to conflate the alleged crime at the Duke lacrosse team kegger on March 13, 2006, with the irrefutable culture of misogyny, racial animus and athlete entitlement that went unrestrained that night.
Roberts concluded the piece by seemingly suggesting that the false rape charges and prosecutorial misconduct were worth it in the end, if it opens up Duke to "change" and positively impacted the culture of spoiled white athletes. Like a lot of people, I wasn't very critical of the first reports, but post-Nifong, Roberts' latter article was nothing short of astounding.
But don't take my word for it. A much longer and scholarly handing of Roberts' reporting on the Duke lacrosse case can be found in this law review article, the conclusion of which was a real humdinger:
[The New York Times] largely ignored the law of defamation in its reportage on the Duke lacrosse case. Chest-thumping newsworthiness or news creation became its mantra, if not its mode of operations. Maybe this is the unfortunate true legacy of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the most important defamation decision in Anglo-American legal history: that the media may largely act unconstrained by defamation liability concerns because of the practical difficulty of litigation and the huge obstacles to actually collecting an award.
Before I go any further, let me make a couple of things perfectly clear:
(1) I don't dare propose that anything to do with A-Rod rises to the level of seriousness of the Duke lacrosse case; and
(2) I have no idea if the facts reported in today's Daily News piece or any of the other facts in Roberts' upcoming book are true or not.
Indeed, as I've said three times today, I don't even think that I care if the facts are true or not, because the facts don't interest me as much as the way in which they are presented, the context, and the conclusions they cause Roberts to draw. For all I know, A-Rod was eating minotaur adrenal glands three times a week until last Thursday and has been involved in every underhanded baseball operation since the death of Hal Chase. Such matters will be borne out as true or false in a mostly orderly fashion over time.
What I do care about -- and the reason I have quoted all of this stuff by and about Selena Roberts -- is the culture of character assassination that has become inextricably linked to the subject of steroids in baseball. Every big name who has tested positive has not only been branded a cheater by the media, but a dirty cheater with evil and chicanery in his heart. Every assertion of innocence -- even to subordinate allegations -- has been met with scorn. In addition to censuring players under the rules of baseball, the media (and the public at large following the media's lead) has further demanded that high-profile steroids users be ostracized, and that the historical record be expunged, as best it can be, of their very existence. It has been a shameful few years in this regard, and I hope and pray that one day some semblance of perspective on the subject of performance enhancing drugs in baseball prevails. But we're certainly not there yet.
Enter Selena Roberts. The same Selena Roberts who has already demonstrated a clear interest in making Alex Rodriguez into a villain. The same Selena Roberts who smeared the Duke lacrosse players. Even if we concede that she gets the facts right in her upcoming book, can we have any faith that she presents them with even a semblance of balance, as opposed to surrounding them with innuendo, rumor, conjecture, and false sanctimony?
And before you ask, yes, that stuff is important. It's important because whatever we think of Alex Rodriguez the baseball player, we cannot forget that Alex Rodriguez is also a person. That he's a father. That because so few people will actually get to know him personally over the course of his life, books like Roberts' and the surrounding media storm will forever be his calling cards, whether he likes it or not. In light of this, the man -- or any other person who becomes the subject of intense scrutiny -- should be afforded some basic fairness in such endeavors. Report the truth for good or ill, but be double damn sure about the character judgments you draw about him in the process.
As I said this morning. It's one thing to say that A-Rod lied about certain things and broke certain rules. It's another thing to say that he did so because he's an inherently evil or damaged person. I have no problem with the former. Based on Selena Roberts' track record, however, I am extremely skeptical of anything she writes positing the latter.
UPDATE: I have some more thoughts on this here.
The Biz of Baseball's Maury Brown is good people, and I'd say that even if he wasn't championing a most worthy cause:
At midnight tonight, the calendar sheds another page, and April turns to May. With that ends what has been designated as World Autism Awareness Month.
Please click through to Maury's post and help get engaged and raise awareness of autism. Bonus: when you get to the end of the post you will be treated to a picture of a little boy way too beautiful to have issued from Maury Brown's gene pool.
Nothin' personal, Maury. Just sayin'.
I missed this from the other day, but Oakland's City Attorney John Russo has ripped A's owner Lew Wolff a new one:
Oakland A's managing partner Lew Wolff is a talented and smart businessman.
