Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Twilight Zone: Manager Edition
2005-08-04 13:26
by Alex Ciepley

This past week, featured a totally bizarre column from contributer Scoop Jackson, who virtually accused the Chicago media en masse of racism regarding their increasingly critical view of Dusty Baker.

Early in the article, Jackson outlines the basis of his premise, which is that there aren't any black sports columnists in Chicago's major media (something I can't verify, since I have no idea what most of the writers look like--and, frankly, have never really thought or cared about their race):

The media sets the agenda for how the public responds to nonobjective matters and to how the audience often forms an opinion on certain issues. In sports, in this town, those opinions are often -- if not always -- set by columnists. Sports columnists, not sports reporters. Reporters are nonobjective in this matter, although the editors do have 'angle control' over copy. Columnists, they are the ones who shape public opinion. Now ... how many black sports columnists do we have in this city? How many are at the Sun-Times? How many at the Trib?

Later, Jackson dissects a Jay Mariotti column, implying that Mariotti's true motive for his biting words were race-related.

Jay Mariotti wrote in the Sun-Times last week (before the L.A. Times piece dropped), "Just take your toothpicks, wristbands and perpetual pout and head to a nice, safe broadcast booth somewhere. Now." And he followed it up with, "[Baker is] causing citywide debates on whether or not he's emotionally equipped for the job... "

I read between those lines.

I noticed how none of the other above-the-fold columnists came to Dusty's defense. Not Rick Morrissey, not Mike Downey or Carol Slezak or Greg Couch, not even my good friend Rick Telander. Not that they're supposed to, but ... they ain't we.

They don't feel your struggle, Dusty.

Now, I'm not really one to defend Jay Mariotti, but Jackson's inferences to me border on lunacy. I'm guessing that Jackson might protest most to the idea that Mariotti thinks Baker isn't "emotionally equipped" for the job, but I don't see how this can be interpreted as a racial slur.

One of the biggest debates when Dusty took the Cubs' job was whether or not he would be comfortable with the often-harsh Chicago media. The question was whether or not he was too thin-skinned, not too dark-skinned.

I've never been a fan of Baker as a manager, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with his race. It's because I don't think he makes particularly deft in-game decisions, I think he abuses his pitching staffs, and I think his reluctance to break in position players and his insistence on having tried-and-true suckwads on his bench all lead to weaker Cubs teams.

I was pretty psyched to see Baseball America's Jim Callis, in a recent chat for ESPN, blast Jackson's article:

Shawn(Illinois): I was wondering what your response is to Scoop Jackson's article about the Chicago media and Dusty Baker?

SportsNation Jim Callis: I live in Illinois, and I thought it was garbage. Dusty Baker was what the Cubs needed in 2003, but since then he has not made his players accountable for anything, and it shows. To say that there's sentiment against Baker because he's black is ridiculous. That sentiment exists because people up here, fans and columnists, don't think Baker is doing a good job, not because most of the columnists and talk-show hosts are white. Also, if a white manager had made a comment similar to what Baker said about blacks being more suited to play under the hot sun, do you think that white manager would still have his job? Scoop Jackson's article was garbage.

Bravo, Jim, for taking someone who contributes to the same publication you do to task over an insulting article.

Yes, the Cubs have had more than their share of injuries cripple the team the past two years, but isn't this also true of, say, the Atlanta Braves? Bobby Cox has spent year after year managing a revamped roster on the fly, and this year his trust in unproven players will help lead the Braves to their 567th straight division title.

Speaking of Cox, I find it amusing that Jackson decided to close his article by comparing him with Baker:

If [the Cubs' manager] were Bobby Cox and not Dusty Baker, would I have ever had to write this column?

The answer, Scoop, is of course not. Because Cox more than likely would have found a way to turn both last year's and this year's Cubs teams into winners. And that has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

2005-08-04 13:57:44
1.   tkr888
I'd say that's bizarre on two levels: 1) one to cry racism and 2) to say columnists "shape" public opinion. To my eye, most columnists take one of two approaches to their job, which is, after all, to sell newspapers (or generate web hits) - they either follow public opinion, preaching to the choir or they contrive something sensational. Clearly Scoop is working in the latter category, at least in this instance.
2005-08-04 17:32:02
2.   Tom
I'm glad someone else was as ticked about Scoop as I was. What really angers me is that his allegations are unfalsifable. How can I prove that it's not racism? I can't.

