Scenes from Spring Training: Phun with the Phillie Phanatics Part 2

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I went into the Phillies clubhouse. Charlie Manuel was there. As was Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and all the other guys which make the Phillies perhaps the most recognizable team in baseball. Yes, even more so than the Yankees. Quick: describe Brett Gardner’s facial features. Now tell me if there’s any Phillie starter you couldn’t pick out of a linuep.

I chatted informally with several players as they suited up and got ready for morning drills, but as I did, I was struck by something I read on a political blog earlier in the week about the value of getting quotes from big sources vs. observing, talking off the record and generally trying to get a handle on the scene instead of getting “the news” as we’ve come to understand it:

I do think anonymity has some value in that by preventing journalists
from doing sensationalist stories based around a single direct quote it
forces you to focus on the big picture of what the officials in
question are trying to say . . . it’s much easier to build an item
around a direct quote so it’s more professionally valuable to
be on the record. But it seems to me that the people who do the real
value-adding reporting are mostly talking to lower-level people–nobody
ever gets the real scoop from anyone remotely senior.

I think this applies to baseball just as much as it applies to reporting on government. If I go up to Ryan Howard with my notepad out or my tape recorder going, and get him to say some things on the record, I’m going to be tempted — or, if I have an editor bird dogging me, required — to build a story around those quotes.  Howard says that everyone in camp is focused to maintain the success they’ve had the past few years. The story the next day leads with that quote and builds around it.  It’s not particularly illuminating, at best serving as the basis for a recap of the competitive challenges facing the team this year, at worst just a quote in a notes column.

I guess my point to all of this is that I think there’s very, very limited value in actually talking to ballplayers on the record and printing those quotes. All of the baseball writers I like tend to limit the amount of that kind of stuff they do. They walk around and talk to guys with their notepads in their bag. They get the big picture of what’s going on and build stories on those themes, but they use their own observations and reason as a filter.  The fans care about what what happens on the field, and they have to report that accurately, but the background stories, the flavor and the non-game info that appears in columns are almost always better when a writer is telling you what he observes and writes thoughtfully about it, not when he’s telling you what a ballplayer, manager or GM says.  Just my two cents.

Enough with these philosophical meta-musings. I took pictures and observed things myself, and I’ll have that post up in about an hour.

Ichiro was happy to see Pete Rose get defensive about his hits record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Miami Marlins warms-up during batting practice before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.

There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.

The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.

There will be no criminal charges arising out of Curt Schilling’s video game debacle

Curt Schilling
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In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.

The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.

As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:

An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.

Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.