“The public genius of Jeter”

The New York Times, like all papers, is suffering from serious business woes these days. Apparently one of their responses to that problem is to ape the sports coverage of the brain dead tabloids. Just look at Harvey Araton’s piece from Saturday. First he joins in with the notion that the Yankees may be better off without their inner-circle Hall of Fame third baseman, as if it were moxy and pep as opposed to supremely talented ballplayers which won four World Series titles in five years:

For the Yankees, a vacation from A-Rod may be just what the proverbial doctor ordered. If only temporarily, the face of the team will again belong to Derek Jeter, not Rodriguez, whom we have come to recognize in a variety of poses as the deer caught in the limelight.

Maybe the Yankees will hold their own with improved pitching, for which there was no shortage of off-season expenditure, and the brand of baseball that won them four World Series during a five-year stretch almost a decade ago . . . That Seattle and Texas improved immediately after he left is hardly empirical evidence. But after all that has happened since the turn of the year, something tells me the Yankees won’t crumble while A-Rod is recovering for six to nine weeks. Given a break from all things A-Rod and good pitching, they may even thrive.

The Yankees begin their schedule this season with six games against Baltimore and Kansas City, two teams they should have no trouble with even without Rodriguez. You think things are bad now? Wait until they start 5-1 and see how much hate is shoveled on Rodriguez. Not that he won’t somehow be blamed if they start 1-5.

But the real purpose of this column is so that, as writers for the Post, Newsday, and Daily News so often do, Araton can get down on his knees and worship at the altar of Jeter:

Many people would argue the public genius of Jeter is really just a strict policy of avoiding incendiary issues. Some members of the news media have extrapolated on that to call him boring. But boring is in the eye or ear of the beholder. To me, Jeter is not boring. When it comes to quotations, he just isn’t obsequious, or self-destructively dense.

His aura says: if keeping the back-page headline writers on 24-hour alert is the shallow measure of one’s commercial appeal, we can elect someone else most popular in class.

Ignoring, of course, that the majority of the A-Rod “scandals” have been blown out of proportion by the media itself, and that, if it were so inclined, the media could similarly sensationalize Jeter’s personal foibles too. They won’t, however, because the narrative of “Jeter: Hero, Rodriguez: Fool” was set in stone years ago, and no one really feels like challenging it.

The New York Times recently let Bill Kristol go because he was prone to the lazy regurgitation of easy opinion. Apparently that’s just fine on the sports pages.

(thanks to Ethan Stock for the heads up)

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  1. Roger Moore said...

    Not that he won’t somehow be blamed if they start 1-5.

    Of course.  If they go 1-5 out of the gate, it will be ARod’s fault for not being in the lineup.

  2. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    Unfortunately, if the current trend of burying newspapers continues, this kind of one-handed typing will only increase.

  3. Jeff V. said...

    Baltimore isn’t shaping up to be that bad.  Pecota has them at 76 wins and fourth place last I checked.  I suspect with Posada’s shoulder every walk and single is going to lead to a runner is scoring position.  The Yankee offense is old and the defense is laughable.

  4. The Common Man said...

    And hope springs eternal for Jeff.  How does their pitching look?  Tex, Cano, and Swisher are all short of 30.  Only Posada’s really into his late 30s.  I think we overestimate the age of the Yankees because a) they’ve played a bit longer than other teams’ players of comparable age, because most of them were big prospects at a young age and b) we hear about them constantly. I’d still put them down for 90+ wins, even with suspect D, and I’m no fan of the Yanquis.


  5. Matt S said...

    I can’t stand the Jeter worship going on right now.

    A quick look at the THT stats page will show that by any measure Jeter is the WORST DEFENSIVE SS in baseball at this point. He is by no means the selfless player he is made out to be by the NY media. If he were a selfless player, he would have moved to 2B in 2004 when a far superior defensive player joined the team. Instead, he played the Yankee legend card to push A-Rod to 3B and ever since the Yankees have had one of the worst up the middle defenses in baseball.

    Even so, I think what will hurt the Yankees most this year is the lack of overall depth. Their ideal starting lineup is full of great players, but they are far weaker then Tampa Bay and Boston when you get deeper down the depth chart. For example, with A-Rod gone, they turn 3B over to Cody Ransom. Their pitching suffers the same problem. 162 games will really bring this oversight to light, in my opinion.


  6. Centris said...

    Re: Jeff V. and the Yankees Defense

    According to this analysis using projected UZR it is very possible that the yankees have an average to slightly above average defense next year.

  7. kranky kritter said...

    Yankees fans, with a constant boost from lazy media theme recycling, seem destined to hate ARod when they can and love him only when they must. Good luck with THAT schizophrenia. Let’s face it, the guy has turned out to be a curse.

