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“Raines is probably the best base stealer in the history of Major League Baseball”

Dec 27, 2011, 2:38 PM EDT

Tim Raines

I have been slightly worried about Joe Posnanski lately. He set off last summer to write what was supposed to be a feel-good book about a feel-good guy — Joe Paterno — and then everything exploded on him while he was doing interviews and research in State College, Pennsylvania.

Sometimes I get images of him trapped in some central Pennsylvania motel room, slowly going crazy. Or totally off the grid into some sheer harrowing existence like Christopher Walken in “The Deer Hunter.”  At the other end of all of that is either going to be a Pulitzer Prize winning book or Posnanski in a straight jacket. Can’t see much in between.

But today we have a sign that things are OK for Joe: a 4000+ word Hall of Fame column, done in a way that only he can do. Once again he brings order and sanity to the Jeff Bagwell thing. To the Alan Trammell/Barry Larkin thing.  He explains just how rare and special it is for players to be truly well-rounded. Bonus: he trots out that quote from the headline above to remind us just how damn good Tim Raines really was.

It’s all great stuff. And on a day when, once again, absolutely nothing seems to be happening in baseball at all, it’s not like you got anything better to do.

  1. lyon810 - Dec 27, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    So nice to see old Expo blue on this blog

    • Kyle - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:15 PM

      It really is quite lovely.

  2. Ben - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    I think Jean Genet wrote about the experience of going mad in a hotel room, but it was in Beirut, and listening to Mozart’s “Kyrie.”

    • clevername1 - Dec 27, 2011 at 6:41 PM

      Where do you rank Lou?

      • clevername1 - Dec 27, 2011 at 6:47 PM

        Sorry, someone posted that Ricky, Cobb and Raines were the the best base stealers. I would put Lou ahead of Raines.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 27, 2011 at 8:05 PM

        You mean the same Lou Brock who stole 130 more bases but was caught 161 more times? Just checking.

  3. randygnyc - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Personally, I put Raines in the 3 spot of all time base stealers, with Ricky and Cobb ahead of him.

    About the expos; I’ve been to hundreds, closer to a thousand (I was a long time, Yankees, full season ticket holder) MLB games. Although I live in NYC, for my daughters 1st birthday, and 1st baseball game, we went to Montreal during their last year before contraction. I didn’t want to miss the chance of never seeing the expos play in Montreal. Good-times!

  4. mrfloydpink - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    I was, until the Penn State stuff, a big Posnanski fan. But then he:

    1. Declined to report on the breaking story, despite the fact that he’s supposedly a journalist. (To take a comparable example, can you imagine an NYT reporter who happened to be on scene for the 9/11 attacks, but didn’t feel up to covering the story?)

    2. Published a column in which he insisted we not “rush to judgment,” then promptly visited a Penn State class and passed judgment (that Joe Paterno was being scapegoated)

    3. Published a second (bizarre) column in which he again asserted that Paterno was being scapegoated, but at the same time agreed Paterno should have been fired.

    4. Stuck his head in the sand to avoid criticism. This included disappearing from his blog for weeks, dropping off Twitter, and then shutting down comments on his blog.

    5. Made clear he was going to continue with his book project (would he do so if HIS kids had been the ones who were molested?)

    In short, Posnanski showed me he is most certainly not a journalist, nor is he a man of much moral courage or integrity. I am not saying that he needed to come out and blast Penn State/Paterno, but his words and actions made clear that he’s been compromised by his fat book contract and his close relationship with Paterno. To put it another way, Posnanski showed me that he’s really nothing more than a slightly less syrupy version of Rick Reilly or Mitch Albom. Not a reporter who is worth taking seriously.

    I’m sure I will get a million thumbs down, but there it is.

    • thefalcon123 - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:56 PM

      “I’m sure I will get a million thumbs down”

      As well you should. Posnanski’s columns didn’t defend Paterno, instead he was saying the matter was complex, that Paterno fucked up and sometimes good people can do awful things. I think he also went into some detail about how Paterno was king shit of turd mountain and isolated enough where he felt he could do no wrong. He was hardly excusing his behavior.

      As a result, his twitter and comments sections were filled with knuckleheads who had nothing better to do than troll and call him a scumbag. What’s the point of posting when the vast majority are just looking for you to write “He’s a witch…burn him!” and then get angry when you don’t?

      Posnanski likely got paid an advance by a publisher to write this book. Do you think the publisher has lost interest because suddenly Paterno is huge news?!?! Posnanski would be flat out insane to not continue writing it!

      • firedude7160 - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:04 PM

        Thank you, Falcon. You put that much better than I was about to

      • mrfloydpink - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:37 PM

        All you have to do is answer my final question: Would Joe Posnanski have acted precisely the same way if it was HIS kids who had been molested?

