Thursday, September 11, 2008

Just One Little Thing Chico Harlan Forgot to Mention

In his gamer that spent so much time harping on Dukes's jawing with Pelfrey and the fans that he barely had space to mention Cristian Guzman's first ever multi-HR game and no space at all to mention Luis Ayala's second save in two days or Joel Hanrahan's ERA going over 4 in yet another bout of lost command or David Wright's gigantic night or Mike Hinckley throwing yet another scoreless inning...

Despite dedicating almost the whole gamer to the Dukes incident (which included no violence, no fight, nothing thrown, nothing but talking, nothing that doesn't happen on basically every down on Sunday at FedEx), he somehow couldn't find space to mention this:

Dukes was beaned in his third at bat and walked to first, cool as a nice mountain breeze.

According to Harlan, he had "displayed plenty of power and little of his restraint," and yet, he had showed incredible restraint just as the situation was most likely to spiral out of control.

I was watching the game with a bunch of folks from Hendo's Hutch, and after what had gone on earlier, we were sure that Dukes would charge the mound, or at least jaw a little more. We were saying that Manny should have benched him if not for disciplinary reasons at least to protect him. But then Pelfrey goes and does the most aggressive thing a pitcher can do to instigate the situation... nothing.

Look, I realize some people hate the blown kisses and the jawing with the fans. Personally, I don't understand baseball's moral code that says it's "good school" to dive head-first, Jack Tatum-style at the ACL of a defenseless players turned away from the play, but that it's somehow totally beyond the pale to talk a little. I was raised that both qualify as bad sportsmanship, but that risking the injury of another player is far, far worse than shooting your mouth off.

But when Harlan writes a story that, like so much of the Dukes coverage in the St. Pete Times and on ESPN and elsewhere makes no mention of the good and focuses disproportionately on the bad--that's slanted, unfair, biased journalism. When a brief gamer has room to use all these words to describe one player, you're going way over the top: "volatile," "looking for a fight," "wrestling-style," "trying to amp up the animosity," "downside," "turbulent," "aggressive" (twice), "glowered," "a fire to put out," "live wire," and "public enemy" (that in particular is a racially insensitive choice of words). What, you couldn't figure out how to work in "growling," "rabid," "berzerk," "insane," "criminal," "feverish," "jungle," or "gangsta"?

I tend to think that it's less racism than just a general news media bias towards conflict and sensationalism. Running pictures of Elijah scowling like a junkyard dog last night will sell more papers than pictures of him smiling and cheering his teammates, as he's done all year.

But regardless of the motive, it's slanted, one-sided, biased journalism. It's uncalled for. He's been the nearest thing to a model citizen all year. We don't need a hatchet job from the hometown paper.


Hendo said...

Thanks for the shout out and for the insights.

This was the night Dukes had to go through to get to the next levels of presence and self-awareness. Improved control of his personal emotions is essential, as he knows. The fact that he lasted the game indicates to me that he's achieving that control.

Chico may have overcovered the story, but that's one part general journalistic attraction to the sensational, one part the influence of the New York tabs, and one part (or I hope at least a fraction thereof) a general concern about Dukes' future, both personally and with the Nats.

The second day off in a week (first time since the ASB!) gives everybody a chance to calm down. Also some arms a chance to recharge, I hope.

Phishisgr8 said...

I agree 100%. What I saw from Dukes was tenacity AND restraint. If he really wanted to go after Pelfrey, the beaning was the time. Yet he didn't.
I want my team to have some swagger.
I want my team to know it's hot [stuff].
And most of all, I want Dukes on my team.

An Briosca Mor said...

Dukes was beaned in his third at bat and walked to first, cool as a nice mountain breeze.

Get your terminology straight. "Beaned" means hit in the head, not hit by a pitch. Hence the term beanball. Not every HBP is a beanball.

Dukes wasn't hit in the head last night, was he? If you say that, aren't you being every bit as inaccurate and unnecessarily inflammatory as you accuse Chico Harlan of being?

John O'Connor said...

I was disappointed Odalis Perez didn't come out to pitch the inning after Dukes's first beaning (and I think "beaning" covers being hit anywhwere on the body).

Given his payback to Utley, I assume Perez was consulting his handy dugout conversion table to determine who in the Mets lineup equals Elijah Dukes.

Harper said...

I'm sorr...wait I'm not sorry. Elijah threatened to kill somebody, hell not just somebody the mother of one of his children. Along with all his other issues, this gives him no room for error in my book. Cleaning up your act for 9 months just isn't enough to get past that. Not for me. Not for others. He fully deserves the scrutiny he gets.

At year's end we can look back at how the year's gone for him, but to expect Chico to do so now, is to ask him to be apologetic toward someone who has yet to earn that leeway.

Moe Greene said...

An Briosca Mor - No. It's not the same. FJB used the wrong phrase for a HBP. Chico wrote an unfortunate column that was clearly biased. I agree that Elijah should probably be on a zero-tolerance policy; I don't think he did anything ro provoke said policy.

Steven said...

ABM--After looking it up, I found that "bean" in fact means getting hit in the head. You are correct. You learn something new every day.

Harper--His track record matters, no doubt. The thing is, after reading a bunch of stories about him in the St. Pete Times, I'm pretty much convinced that "you dead dog" was Dukes's "low rent" (to borrow an expression from Mike Harris) way of saying, "I'm quite upset with you, wife, and I would like you to be aware of my strong displeasure."

Why do I think this? Well, he's never really come close to trying to kill anyone. He has no gun crimes, no really anything like that. His dad's in jail for murdering is mom's crack dealer, but Dukes doesn't have any drugs, (except pot, which doesn't count in my book), guns or any of that.

His domestic violence history has a lot of "he threw a remote control at me" type stuff. She scratches him, he throws an empty soda can at her. I'm not excusing that, I'm just saying there's a long way between that and murdering someone.

The other thing is that Dukes's wife, after she got this voice mail message didn't even call the police. She did play it for the St. Pete Times. If you really were fearing for your life, wouldn't you go to the cops, and they would tell you to just lay low, don't aggravate the situation? Dukes's agent suggested at the time that she was trying to embarrass him in the media as part of a divorce strategy. I gotta say that's kinda more what it looks like.

All these people sound kind of sound like idiots on Springer. I'm not saying he's a good, smart, admirable guy. I'm just saying he's not a murderer, and the short-hand that he "threatened to kill his wife and kids" I just think is silly. Yeah, technically I guess he said those words, but I don't believe for one minute that he meant it literally or that Gilbert took it literally.

Anyway, I see where you're coming from--but that's why I see it differently.

Hendo said...

Verbal nuances aside -- OK, so "bean" vs. "brush" isn't exactly a nuance -- I can tell you that we at the Ugly Mug were rooting mightily for Dukes during Wednesday night's game. Not to go one up on Pelfrey, but to keep his head on a swivel.

To their credit, lots of others -- excluding of course the drunken football hooligans at Shea, but seemingly not excluding Pelfrey, or, however you interpret his post-game remarks, Zim -- seem to want the same thing.

He's held it in this year better than lots of folks hoped, and has strung up some pretty exciting numbers. Others can cite their selections of history, but that's a guy I want the Nats to go into 2009 with.

Steven said...

I was rooting and praying, along with a strategy of sending pleasant vibes through MASN to Dukes to help him with the deep breathing exercises.