Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

Bartolo Colon’s “secret family” and the business of hero creation

39 Comments

There’s a story in the New York Post today about Bartolo Colon. It’s not about his pitching or his hitting, however, it’s about a lawsuit filed against him for back child support for two children he apparently fathered out of wedlock. The details are private and the case is sealed. It’s only come to light because, for a time, Colon was acting as his own lawyer and was listed as “attorney of record,” so the Post found out about it, likely via some periodic search of court records for famous people I presume the tabloids do as a matter of course. The fact of Colon acting as his own attorney is probably worthy of  its own post at a later time — my God, that would be amazing to see — but let’s let that go for now.

The details of the case are not our business. If it were, family courts wouldn’t seal the files. The most we can say is that, if there is truth to allegation that Colon hasn’t paid his proper child support, it’s unfortunate and I hope that the court rectifies it. There are few things worse than a deadbeat dad. Beyond that generalized observation which may or may not apply to Colon, though, it’s a matter for the courts, Colon, his children, their mother and Colon’s wife and family. His wife, by the way, commented enough to say she was aware of it all but that beyond that it’s a private matter. And so it is.

Private matter or not, I get that such stories have sizzle. I get why the New York Post publishes such things. They gotta eat too. It appears to be a factual account. It involves a person in the public eye. It’s pretty standard tabloid fodder. But I am struck by the form the story takes. The form flows from this:

The revelation that Colon has a secret family is at odds with his on-field image as a lovable pitcher and the team’s heart and soul.

Affable hero Bartolo Colon caught up in “secret family” drama, undermining his public image! I read that and I wonder, again, for maybe the millionth time, why we do this. Why we are seemingly incapable of enjoying an athlete’s on-the-field exploits without assuming it says anything about his character. Why we assume that on-field image and off-field image are in any way related given that “playing professional sports” and “living real life” are totally different things.

Bad people can be entertaining athletes and artists. Good people can be bad performers. What one does at work and in private are different. Bartolo Colon hit a homer a couple of weeks ago. It was fun. He’s a big guy still playing at a high level at an advanced age and that incongruity is amusing and, in a certain light, inspiring. But it does not necessarily say a thing about who he is as a man. If he has been a deadbeat dad, the homer doesn’t make it better and some of us may view him more poorly as a result. At the same time, no matter what has gone on in his private life, Colon the ballplayer is not diminished, at least objectively speaking. We can choose to enjoy him less and, at some point, an off-the-field act can completely and necessarily obscure the image of a player. Serious crimes and violence, for example. But for the most part, athletic feats and personal conduct are distinct phenomena and we should neither elevate nor judge these people by using one as a defense or cudgel against the other.

If you feel otherwise — if you feel betrayed when a good athlete turns out to be a bad human or if you excuse bad behavior because of good athletic performance — you’ve made the choice to do that. You’ve bought in to the culture of hero creation and destruction the Post and other parts of the sporting press have lived off of for so long. You have decided to treat athletes differently than you’d treat anyone else, simply because they’re athletes. On some level, we’re all humans and we’re all going to have opinions and judgments about people, but they should be fair judgments, based on facts, not on assumptions that the famous must be considered differently.

You should stop doing that. We all should.

Madison Bumgarner shows up the opposition

66 Comments

There was a little incident in last night’s Giants-Padres game. Nothing major. Benches cleared, but no one fought or even seemed like they were prepared to. It was what baseball “fights” look like these days, the Bautista-Odor fracas on Sunday notwithstanding. Some jawing and obligatory milling about, but not much else.

What set it off was interesting, however. In the third inning, Madison Bumgarner struck out Padres first baseman Wil Myers. As Myers walked back to the dugout, Bumgarner  barked at him and stared him down. Myers, surprised at this, said “C’mon, man, don’t stare me down.” Bumgarner barked more and walked toward Myers, which led to the benches clearing.

There’s no history between these two that anyone knows of. There was no chippiness in the game. Myers certainly didn’t do something aimed at provoking Bumgarner. Bumgarner just decided to be all sour-faced about it. He wasn’t amped up at striking a guy out or anything. Indeed, After the game he admitted that he was putting on a bit of a show, saying “I just wanted to be mad for a minute.” Mad MadBum, I guess.

Of course, he wasn’t just being mad. Through his actions he was doing that thing that self-proclaimed old school baseball men and unwritten rules enforcers always complain about: he was showing up the opposition. In this case, Myers. Adding a little football spike onto the end of his strikeout. This was not some spontaneous show of emotion. As he admitted, he was consciously putting on some attitude in a way to put another player in his place.

Not that I’m criticizing him for that. Bumgarner pitched a fine game. One that had to make him feel better given the relatively rocky start he had to the season and the health issues he’s fought since the spring. If he needs to do things to pump himself up, hey, more power to him. Whatever works. He’s got three World Series rings and is a grown man. He can do whatever he wants to on the field. I’ve defended all manner of non-violent behavior from players on the field as a function of them being human beings who should be allowed to do what they want and to be who they want to be. I’ll likewise defend Madison Bumgarner’s right to be whoever he wants to be.

But let us remember this the next time someone gets on the case of a player who flips a bat, pumps his fist or otherwise shows some exuberance on the field, be it spontaneous or contrived. Let us cut the next guy some slack on such behavior. Because I don’t think anyone is going to write a column lecturing Madison Bumgarner about his little staredown today. And I hope we don’t want this to be a sport where it’s considered professional and acceptable to be artificially miserable but somehow awful and unprofessional to be genuinely happy.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

Getty Images
17 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Athletics 8, Rangers 5: Ryan Madson gave up a two-run homer to Ian Desmond and the lead to the Rangers in the top of the ninth. Khris Davis took the lead and game right back in the bottom half with a walkoff grand slam. He also hit shots in the second and the sixth to put together a 3-for-5, 3 HR, six-RBI night. People who don’t root for the teams he plays for don’t pay too much attention to Khris Davis, but when they do, it’s because he’s hit multiple homers in a game. He’s done it eight times in his career now. That’s the same number of times Mike Trout has done it. Davis has done it in two fewer seasons.

