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Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Another outraged column about Manny's rehab assignment, this one from Bill Plaschke. I'm struck by this:
Manny Ramirez playing for the triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes is as weird as the word "isotope." . . . When Manny Ramirez is old and gray and sitting outside the locked doors of Cooperstown, he might reflect on this summer as the best 50 games of his career. Or is it 42 games? Or, really, was he ever gone? It's all Isotopes to me.
Is there a field besides sports writing where it's acceptable to flaunt your ignorance like this? Just checking.
Beyond that, not much new apart from the fact that Plaschke has gone beyond those who are outraged that Manny isn't being punished enough to actually suggesting that Manny is benefiting from his suspension:
During the suspension, Ramirez had reaped all the rewards of being a Dodger without any of the responsibilities.
The dude was fined $7 million for violating a work rule. How that's "reaping the rewards" is beyond me, but Plaschke sure as hell doesn't mention that fact. Would Plaschke be given a proportional penalty if he was found to have committed plagiarism? I kinda doubt it.
What all of these columns seem to boil down to is anger at the fact that there has been no sturm und drang associated with Manny's suspension. That there have been no tears. That there has been no grovelling or self-flagellation. Which is hilarious when you think about it, because for years columnists criticized baseball for first ignoring and then taking an ad-hoc approach to this stuff, comparing it unfavorably to the NFL's orderly and businesslike PED program. The minute baseball actually discovers and penalizes a major star in a drama-free and orderly fashion, however, everyone gets bent out of shape.
I think that, with this comment, J.W. gets at the core of a good third of the baseball debates that go on around here and elsewhere:
I agree that Manny doesn’t deserve adulation or admiration. Neither does A-Rod (for cheating on his wife, etc.) But this brings us to a difficult question regarding entertainment. Can we divorce entertainment from the men and women who play the role of entertainer? Can we like Woody Allen movies and still disapprove of his conduct towards his wife and one-time step-daughter? Can we watch and enjoy Roman Polanski films? Can we listen to Chris Brown’s music? Michael Jackson’s?
I can usually ignore the personal baggage and enjoy the entertainment. Usually. "Chinatown" and "Annie Hall" are two of my favorite movies, but I have a much harder time watching "Manhattan" and "Tess." I guess what that means is that if the performance is really, really good, I'm willing to put aside the baggage. Or heck, maybe it's all just the performance talking because "Chinatown" > "Tess" and I don't know that I need to reference Polanski's issues to not like the latter as much as the former.
But it is worth thinking about. Do those who disapprove of Manny, Manny, Manny (and others) disapprove of the transgression or of the person? Is there even a valuable distinction to be made there? More relevantly, is it possible to enjoy baseball while disapproving of those who play it?
My answer to that last question is an obvious yes, within limits. Steroid use really doesn't bother me that much from an enjoyment-of-the-game perspective. I enjoyed 1998 and 2001 and all of that stuff, and I'm not now going to pretend I didn't. I'd have a hard time watching Roger Clemens pitch today, but that's because of the Mindy McCready business, not the juice. Not that philandering baseball players in general bother me -- no one knows what goes on in anyone's marriage so it's probably best not to judge too harshly unless you have all of the facts -- but Clemens was messing with a kid on an emotional level at the very least.
Let's see what else: I have no tolerance for domestic violence, so the Brett Myers and Bobby Chouniards of the world can die in a fire as far as I'm concerned. Some of my favorite artists and just about all of my favorite writers were drunks, so while I'd wish people wouldn't do that to themselves, it's not going to keep me from enjoying what they do. Pete Rose turned out to be a piece of crap, but if he were playing in 1973 form today and all of that stuff hit the fan I'd enjoy his game until the moment he was banned. Basically, if you avoid violence, cruelty and the mistreatment of kids, I'm probably going to still buy your product even if I wouldn't seek you out at a party.
I guess that still leaves me conflicted about Polanski. But man, there's no way I'm going to give up one of my favorite DVDs. Forget it Jake; it's "Chinatown."
