The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, May 02, 2008

 

Clearing the Bases -- Late Friday Dead Horse Flog Edition

• God, what a wretched week for the Yankees. As summarized in this week's Hit List.
Big Hurts: the Yankees lose Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Brian Bruney and Philip Hughes to injuries in the same week. Both Posada and A-Rod are gone after wavering between the bench and the lineup, likely prolonging their absence, and while some question the validity of Hughes' injury -- particularly in light of dubiously timed reports of his night vision woes -- the latest word is that a stress fracture of his ninth rib may sideline him until July. Adding insult to this spate of injuries, the team is swept by the Tigers in their return to the Bronx following a record 18 road games in April -- 18 in a 20-game span, no less.
I'm not sure if it was Peter Abraham who technically broke the story on Hughes, but in the wake of Will Carroll's "Ferris Buehler comparisons in yesterday's "Under the Knife," he was the first I saw, and he's consistently the fastest gun on the Yankee beat when it comes to this type of news. If you're a Yankee fan and not stopping by his blog on a daily basis, go get a late pass.

• Via Pete, here's a good piece by the New York Daily News' media critic Bob Raissman on Joe Girardi's media management skills. Like predecessor Joe Torre, Girardi has experience in the broadcasting booth as well as the dugout, so he understands what it's like to be dishing out the questions. In light of this, many thought he'd be similarly deft at handling the media, but in his short time as Yankee skipper, he's proven himself to be a different beast. Where Torre gave the impression of complete openness, Girardi hoards information on things like reliever availability -- which is acceptable, tactically -- and often feeds reporters disinformation when it comes to injuries, disinformation that quickly winds up looking stupid when the front office reports that one of his players has been placed on the DL. Here's Raismann about the Hughes affair:
The honeymoon is officially over.

It ended before Wednesday night's Yankees-Tigers game. While meeting with boss scribes that afternoon, a reporter asked Girardi about the status of Phil Hughes. Girardi answered by saying Hughes' situation was the subject of "internal discussions."

"That's all I will say," Girardi explained.

The same reporter then asked if Hughes was still in the rotation. Girardi said, "Yes."

Another scribe asked if that meant Hughes would make his next start. Girardi answered by saying, "I just said" Hughes was in the rotation. The same scribe then said, "That's not what I asked you, I asked if he's going to make his next start."

Girardi repeated his "internal discussions line" and said: "That's just the way it is....I don't mean to get irritated, but I've been asked the same question five times."

The reporter said he wasn't "asking that" and - again - wanted to know if Hughes was going to make his next start. At that point a Yankees PR executive scolded the reporter and cut the session off, prompting the scribe - in full lecture mode - to remind the suit it wasn't his job to tell him how to "ask my questions."

"The ending (of Girardi's interview) may have seemed somewhat comical, but the whole session was tense," one participant said.

Torre would never have let things get that far out of hand. He would have admitted there was a problem with Hughes that the brass hasn't yet figured out how to deal with. Either that, or Torre would have said Hughes felt a "twinge" the other day, which may have something do to with his poor pitching performance. He then would have said either way, we're going to put Hughes on the DL, but go talk to "Cash" for the details.
Yeesh. I'll be surprised if he makes it through two seasons here.

• Bob Costas is on the damage control trail in the wake of Tuesday's debacle. Via Joe Posnanski (hilarious in his own take on dodging the bullet of appearing on that "Costas Now" segment), here's an interview with Costas by Kansas City Star TV critic Aaron Barnhart, who had already written a very good take (emphasis in original):
TV Barn: So, do you agree with Will Leitch that MSM-blogger relations were irreparably harmed by that exchange on your show?

Bob Costas: No. No. Buzz realizes that he did a disservice to his own points. On the other hand, if fairness prevails — which on the web it often doesn't because people are coming after whoever the villain-of-the-day is with torches and pitchforks — but if fairness prevails, you keep in mind who he is and that more than outweighs a subpar performance on his part.

The heat he brought to it obscured whatever points he made. And then some people made the leap that because I am critical of some — precisely SOME aspects of the web — that my sentiments are the same as Buzz's. And they’re not.

It's convenient, and in this case Buzz handed it to them on a silver platter, it’s convenient and self-flattering for some members of the blogosphere to think any and all objections to them come because mainstream media people are threatened by them.

