Tuesday, February 10, 2009

P***ed off at Slate.com

With the *news* emerging about Alex Rodriguez, I knew I would inevitably read some sports columnist who would piss me off. Actually I read two of them, both at slate.com today.
First was Tim Marchman, whose article on Sunday contained a few bits that set me off. Read his article first, then read the below, which I posted as a comment on the article:
"There was always something inherently implausible about the idea of a 225-pound shortstop playing Gold Glove defense while popping 50 home runs a year."
A-Rod is listed at 6'3", 190 lbs (but I'll give you 225).
Cal Ripken was listed as 6'4 and 225 lbs.
If I am to take you seriously, then Cal Ripken is as guilty as A-Rod. If the standard is baseless inference (factually flawed), then there's more evidence against Ripken, who was even larger than A-Rod when compared to his contemporaries.

"no one has ever presented credible evidence proving that performance-enhancing drugs make athletes better at playing baseball"
This is a quote near the end of your article. It comes soon after you say that:
Twenty-one years after Canseco freaked out the world by hitting 42 home runs and stealing 40 bases while carrying enough muscle to play linebacker, 11 years after the dubious exploits of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, eight years after Barry Bonds dropped 73 bombs, and four years after a 42-year-old Roger Clemens ran up a 1.87 ERA, smart people who pay close attention to the sport still haven't caught on to the recurring pattern by which suspiciously superhuman achievement is invariably revealed, in the fullness of time, to have been chemically aided.
I'm no journalist, but I do realize that you've contradicted yourself in remarkable fashion. And in the process, you've used inference and supposition to defame several people. Steroids cannot help AND not help at the same time.
I'm well aware that standards have dropped in reporting. Most people want an article full of suspicion and inference. I don't. And I'm not used to reading such articles on Slate.
I could also point out Ernie Banks, another slugging shortstop whom nobody has accused of shooting up Deca-Durabolin.
Then there was another article, which I’ll discuss in more detail. This was written by William Saletan, and brings the art of negative inference and rhetorical accusation to a new high (low?).
Read Saletan’s article, then read my comment, reproduced below:
Congratulations, Mr. Saletan. You've taken speculation, divided it up into parts, and presented it as something more than speculation. If, if, if, maybe, maybe, maybe, all of which presumes that we can accurately GUESS a whole series of things about Alex Rodriguez, when the facts of the case are slim at best. Drawing negative inferences from a small collection of data is not news or even commentary. It's rumor-mongering.
All of the things you say MIGHT be true, based on some wild guesses and worst-case assumptions. But that should not be the standard of news, either in the papers or online.
Apparently, another Slate.com reader (wrestler14) took issue with me. Viz:
Might be true??? A-Roid admitted using steroids for at least 3 years. Ah, you just have to love a perilously naive populace, and cheater apologists in particular. Hey Aaron, I've got a great investment recommendation for you - Bernard Madoff Securities. The returns are phenomenal! Trust me. You'll believe just about anything won't you?
Talking down to me and dismissing me is a ready-made way to seriously PISS ME OFF. I responded with (barely restrained) anger:
You haven't met me. So don't call me names.
I wasn't aware of A-Rod's interview with Peter Gammons when I wrote the above column. And neither was the person who wrote the piece, so neither of us knew those specifics.
What you call perilously naive, I call due process. It's not fashionable these days, I know. And I may be old-fashioned, but I don't believe in excoriating someone based on what they might have done.
And don't make the logic mistake that because I believe that cheaters are entitled to due process before we savage their entire lives that I am an apologist. A-Rod deserves to pay for what he did. But what we've done is to sentence steroid and PED users to a fate worse than any other kind of cheater in sports history. If I am a cheater apologist, then so is every person who cheered for Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Mike Scott, Whitey Ford, Andy Pettitte, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and any number of former and future Hall of Famers.
Naivete is pillorying Alex Rodriguez while continuing to cheer those who were simply lucky enough not to get caught. Naivete is pulling down and destroying athletes because they weren't the superhuman heroes we forced them to be (see Rose, Pete).
And just because someone did use PEDs -- as we can now agree A-Rod did because we have, you know, actual proof (or is the concept of "proof" even important in the media anymore?) -- does not mean that we have to be subjected to "news" articles that ask misleading rhetorical questions that suggest all manner of bad things about those who use.
If you won't listen to me, perhaps you'll listen to a legitimate baseball columnist, Joe Sheehan:
“It's not enough to say, "Tough, they cheated." Even cheaters have rights to see their agreements honored, and these 104 men have been violated by their representatives and their government, complicit with a media that repeatedly asks the easy questions and takes on the soft targets while avoiding the real work of uncovering not just names, but truth. The story is bigger than Alex Rodriguez. It's more interesting than Alex Rodriguez. It has more depth and more nuance than the failure of one man to play by the rules.
Tell that story, in a measured voice that embraces complexity, and I'll listen. Until then, it's all just screaming.”
Or is it you who will believe just about anything?
I had to try hard not to resort to out-and-out name-calling, which is a no-no on message boards.
At first, I wanted to discuss Saletan’s article with a point-by-point rebuttal. But now I think I’m too angry to go back to that right now.

1 comment:

Branan said...

Hey, wrestler14: mess with the Whiz Kid, you mess with the whole family. He'll be civil, but I don't have to be. May I suggest that you perform a certain anatomical act on yourself?