By Mike Steffanos
Sorry about missing this morning's post. Nothing in the morning papers captured my imagination, and I was busy with a few other things. While the opening game of this double header is delayed by the rain, I thought I'd take the opportunity to weigh in on a couple of things.
In the excellent Can't Stop The Bleeding blog, Gerard Cosloy took exception to Mike McGann from NY Baseball Central basically calling Lastings Milledge a punk and a thug in his rections to some silly ass in the Mets brass threating a baseless libel suit against the Daily News' Adam Rubin. Here is the paragraph from McGann's story, with my emphasis in the text:
In first place, with things going fairly well, why is the Mets' brass on the phone with a reporter, screaming over something that is pretty minor -- and for the most part, provably true? Look, the kid clearly has some thug tendencies -- he drives his Hummer like a banshee (nearly running me over last spring training) and walks around like he's a 10-time All-Star -- but the irony here is that the team brass is showing itself to be a much bigger punk than Milledge ever could be with this sort of behavior.
You know, I read McGann's story, and I didn't really focus on that part, more interested in McGann's take on the whole silly libel deal, but McGann, who spent time with the team in spring training, clearly is calling Milledge a "punk" with "thug tendencies" here. This is where Cosloy makes a great point in CSTB:
I would like to point out that Milledge has been in the big leagues for a total of 2 games and between Raissman and McGann, we've already seen less than flattering references to do-rags, a Hummer and a big gold chain (OK, I mentioned the gold chain, too). McGann has apparently spent more time around Milledge than most of us, so he's more qualified to give insights into the player's character, but I do hope it is acknowledged that being a hot dog doesn't necessarily make the guy a thug, nor does bad driving. I seem to recall Chris Mullin had some troubles behind the wheel when he was a young man, and but don't remember his ever being described as a thug.
There are not a lot of young, gifted black American baseball prospects these days. For all the talk of how "diversified" the Mets are, Milledge joins Cliff Floyd and Darren Oliver as the third black player on the 25-man roster. Down through the system, the vast majority of minor-leaguers with dark skin are Hispanic. It's not surprising, I guess, that most gifted black American athletes choose to play football and basketball, where the culture is a lot more familiar than the white/Hispanic culture of today's baseball. With the reaction to Milledge -- a young, extremely gifted black kid who knows how good he is and isn't shy about it -- you have to wonder if there is a cultural bias involved in how he is perceived, both by other teams and by the media.
Don't get me wrong here. We start kissing the butts of young, talented athletes when they are competing at the grade school level -- telling them how wonderful they are and creating a whole different set of rules for them. By the time these kids hit the major-leagues, their sense of self-importance and entitlement grows to match or even surpass their level of talent. Add to this that there is no stupider human in the world than a hormone-filled male in his late teens and early twenties (there is a reason why the military prefers that age), and you have all the ingredients for problems. Give the kid a different cultural background and then it gets really interesting.
Gerard Cosloy was on the money with this one, and for all of us that jumped on the silliness of what Raissman wrote, Cosloy was the only one I saw that picked up on the extreme reaction to Milledge as a thug and a punk. I'm not sure what Milledge is going to be, and whether his attitude and cockiness might not prove to be a big problem down the road, but there seems to be some untimely judgment against the kid at this stage. As Cosloy wrote in a reply to a comment on this same story:
I don't feel qualified to pass judgement on Milledge as a player or a person after 2 games in Flushing. I agree with Raissman and McGan that the Mets seem to be totally out to lunch in the propaganda department -- it's perfectly reasonable for Rubin and anyone covering the team to point out Milledge's rep up until this point (which, as I'm sure you know, includes some legal trouble prior to signing with New York). But it does strike me as a little over the top that in the space of 2 days, he's been knocked for the doo-rag, the Hummer, the bling and finally, accused of "thug tendencies."
I read in Sports Illustrated this week that David Wright once threw a hamburger at a kid in high school. Nobody's perfect.
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Pelfrey has another good start
Brian Moritz reports that Mike Pelfrey has bounced back with his second straight strong start for AA-Binghamton, and also contributing three hits to the cause.