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A World That Coerces Self-Censorship

Mike SteffanosFriday, June 9, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

If I could just add some clarification to what I wrote yesterday regarding Aditi Kinkhabwala's SI.com feature on Lastings Milledge. I seem to have incorrectly given some readers the opinion that I was debating her or taking the opposing point of view with what she had to say. I actually agreed with her that it would be wonderful if we all could just enjoy a kid like Lastings, who was real, honest and genuine in his enthusiasm. I just don't believe the world as it currently is constructed will allow that. If I was a parent or trusted older advisor to this kid, I'd strongly urge him to learn how to play the game with the press and never give them anything that was the least controversial.

Case in point -- when Lastings admitted after the fact that he wasn't really sorry for high-fiving the fans after his extra-inning homer against the Giants. Personally, I don't blame him at all for not feeling sorry, it wasn't the type of act that should have inspired any true remorse. However, don't you know that a San Francisco writer found out about it and went back to the Giants with this earth-shattering news for their reactions? It's a better than even bet Milledge will get plunked by a Giants pitcher at some point next year. I don't have a problem with him for not being sorry, but he now has a problem for saying it. He'll learn to say less and less with each passing day, until he can spout out sentences of bland platitudes without even having to work at it.

For those that thought that I was being critical of David Wright for saying that he had already mastered the art of giving the press their quotes without really saying anything, I assure you that I was not. I admire Wright for learning this at such a young age. And please, don't think I wouldn't prefer a world where athletes like Wright and Milledge could just be honest and open -- of course I would. For their own sakes, though, it's better they realize that the world doesn't exist. The real world is a place where a nugget of negative can take on a life of its own, and trying to control the flow of information about yourself is reflective of good sense.

Finally, there still seems to be a perception that people like me defend Milledge because we're Mets fans and don't like to see anything negative written about our precious prospects. Look, I accept this kid brings negatives and positives with him, because everyone in the freaking world does. I know that I'm not Barney the Dinosaur -- I don't like everyone I meet, and not everyone that meets me falls under the spell of my magnetic personality. It's not wrong for the press to bring up negatives about the kid when they have some context with what is currently going on. The origin of a lot of the recent foolishness came when a Mets official or officials took a strong-arm approach to some rather mild negative reporting about Milledge. Matt Gelb from Mets Geek does an excellent job of recapping these events.

But it is safe to say that some in the media are equally guilty of being heavy-handed and vindictive. This part of Aditi Kinkhabwala's feature annoyed me the most:

Milledge's parents thought about putting their son's first big-league clips in a scrapbook, but then they read one columnist writing him off after that first game. The same tabloid that used the headline "Impression Is Lastings One" ran a complete rehashing of the misconduct allegations -- involving his underage girlfriend -- that dropped him from the 2003 draft's top three to the 12th spot.

Milledge had hoped he could prove his troubles were in the past, but while he was talking about "the biggest day of my life," the media were dredging up old baggage. By Sunday evening, after the on-field faux pas and with his teammates looking at him sideways, Milledge was ready to completely shut down.

Why this stuff had to be rehashed when their hasn't been a whisper of any such problems in the years since Lastings was drafted is completely beyond me. Why Milledge's parents had to deal with that crap on what should have been a great day for them makes no earthly sense to me. Dragging up the past for the sake of exploiting salacious dirt that has no demonstrable context with the present is something that I find personally offensive and gratuitous.

Newsday: You've got to be kidding me
In a David Lennon story about the Mets reaction to the Jason Grimsley HGH scandal, we receive this update about Mets' draft pick Scott Schafer:

The Mets are "conducting an investigation" into some inappropriate comments posted on the Web site MySpace.com by Scott Schafer, their sixth-round pick (184th overall) in Tuesday's draft, a person familiar with the situation said yesterday.

Team officials didn't find any red flags in their predraft interviews with the 18-year-old righthander, and Schafer even pitched for Pasadena (Texas) Memorial High, which is located in the hometown of Mets director of amateur scouting Rudy Terrasas. The club also was concerned that Schafer used a Mets logo in his profile and referred to himself as a member of the team, even though he is unsigned.

The terrific Can't Stop The Bleeding had some tidbits posted from the kid's MySpace.com profile which were funny, silly and harmless -- pretty much what you would you would expect from a high school kid. He thought his best physical feature was his penis. I wonder if the FBI is also "conducting an investigation" into this kid's phallic infatuation, because, as we all know, it's very unusual for high school boys to say stuff like this.

At some point the kid changed the page, took all of the silly profile stuff off, but had the Mets logo on the page and did refer to himself as a member of the team. I think we all agree that we wouldn't want to sign a kid that was actually excited to be a Met. All I can say is shame on the Mets for making mountains out of molehills with a teenager. Meanwhile, this kid has now learned what Lastings Milledge is learning -- never say anything to anybody. By the way, you can't view his MySpace profile anymore -- it's set to private.

Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Another strong outing for Mike Pelfrey
Mike Pelfrey had his longest AA outing, pitching 7 strong innings and retiring 19 of the last 20 batters he faced in a 5-1 win.

Baseball America: More on Pelfrey
In BA's Daily Dish column from today, Chris Kline offers the following on Pelfrey's start yesterday, quoting an unnamed AL scout:

... Pelfrey was brilliant. Since being called up from high Class A St. Lucie in late April, the Mets' first-rounder last year out of Wichita State has battled command issues at times, but over his last three starts, the 22-year-old righthander has turned it up a notch. Over a 19-inning span, Pelfrey is 1-0, 1.42 with a 22-4 strikeout-walk ratio. His win against the R-Phils was his first in Double-A.

"He sat at 93-95 (mph) consistently throughout, and touched 97 a few times," the scout said. "He had real good command of the fastball, and moved it around to make it more effective. He was up, down and in, out--his fastball was unhittable--with a lot of late, downward movement.

"The secondary stuff was just OK. His curveball is a hard, slurvy breaking ball that he just wasn't commanding well. The changeup was a non-factor that needs work, more in his grip than his arm speed. It looks fine (mechanically), but it doesn't have much depth to it at all."

NY Post: Goodbye Kaz?
Mark Hale reports that the Mets might release Kaz Matsui when Xavier Nady is ready to return from the DL.

Washington Post: Blood tests for baseball
In the wake of the Jason Grimsley scandal, Howard Bryant reports that members of Congress may now look to pressure Major League Baseball into blood tests.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets
Pro Sports Daily Mets

Comments (2)

That Schafer story is hardly worth the electricity needed to show it. I really don't know why the Mets should care; and it was double stupid to talk about it and call attention to it (though I suppose if the newspapers asked them about it, they were obligated to give an answer, and "conducting an investigation" is standard CYA talk, whether there's a problem or not).

Also, kids these days are very upfront about talking about posting personal things on the Internet -- things that older folks like me think need to be kept private. You can argue whether this is good or bad, but it's essentially how things have changed and it's dumb to punish someone for doing something that is not illegal and which is common practice among his peers.

Especially since there was nothing all that awful up there -- just silly high school stuff. It was funny, and made me take a liking to the kid. I also don't know why the Mets felt the need to express concern that the kid had the Mets logo on his page and said he was a member of the club. I would have simply contacted him and asked him to take that stuff down until he signed. Jeez -- the kid was psyched to be drafted by an MLB team, what 18-year-old athlete wouldn't be?

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