Saturday, October 11, 2008

Despicable?

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.

9 comments:

Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

I'm not a big fan of professional sports. I like sports and I attend a lot of minor league and high school games. I choose to not attend professional games for many reasons, and Manny illustrates most of those reasons.

The Boston Red Sox are the most expensive tickets in Major League Baseball in spite of a record number of sell out games. If I want to take my grandsons to Fenway Park and get the same seats I shared with my grand-father, I would have to spend about $1000.00 per game - me and 2 children; excluding souvenirs.

Even at that price, I would consider going; however, with players like Manny, what's the point? Sure, he hits the ball well. But, so what?

Is it moral for Manny to take himself out of a game because he's pouting when fans are spending $1000.00 or more that goes to pay his $100,000,000.00 contract? Is Manny being moral in accepting his paycheck and not giving a value for value effort? Were Manny trying and struggling, most people would be supportive; but, he was not trying. He was flipping the bird at everyone who went to support that team and contribute to his paycheck.

He takes himself out of games (and has done so for several years - not just this year). He refuses to run out ground balls, and that laziness has cost games. He is horrible in the outfield, and he makes no attempt to become better. He spends most of his spare time whining about having to live up to the terms of his CONTRACT, but says that he loves the game.

How would you feel if you paid $2000.00/ticket to see your favorite rock band and they didn't live up to the expectations. The lead singer pulled a Jim Morrison, showed up drunk and forgot the lyrics. The band played as if they hadn't rehearsed in months and the set, scheduled to run 90 minutes ended after 45 because the singer left?

That's Manny being Manny. He'll disappear behing the scoreboard between innings (allegedly to "relieve himself"), come back out when he's ready and then proceed to make error after error. He then compounds the errors by acting as though he doesn't care that people who pay a dear sum of money to see him play his position want to hold him accountable.

He is without a doubt despicable. He's under CONTRACT to "perform" both his job and to serve as a sports entertainer to draw fans to the park. I think anyone who signs a contract and then refuses to live up to the terms of that contract is morally bankrupt AND despicable. I've served with men who've lost limbs under contract and who worked themselves back to active duty to continue doing what they love best - defending this nation, while a piece of crap like Rameriez whines about being tired and picked on. Good luck with him. Without pitchers like Matsusaka, Beckett, Shilling, Papelbon, and Lester, L.A. will never win the World Series depending on that dishonorable clown.

v/r

"Doc" MacD

Keith said...

Manny also shoved the team's traveling secretary, a a 64-year-old man to the ground, because the man couldn't accommodate Manny's request for 16 tickets to a game.

Chuck said...

Just speaking on the subject of interest to me, namely, announcers, I think the best baseball announcer ever was my team's announcer -- Ernie Harwell, of the Tigers. He was so loved in Michigan that during the unfortunate interval when Bo Schembechler was the President or GM of the Tigers (I forget which), Schembechler fired Harwell to bring some youth into the organization. The fans revolted, Harwell was brought back, and Schembechler was fired. That's how much we loved Ernie.

Grant said...

Manny also lied about a knee injury to get out of putting on a Sox uniform. It was about a week before he was traded. They took him to the doctor and tests showed nothing wrong with the knee.

Joseph Kellard said...

Don’t forget that Manny also started a fist fight, in the dugout during a game, with his Red Sox teammate Kevin Youkilis. Also, during last season, Manny essentially said that it was no big deal if the Sox didn't win the World Series.

Of course, Manny gets away with all his antics (e.g., stopping at the plate to admire his home runs), fights, laziness, etc., because he has an awesome bat — esp. against big teams (the Yankees) and in the clutch during crucial regular season, playoff and World Series games. Even the best hitter in baseball, Alex Rodriguez, can’t say that. Manny may even go down as the best hitter of this era. If not for his extraordinary productivity, he would have been booted out of Boston long ago. He's a big reason why Boston has two championships after many, many decades of heartache, and why the Dodgers are in the playoffs at all this season (sorry, Joe Torre, you're good but Manny's your Savior this time).

Grant said...

I've often toyed with this idea in regards to Alex Rodriguez' lack of clutch performance, but I just realized that perhaps, manifested in a different way, it applies to Ramirez aswell.

In our culture, who would want to be the best? Certainly not a baseball player who, without an explicit philosophy, would have no defense mechanism against the psychological harm that the wave of "hatred of the good for being the good", which would be unleashed against him, would cause.

I don't mean to fish for excuses and I hate to discount the important of personal responsibility, but perhaps the shortcomings of these two men could be attributed to a vague, unarticulated fear of this phenomenon.

Just a thought.

madmax said...

"In our culture, who would want to be the best? Certainly not a baseball player who, without an explicit philosophy, would have no defense mechanism against the psychological harm that the wave of "hatred of the good for being the good", which would be unleashed against him, would cause."

That's interesting. But Michael Jordan was the best and he didn't seem to suffer from it. Tiger Woods doesn't seem to suffer from it either although every now and then some Leftist sports writers will attack him for being too good. Sports seems to be the one area where you are granted immunity from the sin of achievement. A possible counter argument could be Barry Bonds but the steroids issue complicates things. If steroids weren't involved, I don't think he would have been hated for being the best home run hitter ever.

Joseph Kellard said...

I think the reason A-Rod can't hit in the clutch while Manny can is attributed to their basic approaches toward those around them, particularly the fans and the media. A-Rod seems very concerned about what others think of him, and when a clutch situation arises, he can't handle the pressure, whether he has to face booing fans or hard-questioning reporters. As a contrast to this, just observe how over-joyous A-Rod gets when he actually does come through in the clutch (A walk-off home run he hit early last season comes to mind, when he through his helmet up in the air before touching home plate). Ultimately, A-Rod seems to suffer from second-handedness that hinders his ability to come through when it counts most. (His second-handedness is also apparent in the apparent celebrity-status, gossipy issues he seems to create, namely, his off-the-field relationships that land him on the front pages of the New York Post).

Manny, on the other hand, is much more happy-go-lucky, if that's the best way to describe his approach. I think it’s half correct. While this appears to be Manny’s basic attitude, he also seems to suffer from a detrimental “who cares” attitude.

Let me see if I can sum this up better:

Manny is an outstanding clutch hitter because he’s the opposite of A-Rod, in that he really cares less about what the fans and media think – but he takes this attitude too far, to an irrational level, to the point where he really doesn’t seem to care if his team wins or loses, and this shows when he doesn’t run out ground balls or doesn’t improve his fielding.

Myrhaf said...

It sounds like Manny is a cynical egoist rather than a rational egoist.