        Because if the answer is no, then it means that he’s a hypocrite. He’s willing to look the other way, or reserve judgment, or continue to spend his big advance as long as it’s someone else’s kids.

      • JBerardi - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:57 PM

        “instead he was saying the matter was complex”

        There’s nothing “complex” about protecting a child rapist.

      • thefalcon123 - Dec 27, 2011 at 5:26 PM

        @ JBerardi

        Thanks for picking out one tiny part that paragraph, ignoring the part where I wrote “Paterno fucked up and sometimes good people can do awful things” and then talking about how Posnanski told of the isolated atmosphere that can give on an air of invincibility and cause such a scenario. Who are you, Rick Perry?

        What Paterno did was awful, no one, including Posnanski has disputed that. What Posnanski attempted to do was paint a fuller picture of the scene and show that people, not cartoon monsters, are the ones involved in these situations.

      • thefalcon123 - Dec 27, 2011 at 5:31 PM

        “All you have to do is answer my final question: Would Joe Posnanski have acted precisely the same way if it was HIS kids who had been molested? ”

        Of course Posnanski would have acted differently. That doesn’t make him a hypocrite. Is a judge a hypocrite for sentencing a murder to life in prison when he would want them to die if they killed *his* wife? The entire purpose of our justice system if to have people on the outside without an emotional interest in the outcome rationally look at what happened. That is what Posnanski is doing in his writing.

      • JBerardi - Dec 27, 2011 at 6:11 PM

        You cannot do what Paterno did and still be a “good person”. There is no complexity. There is no nuance. Period, end of story.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Dec 27, 2011 at 7:48 PM

        mrfloydpink, there are very few absolutes in this world, but one thing for sure is that Joe Pos can say and do no wrong ever on HBT.

    • hermitfool - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:59 PM

      Joe P created a nuanced picture of Pete Rose. Try doing that at home some time when you’re bored. I’m betting he’ll get Joe Paterno mostly right. It’s what he does. Probably the smartest thing he could have done was keep his head down and his mouth shut until he’d finished the book project. Unfortunately he didn’t manage to keep his mouth shut, which I ascribe to a guy wearing his heart on his sleeve. If you want to throw rocks at a guy for caring too deeply for the folks he’s writing about, then be my guest. But I’m not sure which journalistic ethics Joe violated by failing to join the rush to judgement.

      • mrfloydpink - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:40 PM

        “I’m not sure which journalistic ethics Joe violated by failing to join the rush to judgement.”

        First of all, you yourself pointed out that Joe did NOT fail to join the rush to judgment. He made a judgement, and in doing so he came down squarely on the side of Joe Paterno.

        Second, it is the height of dishonesty to lecture to the rest of the world that we should withhold judgment, when Joe himself had chosen not to do so.

        Third, and finally, reporters cover news. That’s it. If you are on the scene for the biggest sports story of the year (the decade?) you cover it. That doesn’t necessarily mean attacking anyone, it means covering the story. If you choose not to do so, you’re not a reporter or a journalist. You’re, I dunno, a storyteller, I guess.

    • Kevin S. - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:29 PM

      1. Actually, 9/11 was not remotely comparable. One was the greatest loss of life in any single event in our history. The other was the exposing of sexual abuse and assault to the public that had already undergone grand jury investigation. Posnanski felt he was incapable of being objective, therefore unfit to report.

      2. He asked people not to rush to judgment. He then criticized them for rushing to judgment. Comparing the two is like saying that criticism of bigotry is actually bigotry against the bigots. Nope.

      3. There was nothing bizarre about the second column. It was obvious by that point that Paterno had enough fault to warrant firing for his role in allowing Sandusky to continue raping young boys. At the same time he noted that Paterno was having all the blame dropped on him for something that went much, much farther than him – the very definition of scapegoating.

      4. I’m glad you’ve taken a trip inside his head and determined exactly why he went dark for a while there.

      5. He also made it clear that the scope and tone of the book would be entirely different, because it would include the Sandusky tragedy. But nice job imply that it was still going to be the feel-good Father’s Day present.

      Lacked moral courage or integrity? I’d argue that it took integrity to admit his impartiality had been compromised to the point he could not report on the issue, something many journalists fail to realize about the subjects they cover. Further, it could not be more obvious that you do feel he needed to blast Paterno, and you hold him to an impossible double standard by attacking him both for being compromised by his arrangement and for not reporting despite being compromised. Rick Reilly? Mitch Albom? Those are two guys who have repeatedly demonstrated their hackery over the course of dozens, if not hundreds of inane columns. Joe Posnanski didn’t live up to your impossibly high standards on a subject that he was already not objective on by the time the tragedy became part of the public consciousness, and you use that to dismiss the value of his words on a completely unrelated issue without addressing the words themselves. The entire post was a blatant ad hominem attack, and it deserves every thumbs down it gets.

