Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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James Shields does not care for the comments of the Padres owner

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James Shields pitches for the White Sox now. Mostly because he didn’t pitch well for the Padres and they shipped him out. That’s fine, of course, it’s a game and a business and stuff happens.

Shields, however, is not at all happy with Padres owner Ron Fowler, who yesterday blasted his team’s expensive former players. Shields wasn’t mentioned by name, but it was clear that he was one of the ones Fowler was referring to when he said “We made a conscious decision to ship them out because we want people that are prepared to improve,” and “they had a bad attitude.”

Shields spoke to CSN Chicago.com and said this:

“(Ron Fowler and Matt Kemp) have their own deal and he has his own thoughts about him, so I’m not going to comment on that. But one thing I do know is, I hope he’s not putting me in that category as far as not trying. You can ask anybody around the league, let alone in the San Diego organization — I worked my butt off every single day. I prepared myself the way I needed to prepare myself on a daily basis. And I pour my heart out every time I pitch on the mound.”

I think that’s the distinction. The effort. Shields would probably be the first guy to tell you that, no, he didn’t get the job done with the Padres. But there’s a difference between poor performance and poor effort and attitude. If Fowler said that Shields just stunk, Shields would likely agree. Saying he wasn’t “prepared to improve” and had a “bad attitude” is something with which he understandably takes offense.

Then again, maybe Shields is just lying. Maybe he was truly doing something terrible. Like golfing. If that’s the case, I’m going to applaud Fowler for his restraint.

The New York Post is running the Mets now

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Yesterday I linked and mocked an eminently mockworthy column in the New York Post which took Yoenis Cespedes to task for playing golf despite having a quad injury. Never mind that there was and is no suggestion that playing golf was bad for Cespedes’ quad. Indeed, the author of the column even admitted that as his premise. No, it just looked bad, he argued. “Bad optics.”

Today Mets GM Sandy Alderson buys in 100% to the “bad optics” line, while admitting that, in reality, there is nothing negative about Cespedes golfing apart from the “bad optics.” Still, he’s gonna crack down on Cespedes anyway. From Adam Rubin of ESPN New York:

On Thursday, Alderson added that he has come to a “mutual agreement” with Cespedes’ representatives that the outfielder will refrain from golfing, at least for the time period when it could be viewed negatively by the public.

“I’ve had conversations with his people, but not directly with Yoenis,” Alderson said. “But that message will get to him, at least circuitously, and probably directly . . . The golf is bad optics. Let’s just start there. Our doctors have told us that probably had no impact on the injury — positive or negative. But let’s face it: You play golf during the day and then go out injured in the evening, it’s a bad visual. I think he recognizes that at this point. So we’ll go from there.”

You know what else is a “bad visual?” Keeping a guy who injured his quad on July 8th active and running him out to the outfield every day despite the fact that his leg is hurt. Those are more than just “bad optics,” actually, it’s mismanagement. Alderson admits, at least, that they made a mistake in how Cespedes was handled by the team. But, sure, golf is the problem. Wait, I’m sorry, golf isn’t itself a problem. Golf in “the time period when it could be viewed negatively by the public” is the problem.

What a cowardly comment. Golf is either bad for Cespedes’ injury or it isn’t. If Alderson believes his doctors who say that it isn’t, there is no reason to prevent Cespedes from playing golf — or handwringing over the “optics” of it — other than fear of and acquiescence to whatever a columnist from the New York Post thinks. It’s a total capitulation to the tabloids and the sorts of things that get tabloid readers angry during a frustrating season.

Here’s some news for Alderson that shouldn’t be news: sports fans, especially tabloid-reading and talk radio-listening fans, get agitated by almost anything an athlete does during his free time. They hate that they buy big houses and date pretty women and go out to expensive restaurants. They hate when they’re not just the right amount of sad when they lose (but not TOO sad lest they be seen as something less than a leader). They hate when they rely on old cliches. They hate when they say something that isn’t a cliche. They hate when they don’t wear their uniform the way some star did at whatever point in history the fan in question happened to be 12-years-old. They hate when they exercise their contractual rights. They hate it when they’re outspoken. They hate it when they don’t talk to the press. Really, other than hitting homers or tossing shutouts, there’s a certain breed of fan who doesn’t like a damn thing athletes do other than entertain them. They’re gladiators who are to be seen only doing one, narrow thing and who are never to be heard. Having any personal interests is bad. A “distraction.” “Bad optics.”

That’s the fan that New York Post column was catering to yesterday. That’s who the Daily News was catering to when it wrote that “Cespedes’ fancy cars are a problem” column last spring. That’s the fan Sandy Alderson is catering to when he says stuff like this:

“Yoenis has his own personal life that sometimes is larger than life. We’ve seen that from the beginning of spring training.”

As if playing golf and liking nice cars is somehow “larger than life” for a professional athlete. Or to anyone else for that matter (I bet Cespedes spends a lower percentage of his salary on cars than most fans do). Nevertheless, to Alderson and the Mets, a player having a personal life is “bad optics,” so it has to go. It has to go even if it’s not an actual problem. It has to go because the muckraking media says it’s a problem. The tabloids say so, and so it must be.

Congratulations on letting the New York Post run your team, Sandy.

Mark Teixeira to announce his retirement at 3pm today

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Big, big news out of New York. The Yankees are going to hold a press conference with Mark Teixeira today at 3pm. It is expected that he will announce his retirement, which will become effective at the end of the season.

Teixeira is in his 14th season in the bigs and, sadly, it’s time for him to hang it up. He’s currently hitting .198/.287.340 with 10 homers and 27 RBI. While he had an effective 2015 in 111 games, this is the second below replacement level season he’s had in two years. His body just can’t hold up to it anymore and his time as an effective player is over. Indeed, it’s highly likely that he would’ve been released by the Yankees this year if it wasn’t for the fact that the organization lost several other first base options to injuries. It’s a testament to Teixeira that he’s played as much as he has, but it’s likewise clear that he is not part of the Yankees future.

For as hard a go Teixeira has had this season, he’ll finish with a pretty nice career overall. At the moment his career batting line is .269/.361/.511, which translates to an OPS+ of 127. He has 404 homers and 1,281 RBI. An excellent first baseman for almost all of his career, he is a five-time Gold Glover and a three-time All-Star. His best season arguably came in 2008, which he split between the Angels and the Braves, hitting .308/.410/.552. I’d assume his most satisfying season, however, was when he helped lead the 2009 Yankees to a World Series title, smacking 39 homers and driving in 122.

Texeira is entitled to a nice goodbye over an unceremonious release. While I’m sure he’d prefer to be going out with better production on a playoff team, his current circumstances and that of the Yankees at least allows him to bow out with grace.