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Mike SteffanosMonday, February 18, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

You think that I don't even mean a single word I say.
It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.
-- Bee Gees

As mentioned in Friday's post, I will attempt to go back to posting on this blog daily through the end of the 2008 season. Today was definitely the first real test of that resolution, since nothing is really happening yet.

However, there is our first "controversy" of the year, thanks to Carlos Beltran's statement to reporters that, with Santana, the Mets are now the team to beat in the NL East. Since then, reporters have been dashing frantically back and forth between the Mets and Phillies camps trying to fan the flames. Unfortunately, Jimmy Rollins isn't in camp yet and the other Phillies don't seem too worked up by it.

For me, I got a chuckle out of it. I think Beltran has more of a sense of humor than we give him credit for. Other than that, I don't read much into it. All winter I have been amused by all the apocryphal credit handed to Rollins for his statements in the spring, as if those very words caused the Mets September collapse. Perhaps if the Mets do manage to retake the east this year there will be some in the media looking to give Beltran's words some credit for that. I guess that makes a good story and sells some papers, but other than that the only real outcome I see is some louder boos for Beltran when the Mets travel down to Philly. After his first couple of trips back to Houston, I suspect he can handle that.

There were also some features today about new catcher Brian Schneider. There has been a lot said about Schneider's defense and game-calling abilities, the latter point which is certain to drive strict Sabermetricians -- who see no real correlation between who's calling the pitches and how the pitcher does -- crazy. As for me, I'm old-school enough to hand out some credit to calling a good game without going too crazy about it.

Baseball was a drastically different game when Jerry Grote and Jim Sundberg plied their trade. I loved Grote, but with today's premium on offense he would have had a tough time cracking a major league roster unless he hit more. Schneider's ability to call a game is a nice little asset, but if he can return to being the decent offensive catcher he was before the last couple of anemic seasons the Mets would be much better off. He seems like a good guy, and I'm sure he'll earn my respect in time, but I'm still having my doubts about the trade that brought him here. On the other hand, I'm not in the same camp with those who can see no positives in Schneider at all.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Speaking of words, if I could step away from baseball just briefly, I recently introduced myself to the world of political blogs. When I was young I was very political -- I remember being 9 years old and crying when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. I grew disillusioned with the political process over the years, mostly due to all of the posturing, back-biting, and failure to accomplish anything meaningful that has gripped Washington for so long.

After listening to Barack Obama a few times, I decided that his candidacy had a chance to push things back a little when pols worked together to get things done rather than simply trying to marginalize the opposition. I think America has been dangerously polarized and that needs to change. I'm not trying to convince any of you to go along with my thinking. My point is that actually liking a candidate again led to trying to see a little deeper into the process and reading some of those political web sites and some of the more serious blogs on the subject.

What I've learned, to my surprise, is that the quality of the comments left on these sites is not very different than what's being said on sports blogs like mine. Some people are quite thoughtful and articulate, but many display the sort of blind partisanship that sports fans do. This is kind of scary, but I guess it shouldn't be surprising to me. The sensationalism that, to my regret, has come to typify sports coverage is not all that different than that displayed by the political press. In fairness to all of them, they're just giving the public what we want, I guess. A misleadingly sensational 10 second sound bite draws more ears and eyes than longer, more thoughtful analysis. Maybe we as a public should learn to demand more. Just a thought.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Finally, in keeping this "Words" theme going, I had an interesting experience yesterday. I read this piece on Joel Sherman's blog that contained the following observation:

From time to time, this space is going to suggest words or phrases that must be stricken from our usage, if not outright banned from the language. We open with this saying: "threw under the bus." As in, Brian McNamee threw Roger Clemens under the bus. This saying is so dumb that without even taking the time to study its genesis, I smell stupid ex-athlete currently working for ESPN as either the creator or this term or - at the least - the virus that has spread it to ridiculously large use. Please stop. This saying actually makes me want to throw people under buses.

