Where I defend Cliff Lee and the Mariners

Can't wait for CHB's next article about how unnamed young Sox players found Mike Lowell shooting craps in the clubhouse when they needed him to pinch hit.  (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission)

Can't wait for CHB's next article about how unnamed young Sox players found Mike Lowell shooting craps in the clubhouse when they needed him to pinch hit. (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission)

I wanted to blog about this last night and just didn’t have the energy.  Today I do and I am quite sure that more people will disagree with me than agree with me and I’m quite fine with that.  I didn’t start this blog to be popular.  🙂

(This is, be warned, a long one.)

Let’s talk about Cliff Lee.

But first, some back story.

On May 10th, Larry LaRue of the News Tribune wrote a story in which he asserted that Ken Griffey, Jr’s time with the Seattle Mariners was drawing to a close.   His reasoning?  Not just Juniors diminishing skills.  No, LaRue had it on good authority (two “younger players, fond of Griffey” and both, supposedly without “an ax to grind”) that Junior was unavailable to pinch him on a particular night because he was “sound” asleep in the clubhouse.  Mariners’ manager Don Wakamatsu vehemently denied this and Junior’s teammate Mike Sweeney has challenged the two teammates to fess up so he can fight them (Um, Mike?  Not really the best way to get someone to tell the truth, hon!) and the entire team is pretty much supporting Junior.  There was a team meeting where it is rumored that Griffey was so upset by this that he cried.  And still, the two anonymous ball players haven’t spoken up.

The Mariners seem convinced there are no two players, basically accusing LaRue of lying.  Writers all over the country are rushing to LaRue’s defense because he’s such a ‘respected’ writer.  All I have to say to that is Dan Shaughnessy is a ‘respected’ writer in his field as well and no one I know would put it past him to write something he knew to be untrue just to push his agenda.

But back to Cliff Lee.  After his game this week, Lee refused to answer any questions during the post-game presser until LaRue left the room (which he did).  This left many a blogger and Twitterer (?) to start lamenting about how Lee doesn’t “get” freedom of speech or freedom of the press or freedom in general and many have gotten their undies in a bunch over it.  Bullshit.

Before I continue with my rant, let me share this theory.  In discussing this yesterday, Kelly O’Connor pondered whether this could be like the incident between Gary Thorne and Doug Mirabelli where Thorne swore that Dougie told him that the blood on Curt Schilling’s sock was drawn on with paint and where Mirabelli responded to the accusation with a laugh and  wondering why he didn’t know he was joking.   Which lead to Kelly wondering if that was the case here – that LaRue maybe heard something the didn’t understand the context of and just ran with it.  (Thorne did come out and apologize for his “misunderstanding” what Dougie said.)

Okay, back to Lee again.  Everyone is getting all pissy about how he had no right to demand that LaRue leave the room just because he didn’t like what he wrote.  I say, again, bullshit.  As I’ve often said about this blog, the clubhouse is not America, it’s the “property” of the team, the players and MLB*.  The writers who appear there aren’t there because it’s their right to be there, they’re there because it is a privilege they’ve been given.  It is all too often that I’ve wished for one of the Red Sox to point to a Dan Shaughnessy or Steve Buckley and say “You!  Get the hell out.”  Not just because what they write is often negative and overly critical, but because much of what they write (or at least have written especially back in the Nomar and Pedro days) was only written to stir up shit.  If Cliff Lee wants to stand up for his teammate by not encouraging the person he believes to be spreading lies about him then good for him.  LaRue is using his rights as an American to write stories that he can only back up with “anonymous players too cowardly to come forward” so why can’t Lee call him on that?  LaRue plays his way, Lee plays his.  LaRue needs Lee a hell of a lot more than Lee needs LaRue so why not flex that muscle once in a while?  Especially in this context – where he feels the writer has genuinely wronged someone who didn’t deserve it.

About Junior.  How is it that a story about him sleeping in the clubhouse doesn’t sound suspicious to people?  In his entire career have you ever read about anything like this?  Has he ever been a problem in the clubhouse?  Has he ever done anything that would make you suspect that, knowing this is his last year in MLB, he would just mail it in or he just doesn’t care?  No.  And if you said yes you’re either a liar or Larry LaRue.  Why is it that everyone in this day takes someone’s anonymous word as gospel?  We get two, unnamed sources on one side and the manager, the player involved and just about everyone else on the team on the other and we automatically assume the anonymous people are telling the truth?  That’s called just trying to stir up trouble.  There is absolutely no proof this happened, but someone named Larry LaRue said it did because two invisible people in his brain told him so**, so it has to be true!

Here’s the thing:  I have no idea if Junior was sleeping in the clubhouse…but neither does Larry LaRue, nor do any of you.  Junior says it didn’t happen, his manager and teammates, who are willing to go on the record, say it didn’t happen and as an act of solidarity have told Larry LaRue to go pound sand.  I genuinely have no problem with this.  Frankly, I wish more players would do it.

I’m reminded, yet again, of John Tomase and his unnamed sources who claimed there was a smoking gun, in the guise of a video tape, showing the Patriots taping the Rams walk through.  But, guess what?  His sources were wrong. Actually, his sources were sketchy but because he wanted to be the first to break the story he went with it without doing much fact checking.  This is a man who shouldn’t be allowed to cover any sports team but the Herald just bumped him from the Patriots beat to the Red Sox (where he tried to stir up a ‘there’s no chemistry on this team’ controversy that the team came back to debunk) because, frankly, the Herald sucks.  How does this relate to LaRue?  A story about Junior sleeping in the clubhouse when his team really needed him to pinch hit is hot stuff.  What if someone scooped him?  What if the two unnamed players went to someone else?  Instead of doing some leg work, he took the word of two “young” players and left it at that.  I’m sorry, the story is big enough that a little bit more work would be required, no?  No.  He ran it as he heard it, pissed off the players who think he printed a bold-faced lie and now is paying for that.

More power to the Mariners.

And, no, I’m not some anti-free speech asshole.  I just think people wanting to wave the free speech banner here are barking up the wrong tree because, in this case, it goes both ways.  Cliff Lee is not obligated to talk with LaRue specifically.  He’s using HIS free speech to NOT speak to him.  That people automatically jump on the free speech bandwagon just because the guy is a reporter annoys me.  This is not censoring him, this is letting him know there are repercussions for what he writes.  The guy wrote a dicky column with nothing to back it up and the Mariners called him on it.  Again, good for them.

What people SHOULD be asking is this:  Whatever happened to responsible journalism?

*Not sure if this is entirely accurate, it’s just my observation.  I think that during the playoffs the players are obligated to meet with the press but it is my understanding that it isn’t the case during the regular season.  There  have been plenty of times that clubs have shut the reporters out of the clubhouse without all the complaining.  And when Carl Everett told Gordon Edes to get lost and to take his “curly haired boyfriend” with him, no one was shouting about free speech rights.

**I have no knowledge of LaRue’s reputation short of what other writers are saying about him right now.  Again, no writer ever says “boo” against CHB either.  I do not pretend to know if he imagined these ‘young’ player, if he overheard something he didn’t get or if there actually are two players who ratted out Griffey.  In any event, I DO believe that LaRue wrote a bullshit story.

As a final aside, the photo attached to this entry was taken, as many of the photos here are, by Kelly O’Connor, who is, without argument, the most talented photographer around, professional or amateur.  She still has her sittingstill site but all of her newest photos are going up at her new site at Smug Mug and you really should check them out!

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