      • mrfloydpink - Dec 27, 2011 at 5:01 PM

        1. 9/11 and Penn State were not comparable in terms of their scope and effects. But they were comparable in that they were extremely nasty/unpleasant stories that developed unexpectedly. As such, the comparison I drew was between a reporter on the scene for 9/11 and one on the scene for Penn State. I stand by that comparison.

        2. Posnanski insisted that people not rush to judgment. Then he made clear that he had himself made some judgments. This makes him a hypocrite, a liar, or both.

        3. Don’t you get it? To call Paterno a scapegoat IS to make a judgment. We don’t say that Osama bin Laden was a scapegoat for the 9/11 attacks or that Nixon was a scapegoat for the Watergate scandal. Why? Because they were responsible! They deserved the blame! Since Joe Posnanski does not know the inside details of the situation, he does not know how much or how little blame Joe Paterno should receive. To call Paterno a scapegoat means that Posnanski has already reached the conclusion–absent evidence–that his buddy didn’t really do anything (or very much) wrong. Put this another way–imagine it comes out that Paterno went to the AD and told him that if he reported Sandusky, that the AD would lose his job and would never work in college sports again. If that piece of information comes out–and it certainly could–would you still be calling Paterno a scapegoat?

        4. Why exactly do you think it is, then, that Posnanski dropped off the grid?

        5. I don’t know what kind of book it will be. However, if Posnanski is compromised–as you yourself admit he is–is his book really trustworthy? Is he somehow going to overcome his biases in the next six months? Put it another way–let’s say three weeks before publication of the first book, it came out that Buck O’Neil was, say, a wife beater. Could Joe Posnanski really rewrite the book and deal with that information properly, given his obvious affection for O’Neil? I think not.

        And there is not the slightest bit of inconsistency in my position. My preference is that Posnanski had REPORTED on the situation, as someone on the scene and familiar with the people involved (this does not imply blasting Paterno/Penn State; did the reporters who covered 9/11 blast Muslims/the government/Bush/bin Laden?). If he lacked the ability to report effectively and objectively, then my second preferred option would have been for him to say that, and be done with it.

        That is not what happened, though. Instead, Posnanski issued forth with a fairly preachy statement on the matter. A preachy statement that he himself did not abide by. Then came another preachy statement. Then came hiding from criticism. I almost cannot imagine a less admirable or respectable response.

        Again, I was a HUGE fan of Posnanski. It’s not like I’m some old crank, ala Murray Chass or Tracy RIngolsby, who was just looking for an excuse to unload on Posnanski with both barrels. It should say something to Posnanski that he’s lost me (and quite a few others, apparently) as a reader.

        Finally, I would suggest you look up a definition of “ad hominem attack.” To quote Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

      • Kevin S. - Dec 27, 2011 at 5:59 PM

        1. If that floats your boat… go with it, whatever. Tell me how that goes with a NYC firefighter.

        2. Posnanski insisted that people not rush to judgment of Paterno, because the degree of his involvement was not yet clear. He then criticized (or passed judgment on, if that makes you happy) people who did rush to judge Paterno. I dunno, I think judging reactionary commentary is held to a slightly lower standard than judging someone whose involvement in a child rape tragedy was (at the time) not fully known.

        3. You have no real understanding of nuance, do you? It’s really easy, in hindsight, to place blame on bin Laden and Nixon for their *primary* roles in 9/11 and Watergate, respectively (and are we really putting Paterno on the same level of culpability? That’s just silly). But immediately blaming them in the aftermath of those events, before the evidence of their involvement was known, would have in fact been scapegoating them, because they would have been receiving the blame without the proof, and that’s what you’re failing to understand. Posnanski’s point was not that Paterno didn’t have responsibility for the tragedy. His point was that his critics did not, could not, have the evidence necessary to make those determinations about his responsibility at that time and yet were giving him the lion’s share of the blame anyway. That *is* scapegoating, and pointing that out isn’t some kind of judgment the other way.

        4. I don’t know, but you don’t either, and I see no reason to take your supposition as any more definitive than thefalcon’s.

        5. Not sure why you give a completely different time frame with your Buck O’Neill example – three weeks is completely different than six months. And I don’t know if the book is still supposed to release on Father’s Day (I’d imagine it isn’t, though). But if there is any sportswriter who I trust enough to, with time, step back and gain objectivity on a subject with time, it’s Joe Posnanski, because I think his entire body of work stands out as proof that no other sportswriter in America is as sincere, or strives as much to be even-handed, as Joe Posnanski does. If the book was done and he just banged out an addendum to cover Paterno’s role in Sandusky’s crimes, then no, I probably couldn’t trust it. With half a year (or more) to consider the facts, Poz gets the benefit of the doubt from me.

