Craig Calcaterra

Dominican Flag

Must-Click link: The Republic of Baseball


This made the rounds the other day but I just saw it this morning thanks to it being forwarded to me by a friend. It’s a photo essay from Michael Hanson of the New York Times during his travels in the Dominican Republic.

It depicts several scenes of young ballplayers working toward the goal they all have: to get signed and, hopefully, to get a bonus that will change their lives and the lives of their families. From early morning until late at night it’s baseball. All the time.

We’ve seen some of these sorts of images before, but these are particularly beautiful and poignant. And, like all of the other ones have become, they’ll be the first thing that will pop into my head when I hear some fan stereotyping Dominican ballplayers as lazy or undisciplined or any similar euphemism. These guys have faced longer odds and worked harder at what they do than most of us have ever worked at anything in our lives.

Dan Shaughnessy reneges on his promise not to fat shame Pablo Sandoval


Yesterday, as the photos of Pablo Sandoval’s exposed gut were making the rounds, Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe was penning a column about the Red Sox’ third baseman. It’s here.

In it Shaughnessy, like a lot of other people in the past 24 hours, decided that mocking Sandoval’s weight was the tack to take. “Mercy. Get a load of that gut,” the most recent Spink Award winner wrote. “[T]he fat hit the fan,” he said in reference to Sandoval only showing up four days early to camp rather than six. Shaughnessy even purported to engage in public service while allegedly looking for Sandoval for comment:

I looked everywhere for him Saturday night. I checked the deli counter at Publix and the popular Two Meatballs in the Kitchen restaurant off Daniels Parkway. I even went to the Regal Cinemas Belltower 20 to see if he might be taking in the late show of “Kung Fu Panda 3” but . . . no luck . . . Photos were snapped as [John Farrell and Sandoval] walked arm-in-arm past the barbecue grill outside the clubhouse . . . Based on what we saw Sunday, Pablo’s weight loss must be like the proverbial two deck chairs tossed off the Titanic.

Sandoval’s conditioning is a legitimate topic of conversation, at least insofar as it affects his play or the Red Sox as an organization take issue with it. But the fat jokes — and acting as if Sandoval being a big guy is somehow new — are a bit much. It’s something that even Dan Shaughnessy himself thought in October 2014:

The Red Sox can’t sign Pablo Sandoval fast enough.

Truly. John, Tom, and Larry need to bring the Kung Fu Panda to Fenway Park. I promise never to rip Sandoval for being out of shape or going on the disabled list.

Oh well. What’s a promise worth when there are pictures to blow out of proportion and fan outrage to stoke?

The Yankees use Cam Newton as an example of how not to talk to the media

Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton answers questions after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.  The Broncos won 24-10. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Associated Press

Every team starts spring training with media training. As in: “hey, here’s how you deal with the media, you guys.” It’s understandable. When ballplayers say interesting or off-message things or if they react negatively to negative things, however understandably, it tends to create news stories and followup stories and, if things break just wrong, distractions. Far better it is, from the team’s perspective at least, to teach players to be kind and pleasant ciphers: always present and accommodating to the media, but ultimately offering very little outside of cliche.

The Yankees are no different. ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand reports that this year the Yankees’ media training involved showing their players video of Cam Newton’s and Russell Wilson’s recent Super Bowl press conferences as the wrong way and the right way to deal with defeat. Newton, you’ll recall, was surly and visibly disappointed during his presser, much to the chagrin of everyone.

I know I’ve been slamming the Yankees a lot lately, but I’m not going to slam them here. I don’t have any problem with a team telling players to be empty, cliche-spewing automatons with the media. I wish they wouldn’t, but they’re trying to limit headaches and worry constantly about bad press, so I see what they’re trying to do. As with many things, Crash Davis was right about this.

That doesn’t mean that we should validate them simply for doing so, of course. When a player does stray off script, we should enjoy it. Even celebrate it. At least to a degree. I mean, if the player’s off-script message is to talk about how Stalin wasn’t really that bad and how Ayn Rand’s books are anything other than simplistic, sophomoric tripe the substance is worthy of criticism. I’m just saying that we should, at least on some level, appreciate that the player gave us a gift in this regard. Slam them for the substance for which they are responsible, but not simply because he didn’t stick to the talking points. You and I don’t work for the team, remember. The talking points are to obscure things from us, not to help us.

The football press was pretty bad about this with Newton and with others in the past. Some of them got bent out of shape in the same way a team or league PR person might, taking issue with the off-message comments simply for being off-message. As if the NFL were law enforcement instead of a party trying to sell something and of whom we should be critical. Baseball reporters tend to be way better about this and appreciate the gift they’re given when someone goes off-script. It probably has a lot to do with them enduring, like, 200 days worth of press availabilities a year and appreciating the change of pace.

To sum up: good for the Yankees for trying to keep their players from stepping in it, rhetorically speaking. Here’s hoping the training is an abject failure.

(h/t to CBS Eye on Baseball)