It was a year ago tomorrow that L.A. Times’ columnist T.J. Simers filed what was one of the worst, low-rent columns I’ve seen in a while. Ripping Marcus Thames for being exactly what he is: a platoon/bench outfielder who is not an All-Star.
It wasn’t some meta thing. He wasn’t making a larger point. He simply confronted Thames in the clubhouse and asked him where he got off not being Ryan Braun. Oh, and when Thames refused to take his bait and snap back at him, Simers ripped him for “being unable to talk about his shortcomings.” It was quite impressive, I tell you.
Well, apparently this is an annual thing for Simers, as today he has another installment of his “I show up, rip everyone in sight in the laziest way possible, put people on the spot with my hostile questions and offer no baseball insight whatsoever” column.
He’d like to tell you that the Dodgers are terrible. He provides no context for this. No discussion of where the Dodgers stand on the success cycle, what their actual strengths and weaknesses are or anything like that. He just says they suck and that Tommy Lasorda could do better. Oh, I take it back, he did offer one bit of “analysis”: Jamey Carroll was the team’s MVP in 2010, so why isn’t he back?
He then goes on to rip his own L.A. Times colleagues — by name — for, you know, reporting on the Dodgers. Because that’s not worth anyone’s time, see, so aren’t they a bunch of idiots. I’ll agree with the broader point: the Times is wasting their time and money on one of their writers. But here’s a hint: It’s not Dylan Hernandez, Kevin Baxter or Bill Shaikin.
Anyway, just one to bookmark the next time someone goes after the bloggers for wasting any access given them, needlessly ripping people, having no understanding of the game and lowering the level of the discourse.
Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.
He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team — in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”
Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.
Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.
Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.