News, Notes and Quotes (July 6, 2005)

Roger Clemens is The Invisible Woman

My news-gathering gig over at Rotoworld forces me to read just about every baseball-related article in just about every major newspaper in the country on a daily basis, and so I naturally come across a lot of things that make me shake my head. Leading up to Sunday’s All-Star selections, for instance, countless column inches were devoted to which players deserved to make the team, a topic even I am guilty of taking up last week.

By my unofficial count, baseball writers across the country felt strongly that no fewer than about 187 players deserved to have made the AL and NL All-Star teams, which is only about three times as many players as could literally have made the teams. In other words, every guy having something resembling a decent season got a few nice words in the local paper come All-Star time. I supposed it’s a bit like a big company handing out a bonus come holiday time to keep the workers happy.

Another topic popping up a lot of late is midseason award picks. Most papers, in addition to having a beat writer following the team on a daily basis, have a general baseball writer covering the national scene. For instance my local paper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has LaVelle E. Neal covering the day-to-day beat of the Twins, with injury updates, game stories, and quotes galore, while Joe Christensen writes columns about stuff like the importance of one-run games (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) and reacts to breaking news like the whole Kenny Rogers saga.

The similarity of the coverage given to baseball is interesting, in that few newspapers stray from an obvious formula that seems to have been accepted nationally. Nearly every sports section has a daily “notebook” that includes injury updates and random minutiae that goes along with a cookie-cutter game story. The only place the coverage tends to differ is in the type of opinion column the papers allow their national baseball writers to have, and not coincidentally this is the area where some really frustrating, illogical, make-you-want-to-slam-your-head-into-a-wall things are written.

My nomination for such a thing this week comes courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Tom Haudricourt, whose Sunday column included all sorts of first-half awards. Under “NL Cy Young,” Haudricourt wrote the following:

Dontrelle Willis, Florida: So many NL pitchers have had outstanding first halves, but how can you pick against the flamboyant lefty who took a 12-3 record and 2.04 earned run average into weekend play? Amazingly, Roger Clemens, at age 42, would be the leader again if his offense provided more support – and victories. Runner-up: Clemens.

Now, if someone with a baseball column wants to say that they think Dontrelle Willis has been a better pitcher than Roger Clemens this season, that’s fine. It’s wrong, but it’s fine. But if they want to say that Clemens would deserve the NL Cy Young award “if his offense provided more support” … well, then they enter into the realm of making me want to bash my head into immovable objects.

Here I was, for all these years, naively thinking that the best pitcher in the league deserved to win the Cy Young award. Apparently that’s not the case, because how else could you explain a baseball writer for a major newspaper in a major-league city writing that the amount of runs the Houston Astros’ offense scores plays a factor in Clemens’ candidacy. And not just a small factor, enough for Haudricourt to write that Clemens “would be the leader again if his offense provided more support.”

I have ranted about this very issue numerous times in the past, so it’s not exactly shocking. However, for someone to come out and say this in such frustratingly blunt terms is eye-opening. We’ve seen Gold Glove awards given to players based on their offense, which seems ridiculous enough, but at least the player receiving the award for his defense is actually responsible for the offense too. In this case, Clemens is being judged on the things Craig Biggio and company do (or don’t do, like score runs).

How in the world does a presumably intelligent grown man being paid to write about baseball in a major newspaper think that makes any sense at all? The disconnect between the two things here — Clemens’ pitching and Houston’s hitting — is so severe that it’s like someone saying, “Jessica Alba is sexy enough to be the best-looking woman in the world, if only her brother wasn’t so ugly.”

How Big Are These Rosters, Again?

Just so you don’t think I was kidding about the number of players who were described as being “snubbed” for not receiving an All-Star selection, here is an incomplete list of the players I found mentioned in various newspaper articles describing the snubbings. Because the list would get unmanageably long if I included both leagues, I’ll limit things to only the AL. Oh, and the linked articles are simply examples, not even close to the only mentions.

  • Angels: Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Chone Figgins, and Darin Erstad (Los Angeles Times)
  • A’s: Barry Zito, Mark Kotsay, Jason Kendall, and Eric Chavez (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Devil Rays: Carl Crawford and Jorge Cantu (Tampa Tribune)
  • Indians: Arthur Rhodes, Cliff Lee, Travis Hafner, and Grady Sizemore (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Mariners: Eddie Guardado, Raul Ibanez, and Richie Sexson (Seattle Times)
  • Rangers: Hank Blalock and Kevin Mench (Dallas Morning News)
  • Red Sox: Matt Clement, Bill Mueller, and Mike Timlin (Boston Globe)
  • Royals: Emil Brown and David DeJesus (Kansas City Star)
  • Tigers: Jeremy Bonderman, Brandon Inge, Carlos Guillen, and Kyle Farnsworth (Detroit News)
  • Twins: Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva, and Jesse Crain (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
  • White Sox: Dustin Hermanson, Cliff Politte, Tadahito Iguchi, Scott Podsednik, and Freddy Garcia (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Yankees: Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Hideki Matsui (New York Daily News)
  • And I’m sure I missed a few. Even if you account for the columns asking for Rogers to be removed from the team, that leaves no fewer than 69 players (the 39 listed above, plus the 30 who already made the team) who have been described as varying degrees of “deserving” for the All-Star team. All of which means there could be two AL teams, both made up of 32-man rosters, and there would still be five guys who someone thought should have made one of the teams.

    Quick Notes …

  • Obvious Headline of the Week, from The Oregonian: “Violence isn’t answer to sports media’s scrutiny.”
  • Public Service Announcement of the Week: Ivan Rodriguez is divorcing his wife of 15 years. Seriously, Pudge asked a reporter in Detroit to “tell them all now that I’m a single man,” so I’m just helping to spread the word.
  • I can’t quite make up my mind on whether this ESPN contest is the best of all time or the worst of all time, but it’s definitely one or the other.
  • Oakland GM Billy Beane stopped by Athletics Nation for another state-of-the-team interview, which always makes for an interesting read. This one is three parts (One, Two, Three), so clear some room on your schedule (or reserve some space in the bathroom at work).
  • “The snow is blinding. The umps are calling the game. Dodgers win, 6-3. Weaver gets the victory. Erickson gets the save – he’s the new closer. All thanks to Timmy Lupus. Next year has arrived for Timmy Lupus!” Oh, the brilliance of Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts.
  • Quote of the Week, from Angels manager Mike Scioscia in the Los Angeles Times: “I look at myself in a lot of ways, but certainly not dramatic. I told Anne about it and she said I’m terrible on the dramatic side because I’ve been trying to act skinny for 30 years, and I haven’t fooled anybody.”
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