Saturday, August 13, 2005

In Soviet Russia, bench hits you!

Or, Rocket Bill may be Pravda, but Pravda is not Rocket Bill

Shortly before he went on sabbatical to research the definitive biography of Tomo Ohka, the Distinguished One thoroughly deconstructed a clubhouse contremps caused by Jose Guillen, exposing, by reference to a Washington Post article on the same subject, rather grievous omissions in the MLB.com story by "Rocket Bill" Ladson.

Meet the new propagandist, same as the old propagandist.

Okay, so it's actually a new propagandist this time, named Michael Gluskin. (Oh, how I wish it were "David Selig"!) But it's the same crap as before.

Story One: Notes: Rocky Mountain Memories, by Michael Gluskin, MLB.com:

Wilkerson off: Brad Wilkerson, who has played in 109 of the team's 114 games, was not in the starting lineup Friday. Robinson said Wilkerson is "banged up" and that a day off could help. Wilkerson has been bothered by forearm, hand and shoulder problems. He is hitting .254 with eight homers and 44 RBIs.

Story Two: Frustrations Rise in Crowded Outfield, by Mark Zuckerman, Washington Times:

When the Washington Nationals were winning, there weren't a lot of complaints coming out of the clubhouse about playing time. Everyone seemed to get a fair share of at-bats, and if someone didn't, he didn't make a big deal out of it.
As the losses have mounted, though, so has the frustration level, particularly among members of the crowded outfield
corps.

That's just the lead (lede?---where did that come from, by the way?) of Zuckerman's article. Notice, first, it's an actual article---not two sentences buried at the end of some notes about how a couple of blanks-firin' ex-Colorado Rockies enjoyed the privilege of jacked-up offensive numbers compiled at altitude. Then notice Gluskin's article doesn't mention anything about "frustration"; hell, it doesn't mention anything from anyone's point of view, other than that of the manager. In Gluskin's sanitized version, Wilkerson is "banged up" and it's easy to infer that everyone agrees it's for the better if he sits out sometimes, like last night.

If Gluskin had bothered to include Wilkerson's perspective---or, perhaps, even bothered to ask for it---MLB.com's readers would have known what the Times' readers know, that Mister Chevy Chase Bank is miffed:

Brad Wilkerson, in particular, was upset he was not in manager Frank Robinson's starting lineup last night against the Colorado Rockies. Robinson said he gave Wilkerson the night off to rest his ailing body -- he has dealt with a smorgasbord of injuries all season. "He's banged up," Robinson said. "He's hurting a little bit."

Wilkerson, though, said he came to Coors Field yesterday ready to play. "I feel fine," he said. "I didn't ask for a day off."

What is more, not only did Zuckerman relate Robinson's rationale for sitting Wilkerson, and not only did Zuckerman relate Wilkerson's displeasure with this decision, but Zuckerman also provided Robinson's reply:

"One day off is not going to hurt him," he said. "Earlier in the year, yeah, let him play [when he says he's not hurt]. But right now I don't pay attention to it."

Now that's what they used to call "reporting."

Zuckerman goes even further, though, as he informs his readers that Wilkerson is not the only outfielder displeased. He also notes that Ryan Church---either "The Forgotten Man" or "The Sacred Cow," depending on your point of view---is confused by the reduction in his playing time:

Fellow outfielder Ryan Church, who didn't see any action during the last three games in Houston and was out of the lineup again last night, was at a loss for words. "I don't know what's going on," said the visibly upset Church, a one-time National League rookie of the year candidate who has just 27 at-bats over Washington's last 16 games.

Pardon the aside here, but one can be pretty certain that there's a longer article brewing on Church coming up soon. It's not just the bloggers who have noticed his PT vastly diminish down to strictly pinch-hitting. Anyone who listened to the Astros' series on XM listened to Astros' radio, since the series was in Houston. Those guys were absolutely befuddled why the Nats not only traded for Preston Wilson, but why Church has been doghoused. And, yes, they used the word "doghouse"---that's not just an interpretation.

Anyway, other than castigating a Pravda hack, in this post I want to give Mark Zuckerman his due while I have the chance. Most of us---bloggers, "Nats Nation"---have fallen in love with Barry Svrluga of the Post. The question begged is easily answered here: "St. Barry" is great, a talented and tireless young writer who is intelligent and can turn a phrase and who is still a number of years away from trading in his Passion for Jadedness. He's also uncommonly personable with the fanbase. Svrluga's presence alone elevates the Post's coverage; we really notice when he's on vacation or otherwise unavailable for the beat. But our praise for St. Barry should not diminish the respect due to Zuckerman and the other Times reporter on the Nats' beat, Ken Wright. Their coverage is solid and still improving, and Zuckerman's article here wins today's gold star.

In his most recent Post chat, Svrluga explained---aptly, to my way of thinking----the duty of a beat writer:

You [the fans] are supposed to "root, root, root for the home team." We [the reporters] are supposed to help you gain insight into your guys, not join you in the rooting.

I believe that the reporters for both the Times and the Post meet this standard; they provide us insight on the team. MLB.com? Sometimes, yes, but not so much.

You might be wondering where St. Barry is in all of this outfield stuff today. Well, I certainly can't answer that. If I were to try, I could only suspect---like he picked his Friday notes column to focus on Preston Wilson, another (apparently momentarily) miffed outfielder. Maybe something bigger is forthcoming, perhaps involving Church, of whom he has discussed in recent weekly chats. But I don't really know, except to say that the Times beat him on Wilkerson today.

Come to think of it, if I'm going to plug in ad hoc rationalizations for St. Barry, I might as well for Mr. Gluskin, too. So here it is: Gluskin's notes column---like most of Rocket Bill's---is time-stamped during the middle of the game. Maybe Zuckerman spoke to Wilkerson after the game, rather than before. If so, Gluskin---or whoever---can redeem himself by noting Wilkerson's displeasure last night in tonight's notes column.

But I'm not holding my breath . . .

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