Quit slamming superstars for their teams’ failures

Mike Trout
Getty Images
32 Comments

Fans have long loved to criticize players who sign big contracts. The media has long encouraged and aided this effort to greater or lesser degrees. Players who rake in the big bucks have long had a target on their back and probably always will.

Which is not totally unfair, of course. They’re supposed to be good. They’re supposed to help the team win. That, as the old saying goes, is why they’re paid the big bucks.

But there are limits to that right? A baseball team has 25 guys on it, not just one, and any one baseball player has way less power to carry one’s team to victory himself than, say, the quarterback of a football team or any single basketball player, each of which can make a huge difference. As such, while it’s fair to hold star players to a higher standard, it’s less fair to blame them when their teams fare poorly through no fault of their own.

Keep that in mind as you look at this tweet from Fox Sports’ MLB account, which appeared yesterday afternoon, unattached to any given story or bit of analysis. It was just laid out there, with the pretty clear intention of stirring up a “those overpaid bums!” kind of conversation:

Yes, it’s a fact that neither Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado nor Nolan Arenado played for playoff teams this year. It’s also the case that none of them are the sole reason — or even a near-the-top reason — their teams did not make the postseason.

Trout and Arenado had excellent seasons but the Angels and Rockies were abjectly terrible apart from them. Machado had a down year for sure, but even if he was at his usual level, the Padres would not have made the playoffs. Bill handled Harper and the Phillies yesterday and, again, he was not the biggest problem with his team even if he did not have the MVP year Phillies fans hoped he would. And heck, even if these guys were bigger reasons for their teams’ failures, all four of their contracts are very, very long and judging them on only one year of work is misleading at best.

Yet Fox — MLB’s top broadcasting partner, by the way — is not-so-subtly denigrating them via this tweet, no matter how technically factual it is.

Given that a top rights holder like Fox never wants to offend the leagues whose games they broadcast, it’s not unreasonable to infer that they inferred that slamming highly-paid star players is something Major League Baseball takes no issue with it all.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.