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Coverage That Annoys Me

I happened upon a piece this morning by respected Sports Illustrated baseball reporter/writer Jon Heyman. It's title is "Griffey embraces ambassador role for promising Mariners, majors." The full article is available here, if you want to read it.

I get excited when the Mariners receive national attention, so I was excited to read this article. In particular, it seemed that it would focus on Griffey's impact off the field, so naturally I thought we might get an inside view on his clubhouse antics. I was settling in for a heart-warming feature on a player's transition from superstar to aging icon.

Instead, I got an eyeful about steroids, with a glancing blow to Milton Bradley thrown in for good measure.

The second through seventh paragraphs allude to steroids or performance-enhancing drugs to some degree, often times focusing on how Griffey's achievements are so remarkable because he didn't use anything. Then, the last paragraph and very last line of the entire piece come back to the notion of Griffey being clean. Is there much doubt that PEDs were a central theme to this little piece?

I'm just so tired of it. I'm happy that Ken Griffey Jr. didn't do steroids. It helps the whole "ambassador" image that Heyman highlights. It adds a new wrinkle to Griffey's nickname, "the Natural," thanks to the era he played in. It's something worth pointing out.

However, just as Griffey says in the article, the steroid era is in the past. Griffey even says that it's time to let what happened go, and he subsequently rattles off names of seven different players that he thinks fans should be looking forward to seeing play in the game right now. Clearly, Griffey's focus was on the here-and-now, his role with the Mariners, and perhaps his role in Major League Baseball too. Yet, the article still came back to steroids, and finished on that note.

The baseball media turned a blind eye to the steroids scandal as it unfolded, and that's unfortunate. It is articles like these though that make me feel like baseball media is trying to solving veering off the right side of the road by veering off to the left. Let the steroids scandal go. For heaven's sake, let it go. You might just find a group of youngsters in Peoria gawking as their boyhood idol, the one that perhaps made them want to play baseball, hands out ridiculous shirts with Rick Adair's mug on it. This part of Griffey has at least as much to do with the ambassador image as his non-use of PEDs, and it would be nice to see it covered as such.

So that's one thing that annoys me. Another is coverage of Milton Bradley. The national baseball media is being unfair to him. From the Heyman article focusing on Griffey:

...Yet another "improvement'' was importing Milton Bradley, the temperamental star who blew up on Chicago's North Side last year. Bradley seems better located in the faraway Great Northwest and occupies a locker a few paces down from Griffey, who seems to be making a special point of involving Bradley in his seemingly nonstop revelry. Still, Bradley is wasting time reliving his unhappy times in Chicago and typically blaming others...
It is important to acknowledge that this was in an article about Griffey, and so the quote is largely meant as a point to show how Griffey includes players. However, there are definitely a few assumptions being thrown around about Milton Bradley in the above words.

As a quick aside, Heyman is referencing the war of words between Bradley and the Cubs that escalated with this interview of Bradley done by Colleen Dominguez for ESPN.

To set the scene, Colleen Dominguez showed up to Mariners spring training, and had an exclusive, sit-down interview with Milton Bradley in which she asked him about his time with the Cubs. In Heyman's article, that is lumped in with "wasting time reliving his unhappy times in Chicago."

What should be expected? Bradley was asked questions about his past, and he answered them. It's not as if some beat reporter asked him how spring training was going, and he just went off about how awful Chicago was last year. This was a sit-down exclusive, where Dominguez had total control to ask Bradley what she wanted. She went straight for his time in Chicago.

Interestingly, the video of the interview isn't up anymore (it used to be with the article I linked to). I saw it before it was taken down, and all I'll say is that it's much more probable ESPN would take it down if it reflected badly on Colleen Dominguez, and by extension ESPN, than on Bradley. I didn't care for how Dominguez conducted the interview, and there are at least a few others (those are separate links) who came away with similar feelings.

I've seen Bradley make comments here and there in the past that he feels like people take unfair shots at him. This incident, from when he was with the Rangers, comes to mind. There was the pretty epic blow-up in San Diego too, where he tore his ACL as he was refrained from an umpire by Padres manager Bud Black (the umpire was reprimanded for his actions in that incident, by the way).

We've seen Milton Bradley do things and say things nobody else in baseball comes close to mimicking. It makes him fascinating, unique, and with what he does, a little bit scary. There is something about Bradley that makes him a little more volatile than anyone else.

However, I'm coming around to Bradley's point of view. Why is the world out to get him? Why is he cut  off mid-sentence as he's trying to articulate an intelligent thought? His words were spun into something they clearly weren't meant to be in the recent ESPN exclusive.

For me, the worst part of Dominguez's interview was when they were discussing the hate mail that Milton Bradley got in Chicago. Bradley mentioned that he got some, just like other black players had, and just as he had received in other major cities. He turned it into the Cubs PR office, and that was that.

Dominguez badgered Bradley over and over though, asking if he thought the hate mail had come from within the organization, once he revealed that much of it only had his name on it. Bradley never caved, but finally said he didn't know, but hoped it didn't. Even that much of a non-committal answer had to be pried out of him, but judging from the Cubs' GM's reaction, it hardly got communicated as the forced response it was.

I'm losing my excitement for national Mariners media coverage. If it continues to look like it has recently, it's going to get very annoying. The 2010 Mariners aren't about the turn-of-the-millennium steroids scandal. They aren't defined by the 2009 Cubs either. They have storylines of their own, some of which could have national interest...such as an aging icon embracing his role as senior figure (while maintaining a childish persona), or the latest fresh start for one of baseball's most volatile, star-crossed talents.