By Mike Steffanos
Is anyone else out there starting to think that the Daily News' Bob Raissman is starting to look as silly as the Mets officials he criticized last week? Don't get me wrong, the Mets came across as extremely foolish when a team official intimated that Adam Rubin might have left himself open to libel charges when he reported that Lastings Milledge was not popular among his International League peers. More than foolish -- this was emblematic of the type of bizarre organizational thinking that has handicapped this team for years.
But now Raissman is just coming across as someone who has a personal vendetta against a 21-year-old kid that he doesn't even know. As ridiculous as it was last Friday when Raissman took Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez to task for not being negative enough about Lastings Milledge in their telecasts last week, he was at it again in yesterday's Daily News:
During a recent Mets telecast, Keith Hernandez indicated he has little patience for players who bring excessive attention to themselves, which usually results in showing up an opponent. His comments were nothing new. Throughout his broadcasting career Hernandez has said showboating - or popping off in print - can put your team in a tough spot.
So, what did he think of Lastings Milledge's high-five trip down the right-field line in the 11th inning Sunday? You know, that particular stroll made by the Met rookie after hitting his first major league homer.
This celebration looked like something you might see following a game. Trouble was the Mets and Giants were tied 6-6 when Ch. 11's cameras focused on Milledge's slap-happy trip. The scene had Howie Rose, filling in for Gary Cohen (appendectomy), all gooey inside.
"He didn't take a curtain call, but he's making up for it now," Rose gushed. "'Hi, I'm Lastings Milledge, nice to know you.'"
Hernandez had nothing to say.
Since Raissman isn't a sportswriter, but rather a columnist who covers sports on the media, the only way he can justify bringing up constant criticism of Milledge is to criticize Mets broadcasters for not being more negative towards Milledge. The kid certainly has a lot to learn, and craves the white hot glare of the spotlight. If Raissman is lucky, he'll keep slipping up on minor things like the high-five incident and give Bob a chance to take pot shots at him and the Mets every few days. He can criticize a naïve 21-year-old for his foibles, while failing to notice that his own anti-Milledge agenda is coming across as petty and small. Nothing the kid has done so far has earned the personal attacks on his character that Raissman cleverly hides behind criticism of the Mets announcers.
My colleague Bob Sikes from Getting Paid to Watch, who has more than a little experience with the occasional vindictiveness of the New York media, had this to say about the coverage Milledge has been receiving:
First, Lastings Milledge. Bob Raissman has made it a personal crusade to bring Milledge's character into question and assert the entire Mets , organization is conspiring to spin. Aside from Steve Kline of the Giants, no players has been on record criticizing Milledge.
We constantly hear about how he wasn't liked in the International League. Naturally he's not popular with the Richmond club where he sparked a brawl after a hard slide. But this incident and other vague subjectives have taken on a life of its own among the writers who cover the team and is driving the manner in which they cover Milledge.
Sikes is fair, and criticizes the Mets organization for their failure to be "big boys about what's in the paper", but makes some valid points about the media in a piece well worth checking out.
Some accuse Mets fans like myself of blindly defending Milledge because we hope he'll become a star, but I feel as if I'm reacting to unfair and out-of-proportion criticism. Maybe Lastings Milledge will turn out to be every bit as bad as Bob Raissman and others would have you believe. So far, though, the "crimes" that writers like Bob have harped on seem to fairly mild in comparison to sensationalist journalism they have inspired. Milledge is a young kid with some talent and a big ego who has made some missteps. He's carrying some baggage that some wish to bring up every chance they get, overzealously pouncing on any slip-up. In my opinion, he hasn't earned this wildly overblown scrutiny from people like Bob Raissman who are old enough to know better.
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