I've always been a sucker for wonderfully evocative slang which carries a meaning that's deeper than the words or phrase themselves. Saying somebody threw someone else under a bus as, for instance, Roger Clemens did to his wife during his congressional testimony, is a perfect example of that. I even felt compelled to make the point in the following comment that I left to this post:

The expression "throw someone under a bus" has been around for quite a while, and most of us understand what it refers to. Here's a history:


I like the expression, which is great evocative slang. If that makes you want to throw me under a bus, so be it.

The link contained both a definition of the term and some of its origins -- which, by the way, came from neither an ex-jock nor ESPN. I share this comment with you because this will be the only space you find said comment. Immediately upon clicking the button to post it, I received the following stark rejection: Your comment was denied for questionable content.

Not quite sure where the "questionable content" was in that comment, which I copied verbatim by hitting the Back button on my browser. Perhaps it was simply not agreeing with Joel Sherman's premise. As someone who occasionally removes objectionable comments from his own site I guess I can live with this rejection. I understand this was done in an automated manner and there was nothing personal. Still, it makes me question what criteria they use in scoring potentially objectionable material. If I did this in my own blog, the only words you find on it would be my own.

And sorry, but I still love the expression. Throw that under your bus, buddy.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (4)

Sadly, Mike, the level of discourse on sports blogs is probably higher than that on political blogs, even when accounting for the contributions in some baseball forums of the underaged or overcaffeinated who you wouldn't want to sit anywhere near at a game. Doesn't matter which stripe politically, there is almost no chance you can go three comments deep without the "you/your opinion/your candidate suck(s)" theme prevailing. It leaves me wondering how people who post those comments think they're helping their causes and agendas. Despite my better judgment, I love to follow politics almost as much as I love watching baseball, yet I would hate to write about it for an audience.

I'd have a little more respect for Joel Sherman if he made an actual point, such as "that phrase is overused," than just dismissing language out of hand and proudly declaring he's not going to bother finding out from whence this apparent plague was derived. Nice way for a writer to be, eh?

I say good for Beltran, now just go out and be consistent. Schneider will probably hit .275. I was born two years after JFK was murdered, in our house there was a picture of MLK/JFK/& RFK all in the same frame. I hope Obama can bring about some positive changes for all Americans. Lastly, wake me up when Joel Sherman actually writes something worth reading not just to sell papers. Take care Mike!

I agree with G-Fafif that the level of discourse (and I'll go so far as to say the depth of analysis) is higher on the best sports blogs than it is in political forums. Even on the best political forums (and the one I read the most is dailykos.com) there is the recurrent problem of a lack of diversity among the readership (how many ways can you say the same exact thing?) I had toyed with the idea of starting a political blog that would actually have been in the spirit of Mike's wonderful post today (reconciliation to the degree it's possible). But I talked myself out of it with two good reasons. First of all, by writing about sports I wanted to bring all kinds of people together and I worried that I wouldn't be able to avoid alienating some people. Secondly, I discovered a couple of years ago that there are an awful lot of highly politicized people who turn to the Internet to take out some pretty scary hostility. A right-wing columnist had scurrilously attacked an article a friend of mine wrote in the New Yorker, without, it seemed to me, even having read it. I posted a good-natured and (I thought) informative comment on the magazine's website explaining why I disagreed with the columnist. You would not believe what I got in my inbox. Trust me, you can get some unbelievable hate mail for no other reason than being politely liberal in the wrong place at the wrong time. You probably wouldn't want to mess with this. Unfortunately.

One good thing about baseball, though is that no one is ever worried about plagiarism. Players and fans are supposed to all say the same thing in the same words.

Greg - I'm with you. I considered starting another political blog to share some of my thoughts on the matter without imposing them on a Mets blog. (Don't know where I thought I was going to find the time, but that's another story.) I realized that I didn't want to write for an audience that continued so many angry and unreasonable folks. If I wanted to go that route I could always do a Phillies blog...
LJ - You may be sleeping for a while...
Dana - As above to Greg, those were my thoughts, too.

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