Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Villain of Our Generation

I had the opportunity to sit down and watch the majority of the first half of Ken Burns's "Tenth Inning" documentary Monday night. I was a big fan of the original documentary, and the partial synopsis of the last sixteen years of baseball was quite good. Steroids were mentioned a little bit (probably to be explained more in the "bottom of the tenth"), but they went into a lot of detail regarding the 1994 strike. A matter of millionaires versus billionaires, and the extent to which fans were absolutely disgusted by what happened. The two sides were also far, far away - and it makes me worry about what might happen in football next year.

The documentary mentioned a lot of people who could be demonized over the last sixteen years, and we have a lot of them to choose from. I've already made my decision on who's the wors.t, and for the sake of brevity, I'll have the top three discussed separately later on this week (They're Bonds third, Selig second, and Fehr first). What about you? Reasonable candidates:

Honorable Mention: Pedro Martinez: This one's got probably the weakest case, but I know my co-author's disdain for the player. He's a headhunter who puts Yankees into the hospital. He's brash. He's arrogant. He doesn't show up to spring training on time. He has a big mouth. The case against him: He never got caught with the juice. The other side to the big mouth was his charisma. And even if you hated him, you had to respect his talent and his entertainment value.

6. George Steinbrenner: Got suspended from baseball for paying off a gambler. Antagonized the commissioner, other owners, his own managers, his own players, and his fans with some of his antics.. Drove up player prices and, in many eyes, widened the divide between the haves and have-notes in baseball. Was also apparently a pretty unworkwithable employer. The case against him: Not sure if you've heard, but he did a lot of this stuff because he wanted to win, not make money. He also did quite a bit of charity stuff, just in case you were on the moon this summer and hadn't heard about it.

5. Scott Boras: The uber-agent goes no holds barred, subverting all of the following to help out not his clients, but himself. The draft: his clients Jason Varitek and JD Drew once tried to circumvent the draft by playing independent ball and then be eligible for free agency. The game's biggest stage: The Arod opt-out insanity of 2007. His own clients: The Manny Ramirez option saga of 2008, when he put his own client's guaranteed $40 million on the line so HE could negotiate and get a rip of the player's next contract. The guy will stop at nothing. He's been involved with tampering on several different occasions as well. The case against him: He's really, really good at his job.

4. Roger Clemens. Talk about delusional. First he was generally a dickhead according to the media and many others. Playing in Toronto so he could be closer to Texas was pretty bad. Chasing a ring in New York was also reasonably shameful. The Piazza bat incident? Come on. Then came the retirement/non-retirement/show up when I want to thing, which has since had its impact minimized because Brett Favre did the same dance with the media in a way that was about ten times more obsequious than the way Clemens did. But he kept on one-upping himself when his name showed up in the Mitchell report. The 60 Minutes interview was awful. The Congressional testimony was a joke. The McNamee thing, the "misremembered" word invention, and the saga with him throwing his own wife under the bus for taking the stuff he said he never took. A particular kicker for me was how Canseco identified Clemens as one of the very few players he played with who never cheated on his wife - but then we found out he was involved with a 16-year-old burnout country singer. The case against him: Quite a bit of this could have been avoided if Dan Duquette didn't say he was in the twilight of his career. There have been similar scumbags in history who may have done it more quietly.

3-2-1, once again, are Bonds, Selig, and Fehr. If you guys actually made it this far, first of all, thanks, and second of all, please pace yourself on the discussion so we can talk about the top three tomorrow or Friday.


Anonymous said...


Pedro is a stretch to put on this list. He's only there to make PF feel good about it. Which isn't necessarily a bad reason. But Pedro Martinez is no more the villain of professional baseball than Scottie Pippen was of the NBA.

The clear choice here has to be Barry Bonds. Say what you want about Jose Canseco, Clemens, ARod, Manny, McGwire, Sosa, Selig and whomever else, but when you think of steroids the first name you think of is Barry Bonds and his enormous skull. And it will be that way in 20 years, 40 years, and 100 years. Maybe other players set the precedent. Maybe owners and administrators looked the other way. But Barry Bonds was in all likelihood the most egregious offender (he ruined the most important statistic in sports) and he was a complete jerk to boot. I don't know how it gets worse than him.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...


