April 13, 2006

On Comments On Wells And Nixon

In the Game 8 comments, Jack Marshall makes two points about my calling Wells a fat tub of goo:
"It's more than a little strange for a blog that is hypersensitive to perceived racial or ethnic slights to resort to denigration of other personal characteristics"
"Wells [has] outlasted 98% of his thinner contemporaries, plus an awful lot of the "fit" starters much his junior. He won 15 game at age 41 last year ... How can you question his conditioning? Obviously, however he looks, what he's been doing has worked ... when he says he knows his body, the record says he's right."
First, I admit that my post-game comments were more pejorative than informative. But Wells is overweight -- and I believe that his refusal to lose any excess pounds (and general casual attitude towards training) has impacted his performance for the Red Sox.

Knowing his own body? Perhaps. But I also recall Wells joking with the media during the 2003 World Series about how he rarely worked out -- then the next night, he had to leave Game 5 after only one inning with a bad back, possibly costing the Yankees a shot at beating the Marlins.

By contrast, a player's skin colour or place of birth does not affect his game for better or worse. None of us (I hope) say "Player X pitched poorly because he's black" or "Hitter Y is worthless because he was born in Country Z". However, most fans do make wisecracks about players' physical imperfections, things they cannot change about themselves. Maybe it's frustration at slow runners like Millar or Mirabelli, noodle arms like Damon, unattractive players or players with various personality quirks. Yelling at Wells through the TV screen to "have another jelly doughnut" is right in line with that.

It is impressive that Wells has pitched for so long -- at any weight -- and his body size may have aided him through the years in some way. We can both name other successful heavy pitchers. But I also think Wells took a very lazy approach to getting into shape this spring. He meandered through camp (after knee surgery), called his manager an idiot for not naming him the #2 starter, got battered in AAA, and threw several innings of BP in Fenway. Simply, I don't think he's ready for the big leagues this year.

And so I got pissed -- both at Wells and at the front office for giving him an undeserved start -- and made a crack about his weight as short hand for my annoyance. It wasn't very analytical, but I don't think it was on par with a racial or ethnic slur, either.

And while Wells was credited with 15 wins last year, he also led the AL in run support. The fact is Wells was a below average pitcher in 2005 -- his ERA+ was 99, his worst season since 1996.

A clarification on Teflon Trot: All I wanted to say was that I knew Wily Mo Pena's fumble would get a lot of attention, but that Nixon's attempted catch earlier in the game was a much dumber play. And I knew no one in the press would make a big deal about it. That's all. Pena at least got his glove on the ball, while Nixon gave away an extra base and took his bat out of the team's lineup for about a week because of a completely pointless dive.

My point wasn't that this discrepancy in reporting was race-related, but that Nixon simply seems impervious to media criticism. Plenty of white guys get hammered by the Boston press also, but Trot just skates on by. ... I note that Pena is taking extra fielding practice in right field.


Daryl said...

That's because Trot is a "gamer", a "dirt dog"... bleah. Effort counts for diddly squat in my book.

You know, if a player knew how to do it right, he could cultivate the impression of not trying too hard on defense and fooling people into trying to take the extra base and getting them out... Manny does that, in a way, although not necessarily intentionally.

Jack Marshall said...

Redsock: I'm honored.

And I confess to being on somewhat of a crusade to try to reduce the tendency in public discourse to use a person's weight as an all-purpose slur, implying that there is something about being overweight that makes someone inherently unsavory. Criticize Rush Limbaugh's logic, not his weight. Knock Michael Moore's movies, not his pants size.John Adams was fat. Ben Franklin was fat. Kirby Pucket and Barbara Jordan were fat. My Dad is fat.

Wells' conditioning is a legitimate cause for concern, but that's not the same as his weight. He's not appreciably fatter than he's ever been, and he's had an amazing career.
But thanks for giving the matter some thought.

L-girl said...

Once again I agree with Jack Marshall. This is getting scarier and scarier.

Although I don't agree that Allan is "hypersensitive to perceived racial or ethnic slights" - merely that he acknowledges and disapproves, where others are content to rationalize or accept.

Other than that, re Limbaugh, Moore, and Jack Marshall's dad, let's leave body size out of it. Wells just sucks and should retire, is all.