Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dear Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports

A couple days ago I wrote that Ken Rosenthal had earned some mulligans with his excellent piece handing out the MLB individual awards. I also wrote that this was a good thing because he would use them up soon enough. Well, soon enough apparently means a couple days. Rosenthal wrote a piece congratulating the Brewers' owner for firing Ned Yost with 12 games to go, crediting the move for propelling Milwaukee into the playoffs. Wow.

First, I just want to make a basic observation about Ken's grasp of perspective, logic, and reasoning. He opens by touting Mark Attanasio's (owner of the Brewers) history spent as a senior partner in the money management firm, Trust Company of the West. Rosenthal calls it a "world of risk-taking and bold action." He even says Attanasio only saw the upside to the move. He says these things as if they were good.

Even if you were living in a cave, you would know from the cacophonous name-calling and finger-pointing coming out of Washington that the US economy is grinding to a halt. If you had picked up a paper and could read, you would know it is because of bold risk-taking and refusal to see possible negative outcomes. You would know it is such behavior of men just like Attanasio in his exact profession (his money management firm owns a good deal of mortgage-backed securities). Strange place to start an argument in support of his discretion. Even stranger time.

Oh, and all this congratulation for bringing in a man who was apparently too incompetent to coach third base for Boston. Again I say, wow.

On to the specifics of the article. This is would be an offensive article even if it were true, even if firing the man who had navigated the team through 150 games with 12 to play was the main reason the Brewers made the playoffs. But as numerous Brewer fans point out in the comments to Rosenthal's piece, it is simply and obviously NOT true.

Milwaukee lost 4 of the first 8 after the firing to the Cubs and Reds. Only when the schedule hit Pittsburgh did the Brew Crew start "surging." The surge included a finish against Chicago's AAA squad as the Cubs prepped for the postseason (having clinched the division and home field already). And still Milwaukee needed the Mets to play with both hands wrapped around a collective throat that was already choking on the Big Apple.

From all this smoke and on-field shrapnel, Rosenthal extracts the "bold" action made by the big money owner as the reason for the postseason berth. The truth is, managers come and go, and they perform to the specifications of the owner hence there is little profit in their defense or praise at the expense of players or the Pockets. Owners, on the other hand, usually only relinquish their considerable control at the incessant request of death or infirmity (and sometimes not even then if Al Davis is any yardstick). Get on his or her good side and you can laze around for years while getting fat off table scraps.

This is the height of unprofessionally transparent pandering to the power brokers. Ol' Kenny probably would argue that a cap on Wall Street CEO salaries at $10 mil would remove the incentive to innovate.

But like I said, this article would be offensive even if it were true because of the message it sends. First, it congratulates an owner for firing a manager who had led the team for over 90% of the season - a colossal injustice regardless the stakes or outcome. Second, it justifies and causes similar future firings by creating the perception of a public opinion in favor - in demand even - of such cowardly nonsense. Please show me the honor and integrity in that.

Ol' Kenny and the other coprophagous parasites like him who pass themselves off as journalists create and perpetuate a toxic environment by taking the easy road. These are grown men who are getting paid millions of dollars to play baseball and it is acceptable for their performance to suffer because they don't like their boss? I mean, I'm sure that Ned Yost was hanging guys by their thumbs for making errors and eating newborn babies in the pre-game, which is very horrible. But if firing the manager is the answer to poor player performance, then a very reasonable conclusion is that he caused poor player performance.

And guess what? If I'm an insecure-but-talented young athlete being judged overly critically for playing a game where failure 65% of the time gets you to the Hall of Fame and I can blame my failure on someone or something other than myself first, I'm gonna do it. You know what else? That's the right thing to do. Baseball is so dependent on confidence that doubting yourself is and should be the last thing you do. Instead of pointing out that perhaps this is not a state of affairs we want to perpetuate or condone, Rosenthal actually congratulates the power broker for making it worse, for saying it's never too late for the players to blame someone else for their failure.

But guess who's gonna break the next bit of headline news from the Brewers' camp. So it's all worth it.

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