Indians 13, Reds 1: Big night for guys named Davis, I guess. Khris did his thing and so too did Rajai, who had three hits, drove in three and scored four times. Danny Salazar pitched fantastically and enjoyed a ton of run support. In other news, can someone tell me what Steve Delabar did to piss off Bryan Price? I mean, before he walked guys with the bases loaded FOUR STRAIGHT TIMES? There’s “wearing it” and then there’s “really frickin’ wearin’ it.” This was the latter. He walked five guys in all. In a third of an inning’s worth of work. That takes some effort.

Royals 8, Red Sox 4: The AP game story refers to Paulo Orlando as “The speedy Brazilian.” I’m suing the AP over that, as I had previously trademarked that as the name for my discount, high-volume bikini wax shops for which I’m sure there’s a big, big market. The speedy Brazilian who will not be found in exurban strip malls all over the American midwest this time next year, making me millions, hit a two-run homer, a two-run single and tripled.

Mariners 10, Orioles 0: If a team forfeits a game they officially lose it 9-0. Which means that the O’s would’ve had a better night if they just stayed at home and watched the NBA playoffs or re-watched “Daredevil” or something. Season one, though, not season 2. That was fine, but there were too many random ninjas in it and that got kind of exhausting. A better opponent for Daredevil would’ve been Nelson Cruz, who was just as relentless as those ninjas but far more effective. Five RBI on the night for him, two via the longball, three via singles.

Phillies 3, Marlins 1: Vince Velasquez struck out ten in five innings. His only knock on the night was in the efficiency department, in that he needed 103 pitches to get through those five. It was cool though, as Phillies relievers struck out seven more Marlins batters in the final four innings. Maybe the Marlins batters were replaced with the ninjas from “Daredevil.” Or with Stormtroopers. Because they were missing everything.

Pirates 12, Braves 9: Never manager for the Braves but the same result as, for the second straight night, the Pirates jump all over the Braves early and then hold on as the Braves remember how to hit. Gregory Polanco had three doubles. John Jaso, Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Cervelli also had three hits a piece.

Rays 12, Blue Jays 2: Lotsa blowouts last night. This was one of them. The Rays jumped all over Marcus Stroman, lighting him up for seven runs in five and two-thirds. Brad Miller had three hits and three RBI. The Rays have outscored the Jays 25-4 in the first two games of this series.

Tigers 7, Twins 2: Did Brad Ausmus’ outburst on Monday night inspire the Tigers once again, suggesting he’s the right man to lead this team after all or, given that he sat out with a one-game suspension last night, did they just loosen up in his absence and play their best game in a couple of weeks, suggesting that he’s the problem and needs to be gone? Those questions will be asked, and more, on today’s episode of “Choose Your B.S. Narrative.” Only asked, not answered, because those kinds of questions are never answered. If they were, there would be no reason to ask again and a lot of sports writers would be out of a job. Anyway: Ian Kinsler and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back homers during the Tigers’ seven-run seventh inning.

Mets 2, Nationals 0: Syndergaard outduels Scherzer, striking out ten in seven shutout innings. He’s a beast. Bryce Harper went 0-f0r-4 and is now hitting .250 with only one extra-base hit since he told that umpire to F-off. My column on what all of this means:

Astros 6, White Sox 5: Welcome back Evan Gattis. The Astros’ long-absent DH made his return and hit a two-run homer in the 11th. Houston held on in the bottom half and won despite the White Sox’ efforts to come back on a night in which they came back a couple of times before. Rookie Tyler White hit a pair of solo homers and a double.

Brewers 4, Cubs 2: Chase Anderson took a no-hitter into the eighth before it was broken up by Ben Zobrist double. Still a nice night for the guy against one of the scariest teams in baseball. Anderson on his night:

“When you execute pitches, I feel like you can get anybody out, no matter who it is. You could put nine Ken Griffey Jr.’s out there, but if you execute pitches, it is hard to hit.”

True, but in Griffey’s defense, he turns 47 this year.

Rockies 3, Cardinals 1: The Rockies have won five straight. Here they were paced by Chad Bettis, who took a shutout into the seventh inning and [all together now] helped his own cause with an RBI on a fielder’s choice.

Diamondbacks 5, Yankees 3: Michael Pineda gave up five runs on nine hits in five innings, so that’s not good. Zack Greinke was good, however, at least until the eighth when he ran out of gas. The win clinches the Diamondbacks’ first ever series win over the Yankees. Well, regular season series win. They beat them in a series back in 2001 if I remember correctly.

Dodgers 5, Angels 1: Clayton Kershaw balked Albert Pujols into scoring position in the second inning and the big guy came around to score but otherwise the Angels weren’t doing anything against him. Eight innings, that one run, 11 strikeouts, no walks. Ho-hum. Kershaw’s K/BB ratio on the the year: 88/4. I mean for cryin’ out loud.

Giants 5, Padres 1: Madison Bumgarner tossed a complete game, striking out 11, walking none and allowing only the one run as well, so I guess he was an inning better than Kershaw on the night. Brandon Crawford drove in all five of the Giants’ runs. Benches cleared here as Madison Bumgarner stared down Wil Myers after striking him out and then the two barked at each other. When asked about it after, Bumgarner said “I just wanted to be mad for a minute.” I fully expect fans and commentators to complain about his attitude and deportment for that, just like they do for Latin players who simply want to be happy for a minute when they do something good.

Hahaha, that’ll never happen.