Howard Bryant: Mark McGwire is "too toxic" to return

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Howard Bryant.jpgToday’s let’s-run-Mark McGwire-out-of-town-on-a-rail tirade comes courtesy of ESPN’s Howard Bryant, who cites the overwhelming outcry from people “around the game” against Mac’s hiring as hitting coach as a reason for him to be fired or shot or tied backwards on a horse while wearing a mardi gras mask and cast out into the desert or whatever.

For the record, here are the outcriers Bryant cites:

  • Whitey Herzog: A man I love, but a man who hasn’t managed in 20 years and hasn’t had a real job in the game for 14 years;
  • Adolphus Busch IV: A man whose father once owned the Cardinals and who, as far as I can tell, no longer has any connection to baseball, if indeed he ever did;
  • Carlton Fisk, Ferguson Jenkins and Ernie Banks: Three Hall of Famers who, while awesome, are all essentially team ambassadors.
  • Jack Clark and Steve Trachsel: guys who aren’t even notable enough to be genuine team ambassadors.
  • I’ll let Bryant explain the last one: “There is a fourth Hall of Fame player, one who shall remain nameless
    because we spoke in confidence, who told me last week that he planned
    on contacting Selig to tell the commissioner he had made a terrible
    mistake with his enthusiastic endorsement of McGwire’s return to the
    game as the Cardinals hitting coach.”

So there you are. Six retired guys, one random son of privilege and an anonymous Hall of Famer who feels so strongly about McGwire that he won’t even let his name be used.  That’s what Bryant calls a toxic insider “backlash.” That’s what Bryant says justifies people calling for McGwire’s head.

Here’s a nice way to test and see if McGwire’s hiring is as big a mistake as guys like Bryant says it is: ignore it. Say nothing about it and see if, say, Cardinals season ticket sales fall off or if protests form at every stadium to which the team travels or if corporate sponsors flee the team due to McGwire’s presence.  I have this feeling nothing will happen, but if it does, well, at least we have something more than Adolphus Busch IV’s rather irrelevant view of things to work from.

I suppose Bryant may respond that this is a moral issue, not one that can be decided by the whims of public and corporate opinion as I propose. But if that’s the case, then why in the hell does trotting out guys like Busch, Herzog, and Fisk help his case?  If McGwire’s presence on the Cardinals is an abomination, say it, Bryant. Come out and demand that he be fired. Don’t hide behind people who are allegedly “around the game.”

Let’s make it a challenge. Ken Rosenthal. Peter Gammons. Bryant. Anyone else who is inclined to bogusly cite McGwire’s lack of candor, the alleged “distraction” he causes, or the pseudo-backlash:  Quit hiding behind your manifestly artificial controversies and rhetorical constructs and just come out and say you want the Cardinals to fire him because you think he doesn’t deserve the job.  Demand it.  Ask for his head because he doesn’t satisfy you.

If you do, I’ll disagree with your call. But at least I’ll respect it as something honest. Because what we’ve seen from you these past three days has been anything but.

Bruce Maxwell is the first MLB player to take a knee during the National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.