Feb 10, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
Every year, when pitchers and catchers report, Buster Olney leads off a column with a re-telling of his story about the time he thought Deion Sanders wanted to beat him up. It’s over at ESPN today, but it’s an Insider thing. For those of you who aren’t insiders, here’s the gist:
- Olney was a rookie reporter covering minor league baseball in Nashville. Deion Sanders was the bonus baby/superstar for the Columbus Clippers;
- Olney did a feature on Sanders who, at the time, was the flashiest, money-loving, me-first player around. Olney says it was “harsh — probably too harsh.” But he never says he got anything wrong in it either. What’s more, he gave Sanders a chance to comment before the story ran. Sanders blew Olney off in the clubhouse without a word;
- The next day Olney gets a message that Sanders wants to talk to him and “he’s pissed.” Olney tells the messenger that if Sanders wants to see him, he knows where to find him. Sanders never comes. Later that day he gets an autographed baseball from Sanders with the message “Keep writing like that your whole life and you’ll always be a loser.”
As a story, it’s a good one. Though I’ve never been a Deion Sanders fan, I’ve always found him to be an interesting subject of study and I like hearing about young reporters learning the ropes.
But Olney always tells it as something more than a story. More like a life lesson. The tone and several comments in it seem to say “oh man, I was young and foolish and boy have I grown up and learned my lesson since then.” He ends it by saying “Words to live by.”
I read this story every year and every year I’m at a loss to understand what the real lesson of this story is. I’ve never seen Olney’s column about Sanders — it’s from a defunct paper in the 80s — but I’m struggling to get what lessons young Olney was supposed to be learning.
OK, it was harsh. Nowhere, however, does Olney suggest he got his facts wrong. Or even that it was unfair (harsh is not the same thing as unfair, no matter what some people would have you believe). Sanders, the older among you will remember, was quite a character back in those days. If anyone was owed some criticism it was a young Deion Sanders. And Olney gave Sanders the opportunity to give his side before the story ran. To rebut the quotes from Olney’s other sources painting Sanders in a bad light. So it doesn’t seem like there’s a lesson about the actual process of reporting. Maybe someone who is a trained reporter can tell me if I’m missing it, but it seems like he dotted what needed to be dotted and crossed what needed to be crossed.
So, tone: Maybe it’s not a story Olney would write in the same way today, but Olney is quite capable of being critical when he wants to be. And I’ve never seen any suggestion from him that he thinks a story about a player’s persona or deportment is off limits. Certainly a lot of things get written about players’ attitudes by established journalists now, so it’s not like Olney learned some important lesson about that either. At least not one with universal application as his overall tone suggests.
There is an element to Olney having to steel himself when he heard that Sanders was angry. He wondered if Sanders was going to beat him up and what he’d do about it if he tried. He made the decision not to run to Sanders’ locker with his tail between his legs when Sanders summoned him, and that bravery played well with the people who witnessed it. Is the lesson to not be afraid to stand up to the rich and famous people he covers? Possibly. But then why all the apparent self-flagellation earlier? Worth noting that Olney, who hails from a family of Vermont-farmers, has almost zero apparent ego as a writer and never pounds his chest, so it’s hard to feature this as a “I learned to be a big man” kind of thing that you might expect from a lot of the smaller men who cover baseball for a living.
I dunno. I really don’t know what the lesson here was supposed to be. To me it sounds like Olney, in 1989, wrote a tough but ultimately fair story and offended someone who probably needed some offending back then. Maybe I’m just missing something, but I miss it every year.
