Aug 6, 2013, 7:27 AM EST
Every time something like the A-Rod mess goes down there is a parade of outrage. From fans, from columnists, from talk radio hosts. You know what I’m talking about. Here’s a great, nearly-incoherent example from Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com. You’re going to have to bring your A-game if you want to out-outrage Miller. He calls A-Rod sub-human. For starters. Unless he’s merely putting on faux outrage for the page views, Miller is truly upset here and that anger is coming from someplace deep down inside. For what it’s worth, he has never struck me as someone who fakes things for page views.
I used to sit back for hours and mock this kind of sentiment but I’m not all that inclined to do that as much as I used to. Instead I’m more interested in trying to understand it. Because really, I have a tremendously difficult time understanding where such ire and vitriol at some nearly total stranger of an athlete comes from.
Here’s where I am right now: It’s not a matter of new school vs. old school. It’s not a matter of smart vs. not-so-smart. It’s simply a matter of there being two kinds of sports fans: those who hold players to a higher moral standard than people in general, and those who don’t. That’s it.
If you think of ballplayers as heroes or examples or believe that they are somehow obligated to be better than every other schlub on the planet — or if you were taught to think that as a child and still hold on to some of that whether you realize it or not — you’re outraged. If, on the other hand, you didn’t — if you saw them from even the youngest age as just people who are good at something weird and interesting and immensely entertaining — you can’t be outraged. Outrage makes no sense.
I certainly fall in that latter camp. I liked sports just as much as the next kid growing up and certainly love baseball now, but never in my life did I think of athletes as heroes or role models. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t handed baseball by my father or some other person I did look up to. It was introduced to me in a couple of places and I grabbed hold, but sports were not and are not any part of the lingua franca of my relationship with my parents or elders. At least not in such a way where anyone whose opinion I valued ever said to me, in effect, “look at that star athlete, my what a fine example he is.” In turn, to the extent my kids have gotten into sports I’ve never said such things to them, either literally or implicitly via the way I talk about or interact with athletes.
I realize I may be in the minority in this respect. Very recently I had a fairly spirited dispute with another baseball writer about these issues and — after we threw barbs at each other for a bit — we dug into the matter more. It seems he comes at things from a slightly different place. He has children who are really getting into baseball now. They have thrown themselves into it with abandon, to the point where they do get legitimately upset when things go bad for players they like and uplifted when things go well. It’s probably a fantastic ride for them and I would guess that my counterpart’s bonding over sports with his children is on a totally different level than mine is. But, at the same time, it does require some veneration of the athlete to make it work, doesn’t it? And, in turn, if the athlete does not live up to the ideal, it almost necessitates some negative emotional response. The sort of which we see in these outraged sentiments from fans, the media, whoever. I’ve seen if from my counterpart recently, and it almost certainly has to come from some sense that these ballplayers are disappointing him or his children or both.
For my part, I can’t muster any of that. I don’t think A-Rod is subhuman simply because he lied and cheated. Indeed, that makes me think of him as quite human indeed, as human beings tend to act like that an awful lot. He’s only subhuman if you thought of him as something greater before. Likewise, I can’t muster what is, in effect, “think of the children” rhetoric because neither me as a child nor my children now see these athletes as anyone special that need give us special consideration. We love what they do when they are performing, but we don’t think of them as anyone who owes us special moral or ethical duties. That’s what parents and teachers and honest-to-goodness role models are for. Athletes are no different than actors or astronauts in this regard. People who do amazing things but whom we shouldn’t expect to be better people merely because of their station.
Does that mean that I don’t have opinions when an athlete falls short of some ideal? Of course not. It’s simply a matter of proportion. I can say, quite comfortably, when one of them does something bad that they have behaved poorly. Lied. Cheated. Broken the law. What have you. But I’m no more likely to get sent into an emotional tizzy over it than I am if I learned that some actor got busted for drugs or some singer slept around. I don’t approve, but I also let it go pretty quickly. I have my own moral and ethical life to worry about and that’s hard enough. Please just act/sing/play for my enjoyment, entertainer. I may critique your performance if you do it poorly, but the act is all I require of you personally. It’s different if one’s directly affected by the poor behavior in question — other players and teammates have a right to be truly angry if their personal trust or their livelihood was jeopardized by the A-Rods of the world — but I’ve not been harmed by them unless I let them harm me by giving them too much trust to begin with.
You may say that this is a sad viewpoint. That I’m a cynic. Some sort of disappointed, disaffected or jilted former idealist. I assure you I’m not. The thought of treating athletes as special people worthy and deserving of my trust and thus capable of breaking it has simply never been part of my life and never will be. Others, like Scott Miller and my correspondent of a couple of days ago come at it differently. Good for them, good for me.
With this framework in mind you can probably divide up all of the people who offer opinions on this stuff into those two camps pretty easily, actually. I can’t think of any other differences in understanding that better account for it.