Russo goes on to detail the nature of the farce that has been the MLB's putative efforts to keep the A's in Oakland (which he calls "collusion"), and winds up by saying "The idea that the A's have made an exhaustive effort to stay is disingenuous at best."
I'd be far less likely to take this seriously if we didn't have an excellent example Major League Baseball and a Bud-friendly owner conspiring to kill a team already. So as it stands, yeah, I think Russo is right.
Where is he now? You might be surprised to learn that he's doing laundry and mowing lawns for a living.
Nation Dumbfounded As To Why Little-Leaguer's Favorite Player Is Chipper Jones:
The U.S. populace reacted with confusion, astonishment, and mild disgust upon discovering that 12-year-old little-leaguer Jonathan Keefer's favorite major-league baseball player is none other than Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones . . . The nation was reportedly speechless when word spread that Keefer isn't even from Atlanta.
(thanks to Michael Kraus for the link)
Things I wrote this morning as I wondered whether Selena Roberts would also spin it negatively if A-Rod was a good tipper at Hooters:
It seems like we've had a number of horrible freak accidents on amateur baseball diamonds recently. The latest happened yesterday at Liberty University. I'll again note my surprise that we haven't seen something like this happen in Major League Baseball.
UPDATE: As noted in the comments, it's even worse than first reported:
Taylor was pitching to his son, Jeffrey — a member of the Lynchburg (Va.) College baseball team — when a line drive struck him near his throat at the school's baseball diamond. The elder Taylor, 44, died from the injury.
I'm going to go lay down for a while and try to forget how terrible this world can be when it wants to be.
The New York Daily News has Selena Roberts' soon-to-be released Alex Rodriguez book, and is spilling the salacious details this morning. Among them:
Hoo-boy. And yes, I do have a reaction to all of this. Since this popped up in the morning, however, it's over at NBC, so please kindly click this little link to read it.
Yovani Gallardo 1, Pirates 0: Yeah, you get top billing when you shut the other team out for eight innings, strikeout 11 and hit a homer for the game's only run.
Marlins 4, Mets 3: Despite the fact that Johan Santana has been repeatedly boned by his bullpen over the past couple of years, he still manages to keep his composure. Total pro. But no one can keep it locked in forever, and one day, 15 or 20 years from now, some writer is going to make an argument that Santana is not Hall of Fame worthy because his win totals weren't good enough, and that's when Johan will start killing folks.
Rockies 7, Padres 5: Todd Helton on Aaron Cook's solid start: "That's what you shoot for going into a series. That was a pretty big game for us today and Cookie set the tone," Helton said. "Cookie?" Really? You're going with "Cookie?" You've been his teammate for eight friggin' seasons, and adding an "ie" sound to his surname is the best you can do? You spend eight months a year living in close quarters with a guy -- playing, traveling, eating, showering, laughing, and crying with him, and you can't come up with a nickname better than -- Lord, give me strength -- "Cookie?!" If Aaron Cook played in the 1930s, he'd have seventeen better nicknames than "Cookie" within five minutes of getting off the train at spring training, and those guys all had important things like families and dust bowls and offseason jobs and Hitler and everything to worry about. Todd Helton has been the defacto leader of the Colorado Rockies for 13 years and has $100 million in the damn bank. After hitting the ball and playing first base, his number one priority should be to give guys decent nicknames, and he comes up with "Cookie." Some days I don't even know why I bother with this sport anymore.
Angels 3, Orioles 2: Koji Uehara got beat, but he's tough. Gary Matthews hit a line drive off his chest in the seventh. Uehara had to leave the game, but he had this to say afterwards: "No pain. I'm more upset about giving up that home run. I couldn't breathe for a moment, but after that I was fine." Just imagine what could have happened to him if a real hitter was at the plate when it happened. NOTE: I wrote this the night before learning of this awful story, and in light of it, I appreciate that this joke is now in pretty bad taste. I'm not going to delete it or anything because it's been up for like nine hours now, and nothing online that long ever truly disappears, so why bother. I did want to acknowledge it, however, and make clear that I do appreciate that it's dangerous out there, and maybe not the best source of jokes in the world.
Diamondbacks 10, Cubs 0: Doug Davis gave up two hits over seven innings. Despite the game already being out of hand, Lou Piniella throws the Cubs' three putative top relievers out there in Marmol, Samardzija and Gregg. Teams these days have 12-man pitching staffs. What, the Cubs can't find room for a mop-up man?
White Sox 6, Mariners 3: Ichiro takes his first walk of the season. It was intentional, but still. In other news, when can we stop pretending that he's a big star?
