Tell It Like It Is, If That’s What It’ll Be

May 23, 2011

If there’s one article that everyone in sports read today (or at least tried to get through), it’s Jeffrey Toobin’s story on Fred Wilpon the Mets’ owner, the Ponzi scheme victim (we think) and, evidently, player evaluator hater. Watching the game from his box in Citi Field, Wilpon takes a hammer at the cornerstone of the franchise – the triad of David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran:

In the game against the Astros, Jose Reyes, leading off for the Mets, singled sharply up the middle, then stole second. “He’s a racehorse,” Wilpon said. When Reyes started with the Mets, in 2003, just before his twentieth birthday, he was pegged as a future star. Injuries have limited him to a more pedestrian career, though he’s off to a good start this season. “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money,” Wilpon said, referring to the Red Sox’ signing of the former Tampa Bay player to a seven-year, $142-million contract. “He’s had everything wrong with him,” Wilpon said of Reyes. “He won’t get it.”

After the catcher, Josh Thole, struck out, David Wright came to the plate. Wright, the team’s marquee attraction, has started the season dreadfully at the plate. “He’s pressing,” Wilpon said. “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

Wright walked.

When Carlos Beltran came up, I mentioned his prodigious post-season with the Astros in 2004, when he hit eight home runs, just before he went to the Mets as a free agent. Wilpon laughed, not happily. “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series,” he said, referring to himself. In the course of playing out his seven-year, $119-million contract with the Mets, Beltran, too, has been hobbled by injuries. “He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.” Beltran singled, loading the bases with one out.

A number of Mets fans are up in arms, or so it seems, with the fact that the actual owner of the ball club would actually besmirch the names of his own players. Amazin’ Avenue, one of the sharper blogs devoted to the team out there, has two insightful posts on the the mistakes that Fred Wilpon made. According to Matthew Callan’s analysis, Wilpon is going rogue because of a lack of willingness to care anymore:

Clearly, Wilpon is not above badmouthing his own organization, openly and otherwise. The fact that he’d do it so nakedly, so undeniably out of his own mouth seems the act of a condemned man who knows his time is short and no longer cares about the consequences of his actions.

James Kannengieser isn’t so friendly in another worthwhile analysis, calling Wilpon a “disgrace.”

This is undoubtedly difficult for an organization. As a full-time employee of a team whose sales goals are challenging and important, the idea that my boss would call us “shitty” is brutal. In a New York media environment, an owner shouldn’t be more critical than the back page of the Post or  Daily News. It’s called a PR disaster by pretty much everybody. That “shitty team” ranges form the General Manager (who probably gets a pass considering the brief time he’s been in Flushing) all the way to the scouts and bat boys, and every last one of them will feel the pang of embarrassment for those comments.

I’m not sure it matters, though. Not many people would disagree with Fred Wilpon’s analysis, and, if he’s committed to rebuilding the team from the ground up and starting over, then good for him for offering a dose of real talk. I concur with Craig Calcaterra’s write-up for HardballTalk:

Moreover, if you’re a fan of a “shitty team,” don’t you like it that the owner acknowledges it rather than play the Baghdad Bob routine and pretend that everything is sunshine and daisies? I want my team’s owner to acknowledge my frustration, even if I may take issues with his specific critiques and agree that he shouldn’t be the guy saying this stuff publicly. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if Wilpon said that Carlos Beltran’s contract was a bargain, Jose Reyes and David Wright were megastars and if he said that the Mets are fantastic and positioned for greatness?

Mets fans know that ownership doesn’t approve of the recent team failures. Fred Wilpon himself has personally apologized to fans in emails before, and GM Sandy Alderson was brought in for a complete rebuilding. The Wilpons need to renew credibility in the organization. Clearly, calling the players you signed isn’t a short-term solution, but a clear-eyed approach to the problems of the present and the solutions of the future is critical. The Mets aren’t going to get better as they are today, and the Madoff money isn’t going to come back. It’s time to set expectations both within the organization and among fans, and build from the ground up.

The days of “Captain Red Ass” and the happy-go-lucky veterans in their near-prime and young kids with unlimited potential are over. We’ve all known it, fans and foes alike, and I’m glad that Wilpon does too. If Reyes, Wright and Beltran are wearing different uniforms this season or next, then this moment will be looked on as nothing more than foreshadowing and a possible bogeyman for an unbalanced trade.

If any of these players are expected to help the team over the long haul, then that’s a very different problem.


Why Whitlock and Twhitlock Shouldn’t Share a Twitter Account

March 28, 2011

Shortly before 10pm eastern time on Monday, as word began circulating that Matt Painter was considering leaving Purdue men’s basketball for a similarly situated Missouri team, writer Jason Whitlock began tweeting some silliness:

Though even remotely sophisticated fans of the NCAA basketball scene recognized the lunacy of such a possibility. Whitlock himself pointed one of his victims out and kept the rouse going:

Finally, he took it a step further and incorporated one of the nation’s most famous and controversial coaches, Bob Knight:

I’ve followed Whitlock for at least a year now, and I get it. This is his brand, and he reminds readers (and ridicules them for missing) that there are two personalities: “Twhitlock and Whitlock,” – the journalist, and the entertainer/reactionary/regular guy.

