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.

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.