Friday, November 23, 2007

Barry Bonds vs. Bill Conlin…

I do not get it--I just don’t.

As most of you know, I am a columnist for probably the most ‘mainstream outlet’ in Canada. Yeah, I am a little biased toward bloggers. I never went past high school and got to where I am by teaching myself and allowing me to be taught by others. Even though I have gotten where I hoped I’d be I don’t consider my education complete--not by a longshot.

One of the things I did along the way was blog and this represents my second foray into the blogosphere.

Obviously, as a Blue Jays and Phillies rooter I read up on the various blogs by like-minded fans. I don’t limit myself to just those either; if I need information or insights I am not shy about reading up on the sites blogging about other teams. I also frequent sites that cover off other aspects of the game whether it is the business, legal, statistical side etc. of major league baseball.

Anyway, I was catching up on a favourite Phillies site (Crashburn Alley) and noticed a post describing the author’s (Bill Baer) interaction with Phillies columnist Bill Conlin.

I am not going to dissect the column because it isn’t about that, but rather Conlin’s treatment of Baer.

What struck me about it was the sheer hypocrisy. How often have we read rip jobs by writers about Barry Bonds as well as other media-unfriendly players? The biggest complaint about such ballplayers is their arrogance and how they treat the media as unworthy of their time or like the end of a canine’s digestive process on their shoes.

The way I see it, writers like Conlin have no claim to sympathy because they treat those they feel are beneath them (read: bloggers) in exactly the same manner. For those of you who didn’t read the link, here is an excerpt:

As many other “cyber-geeks” did, I decided to send Conlin an E-mail.

Hi Mr. Conlin,

Hope all is well. My name is Bill as well, and I run a blog called Crashburn Alley. Needless to say, I’ve read many of the blogs bashing your article, such as Fire Joe Morgan and the discussion at Baseball Think Factory.

So, I’m not going to bash you since it’s already been done. And hey, I already picked on your colleague Marcus Hayes.

I do want to ask you, though, what makes Rollins better than New York Mets third baseman David Wright as a National League MVP candidate?

Wright hits for more power (.546 SLG to Rollins’ .531), gets on base at a higher rate (.416 OBP to Rollins’ .344), fields his position about equally as well as Rollins fields his (shortstop is defensively more demanding, however, but not enough to make a huge difference), and has comparable speed to Rollins (34 SB, seven less than Rollins’ 41).

The Sabermetrics really make the case for Wright, but I know you’re not a fan of those and won’t waste your time with them.

What does Rollins do better, besides being a hairline better than Wright defensively and on the basepaths (whereas Wright is more than a hairline better than Rollins at getting on base and slugging, the two things a hitter is paid to do)?

My personal top-five NL MVP rankings would go Wright, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Rollins, and Matt Holliday.

It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow — to make the case against Rollins — being a die-hard Phillies fan, but I try to be objective. I don’t even think Ryan Howard deserved the NL MVP award last season over Albert Pujols.

Thanks for your time,

Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Conlin deftly dodges my questions and stated facts with a simple response.

Know what, pal? Bash this. . .Tell your bloggers, my career against theirs. . .

If I felt like being smarmy, I could have pointed out to him that this is just an appeal to authority. A statement is not any more right because someone more important is saying it. For instance, is 2+2=4 any more correct if Albert Einstein says it than if George W. Bush says it?

Anyway, I let him know I was disappointed in his failure to address any of my points.

Well, Mr. Conlin, I have to say that I’m disappointed. I know your colleague Marcus Hayes responded with little tact, but I guess it’s a trait of those who work at the Daily News.

I will take it by your evasion of my questions and the facts I’ve stated that you are unable to make any legitimate case for Rollins over Wright for MVP. But, hey, whatever helps you sell papers.

You have given me an easy decision, with your tactless, factless response, not to ever buy a newspaper from the Philadelphia Daily News or to watch their program on Comcast SportsNet, at least until you and Mr. Hayes resign, or in a more likely scenario, are fired.

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

– Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Note in my initial E-mail to Conlin that I identified myself as a Phillies fan, and in both E-mails, I linked him to my blog. So, there should be no confusion that I am a fan of any other team but the Phillies, right?

Wrong. He responded thusly.