Your points are fair, and there are fair points to be made for all of the top three. I've already written my senior thesis on Bonds, but the Selig and Fehr points are still residing in my head. And while the image would be the change in the size and shape of Bonds's head, there are two guys enabling him to do it. That's why I have him third.

Plus, Bonds himself had very little to do with the 1994 work stoppage.

Patrick said...

not even i would put pedro in an honorable mention list from this generation. that was just a good old-fashioned baseball rivalry, and quite honestly, it was too much fun beating him, and ultimately owning a player that good to the point where he admits defeat, for him to make even my villain list. it would have been a "you don't like him, but you respect him" situation much like i had with trot nixon and i imagine many red sox fans have with derek jeter. but pedro threw at people's heads routinely and that is not something you respect. while entertaining, he was also an incredibly bizarre person at times (like when he came walking down the stadium stairs talking out loud like he was talking to an audience, and then proceeded onto the field while the yankees were stretching and started chatting with them like they were buddies - in the height of their rivalry). still, not enough to make my generational villain list. one of the top yankees' villains of this generation? without question, but again that is just more of a baseball rivalry thing. but not for all of baseball.

obviously, even when you do turn the attention away from team villian and to generation villain, who you root for is going to impact your perspective of who the villains are. with that said, i think honorable mentions could be legitimately given to alex rodriguez and curt schilling. from a yankees/red sox perspective, those are probably your two most disliked people from within the rivalry this generation. from a broader baseball perspective, you have to take into account just how much of this generation, outside of PED's, has been about yankees/red sox. you could make a legitimate case that PED's and yankees/red sox are two of, if not the two biggest, themes of the past 10-15 years. so the two biggest villains from that rivalry probably have to get mentioned. rodriguez, because of his excess talent, excess money, and excess attention received in comparison to schilling has an edge from the broader baseball perspective, and that's fair. but make no mistake about it, curt schilling was not a guy fans around the game liked. like rodriguez, he was self-absorbed, had an inflated sense of self-importance, and said really, truly dumb stuff to the media. he was also louder and just as, if not more, arrogant. they were similarly obnoxious albeit in different ways. rodriguez would be higher on the honorable mention list, but schilling would be right there behind him. certainly both more so than pedro martinez.

the gm at work said...

You're probably right about that. I know how much a lot of people hated Pedro because of the HBPs though.

But the Arod point is probably more accurate; you're right. We can talk about the following:

Esquire article, contract, trade, Yankees, 2006, slap, "mine," Newbury Street, Madonna, opt-out, incentives, roids, boli, Details, centaur. I'm sure there's more I left out, but you're right about him.

Schilling had a big mouth, but he never threw at people like Pedro did.

Ross Kaplan said...

I'm not so sure about making Bonds/Clemens as separate villains. To me they are part of a group of villains, namely guys who did amazing things, but cheated us the fans and the game itself.

Also I'm sure this will be discussed further in the next post, but why is Bonds more villainous then say McGwire/Canseco or any of the roided up bashers of the 80s/90s? True the guy was much more of a scumbag than McGwire, but you could make the case that guys like him inspired Bonds to inject himself with HGH.

Anonymous said...

A couple of quick points:

- It will be interesting to see what happens with football next year. I too am worried about a strike/lockout but I don't know that football will be hurt to the same extent that baseball was. It will be very interesting to see. Football has always been it's own animal given the violent nature of the way the game is played and the fact that it's only a once a week thing. It also doesn't have the same sense of tradition or the need to "do things the right way" as baseball has had. There also isn't really a group of football "purists" that wants to sit around and complain about how steroids or greed is ruining the game. In any event, a work stoppage would not be good.

- To address your main point: DV, I think your list of villians is fair, however it's worth noting that you really have a few different types of villians here.

For example, George Steinbrenner and Bud Selig are two different types of villians. People hated Steinbrenner but the reality is that he was good for the sport. It's better for baseball when the Yankees are good, and he brought the Yankees back to the limelight and really put his money where his mouth and made winning the most important things. Villian? yes. Good for business? Yes.

Meanwhile, Selig and Fehr are villians because they have been incompetent at best, corrupt at worst, and have been bad for baseball. Totally different kind of villian.

Lastly, I would say that in professional sports these days we need more teams that are good kind of villians- the teams that you love to hate but that are actually good for the sport. Same is true for players. Everyone is so image conscious and wants to be viewed as the good guy. We need more people that want to be the bad guys in sports.