While there is unquestionably a new media revolution going on, and much of it is good, the part — speaking for myself, the only part, the ONLY part — of which I am critical, is that there is an ethos on a significant portion of the web, an ethos not of criticism or skepticism or a contrarian viewpoint. There is an ethos of abuse, where not only is cogent thought not required, it’s almost resented. Where a reasonable argument has no place and where ad hominem attacks reign. That is not all or even most of the web, but no fair-minded person would say that isn't a significant portion of it. That’s my criticism.
Gotta call bullshit here. If you go to the barber every day, then you'll eventually get a haircut, and if all you read is Deadspin -- a site where the comments often go way overboard -- you're going to wind up thinking that blogs are basically abusive by nature. But there are a number of sites that do a great job of filtering out the good from the bad, the relevant from the irrelevant, sites like Baseball Think Factory and Ballbug and dozens of good blogs that will point you to other good blogs as well as good mainstream articles as well. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure that out or to gain a knack for filtering it your own damn self via the RSS news readers at Yahoo, Google, or a million other places.

To read Costas' reply, particularly the bolded part of the statement which echoes Buzz Bissinger's opening salvo, only reinforces the notion that Tuesday's confrontation was a setup, with Costas clearly reaching for controversy instead of conversation. He had a chance to make a clear distinction between quality blogging and crap, and instead he created a situation where folding metal chairs across somebody's skull wouldn't have been out of place. We all had a right to expect better from him.

• As for Bissinger, not so much. Salon's King Kaufman runs down his sordid history:
Interrupting as usual -- because as the defender of literature and higher learning whatever he had to say was, like, way more important than what anybody else had to say -- [Bissinger] told Leitch, "You say you don't want to be in the press box because the facts get in the way," which isn't even close to what Leitch had said. What Leitch had said was that he declined to apply for press access because "the minute I start doing that, I start writing for the other people in the press box ... I get a lot of benefit from having that distance."

But let's not let facts get in the way, right, Buzz?

"It seems to me," Bissinger continued, "what you're saying is, 'I don't want facts to inhibit me. Facts get in my way, so I'm going to sit in my little room and I'm going to give this nebulous fan's voice.'"

Pretty rich coming from a guy who sometimes -- for instance, in this very comment -- takes only a nodding interest in facts. Here, courtesy of FireJoeMorgan.com, are links to a bunch of smart people finding fundamental errors in a piece Bissinger wrote for the New York Times magazine Play last year about Kerry Wood.

He'd have found them himself if he'd bothered to do a little research instead of just transcribing the thoughts of Tony La Russa and other baseball men, as he'd done for his book "Three Nights in August" two years earlier.

...Bissinger is big on boneheaded generalizations about people who are younger than he is, which is 53. In "Three Nights in August," he wrote that the sabermetric movement had populated baseball front offices with "thirtysomethings whose most salient qualifications are MBA degrees."

"It is wrong to say that the new breed doesn't care about baseball," he wrote. "But it's not wrong to say that there is no way they could possibly love it, and so much of baseball is about love. They don't have the sense of history, which to the thirtysomethings is largely bunk."

If by "it's not wrong," he meant "it's absolutely 100 percent gold-plated wrong," then I'd agree.
Funny, while Costas tried to apologize on Bissinger's behalf, Buzz himself has been strangely silent. Hallelujah to that.

Update: Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman alerts me to this summary of a post-melee Bissinger appearance on Dan Le Batard's radio show. Bissinger comes off as embarrassed by his own conduct and lack of professionalism but hardly conciliatory towards the medium he dismissed outright:
There were some things I should not have said. I shouldn’t have used profanity, I shouldn’t have been as hostile in my approach to Will Leitch, ’cause it makes me look bad, its unprofessional and its unfair to him … I don’t care if it’s Will Leitch or anyone, no one should be treated the way I treated them. Just wasn’t right.

...I don’t take back a word of what I said. I have a tremendous amount of problems with blogs. It doesn’t mean all blogs are bad. It doesn’t mean I’m against free speech, because I’m not.

...The reason for it was is that I really care about this passionately, because, you know, I think blogs are a threat, not a threat to old school, it’s not a threat to M-M-S’es, as they call it, the mainstream media, it’s a threat to writing and reporting, which is what I’ve done for 40 years and what many people have done better than me.

It’s not all just about what flies into your head, and let’s, you know, put it down, and let’s be nasty and mean-spirited and hope we get as many posts and comments as we can so traffic increases and then, bingo-bango, we make some money. That’s not what it’s about.
As somebody who's blogged for nearly seven years without making more than a few bucks to keep this endeavor self-sustaining -- something I share with a great majority of blogs out there -- I can agree with this clueless, self-important schmuck on one thing: that's not what it's about. Unfortunately, until Buzz Bissinger does figure out what it is about, he's welcome to the ignominy guaranteed by the eternal preservation of his shameful performance. Every time that "Costas Now" clip repeats or those spiteful words are read, the joke will be on him.

So he's got that going for him.

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