Glanville: "too many players made a different choice than McGwire did"

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Doug Glanville.jpgI taunted Doug Glanville pretty badly an hour ago and I feel kinda bad about it, so to make up I’d like to link his excellent NYT column yesterday in which he absolutely nails the McGwire thing:

In McGwire’s admission, he explained how he was doing his
job, and his torment and regret seemed genuine even as he spat out the
usual clichéd excuses many players have used: injuries and recovery,
desperation and peer pressure, ignorance and breadwinning, culture and
society.

In fact, I understand all those reasons. I really do, because I was
there too, just like everyone else in the major leagues then who was
trying to stay there. I also felt all those pressures, one way or
another. I tore a hamstring tendon in a contract year that put me on
the shelf for two months. (A tendon that was at the root of my game —
speed.) My father was chronically ill in the years just after McGwire
broke the single-season home run record, a period during which I was
stressed and saw my own statistics decline.

So I get it. But the problem is, too many players made a different
choice than McGwire did in the face of similar situations. I can’t
claim to know exactly what he was going through during the time he
decided to take steroids, but I am confident that there were other
players who dealt with the same challenges and played clean. There
really isn’t any excuse.

To the extent I’ve defended McGwire it’s not been a defense of his taking steroids. It’s been a defense against the over-the-top moralisim and hypocrisy with which which his statement was met and the desire to extract something more out of the man than a confession and an apology for his acts. McGwire is but a man who is still very much deluded about what he did and why. It’s not really my concern. That’s between him and his conscience. The writers and the historians and the public will figure out what it meant for baseball, the records and the Hall of Fame.

But that doesn’t change the fact that what he did was wrong. No, it wasn’t capital murder of the game of baseball, but it was wrong. And unlike everyone else who has weighed in, Doug Glanville was there. He was a Major League baseball player in the late 90s, subject to the same temptations to which Mark McGwire fell victim. Indeed, the temptations for a player like Glanville may very well have been greater than they were for a man like McGwire, who had already made millions and possessed a World Series ring.

Glanville made the right choice by the rules, by the law and by his own conscience, and he may very well have had a shorter and less lucrative baseball career than he could have had as a result. So if anyone could be excused for lashing out at McGwire and the other steroids users it’s a guy like Glanville.  But he’s not lashing out. He’s offering perhaps the most sensible take of this I’ve seen from anyone.  We should laud him for the decisions he made back in the 90s. We should laud him for his latest column.

And we should also ask ourselves why, if Glanville isn’t flying off the handle here, so many other people are. 

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.