July 24, 2011

Massarotti Takes Credit For Ellsbury's Fantastic Season

Last May, Tony Massarotti wrote his infamous column questioning Jacoby Ellsbury's desire to play baseball with five broken ribs. Massarotti claimed that Ellsbury -- or "DLsbury" -- had "required a great deal of, well, maintenance" in the minor leagues and was known to miss "small chunks of time with various assorted ailments".

The "soft" meme was picked up by other media and fans, and it dogged Ellsbury all season. Myriad morons demanded to know why Ellsbury refused to hurry back to the Red Sox. Yet, he did come back too soon -- twice! -- and suffered further injury because of it. (Dustin Pedroia did the same thing later in the season.) The evolution of this shit storm was both fascinating and infuriating. And it showed quite clearly why some athletes -- no matter how good the money or chances at a championship might be -- would never want to play (or stay) in Boston. We can only hope Jacoby Ellsbury is not one of those athletes.

And now, with a healthy Ellsbury having a stupendous season -- and crushing the life out of American League pitchers this month -- Tony Massarotti has stepped forward to take credit for Ellsbury's success.

You see, if he had not published that column last May, then the firestorm would not have been ignited and would not have raged all season and Ellsbury would not have been motivated to work as hard as he did last winter and come to spring training so determined to have a good season.

After stating that "the most relevant question now" regarding Ellsbury is "whether this year has been at least partially a product of last", Massarotti insists that the "shame and frustration of 2010" -- which was kick-started by his own column on May 28 -- "inspired Ellsbury to grow, to mature, to make changes that are now reaping enormous benefits".

It's quite simple. According to Massarotti, "you don't get [Ellsbury's] productivity of this season without the controversy from last year. You just don't. ... [H]e wouldn't be the player is now [sic] had he failed to endure it – or had anyone failed to call him out."

Massarotti was the first person to call Ellsbury out, but he can't come right out and pat himself on the back, of course. So he hides behind comments from Kevin Youkilis, Terry Francona, and Ellsbury's current agent, Scott Boras.

However, the Youkilis quote that is at the top of the column includes a warning to Massarotti and the rest of the Boston media -- "I don't think any of us really know [what's going on]. ... Don't go down that road." -- i.e., I don't like the situation, but don't make me sound like I'm shitting on a teammate.

Another part of Youkilis's comments from last July, not quoted by Massarotti, was: "I think that was more his agent and the Red Sox, but it's very important. As a player, it doesn't matter if you're hurt or not. You should be out there cheering on your team." While Youkilis is disappointed that Ellsbury is absent from the dugout, he lays the blame on either the Red Sox or Boras.

Massarotti alludes to Francona's comments about "learning the 'responsibility' of playing in the major leagues ... [of] simply being in the lineup, whether a player can physically perform at 100 percent or not". I believe these sentiments -- which may be from May 2008, and not 2010 -- are grossly out of context. Francona was talking about how players must ignore the normal aches and pains that every player has as a six-month season grinds on. Theo Epstein is on record as saying he would rather a player rehab until he is close to 100% than come back too soon, offer limited production and risk re-injury. ("I have respect for the guy who guts it out all the time, but sometimes they can cross the line and be fool-hardy.")

There is a bunch of other bullshit in the column. Let's take a look:

Let's all try to agree on something. With regard to Ellsbury, you don't get the productivity of this season without the controversy from last year. You just don't.

When faced with a contrary opinion, or the possibility of simple disagreement, Massarotti relies on that time-honoured arguing tactic of clever six-year-olds: "Is, too!"

Boras himself has effectively admitted as much. In case you missed it Wednesday, colleague Dan Shaughnessy was among those who spoke with Boras at the All-Star Game, when Boras acknowledged a cause-and-effect between this year and last.

This is interesting. We usually find members of the sports media hammering away at Boras for being a self-serving, sanctimonious asshole. Not this time! Now he's a no-nonsense truth-teller, especially about one of his own clients.

But what did Boras say? Here is the quote Mazz gives us (I have bolded the parts that he repeats for emphasis):
When you look at time frames in baseball, they're really registered around performance. I think as fans get to know Jacoby, they understand him and the discipline and what he does. [Last year in rehab from broken ribs] Jacoby was doing things that were done to make him the player that he is today. I think if the fans look back on this, they'll understand that he is completely committed for his work and his career and the Red Sox. Certainly that allowed him to be in the position that he's in now. I think all in all, as we reflect on it, everyone knows from his performance on the field, who he is and what he's about. So there's no reason to speculate on who Jacoby is.
In the bolded sections, Boras says that the things Ellsbury did in his rehab work in Arizona "allowed" him to become the successful player we are enjoying in 2011. Far from proving Massarotti's point -- that the outrage over Ellsbury's alleged lack of desire pushed him to succeed -- Boras's comments state the exact opposite.

Lest anyone still think the case against Ellsbury last season was purely media-generated, think again. ... [R]est assured that he merely vocalized an opinion that was far more widespread.

Do not doubt the Mighty Massarotti. He has access and if he says "rest assured" that X happened, then, by golly, X friggin happened. There is no need for you lowly fans to question anything. Accept what you read in the paper as truth and we'll get along just fine.

Regardless, one person (and one person only) now deserves credit for the kind of year Ellsbury is having: Ellsbury himself.

Nice try, Tony.