Mar 6, 2014, 11:28 PM EST
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has hired Adam Katz and Andy Mota of Wasserman Media Group as his new agents. He was previously represented by Jaime Torres. Puig signed a six-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers in June of 2012 and remains under contract through 2018, so there’s no…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:31 PM EST
Sad news to pass along this evening, as Tommy John surgery pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe has passed away at the age of 88. Jobe worked for the Dodgers for 50 years and is best known for performing the first-ever unlar collateral ligament reconstructive elbow surgery on left-handed pitcher Tommy John on September 25, 1974. While…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:20 PM EST
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Mar 6, 2014, 9:30 PM EST
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Mar 6, 2014, 8:20 PM EST
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? You decide. Baseball fans were provided with a heaping slice of awesomeness in this afternoon’s Cactus League matchup between the Dodgers and Angels, as Mike Trout‘s attempt at an inside-the-park home run was dashed thanks in part to a throw from Yasiel Puig. In the bottom…
Mar 6, 2014, 7:11 PM EST
Earlier this week, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson named left-hander Patrick Corbin and right-hander Trevor Cahill as his starters for the upcoming two-game season opening series in Australia from March 22-23. The Dodgers have yet to make an official announcement on their starters for the series, but Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes that things are starting…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:09 PM EST
Perhaps Ervin Santana‘s frustration is beginning to boil over as he remains unsigned with the start of the regular season just weeks away. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal has an interesting new wrinkle on his situation: Sources: Free-agent RHP Ervin Santana considering a change of agents. Currently represented by Bean Stringfellow of Proformance.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal)…
Mar 6, 2014, 5:02 PM EST
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Dodgers. The Big Question: Can the deep-pocketed Dodgers be stopped? After a midseason turnaround led to 92…
Mar 6, 2014, 3:48 PM EST
According to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel, the Marlins will be contacting the league office after the Red Sox declined to bring any of their established regulars to Palm Beach for Thursday’s spring training game. While teams are supposed to bring at least four “regulars” to road spring games, the rule has always…
Mar 6, 2014, 3:22 PM EST
Non-roster left-hander Rich Hill had been away from the Red Sox since the start of camp due to a family health issue. On Thursday, he arrived in camp and elaborated on his absence, passing along the sad news that his newborn son has died. “We had a son on December 26 and he was born…
Mar 6, 2014, 2:56 PM EST
Courtesy of Hunter Pence‘s instagram account comes this little gem, in which the 5’11″ Tim Lincecum and the 6’8″ Kameron Loe swapped jerseys.
Mar 6, 2014, 2:32 PM EST
Bob Nightengale spoke with Albert Pujols and Pujols mentioned a question someone asked him early in spring training. The question: “are you motivated to put up the same numbers as Mike Trout?” Pujols, remembering it and obviously still mad, went off: “Can you imagine someone saying that to me?” Pujols tells USA TODAY Sports in…
Mar 6, 2014, 2:16 PM EST
With J.A. Happ struggling and reportedly dealing with back issues, the number of openings in the Toronto rotation has increased from one to two. According to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, Drew Hutchinson is now looking like a good bet for one of those spots, with Happ, 2012 first-round pick Marcus Stroman, Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:51 PM EST
Jon Niese saw his first game action since undergoing an MRI exam on his sore shoulder last week, throwing two innings in a Mets intrasquad game today. And he seemed very happy with how things went, telling Adam Rubin of ESPN New York: I felt great. It’s a great feeling to go out there and…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:51 AM EST
BRADENTON — It’s raining harder now, and someone just told me that they’ve issued a tornado watch for the area. Yet they still haven’t banged the game. Crazy, but it’s their ballpark. They can do what they want. The Pirates did, however, open their clubhouse to the media at 11am, maybe because everyone knows that…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:19 AM EST
Once the Orioles surrendered their first- and second-round draft picks to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz there was speculation that they might decide to punt a third-round pick too in order to sign Ervin Santana. It hasn’t happened yet, but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles “maintain interest” in Santana…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:47 AM EST
Matt Carpenter had a breakout season in 2013, handling a position switch to second base just fine and hitting .318 while leading the league in hits (199), doubles (55), and runs scored (126). Now this season he’s moving again, this time to third base, and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:34 AM EST
BRADENTON — It stinks that there’s probably not going to be baseball here today, because this park is pretty sweet: I love McKechnie Field. It’s old, and despite recent renovations, it still has that old-timey feel. And of course the renovations make it more comfortable. And the food here is great. Just a wonderful park.…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
Bronson Arroyo‘s durability was his primary selling point as a 37-year-old free agent, but his stint with the Diamondbacks has started with an injury. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that Arroyo has a bulging disk in his back and is expected to be out for 7-10 days. He was scratched from Tuesday’s scheduled start and…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:38 AM EST
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