On Monday, I suggested that the Yankees' protest of Sunday's New York-Florida game was a waste of time that, if successful, could cause them more trouble than it would be worth. Yesterday, the league saved the Yankees from themselves.
The Indians finally broke their losing streak last night, but it's not like a close and shaky win over the Pirates is going to silence the rumors about Eric Wedge's impending termination. Neither will this:
With the Indians stuck in last place in the AL Central, Wedge's status is becoming a daily topic of discussion among the team's fans. Of more concern to Wedge, general manager Mark Shapiro is expected to talk about Wedge with Indians president Paul Dolan and team owner Larry Dolan, if he already hasn't, in the next few days.
One of the most important things I've learned in my life is that you never want to be an agenda item at a meeting to which you're not invited.
At present, the Dolans are on record as providing something less than support for Wedge, while Shapiro is in his corner. The only problem is that Shapiro is himself under fire and the Dolans own the friggin' team and have watched attendance plummet as the Indians have mounted depressing performance after depressing performance.
I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd bet that the purpose of the Shapiro-Dolan meeting is to get everyone on the same page regarding Wedge. That would be the owners' page, which means that the Indians are about to turn the page on Eric Wedge.
The putative new boss of the players' union seems like a very different guy than the departing old boss:
Every week, [Michael] Weiner and his trademark blue jeans stride down to his basement classroom and teach Sunday school to one of the few congregations less orderly than major league baseball owners . . . An anchor role in baseball’s often nasty pastime-or-business identity crisis will almost certainly test Weiner’s reputation for being a stunningly regular guy. He wears blue jeans and Chuck Taylor All-Stars to all but the most solemn of affairs. He is the son of a New Jersey construction worker. He suspects that the last time he combed his unruly and increasingly occasional hair was before his sister’s 1998 wedding.
Don Fehr simply didn't do laid back and amiable and his longtime second in command, Gene Orza, actually made Fehr look relaxed by comparison. According to this article and other accounts I've heard, Weiner is far more of a consensus-builder and reasonable negotiator than was Fehr, so things could look very different in 2011 when the current CBA is up for renegotiation.
Or not. Maybe Weiner's thing was to play good cop to Fehr and Orza's bad cop, and now that they're leaving, he'll need to break out the billy club and brass knuckles. One never knows with these things. There can be no question, however, that if Weiner does one day have to deliver bad news to the public about a work stoppage that he'll be somewhat better accepted than the often prickly Fehr, and that's at least some kind of progress.
Tyler Kepner is impressed with the safety measures at Turner Field:
Turner Field is the second ballpark the Yankees have seen this season with protective netting that extends beyond the norm. Every stadium has a tall screen behind the plate to protect the fans from hard-hit foul balls. Here in Atlanta, the Braves also have a shorter screen, maybe eight feet off the ground, running in front of the seats behind the on-deck circles on either side of the plate . . . Such safety measures make sense, and should be in place at every ballpark.
Kepner cites the death of Mike Coolbaugh as a cautionary tale, and notes how quickly baseball would act if the unthinkable happened and a fan was killed by a foul ball. Such a thing is not unthinkable in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, however. That's because a thirteen year-old girl was killed by an errant puck during a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game seven years ago. That incident led to the implementation of mandatory netting at either end of the rink in every arena. Before the incident there were all kinds of arguments against putting up such nets. Afterward, those arguments lost all currency.
The same applies to baseball. I'm sure people can construct all kinds of arguments as to why they shouldn't extend protective netting down the lines. But in light of how big, strong, fast and, above all else, close Major League batters are to the fans these days, none of those arguments are enough to overcome the sheer logic and prudence which dictates putting up some nets.
Now if you turn your attention to the center ring, I give you Manny Ramirez, standing on his head while riding on the back of a flaming horse! Or something!
Ramirez, easing back into playing shape after a 50-game drug suspension, suited up for the Albuquerque Isotopes as they beat Nashville 1-0. Ramirez wore No. 99 for the Dodgers’ top farm club. He played four innings and was hitless in two at-bats. The capacity crowd of 15,321 was the largest in Albuquerque’s baseball history.
