One of the worst gimmicks in journalism is the open letter. They’re self-important. They’re also disingenuous in that they forego the work of actually convincing readers of something and, instead, assume they all agree and that the writer is merely communicating that consensus to the recipient. Also: the subject of an open letter is almost always stupid itself. If it was interesting, one would just write a column rather than glitz it up like that.
Today’s open letter from Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News is no different in this regard. It purports to be addressed to Ryan Howard, imploring him to retire:
Of our 2008 heroes, only you and Chooch, Carlos Ruiz, remain.
Both of you are slowly sliding into the shadows.
You’ve gone from the Big Piece to the Big Load.
Since blowing up your Achilles’ tendon in 2011, you haven’t been the same. The comeback year you and we expected never came.
Don’t do this to us, Ryan. Don’t make us hate you. Don’t make the Phillies cut you.
Retire at season’s end. Please.
It’s dumb for a lot of reasons, but the dumbest is its central premise: that a ballplayer’s career decisions should be made based on the caprice of fans as opposed to his desire to still play and a team’s desire to still employ him. That’s the unstated conceit of all manner of sports commentary, however, primarily on talk radio. That what Joe from Bucks County or whatever thinks of a given player should be how the team thinks of him. It’s an offshoot from the overrated/underrated and “he’s a bum” school of sports analysis.
Ryan Howard is finishing out a contract that was not great for the Phillies and he has not been the same player since his big injury at the end of 2011, but whether some lame columnist is pained to see him play is about the last thing he or the Phillies should consider when deciding how long he wears red pinstripes.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution got to witness the “Nick Swisher During the First Week of Spring Training Experience” the other day. I got that privilege a couple of years ago and, as then, it was just as intense this year. Swisher, no matter what his circumstances and no matter how marginal he may now be to his team’s plans, does not have an “off” switch. He goes to 11 and is cranked there, constantly.
He also does not have an “awareness of cliche” switch, because he dropped the purest, most irony-free BSOML we’ve seen from a ballplayer in a good five years:
“This is kind of the first offseason — I think this is my 14th or 15th spring training and I think for the first time in my life I’m starting to train smart,” Swisher continued. “I know that I can’t take that grind of pounding weights each and every day. So you have to alter your workouts a little bit. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life – on the field, off the field.”
You be you, Nick. Be careful and don’t let your joie de vivre upset your teammates like it did last year. And don’t play long enough or well enough to give the Braves thoughts of letting your 2017 option vest, because no one needs that. But have a nice year all the same.
Starlin Castro had a miserable first half of 2015 but turned things around late in the season. Not enough to keep him in the Cubs’ long term plans, but enough to make him a viable trade candidate, which is how he ended up on the Yankees.
Castro spoke to David Lennon of Newsday and said that the reason for the turnaround was none other than Manny Ramirez, who is a hitting consultant for the Cubs. The two of them worked together closely and Castro says that they have kept in contact all offseason. He may even get some pointers from Ramirez as the season goes on.
If it continues to work and Castro is a key contributor to Yankees success, that makes Manny Ramirez a Yankees hero, right?