Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Monday, February 09, 2004
A Trip to the Woodshed
Like castrating a eunuch, laying a hammer to the work of Phil Rogers is absurd and unnecessary. His indolence requires no comment. His failures jump from the page like crack-fueled frogs. However, there are occasions when the regular diet of sloth gets overcooked and becomes a crock of....well....you know.
No matter how hard guys like Kerry Wood, Derrek Lee and Edgar Renteria try to downplay their desire to seek greener pastures, their pending free agency will be a spring issue if they aren't signed soon.
This statement comes at the tail end of an article in the Sunday Chicago Tribune, which can be found in its entirety here. Rogers asserts the lack of a long term contract for any of these players could cause distractions during the spring, a reasonable statement on its own. The media would stimulate any lack of focus, but the engine of diversion doesn't care why it's driving to distraction, it just takes off in the direction it's pointed.
Contract status may steal attention from the job at hand, but implying these players have an active interest in leaving their current teams reeks of intentional trouble-making. The quote's beginning ("No matter how hard [they] try to downplay their desire to seek greener pastures,") tells me they want to leave, that they desire "greener pastures," but are giving disingenuous indications to the contrary, keeping loyal fans in the dark about their nefarious plans to skulk away in the night like a ballclub slinking to Milwaukee.
While I'm uninformed about Renteria's situation, there has been nothing to indicate problems in the Cubs' negotiations with Wood or Lee. Both players were able to reach amicable one-year settlements that kept them out of arbitration, and every indication has been that all parties are working toward long-term deals. News about the negotiations has been scarce, but private bargaining should be a source of comfort. Disaster is imminent when information leaks spring before talks conclude. Why, then, does Rogers insist the players are anxious to test the market?
One possibility is Rogers' need to create work in the barren baseball winter. He sews a story-seed in the minds of his audience, one about their favorite player wanting to leave, spitting on all their love and devotion. He nurtures it with rumor and innuendo, the food and water of any yellow journalism, and watches it grow from half a sentence, to a paragraph, to an article, to a series of articles. He has a bounty of material to last through opening day, and consequence free, for after all, he is only reporting the news.
But maybe that's too harsh. Maybe his intentions are pure. Perhaps Rogers' is simply incompetent. Perhaps he meant to say:
No matter how hard guys like Kerry Wood, Derrek Lee and Edgar Renteria try to downplay their possible departure to greener pastures, their pending free agency will be a spring issue if they aren't signed soon.
It still attempts to lay groundwork for future stories, but without pretending to know the hearts and minds of the players involved. The tactic remains foul, but the version above casts no aspersions. Rogers may not have understood that his original sentence implied a plot on the players' part. That his poor word selection made his subjects cunning, conniving, cutthroats, anxious to betray their baseball brethren for an extra buck. He may be that inept.
But in the end, the question of Rogers motivation is mere noise. Whether poorly executed or maliciously designed, the passage leads readers to conclusions about the players' plans that are not supported by fact. Yellow journalism and incompetence both give rise to poor writing, and if Rogers is guilty of anything, it's writing badly. All that's left is the question of intent, but when the product is so poor, the question becomes moot.