This will no doubt make the haters and moralists mad, many of whom think that Manny shouldn't be allowed to live, let alone rehab in the minors before his suspension is over. On that note, I think I have come across the stupidest argument against Manny being allowed to rehab yet:
If someone goes to jail for 50 days, they don't get released 10 days early so they can get used to the outside again. They have to adjust after their full sentence is completed. I know baseball and jail aren't exactly similar, but the metaphor fits.
Except it doesn't. Typically, a prisoner is allowed to leave prison several months before his sentence is over and go to a halfway house, the express purpose of which is for a guy to get used to the outside again. With all due respect to the minor leagues, they are like a halfway house in that, from Manny's perspective anyway, they are not quite freedom while not quite being on restriction anymore either.
Sorry to get in the way of your Manny hate folks, but facts is facts.
Following my anti-Phillips and Sutcliffe rant yesterday, some discussion broke out regarding the best way to avoid the national broadcasters. One of the suggestions was to run MLB.tv through your television. It sounded complicated to me. Of course, I can't even make iTunes, the DVR or my clock radio work, so what the hell do I know? Thankfully there may soon be another, easier option for morons like me:
Software start-up Boxee has gained attention as much for its contretemps with Hulu as for its well-received platform for watching online video programs on a television set. This evening, though, the company made news for all the right reasons. It announced a deal with Major League Baseball to integrate the league's online game broadcasts into its software, giving Boxee users an easy, elegant way to tune in online games from distant ballparks on their living-room TVs . . . Its software aggregates online video sites and brings them under a common user interface, enabling people to navigate their offerings with an ordinary TV remote control instead of a keyboard and mouse . . .
I assume there are other options to make this happen as well, but the official imprimatur of Major League Baseball may make this the most attractive one.
One question, however: doesn't baseball worry that this will cannibalise Extra Innings business? Or is that the idea? I suppose it depends on what the Baseball/cable company cut is for the Extra Innings package.
Joey Votto is back. And we had no idea how far back he had to come:
The 25-year-old Votto revealed publicly that he was battling depression, anxiety attacks and issues that finally came to the surface several months after the sudden death of his 52-year-old father, Joseph, in August. Those issues led to some panicky moments and two hospital stays.
Earlier this month I noted how impressed I was with the way Dusty Baker handled Votto's absence. My admiration for him in this has only increased upon reading this article. It probably goes without saying, though, that I am even more impressed with Votto. Partially for the way he has fought back to some semblance of normalcy, but just as much for the honest and open way he has confronted this issue.
How easy it would have been for him to close off the world. How much better he'll likely be for not having done that.
In related news, Khalil Greene is on the way back from similar issues. You can read his story -- written somewhat from afar, but illumination all the same -- here.
Royals 2, Astros 1: The legend goes that Zack Greinke fell in love with an Earth woman. Deciding that he wanted to be with her, he chose to undergo the irreversible process of immersing himself in the red Kyptonian sunlight, stripping him of his super powers. After three or four weeks of being mortal, however, he realized that he needed to trek back to the Fortress of Solitude to see if he couldn't get his powers back. It all worked out in the end, as Greinke returned to Planet Houston and defeated his enemies in impressive style (8 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 5K). Only hitch: Brian Bannister still knew his secret identity when it was all over, so they had to engage in a very awkward kiss to set everything back the way it was.
Braves 4, Yankees 0: The book on the Yankees is that they are nearly powerless when facing rookie or, at the very least, unfamiliar starters. I don't know if that's actually true, but it certainly seems it, and getting shutout by rookie Tommy Hanson and a gaggle of relievers doesn't help the perception any. Sad thing is that Wang actually pitched better than Hanson in some respects, so at least that's something for the Yankees to build on. In other news, Braves' catcher Brian McCann continues to be astounding (3-4, 2B, HR 2 RBI) and has no business trailing Yadier Molina in the All-Star voting right now.