    The most tedious part by far is the butt-kissing of Yankees fans via the nod to the comical myth of the “lunchpail” character of the recent championship teams because they had allstars at 6 or 7 everyday positions instead of 9.

    The Yankees didn’t win championships BECAUSE they had Scott Brosius instead of ARod. They won because they spent the money on Mussinas and Clemenses instead of Sheffields, ARods, and Giambis.

    Beginning in 2004, Red Sox fans watched with glee as NYY chased bats and let each year’s Johan Santana go somewhere else. I dunno why Brian Cashman went brain dead for 5 years, but it seems like the bulb has gone back on.

  8. Nick said...

    “Wait until they start 5-1 and see how much hate is shoveled on Rodriguez.”

    This is what bothers me the most.  The guy has done more to help the Yankees win during his tenure than anyone else, but if they start winning without him, they’ll try to ride him out on a rail.  Well, they can send him straight to KC; we’d have a great shot at winning the AL Central with A-Rod hitting #3 for us.

  9. fscott19 said...

    jeter never “played the legend card” when ARod was traded because he was never even asked to move from SS by the front office or by joe torre. Just trying to keep things straight in the comments on a post about “the lazy regurgitation of easy opinion.”

  10. Jack Marshall said...

    Craig: The Times let Bill Kristol go because he was a CONSERVATIVE columnist prone to the lazy regurgitation of easy opinion. Surely you don’t think the current regulars on the Times op-ed pages are any more reliable! Paul Krugman is especially addicted to whoppers, and has been called on it by the Times ombudsman more than a few times. You are right about A-Rod and Jeter, of course (isn’t A-Rod playing Ted Williams to Jeter’s Joe D?) , and I agree in general that sports columnists are held to a lower standard of intellectual honesty than the op-ed types. For example, Tom Boswell is just shameless about ignoring facts that disagree with his thesis of the hour, and “Bos” is revered as one of the best in the field. But readers and editors are more tolerant of lazy writing when they like the opinion it generates. Your comment about Kristol leads me to believe that you are too, Craig…Bob Hebert isn’t lazy, when he wrote the same Bush-bashing piece about 100 times? Frank Rich? Come on. Richard Cohen and George Will both rig their arguments, but the one who’ll irritate you most is the one you disagree with. And I’m no different.

  11. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Jack—I won’t deny that all people, myself included, are inclined to go easier on people with whom they agree about things.  That said, my reference to Kristol was because he was very recently fired, not simply because he is a conservative. I agree that Krugman and others also have their problems and that the NYT has their blind spots when it comes to those guys.  I’m particularly fascinated with Maureen Dowd’s ongoing employment.  Her shtick got old approximately a decade ago.  Indeed there is much fault to find on the op-ed pages of the NYT no matter what your political persuasion.

  12. Jack Marshall said...

    Craig…don’t get me started on Maureen!

    The larger point of your post is a very important one. Baseball journalists generally are held to a amazingly low level of integrity and professionalism…listen to the stuff Rob Dibble or Kevin Kennedy says on XM’s Home Plate; listen to any game with Gary Thorne doing play-by-play; try to make sense out of the color commentary by Rick Sutcliffe. You can fill in your own examples, I’m sure. It’s particularly bad now, because a lot of the broadcast and newspaper types, and especially the ex-players, are clueless about stats and just repeat old canards over and over again…Fenway is a great homerun park; Manny Ramirez makes the whole Dodger line-up hit better; Jeter is a great shortstop; Varitek is invaluable to the Red Sox pitchers. Editors and producers tolerate it because 1) they think baseball fans are generally morons and 2) “it’s only a game.”

  13. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Jack: The almost gleeful acceptance of ignorance and lower standards in the sporting press is my biggest complaint about sports media.  And it’s not so narrow as the sports media being stat-savvy or not.  Sure, that’s my disposition and I’m happy to see sabermetric concepts increasingly adopted, but I’m fine with traditionalism and sentimentality, and any other sort of disposition when it comes to coverage and commentary.  The key is that the streams not be mixed: just as I don’t want someone marshalling statistics to explain to me that my aesthetic enjoyment of a sacrifice bunt is somehow illegitimate, I don’t want some mathophobe telling me that my analysis of Jim Rice’s career value is illegtimate.  These two approaches each handle things well, and they suffer when mission creep sets in.

  14. Jack Marshall said...

    Craig: “Gleeful” is right. But isn’t part of the problem that Sabermetrics takes some basic analytical ability to use properly, and the typical sports talking head or ink-stained wretch is faced with the choice of either ignoring the current tools or injuring himself by using them incorrectly? So, like Dibble, they ridicule the stats. Direct quote: “Steve Garvey was a Hall of Famer! It’s obvious! Don’t give me all those phony stats…stats can prove whatever you want them to! I saw him play! He was great!” (Kennedy: “Exactly!”)

