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Why it’s worth calling out idiots like Skip Bayless

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In the wake of the Skip Bayless/Derek Jeter nonsense this morning an age-old complaint has arose on Twitter and in the comments among a lot of people I respect.  It basically goes like this: “Why pay any attention to what Skip Bayless says? You’re just giving him attention and that’s what he wants.”

Yes. It is. It’s a valid point, too, and one that is hard to dismiss. But, as I’ve written before, I don’t care. I still think that it’s worth calling out idiocy for idiocy’s sake.

Ignoring Skip Bayless is not going to do a thing. His ratings are his ratings and they’re not going to be impacted by a small minority of people like those of us around here refusing to watch him or tune in. That’s because there are already huge, huge numbers of people who tune into that noise. Who nod their head and say “go, Skip, go!”  The traffic I send his way when I criticize him is negligible. He is going to get his ratings and have his job as long as he doesn’t find himself in some sort of personal scandal or something. Just ask Jay Mariotti about how that works.

So why bother at all? At the risk of sounding super naive, I simply don’t believe that ignorance and idiocy are best combated by silence. People generally take silence as tacit approval. And, because this is sports and not something truly important like life, death, work and the like, people are willing to just float along with that ignorance and idiocy and not think too critically about it unless they really feel a need to do so.

I don’t presume to influence a lot of people — and like I said, I don’t think a handful of smart folks can sink the mighty Skip Bayless — but I do know from my own experience that I am more likely to question certain things — especially things that aren’t at the forefront of my life — if I am given a reason to question it. If I hear someone else point out something I haven’t thought of before. I like to think that if I do that for stupidity like that peddled by Bayless, a few people may question why they consume that garbage.

And that’s all I want. A few people. A few people who maybe didn’t realize how dumb Skip Bayless is to stop and realize how dumb Skip Bayless is. And for them to peel away from that crap and hang out here. Or to go read Joe Sheehan’s newsletter or Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated or Rob Neyer at SB Nation or to watch Brian Kenny on “Clubhouse Confidential” or any of the many other smarter outlets there are for baseball discussion. A few of those folks abandoning Bayless won’t hurt him much because of his size and he’s still gonna do what he’s gonna do.  But a few thousand fans changing their mind about him will mean a lot to the smaller, smarter communities out there.

And the end of that is not just to raise our traffic here or to see Brian Kenny’s ratings increase. The end of it is that there will be more smarter, better informed fans out there. And that’s a benefit to everyone. Because whether I was doing this for a living or schlepping interrogatories at some litigation factory, I’m still gonna talk about baseball with people. And my life in that regard is way better if I’m talking to smart people. And almost all of the smart people I’ve already met got that way about baseball because, at some point, someone hipped them to the notion that [massively popular expert X] may not have a monopoly on wisdom.

Calling out Skip Bayless may be hopeless, but only if your hopes in doing so are to get rid of Skip Bayless.  If your goals are more modest and all you want to do is to improve things around the edges, then there is a point to tilting at that large, dumb and seemingly impenetrable windmill.

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.