Dec 8, 2013, 10:50 PM EST
Though Chase Headley‘s name has been found in trade rumors every now and then, you can expect him to stay in San Diego for the time being, writes Bill Shaikin for the L.A. Times. Headley is eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time and is expected to get a bump over last year’s…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:55 PM EST
Speaking to the media earlier today, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he expects to start the 2014 season with Ruben Tejada at shortstop, tweets Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger. The Mets were reportedly interested in Jhonny Peralta before he signed with the Cardinals. With Stephen Drew leading the class of remaining free agent shortstops, the…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:00 PM EST
You’re never too old to start learning how to play first base. Delmon Young, shockingly only 28 years old, has never played a single inning at first base in his entire professional baseball career, but he has been working out at the position lately in order to make himself more attractive as a free agent,…
Dec 8, 2013, 8:10 PM EST
CC Sabathia was among the many observers shocked to learn that second baseman Robinson Cano will be donning a Mariners uniform, rather than Yankee pinstripes, when the 2014 regular season begins. Sabathia had been Cano’s teammate for five years, ever since he signed a seven-year, $161 million contract to join the Yankees on December 11,…
Dec 8, 2013, 7:35 PM EST
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times caused a bit of a stir after publishing a scathing takedown of the culture within the Mariners’ front office, quoting various former employees. Among them were ex-manager Eric Wedge and former special assistant to the GM Tony Blengino. In the report, Baker writes that Blengino prepared a job application…
Dec 8, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
If you thought the Mariners were going to call it an off-season after signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million contract, think again. They’re only just getting started. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Mariners could use some of their young talent, such as middle infielder Nick Franklin, to bolster…
Dec 8, 2013, 6:05 PM EST
The list of players who are able to justify a roster spot at the age of 40 is relatively short. The list of 40-year-olds to bash 29 home runs is remarkably shorter. Maybe that’s why free agent Raul Ibanez, now 41, is still drawing interest. He finished 2013 with 29 dingers and an adjusted OPS…
Dec 8, 2013, 5:11 PM EST
Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena had a showcase this weekend in the Dominican and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo spoke to a scout who was there: “He’s what you’ve been reading. He’s a very good defensive player. His glove is very close to the big leagues. The bat, you kind of think he’s one of those guys who’ll…
Dec 8, 2013, 3:58 PM EST
Brett Gardner trade rumors are all the rage at the moment, but he’s not the only Yankees outfielder on the block. This comes from beat writer Chad Jennings of New York’s Journal News: According to one rival executive, the Yankees have also mentioned Ichiro Suzuki’s name in trade talks. There’s no indication that any sort…
Dec 8, 2013, 2:44 PM EST
John Axford was non-tendered by the Cardinals earlier this month, but the 30-year-old right-hander won’t have trouble finding a new place to pitch. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs, Orioles and Mariners have all expressed interest in Axford since the Cardinals let him go. And those teams may even offer him the opportunity…
Dec 8, 2013, 1:31 PM EST
Rakuten Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana spoke to the Japanese media this weekend about MLB and NPB’s new posting system, which puts a $20 million cap on posting fees. The Golden Eagles own the rights to the hottest international free agent on the market this winter, Masahiro Tanaka, and were hoping to cash in like…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:25 PM EST
Another thing to monitor at the Winter Meetings … According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Royals are expressing interest in free agent second baseman Omar Infante and will try to beat out the Yankees for his services. The two clubs engaged in a biding war for outfielder Carlos Beltran — which the Yanks…
Dec 8, 2013, 11:39 AM EST
From Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors.com: More than 15 teams have called to express interest in free agent reliever Andrew Bailey, MLBTR has learned. The 29-year-old had season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in July, and the Red Sox declined to tender him a contract earlier this month. Barring setbacks, he…
Dec 8, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
Free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett has said publicly and privately that he will either pitch for the Pirates in 2014 or retire from baseball for good. The Bucs want him back and are prepared to commit a significant portion of their budget to the cause, but the 36-year-old has not made an official decision about…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:58 AM EST
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — Greetings from the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, deep in the dark recesses of the happiest place on Earth. I have been down here with my children since last Tuesday, doing battle with a mouse. The mouse is a worthy adversary. Much respect for him and his hyper-efficiency at separating…
Dec 8, 2013, 8:53 AM EST
If you read one thing today, make it this Seattle Times profile of the Mariners’ front office. Geoff Baker, the author of the piece, talked to former M’s manager Eric Wedge, former special assistant Tony Blengino and scouts who are still affiliated with the team. What he found wasn’t pretty. A taste: One of those…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:00 PM EST
First baseman James Loney had a career rebirth of sorts in 2013 with the Rays and the team would like to bring him back, but not at his current asking price, reports Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Loney is currently seeking a three-year, $27 million deal. If the Rays have to search for…
Dec 7, 2013, 10:10 PM EST
Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball recently agreed to a new posting system, altering the way Major League teams pursue Japanese talent. One of the changes capped posting fees at $20 million, meaning that if multiple teams are willing to pay the fee, the player can negotiate with them all, with only the winner…
Dec 7, 2013, 9:15 PM EST
After Carlos Beltran signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Yankees, we learned he had actually been offered more money by the Diamondbacks but declined in order to return to New York. Still looking to fill their corner outfield void, they are showing interest in Angels slugger Mark Trumbo, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA…
Dec 7, 2013, 8:10 PM EST
Per Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says he has made multiple offers to Juan Uribe, but have yet to hear back. The 34-year-old free agent has spent a majority of his playing time at third base since joining the Dodgers in 2011. Uribe had a career year in 2013, finishing…
- Tony Blengino says recent report on Seattle front office is “just the tip of the iceberg” 22
- Rakuten Golden Eagles appear likely to allow Masahiro Tanaka’s departure to MLB 44
- 2013 Winter Meetings Preview 21
- Matt Kemp remains “in play” for the Red Sox 56
- Robinson Cano “didn’t want to play” for Joe Girardi 106
- Robinson Cano agrees to $240 million deal with Mariners (260)
- Yankees agree to seven-year, $153M contract with free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (160)
- Report: Mariners willing to offer Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240 million deal (143)
- Report: Yankees have agreed to a three-year deal with Carlos Beltran (125)
- Brett Gardner is drawing “significant” trade interest (111)