For all that Ellsbury has accomplished this season, games played remains the most important statistic on his log. He has missed just one contest all year, that coming when he was scratched from the starting lineup just hours before the first pitch.

So if Ellsbury was batting .250 right now, anchored in the #9 hole with a handful of steals and iffy judgment in the outfield, as long as he had played in the same number of games, you would be praising Ellsbury as much as you are now? I am skeptical.

The other numbers are the result of Ellsbury being on the field day in and day out, which is all anyone was trying to tell him in the first place.

This is disingenuous in the extreme. There is no evidence that Ellsbury was slow to get back to the team last year, so he could be "on the field day in and day out". In fact, when he tried to help the team (and answer his critics) by coming back while still in pain, he suffered further injury. As I mentioned above, Dustin Pedroia did the exact same thing, with similar results.

In a SoSH chat on July 30, 2010, Peter Abraham of the Globe said that Jeremy Hermida "had the same injury. His ribs seemed to heal fine in Boston."

Less than a week later, Globe columnist Christopher Gasper wrote that the recovery times for both Ellsbury and Hermida were nearly identical, but the reporters covering the team gave fans the perception that Ellsbury had spent far more time away from the lineup.

Massarotti adds that Ellsbury's stay in Boston is winding down: "Unless Boras has a personality transplant, the Red Sox aren't going to be able to re-sign this guy, folks. Better to accept that reality now."


Warren Bell said...

Massarotti continues to be the least respected journalist in Boston sports history.

laura k said...

Thanks for this, and all your posts like it. I don't read crap, so I'm glad you do, so I can know what's out there.

When I see something like this (Massarotti's column - not your post), I always wonder, Does this guy believe this? Does Tony Massarotti the man believe this ridiculous drivel? Or is this a persona, Tony Massarotti The Sportswriter, and he thinks it will be controversial, get people talking about him, get people to read whatever rag he writes for?

Maybe I'm being too generous, and the guy is really a complete a'hole.

laura k said...

One of the many insane things about the Massarotti column is that what we're seeing from Ellsbury now is what was hyped and predicted all along. This is the Jacoby Ellsbury the team was hoping to see all through his high school and then minor league career. His performance is unbelievable - but not unexpected. Without the injury, he might have had this season - last year!

Warren Bell said...

Massarotti just doesn't mind being negative. That's why I said he "continues to be the least respected journalist..." It is true? Who knows? Can the notion be defended? Certainly. Is it an appropriate comment to make? No. It was made to make this point. It's just the typical loud mouth crap we get from so many talking heads and "journalists" these days, where we have to assume after listening or reading that they really can't be that guy, so indifferent to goodwill. Like who watches Felger, for example, without wondering if that's who he is? Tough mouthed guys finish first? Oh really? No, they don't. A network makes an assumption about how to get ratings, and a Felger is put in the chair. Play good cop bad cop. Count your money. Say outrageous things then applaud yourself for being right every once in a while.

And it was so typical that Massarotti began this followuparticle by dragging Youk under the bus all over again. What a nice guy, huh? If that's not all about: hey, I was right all along, wasn't I? what is? Here' my justification. Youk. It's all his fault.

I don't know Massarotti. I'm sure he's a nice guy with a lot more fans than I'll ever have. But what's the point? If he was a cook he'd be cooking what, sour grapes? And that's what we'd eat with smiles on our faces? I don't think so. And he can't figure that out? So he cooks the same meal all over again. Brilliant. No wonder that's the first Massarotti article I've read in over a year, and only because you folks commented on it. And Maz still thinks Els should have been playing?


laura k said...

Massarotti just doesn't mind being negative.

This is way more than "being negative". All journalists and bloggers should be critical, and that often means being negative.

It shouldn't mean lies, unsupported innuendo, bashing - the media equivalent of trash-talking, with a lot more influence and a much longer shelf life.

laura k said...

But what's the point? If he was a cook he'd be cooking what, sour grapes? And that's what we'd eat with smiles on our faces? I don't think so. And he can't figure that out? So he cooks the same meal all over again.

Bravo. Nicely said!

Warren Bell said...

I could not agree with you more.

Warren Bell said...

...that is, about your former rather than latter comment, although the latter comment, too, is...

Anyway, a few weeks back Terry said they sent Els out of town because of all the negativity.

After last season, I didn't think Lee would go to NY after the Yankee fan(s) were reported to have thrown beer on his wife. This kind of reasoning makes me wonder about how challenging it will be to sign Ells after all the crap the get-ratings crowd heaped on the kid about not playing with his rib injury. If Ells signs, it won't be with a hometown discount, we can be sure aobut that.

The way Ells is going, if he reaches free agancy the only way the Sox will keep him in Boston and out of NY is to pay him $30 mil a year for ten years. Don't laugh. Can you imagine what he'd do in Yankee Stadium with that right field wall just ten paces or so behind the infield, and with a ten foot wall rather than thirty.

If Ells is playing for NY someday, we'll have Massarotti to thank.

Maxwell Horse said...

Great thoughts/posts from Warren.

It's nice to see that none of the commenters under the Massarotti column agree with him. (Unfortunately, I've found that after a week or so, the comments under the Globe columns seem to disappear, so that disagreement from the public will not be part of "the record.")

I wonder if this Mazz article will actually have a direct effect on whether Ellsbury decides to leave. A straw that breaks the camel's back type of thing.

Benjamin said...

Massarotti continues to be the least respected journalist in Boston sports history.

How can you pick just one?