Yankees 8, Tigers 6: Joba Chamberlain gives up one run over seven innings. Why, oh why does Joe Girardi and the Yankees brain trust continue to misuse him this way?! Given that the bullpen coughed up five runs in the ninth, Chamberlain should immediately be moved to the pen and Jonathan Albaladejo should go to the rotation!
Red Sox 6, Indians 5: Speaking of bullpens, the Indians' sucks, as they help give away a game the Indians once led 5-0. Jonathan Van Every was the star for Boston, hitting the winning homer in the 10th and driving in another run. He also has a last name that sounds like a character from a 22 year-old's first novel. You know, the one with the story set in Ennuisville, in the state of North Commonland, and in which the protagonist, Mr. Van Every, faces conflicts from his estranged father, Distant McCold and his boss, Ignoramus O. Pression. Amazingly, the Van Every character is a writer himself. What are the effin' odds?
Cardinals 5, Braves 3: The Cardinals scored four runs in the fifth inning on six singles, five of which went up the middle. As Mac noted, that's just bad freakin' luck, and there's not a lot more you can say about it.
Twins 8, Rays 3: It was over when: Scott Kazmir's wild pitch allowed the fourth run of the first inning to score. Game ball goes to: Nick Blackburn, who gave up two runs on eight hits in seven innings. Stat of the game: 34; the number of pitches Kazmir had to throw in the first inning. In other news, I kind of miss college football season.
Nationals 4, Phillies 1: I'm not going to say that the Nats are desperate for bullpen help, but Julian Tavarez got the save. And it's not like he got lucky by, say, warming up for mopup duty while his team rallied. Nope, it was by design and everything.
Reds 3, Astros 0: Edinson Volquez and Francisco Cordero one-hit Houston. Cecil Cooper had this to say about Volquez: "I didn't think he was all that sharp. It looked like he had some life to his fastball. It looked like we had some pitches to hit, but we just didn't swing it very well. You have to give him some credit, but I didn't think he was like a one-hit performance tonight." I can't decide if that's idiotic, inspired, an act of disrespect or an act of stealth motivation. I don't feel bad, however, because I doubt Cooper knows either.
Royals 11, Blue Jays 3: SI JINX!! SI JINX!! OMFG! Greinke gave up teh first earned runs of the season and I'm all like WTF, SI JINX!! Oh wait, he was staked to ten runs in the first five innings and cruised? Well, then, I stand corrected.
Giants 9, Dodgers 4: Each year it feels like the Molinas come closer to their obvious goal of world domination. And it's so subtle too. I mean, they're not really in your face about it or anything, but their persistence is impressive. First they start showing up on every team. Then they start playing really well. Next thing you know the Molina spores will start shooting out of their chests, we'll all be infected, and that will be that. For now, though, the Molina West had a homer, a two-run triple and an RBI single pacing the Giants' 15 hit-attack.
Athletics vs. Rangers, postponed: Did you never call? I waited for your call. These rivers of suggestion are driving me away. The trees will bend, the cities wash away. The city on the river there is a girl without a dream.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Yesterday I wrote that the Cardinals should put that Mark McGwire statue they had made out with all of the other statues of Cardinal greats.
A couple of hours later, the post was linked by the Birdsonthebat forum, and a discussion ensued. Granted we're dealing with a small, self-selecting sample size here, but I have to admit that I was surprised at just how forcefully the participants in that conversation came out against having McGwire's statue join the others. A couple of sentiments that, by in large, were representative of the group:
What McGwire did for baseball was exemplary. He and Sammy Sosa brought baseball back. Everybody was on roids so who cares. With that said, he should NOT have a statue out there.
Well, maybe the Molina sentiment isn't representative, but that's the overall tenor of things.
Maybe this is yet another instance of the passage of time messin' with my mind, but I seem to remember there being a far greater amount of admiration for McGwire back in the day, and that would hold even if you controlled for the steroids business. Is it possible that this is one of those rare instances in which a guy got a considerably greater amount of love from the national press than the locals? Steroids disclaimers aside, is it a matter of the steroids thing looming larger in Cardinals' fans mind than they care to admit? Have I simply underestimated just how high an honor Cardinals fans consider their ring of statues to be? Because I'll admit, I just assumed it was a nice little honor as opposed to the Great Big Important honor these posters are implying it is.
Maybe all of those things are at work. I don't really know. I just find it pretty interesting.