    As Olsen Johnson said in “Blazing Saddles,” “Now who can argue with that?”

  15. Craig Calcaterra said...

    I liken it to economic or science reporting. Even if they can’t get the actual science or analysis right, any reporter or commentator who wasn’t at least conversant with the concepts and their application shouldn’t have that job in the first place, and if they demonstrated open disdain for those concepts, they should be fired yesterday.

    This doesn’t mean that I need Joe Morgan or Rob Dibble to be able to talk about VORP.  But they should at least be required to acknowledge basic things like run support impacting a pitcher’s win totals and RBI being a teammate-dependant statistic.  As it stands now, they revel in their ignorance, even going so far as to use it as a point of pride.  Such a thing would never happen in any other subject in the media.

  16. MoeSzys said...

    Craig I’m glad someone finally said it.

    The Yankees should use this as an opportunity to get Jeter away from short stop, move him over to third base

  17. Jeff V. said...

    I read it Centris and it seemed far from a glowing endorsement.  The projections seem predicated on Damon being a fiend in LF defensively and Gardner being in CF.  It also doesn’t account for Posada which I think hurts the Yankees.  I will also be shocked if A-rods defense does not suffer after the surgery.

    Common man, I didn’t say the O’s would be good, just not that bad and I did use the Pecota projection as my basis.

  18. Jack Marshall said...

    The problem is that Jeter doesn’t hit well enough to be a third baseman on a team like the Yankees, much as Johnny Damon isn’t an offensive standout for a leftfielder, and Matsui isn’t going to be anyone’s idea of an All-Star as a DH. Ditto Posada, who is just another hitter if he’s not catching. This is the carousel problem the Yankees have with all these long contracts. They are going to have All-Stars playing positions where they never would have made any All-Star team….and now they have a long-term first baseman, blocking that traditional haven for aging stars. Any Yankee fan who doesn’t see this as a looming crisis isn’t paying attention.

  19. Dash Carlisle said...

    My problem with sports journalism has less to do with what dumb columnists write and more to do with what passes for straight reporting. It’s not unusual to read something like this in a news article:

    Throughout a tumultuous year, Ordonez was a model of consistency for Detroit.

    Read that sentence again, only this time replace “Ordonez” with “Cheney” and “Detroit” with “America” and see if it sounds right to you.

  20. Dave Studeman said...

    I wondered what happened to Kristol.  Did they announce their reasoning somewhere?

    I agree about Down and, to a lesser extent, Krugman. I think David Brooks is the most interesting commentator they have on a regular basis. I also love what Nicholas Kristof does.

  21. Jack Marshall said...

    There is no consistent standard of “straight reporting” in the US—-maybe there never was, but it is screamingly obvious now. Reporters cannot resist value judgements and bias in their tone, choice of words, omissions and inclusions. At least we are on notice that columnists are expressing opinion, however dishonestly. You’re right: the reporting is worse.

  22. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    Jack M. – You get what you pay for. Most of us journalists (read: went to J-school, got our degree, worked in a print publication) were forced out years ago, and chuckle at the folks who decry the decline in quality. Now, do you want fries with that?

  23. Fake Teams said...

    I was speaking with an intelligent left-of-left-of-center Democrast this weekend who didn’t realize you can find the opinions of the regular Op-ed columnists of the NYT on the internets i.e. American Center for Progress, Daily Kos, etc.

    Really, I figured Kristol was let go because the election was over and there was no need for a more balanced opinion on their pages.

    FWIW, the paper’s paying customers are far left over-educated head in the clouds types.  As their financial troubles demonstrate, it isn’t a big enough niche to remain profitable.

    Um, what was this post about?

  24. studes said...

    As long as this thread is still alive:

    Really, I figured Kristol was let go because the election was over and there was no need for a more balanced opinion on their pages.

    Not true.  Kristol essentially replaced Bill Safire, who had been a conservative commentator at the Times for many years. They just announced that they’ve hired another conservative voice to take Kristol’s place.

  25. Craig Calcaterra said...

    It’s Ross Douthat of the Atlantic.  Though I disagree with him on many, many issues, he’s a good writer and a sound thinker.  Good addition as far as I’m concerned.

  26. Dan said...

    Shoddy reporting is hardly limited to the sports pages. Several nes outlets recently reported that Obama lifted the “ban” on stem-cell research. Three problems with this:
    1) This wasn’t about all stem-cell research, just that which destroyed embryos (adult stem-cells are currently used in several treatments).
    2) This wasn’t about whether to allow the research, but about whether to give it federal funding.
    3) Bush did give it federal funding, he just limited it to several pre-existing lines.

    Too many reporters were too lazy to research the matter and just re-wrote interest group press releases instead.

    Sorry about the mini-rant, it’s just a pet peeve of mine. Long story short, never trust the media to analyze anything, no matter what section of the paper you’re reading.

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