        “this does not imply blasting Paterno/Penn State”

        There’s no other way to say this – you are a liar. You repeatedly said you wanted Posnanski to put himself in the shoes of the parents. We don’t expect parents to be objective when their kids are hurt like this, as danrizzle notes below, because when that happens, they very often lash out at whoever is *perceived* to be responsible for hurting their children. By saying that Posnanski is a hypocrite if he wouldn’t act the same way if those were his own kids is to say that Posnanski is a hypocrite if he doesn’t destroy Paterno. And for the record, Poz basically did give us your second option. Everything you say in the following paragraph is simply wrong.

        Finally, some definitions of ad hominem:

        “an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.” – Wikipedia
        “attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.” –
        “marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made” – Merriam-Webster

        On a blog post regarding his Hall of Fame ballot, you completely ignored everything he wrote and claimed he wasn’t worth taking seriously because of his *alleged* transgressions on a completely different subject. Sounds like an ad hominem to me.

      • cardinals1234 - Dec 27, 2011 at 8:07 PM

        “Actually, 9/11 was not remotely comparable. One was the greatest loss of life in any single event in our history”

        Not even close, moron:

        1900 Galveston Hurricane 12,000
        1906 San Francisco Earthquake 6,000
        1838 Trail of Tears 4,000
        1928 Okeechobee Hurricane 3,000

    • danrizzle - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:54 PM

      For Christ’s sake, if there’s any sportswriter in America who deserves a little benefit of the doubt about these things, it’s the eminently fair Joe Posnanski. But to address your issues one by one, here goes:

      1) Posnanski is not Ed freaking Werder. He writes columns, analyzes, tells stories; he doesn’t report.

      2) His column didn’t insist anything. He said he needed more time.

      3) Maybe you didn’t read that one quite well either.

      4) “to avoid criticism” … You are somehow privy to his motives?

      5) Why should he abandon his book project? Do you know what the content of his book is going to be? And about the “what if they were HIS kids comment”, the reason that Sandusky will stand trial (or plead guilty) rather than be summarily drawn and quartered without further ado is because we do not want people acting as though every crime victim is their own child. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. For a journalist/author to write a book about something that involves a hefty dose of horrible is a tough task, but hardly an immoral one.

    • nixonotis - Dec 27, 2011 at 10:49 PM

      I, for one, as a long time poster both here and on Posnanski’s blog, tend to agree with you. The fact that he, on one hand, asked his readers not to rush to judgement then proceeded to do exactly that in the Penn State classroom was a huge error in my opinion. I love the guy and his writing, but he was clearly conflicted here (and with good reason). I just hope he can put this behind him and continue to do what we loved him for.

  5. kcfanatic - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Willie Wilson

  6. sdelmonte - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    I wish I knew what to think about Edgar Martinez. The part of me that roots for an NL team (and even whimsically voted at SweetSpot for Chris Capuano as having the single most complete game of 2011) hates the DH. And has trouble thinking that a man with a great bat and little else is worthy of being in the Hall. The rest of me sees men like Edgar and Big Papi and knows what they can do. And that the game has changed. But for some reason, it’s a lot harder for me to say “DHs belong in the Hall” than it is for me to say “one-inning relievers belong in the Hall.” My head knows that if Mariano belongs there, so do Edgar and Ortiz. My heart isn’t so easily swayed.

    • danrizzle - Dec 27, 2011 at 5:34 PM

      DHs can belong in the Hall, and very few of them are good enough to make it. In my opinion, though, Edgar Martinez makes it, and easily. Growing up watching baseball in the 90s, he struck me as the ultimate hitting specimen, and the numbers back that up. For a DH to make the HOF, that’s what he has to be.

  7. dwrek5 - Dec 27, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    If Raines gets inducted, do you think he will hold a base above his head and say “Today, I am probably the best base stealer in the history of major league baseball, thank you”?

  8. test2402 - Dec 27, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    Tim Tebow steals bases.

    • Kevin S. - Dec 27, 2011 at 6:01 PM

      Obvious troll is obvious.

  9. dexterismyhero - Dec 28, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    Rickey likes what Rickey does best!!!!

  10. sleepyirv - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Posnanski simply lacks the temperament to follow through on the Paterno story. While “wait and see” makes a lot sense for me sitting in Nowhere, Il. It does not make sense for a man with any shred of journalistic training sitting in the thick of it with connections. Such a person should be running down this story to death. Posnanski should have been the main guy at Penn instead of being PART of the story (albeit a very, very, very small part) when he claimed Paterno got scapegoated.

    Whatever Paterno’s role in this whole conspiracy, he certainly should have been fired. Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion and all that. And like Reagan with Iran-Contra, if incompetence or design by that he didn’t know, he should have and deserves to be fired.

    I completely understand why Posnanski did what he did. I don’t think he’s a bad person or anything close to it. But I do think he’s a bad writer.

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