The strategy has paid dividends. With more followers than five of my hometowns combined, in large part because of jokes like these, he’s driving clicks to his column, and legitimizing the investment in him. For these reasons, plus a sprinkle of ego, Jason Whitlock won’t alter the way he does his thing.

But he should.

Fact is that Whitlock is a journalist, writing serious columns about serious issues like race and class in the gagillion dollar business that is professional and collegiate sports. In his industry, facts are sacred and credibility is all a good writer has. It is popular and it is successful, but Whitlock’s existence in the space between sarcasm and willful misdirection is unethical. Just because it’s a joke, that doesn’t mean people will get it, including your editors. Just ask Mike Wise.

Perhaps more importantly, Twitter isn’t context friendly. Tweet streams come to phones and computer screens fragmented. Streams of consciousness do not flow nicely together. A joke can be separated from its clarification substantially enough by other followed tweets that the truth is never seen. Knowing the medium is as important as knowing how the audience consumes via that medium, and Whitlock fails to recognize his responsibility to do either. Worse, he ridicules people who don’t take the time to understand what it all means.

Dude, it’s Twitter. It’s 140 characters. It’s not about taking time. It’s the opposite.

If it’s so important for Jason Whitlock to have a public Twitter account where the responsibilities that come with being a member of the media don’t apply, follow the model of Slate’s John Dickerson. For personal information, opinion and humor, you can follow John the person, or you can follow John the journalist for his job side. Like it or not, you can’t have it both ways on Twitter. A journalist in one public sphere is a journalist in every sphere unless there are CLEAR demarcations set forth.

I’m not going to stop following Whitlock, even if there is all the “Twhitlock” crap from time to time. He’s an important voice in sports media and he is often capable of providing a different approach to tired topics, but it’s time to draw the line. Fake news stories coming from real writers are unacceptable. End of story.



Super Bowl and the Snack Bowl

February 2, 2009

Before we all witnessed the second greatest fourth-quarter in Super Bowl history (or at least the relatively few Super Bowls that I’ve witnessed), Jordan (he’d kill me if I didn’t reference his DJ name DJ0T), my old roommate and good friend, and I constructed what we hoped would be the greatest snack food stadium ever built.

The idea was stolen from Holy Taco, and the decision was made to compete against Marc Abanto and his roommate in the ultimate competition.

This is what we came up with:

You can see Marc and Endrit’s stadium and vote (for “The Snack Bowl”) at his blog, Marc’s GChat Status Explained.

We’ve gotten props from Holy Taco, and rumor is that a free t-shirt is on the way. Voting will continue until Sunday. Help us out!

Matt Millen: Football Expert?

January 4, 2009
Please Mr. Millen, enlighten us

Please Mr. Millen, enlighten us

Can somebody please explain what makes Matt Millen worthy of being a football analyst on NBC?  During the playoffs?  He doesn’t have a clue what it means to make the playoffs as the former GM of the Detroit Lions.  You know, those 0-16 Detroit Lions that he put together.

I understand that everyone says they love Matt Millen.  Chris Berman’s go-to line “We didn’t want this to happen” comes to mind. He could very well be a great guy, but his credibility?  How about nil.

It frustrates me, most of all because of the fact that people with aspirations for sports broadcasting and analysis are shut out by former players and executives who sucked at their jobs (I’m talking about you, Steve Phillips). Just because some of us decided to stick to the books (or, better yet, actually practicing our broadcasting and analysis chops) in college does not mean that we are unqualified for broadcast futures. What is already a small window of opportunity becomes even smaller when men and women who are remarkably qualified but terrible on camera (e.g. Bobby Knight) are given the chance to show us their best deer-in-in-the-headlights on worldwide leader.

Do you think that Bob Costas walked into the studio, saw Millen, and said “What the [hell] are you doing here?” I hope so.

Reason #1 to hate the Yankees…

December 11, 2008

… Especially if you like the Mets.

Mets sign Francisco Rodriguez to a great contract (especially considering recent flops like, well, the last three closers the Mets have had), and the Yankees steal all potential press by announcing that they’ve signed C.C. Sabathia. Now, the Yanks are already a good team, if not a great one, who for nearly a decade haven’t really been able to flip the right switches. I’ve blamed it on Joe Torre, now I think that Girardi’s on the hot seat starting this season. If the Yanks do sign any combination of Lowe, Burnett, and Manny (MANNY?!?!), then Girardi has to be fired for not winning 100 games.

Anyway, thanks a whole lot of stealing the Metropolitan thunder, Bombers. It’s all about your stadium, your players, your drama, etc. Give the Mets a few hours in the sun!