Phillies 10, Rays 1: Unlike the Yankees, the Phillies seem to have no such trouble against rookie pitchers, and they roughed David Price the hell up (4.1 IP, 7 H, 10 R). Only five of those runs were earned due to three Rays' errors, but it's not like Price wasn't smacked around, because he clearly was.
Dodgers 5, White Sox 4: Early Wynn was knocked out of the box, well, early, giving up four runs on eight hits in two and two thirds. Roger Craig wasn't any great shakes himself (7 IP, 10 H, 4 R) but between that and a homer and an RBI single from Hodges, it was enough. Next it'll be the youngster Koufax facing off against Bob Shaw two nights from now back in Chicago. If he can pull it off, the Dodgers will have won their first title since moving to Los Angeles. Turning to business news, General Motors announced today that it foresees profits for the next century at the very least, and anticipates that Flint, Michigan will soon rival New York, London and Paris in wealth, prosperity and opulence.
Red Sox 11, Nationals 3: Over 41,000 in attendance in Nationals Park on a Tuesday night? Yep, Boston must be in town. Jason Bay (4-6, HR 3 RBI) made the interlopers happy, and Brad Penny continued to show would be trade partners that he's basically a five inning pitcher, even if he's becoming an increasingly effective one. Give up value at your own risk.
Tigers 5, Cubs 4: Magglio Ordonez got the start after riding the pine for four games, goes 0-2 and is lifted for a pinch runner, and then later the guy who has been starting in his place hits a two-run, come-from-behind walkoff homer. I suspect that it's back to the pine for Magglio.
Indians 5, Pirates 4: There was an article yesterday about how one could conceivably get pumped up for what looks to be such a blah series between two blah teams. I don't know if I buy a lot of them, but I can definitely buy the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry thing. It's slanted way east in football, but baseball could maybe spice it up a bit, no? After all, Cleveland is way closer to Pittsburgh than it is to its putative interleague rival, the Reds, and Cleveland and Pittsburgh have more in common with one another from a cultural and demographic standpoint than Cleveland and Cincinnati do.
Marlins 7, Orioles 6: Two counts of bullpen malpractice. Count I: against Danys Baez for allowing five runs on four hits in the seventh. Count II: against a quartet of Fish relievers that immediately turned around and blew that lead in the eighth and ninth. Jorge Cantu singled in the winning run in the twelfth, but that can be blamed on the pen too, as Brian Bass walked Emilio Bonafacio for some strange reason, then uncorked a wild pitch to allow him to get to second before Cantu did his thing. Pfun Pfact: by the year 2017, use of the term "uncorked" in the wild pitch context will exceed its use in the wine context for the first time in recorded history. If you don't believe me, you can look it up.
Cardinals 3, Mets 0: Joel Pinero shuts the Mets down with a two hit shutout. He had two hits on his own too, which really rubbed the Mets noses in it, no? And the Mets didn't even make him work a little it: he threw 100 pitches even and this one was over in two hours and thirteen minutes.
Twins 7, Brewers 3: It was a victory just getting this game played at home given the damage last week's flooding caused at Miller Park, so let's call this a split for the Brewers. Joe Mauer goes 0-5, knocking him down below .400 for the first time this season. Apropos of nothing, I'll note that knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is sporting a 2.43 ERA on the season.
Blue Jays 7, Reds 5: Joey Votto returns. He only goes 1-4, but as I'll write later this morning, he could have taken a golden sombrero and it wouldn't have made a difference, because the mere fact that he's playing ball after what he's gone through is a triumph.
Padres 9, Mariners 7: With the exception of one inning, Chad Gaudin pitched excellently (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 11K) then had to bite his nails as reliever Greg Burke did his best to throw it all away.
Diamondbacks 8, Rangers 2: The season may already be lost for Arizona, but Max Scherzer (6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER) and Justin Upton (2-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI) at least provide a bright future.
Angels 4, Rockies 3: This win, combined with the Rangers loss, puts the Angels into a first place tie. There was a point in April where that seemed impossible, but it seems that anything is possible in the AL West.
Giants 4, A's 1: Lincecawesome! (CG, 7 H, 1 ER, 12K). OK, that was probably uncalled for.