Sports broadcaster Tim McCarver called Manny Ramirez "despicable" for some of the things he did in Boston.
I have a lot of respect for McCarver. Having grown up in Southern California, I was spoiled by the dulcet tones of Vin Scully, the smoothest baseball announcer ever. When I moved to New York in the '80s I was surprised to hear Phil Rizzuto (Yankees TV color commentator), Bob Murphy (Mets radio play by play) and Ralph Kiner (Mets TV play by play). All three were strange. Rizzuto was the ultimate homer who would start rambling about cannolis in the middle of a comment, then ask his partner what he should have been talking about and end by screaming "home run!" when a Yankee hit a pop-up to shallow left; Murphy had the weirdest sing-song cadence you'll ever hear; and Kiner would make my night trying to say "sponsored by Mitsubishi." Sponsored by Mitsubishi, Ralph, sponsored by Mitsubishi. Come on, you can say it tonight! After listening to Scully all my life, I felt I had moved to some cowtown in Nebraska, not New York City.
McCarver (Mets TV color commentator), however, was always interesting. He had insights into the game of baseball that others missed. Sitting behind the plate for 21 years as a catcher, he had studied the game from an excellent vantage point. Moreover, his passion for the game made viewers love the game more. That is a rare talent for a broadcaster.
Now, I don't know a thing about what Ramirez did in Boston. I'm glad he's on the Dodgers, because without him the boys in blue would not have made the playoffs. (As I write they are down 0-2 to the Phillies, so they might not be in the playoffs for long.) I gather he was unhappy at Boston and stopped playing hard. This forced Boston to trade him.
Despicable doesn't seem like the right word to use in this case. The word carries with it a moral judgment. You could call a liar, a vicious criminal or a child molester despicable.
It sounds to me like Ramirez lost his motivation in Boston. When that happens, it is easy not to work hard. You might call it unfortunate, regrettable or wrong, but despicable?
(Also, Andrew Sullivan has used the word lately to describe John McCain. In his case it just makes me think of Sylvester the Cat. DithPICKable!)
Tim McCarver cares about the integrity of the game of baseball. As I noted above, his love of the game makes watching it more fascinating. He gets angry when he sees modern players phone it in, and I can see his point. When a man puts on the uniform, he should play hard. When a player becomes unhappy with an organization or thinks he has not been treated fairly, the reality is that he might deliver less than 100% effort. The word despicable in this context sounds hysterical.
I'm not disputing McCarver's judgment. I just wonder if despicable is le mot juste.
UPDATE: Slight revision.