Heyman and Olney fight about the Red Sox and it’s a good, good thing

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As we noted yesterday, Jon Heyman took the curious tack of accusing the Red Sox of being cheap or small market or something and suspecting that the team owners are spending money on their soccer interests or whatever.  It was fairly silly, and no shortage of bloggers have weighed in on just how silly it is.

But it’s not just the bloggers. Buster Olney took to Twitter this morning to tear that line of reasoning to shreds:

He later said in reply to another person that “The Red Sox have made mistakes in the past, but they can’t be accused of being cheap.”  Which is 100% correct.

I find this all rather interesting, simply because it’s so rare that you see two of the big name baseball columnists in direct disagreement like this.  But it’s not just interesting for gossipy purposes.

One of the things you see in the political blogosphere and mainstream media is a willingness for pundits and commentators to engage each other directly. It doesn’t need to be nasty, though sometimes it is.  What it does more broadly speaking, however, is it allows for ideas and arguments to be tested, honed and refined. It helps put lie to baloney rather quickly and, ultimately, the readers are all better served.

We don’t see that too often in sports writing, at least in a way that includes the big names like Olney and Heyman.  Rather, there’s this sort of fierce deference most of the time, with a commentator voicing what may be baloney and no one else of stature questioning it that much.  It’s almost seen as rude to do so. And if you do it, you’re considered something of a bomb-thrower.

I wish we had more of it in baseball writing.  A culture in which fierce debate can be had about these kinds of things without someone considering it a faux pas and without people blocking one another on Twitter* and what have you.  A culture of discourse in which it is business, not personal, and in which strong debate and opinion can be aired without everyone getting all upset about it.

Maybe that never happens because people tend not to view sports as being as important as politics. But I wish we could see more dust kicked up than we do. Ultimately knowledge and insight is advanced and disseminated in a much better fashion that way and the baloney is less able to flourish like it does.

 

NoteEvan Grant of the Dallas Morning News said today that Heyman blocked him Why would he do that?  Why would anyone secure in their arguments and place in the world do that to a colleague?

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.