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.