A young blogger admits a mistake and apologizes

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Yesterday I highlighted and sharply criticized a blog post that appeared on the Rays Colored Glasses blog. The post was by a writer named Robbie Knopf, and it was about Rays reliever Josh Lueke, who was charged with rape and subsequently pleaded guilty to a count of “false imprisonment with violence.” The regrettable upshot: if Lueke achieves baseball glory, all will be forgotten and (maybe? It was hard to tell) forgiven.

Since yesterday the post has been taken down and replaced with an apology. I believe it to be a good, heartfelt apology and I think it’s worth reading. Which you can read in its entirety here. In part:

As a young writer, I made a series of mistakes in my recent article about pitcher Josh Lueke. I touched on a very sensitive topic in his arrest for rape, and how it all relates to his future in major league baseball. As a writer, it is my responsibility to clearly present my thoughts and analysis to the reader … In exploring this issue, I did not exhibit nearly enough care, talking far too much about baseball and far too little about consequences. It is entirely my fault that the article took the tone that it did.

It is worth noting that Robbie is 17 years-old. That doesn’t excuse him, as anyone with a platform is responsible for the words he or she writes regardless of how old they are. But it does help to explain how a sensitive and volatile topic like this was mishandled. Even professional writers with decades of experience are prone to mishandling such things. And, as the weekend’s coverage of the Stubenville rape case made clear, so too are entire cable news networks who damn well should know better.

It is also worth noting that, in the past, other professional writers have made errors in judgment just as bad if not worse than what young Mr. Knopf did. I’m immediately reminded of Mark Whicker’s odious column in the OC Register a few years back in which he used the horrifying case of Jaycee Dugard as a vehicle for lame sports riffs, with a closing line — “Congratulations, Jaycee. You left the yard” — which was perhaps the most callous and insensitive thing I’ve ever seen written in a sports column. Note: the column still appears on the OC Register’s website. Whicker apologized for it, but (a) it wasn’t all that great an apology in my view; and (b) there are reasons to believe it wasn’t all that genuine an apology.

I don’t feel that way about Robbie, who seems genuinely shaken by his mistake and who seems genuinely contrite. There’s no question that he’ll learn from it, even if it’s regrettable that he had learn in this particular way.  For my part, I hope the entire experience doesn’t sour him on writing, dull his instincts or deter him from taking bold stances when he feels them warranted.

Six of seven players decline $17.9 million qualifying offers

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Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one of seven eligible players to accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer. Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Patrick Corbin, Yasmani Grandal, and Dallas Keuchel each rejected his, officially making them free agents. Teams that had their QO’s rejected will recoup a draft pick once the player signs elsewhere.

That Harper rejected his QO comes as no surprise, as he is expected to strike perhaps the largest free agent contract in baseball history. Though the free agent market has been less lucrative lately than in previous years, the combination of Harper’s elite talent and his age — he’s only 26 years old — makes him a primary target for more than a handful of teams. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals, so that would seem to be a baseline.

It is also not surprising that Kimbrel, 30, turned down his QO from the Red Sox. Despite a so-so showing during a championship run, Kimbrel is still young and talented enough to land another lucrative contract on the free agent market.

Keuchel bet on himself in turning down the Astros’ QO. He’s been solid since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, owning a 3.77 ERA across 83 starts over the last three seasons. However, he turns 31 years old at the beginning of 2019, and his already mediocre strikeout rate declined even further this past season, so there may be some skepticism about his ability to perform over the course of a multi-year deal. Keuchel will still get one eventually, but his market may be slower to develop.

Pollock, soon 31 as well, will be the outfielder most coveted once Harper is off the market. When he’s healthy, he’s a dynamic five-tool player. However, Pollock hasn’t played in more than 113 games in a season since 2015, so that may be a red flag. Pollock ended 2018 batting .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 460 plate appearances while playing above-average defense according to various defensive metrics.

Grandal, 30, could’ve gone either way with his QO, but ultimately chose to decline. He had a disappointing postseason, both offensively and defensively. Given how humans are prone to recency bias, it stood to reason that his October performance could have hurt his market. The catching position, however, is rather weak and Grandal stands out in a market that is otherwise focused on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Grandal did swat 24 home runs with an .815 OPS in 140 games for the Dodgers this past season.

Corbin, 29, was the most obvious QO decline after Harper. The lefty is coming off of a career year, finishing with a 3.15 ERA and a 246/48 K/BB ratio in exactly 200 innings. Corbin is the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees have been seriously linked with Corbin even before the season ended.

Ryu likely chose to accept his QO because of his age and injury history. It would have been a gamble to pursue a multi-year deal. He did, however, make 15 starts during the regular season to the tune of a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 15 walks in 82 1/3 innings. Those are great numbers. And most clubs would have been smart enough to look beyond his 5.21 ERA in the postseason, which has more to do with a leaky bullpen than his own personal failings. Still, it’s hard to fault Ryu for playing it safe and taking the guaranteed $17.9 million for one year.