And, I like the fact that Scoop glides over the team's performance under Dusty. Sure, the Cubs were five outs away from the WS. Then they finished third. Now, barring some better ball playing, they are going to finish third again. Finishing over .500 is awesome, but it's not an end in itself.

And, it's such an easy column to write. Don't like Sosa? Racism! Angry at Palmeiro? Racism! Bonds? Racism! Frankly, I don't expect much from ESPN, but I expect more than race-bating.

2005-08-04 22:45:47
3.   Graham
Great Post, man.

Scoop was talking that junk on Romey's ESPN show too (although Patrick McEnroe was hosting that week). He's an idiot.

The criticism is coming because Dusty simply isn't doing his job. Fools.

Nice comment from Callis about the players in the sun thing.

2005-08-05 00:10:09
4.   dereknelson
Good day, fellow name-owner. You read my mind. Right after reading Scoop's article a couple days ago (what grown man goes by "Scoop," anyway?), I wrote him this:



Dusty Baker's chief problem is not the color of his skin.

It may be his frequent misuse of players. If you remember correctly, it was him who thrust Corey Patterson into the leadoff role, not Patterson himself or Jim Hendry. If you remember correctly, it was him who opposed Ryan Dempster being used as the team's closer. It is him who frequently trots out Jose Macias as the first bat off of the bench.

It may be his utter disregard for On-Base Percentage. While the importance that is OBP keeps on becoming more truthful, Baker still signs his lineup card with names like Patterson, Macias and Neifi Perez at the top, all of whom get on base less than 30% of the time. If Derrek Lee falls short of the Triple Crown, losing only in RBI, he will have Dusty to blame.

It may be his incorrect title as a "player's manger." How many disgruntled players have the Cubs had during his tenure? Let me count aloud: Kent Mercker, Jerry Hairston, Mike Remlinger, Moises Alou, Kyle Farnsworth, and a host of others.

Who I am forgetting? Oh yes, the one man who you say Baker was brought in specifically to help—-Sammy Sosa. The clubhouse last year was undoubtedly mayhem, and white or black, Dusty was at the helm.

What else could it be? It may be his unwillingness to use young position players. It may be a city full of too-high expectations that are strangling a man who is incredibly talented at finishing a few games over .500. It may be a roster full of injuries and lack of bullpen depth. But regardless of what the truth may be, I'll again tell you one truth: Dusty Baker's chief problem is not the hue of his skin.

Alas, the reason I write this to you is not because I disagree with you on the value of Baker as a manager, which I do. The reason I write is because I disagree with you that this is an issue of race.

To my knowledge, no white columnists stood up for Larry Brown as he was disposed of by Joe Dumars after winning an NBA Championship and leading his team to another. You would have never heard the words, "and the color of your skin, Larry, has nothing to do with this, right?" upon his exit. That's because it is not an issue of race, it is one of business.

My boss is black. If I were ever underperforming at work, and he were to criticize me, I would not feel compelled to call the white equivalent of Johnnie Cochran, if such a person existed.

And before you call my statements racist, realize first that I was raised in a liberal Chicago home, like you, and voted for Barack Obama for Senator, thinking he will make a fine president one day.

But I truly believe that you calling the issue a matter of race is more racist than the conspiracy you purport to be happening under our collective nose.

I may be wrong, Scoop, but I doubt it.

Equally yours,

Derek Nelson

P.S. Scoop, to call a man who has never won more than 14 games in a season (Kerry Wood) one of the two best pitchers in the league, while Clemens, Pedro, Dontrelle and Oswalt call the National League their home, is simply ridiculous. He's not even one of the best two pitchers on his team.

2005-08-05 07:30:28
5.   Derek Smart

I'm flattered you think I wrote this, but that was our boy Alex. And he nailed it.

2005-08-05 08:36:52
6.   Todd S
Alex, thanks for reminding me why I no longer frequent
2005-08-05 08:41:58
7.   Tom
I wonder why Mariotti hasn't responded. He's also got the PTI pulpit this week. I'd be super interested to hear what Wilbon would say about this.
2005-08-05 10:44:13
8.   Indy fan
Mariotti did write a column about it. I believe it was Tuesday.
2005-08-05 12:04:29
9.   Tom
Thanks. Here it is:

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