Don’t you need to contact the 30 electors–including the two Mets beat writers–who failed to give write a single first place vote instead of a commentator who does not vote for the awards. You’re a Mets fan and you had your little bubble of arrogance and smugness burst. Your team choked big time, an epic gagaroo. At least the 1964 Phillies had an excuse–they were probably no more than the Cardinals, Reds, Braves, Dodgers and Giants that year. One question: When a Mets team chokes in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a gagging sound? Next time bring more to the table than wishful fan numbers that bear no semblance to reality. I wonder how it feels to be the Phillies bitch.

That would hurt so much… if I was a Mets fan. I’m a Phillies fan making an objective case for David Wright.

I often wonder how many sportswriters are practicing Christians. I am not going with this in the direction that you may think. Here is the reason for my question; had they lived in the period of time would they have been disciples of Jesus? I’m sure most writers would say yes, but their attitude indicates that they most likely would not. No, it’s not because of a lack of applying ‘The Golden Rule’ but this:

The Jews then were astonished, saying, "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?"--John 7:15

"You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them."--John 7:47-49

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.--Acts 4:13

Simply put, unless Jesus and his disciples received what was perceived as the ‘proper education’ of that time, what they said had little value in the eyes of many. If they had not had a certain degree of schooling their opinion was worth far less than those who did. Chances are good they would not have become Christians in the first century because degrees or diplomas carried more weight with them than what was being said.

It’s the same thing today; many sportswriters view the opinions of those that they view “uneducated and untrained” as unworthy of their time pointing to their diplomas as proof rather than addressing points that differ from their own. They have more in common with the scribes of that time than the ‘mob’ that followed Jesus.

Another failing is that a degree in journalism is not the same thing as understanding the nuances of the game of baseball. These writers with their ‘degrees’ proclaimed the following as indisputable facts:

  • Free agency would end the game of baseball.
  • That indentured servants making anywhere from $6000-$10,000 a year were pampered, spoiled, ungrateful malcontents that should be willing to play for free for the privilege of playing in the major leagues.
  • Publicly financed stadiums are a huge boon to a local economy.
  • That baseball doesn’t suffer with a problem regarding performance-enhancing drugs.
  • Many teams were on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • The commissioner of baseball is neutral respecting the labour management issues of the game.
  • People of African-American descent couldn’t succeed in the big leagues.
  • The Florida Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s can’t assemble competitive teams without a publicly financed revenue-generating ballpark.
  • Eight credentialed, educated journalists covering baseball thought the career of a player who was (at the time) first all time in home runs, RBI, total bases and extra-base hits, second all-time in hits, third in runs and intentional walks, with two batting titles, three Gold Gloves, league MVP, batted .305 in just under 3,300 games, was a 20-time All Star and hit .362/.405/.710 in the post season (.364/.417/.600 in World Series) didn’t have a Hall of Fame career .

Of course these things must be true--they have diplomas, they’re journalists and they must be believed because of the education they received!

A degree in journalism does not mean they’re educated in law, labour and collective bargaining, economics, statistical analysis, history etc. all of which affect the game of baseball.

Yeah, I’m a little peeved. A diploma or working in a certain trade is not a rebuttal to somebody’s dissenting opinion. It wasn’t almost two millennia ago and it isn’t in the 21st century. I didn’t get the same job as Bill Conlin because I attended university and got a degree. That of itself should speak pretty clearly of how vital it is to have such a thing. Just because I do not have a framed piece of paper does not mean I did not receive an education, it means that I got my education by different means.

A lot of fans and baseball bloggers have their own expertise in the various issues of major league baseball. I have used that knowledge to add to my own personal database. I also fully acknowledge that I have a lot still to learn and the opinion I hold in 2007 may not mean that I will have it in 2017 anymore than having the same point of view I held in 1997. Regardless of whether it is snarky or polite, all substantive feedback is appreciated. I realize my limitations and act accordingly.

Feel free to check out the blogs listed in the sidebar to the left. More will be added as time goes on. They all have one thing in common: I learned something from them that I had not considered before and expect to learn from them again in future.

So next time you read an article about an arrogant ballplayer treating the media with contempt, just remember this--some of those very writers have behaved no better.

Best Regards


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