Stay classy, Jeff Pearlman

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Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Pearlman — writing on his personal blog — reflects on the retirement of Randy Johnson and, as is typical for him, he totally takes the high road:

I have nothing but negative thoughts for Randy Johnson, a brilliant
pitcher but a pathetic human being. I covered baseball for a good chunk
of time. I had direct access to such unpleasant men as Will Clark, John
Rocker, Barry Bonds, Arthur Rhodes. But nobody–and I mean absolutely
nobody–possessed the pure dismissive cruelty of Randy Johnson.

I’ve heard it a million times–no one cares how athletes treat the
media. Well, I care. And Johnson was a punk. He bullied reporters, he
snarled at reporters, he occasionally threatened reporters. He is one
of the far-too-many professional athletes who believes the ability to
throw a round piece of animal skin 100 mph grants you the right to
treat other human beings as dog excrement. Just ask anyone who covered
Johnson during his days in Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona, New
York and, lastly, San Francisco. He was a first-class pitcher and a
first-class creep.

It’s probably worth noting that Pearlman is famous for taking the bad things said about him on blogs quite personally.  Just last week Pearlman wrote a post — starting with a quote from a comment on this very blog — in which he talked about what it feels like when someone criticizes him:

So, does hate mail hurt? In a word: Yes. Not that I cry over it. I don’t. But it never feels good hearing you’re a dolt, a moron, an anus . . . Fire away. Call me every nasty word in the book. But whether you’re yelling at writers or athletes or garbage men or actors, it never feels good.

Jeff, like Paul McCartney once sang: the love you take is equal to the love you make.  You’ve flung around personal crap like the above-quote about Randy Johnson for years. Is it any surprise when people do the same to you?  And even if it isn’t, is anyone’s life enhanced by the exercise?

There’s nothing wrong with being critical. Heck, in my view, sports writers should be more critical than they currently are, not less.  But there’s a difference between being critical and getting personal, and getting personal to the extent Pearlman does, especially at a time — an athlete’s retirement — when perhaps a bit of restraint along those lines might be in order is a totally bush league move.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.