Saturday, May 11, 2013

OPINION: Journalism And The Papi Situation

by Mark Lawrence, Down-Under Editor

Sydney, Australia—This latest indication of Dan Shaughnessy’s lack of character as a journalist has irritated me so much, I’ve dragged my thrice-broken leg and its eighteen titanium screws over to my desk to vent my spleen about it and while I’m mad as hell, I have to admit that I’m also not all that surprised. Ten years ago, at the height of the leaking PED list brouhaha, I had a brief email exchange with Shaughnessy, who’d excreted an article that asserted – with no supporting evidence - that David Ortiz was a user of Performance Enhancing Drugs.  My email to Shaughnessy respectfully suggested that perhaps he ought not rush to judgment until all the facts were in – something they teach in Journalism 101.  The reply I received was terse, direct and – particularly in light of this latest allegation - cast his journalistic integrity into doubt.  In essence, the Shank told me there was no need to wait for the dern facts – Ortiz was a juicer, no doubt about it.  While the brusqueness of his response did not encourage further discussion, I quickly realized that Dan Shaughnessy seemed to have it in for Ortiz. And it’s taken ten years but the opportunity for him to smear Ortiz once more has finally arisen.

Anyone familiar with my scribblings here will know I’ve been pretty consistent in my support for David Ortiz. To me, he has been the quintessential slugger – a bigger-than-life personality, eminently capable of producing in the clutch one day, but striking out the next – and he’s earned the love and respect of a wide section of Red Sox Nation.   His contributions to the 21st Century success of this franchise are significant and his community involvement speaks volumes to his integrity.

And here we have The Shank declaring that it’s unnatural for a guy in his thirties to hit .426 out of the gate with no spring training.  If my editor had suggested I take a look at the ‘why’ behind Ortiz’s impressive season start, I’m sure part of my reportage would have focused on Ortiz’s opponents on the mound.  You can’t hit .426 unless you’re a highly skilled ballplayer in the first place and if you’re lucky enough to face some pretty average pitchers for a few days in row, then you’re likely to post some fancy numbers.  In addition, Papi seems to have found his way around the shift – leastways, he seems to be beating it a bit more than in previous campaigns.  So, yes, he got himself off to a good start this year, but any student of the game would know that Ortiz simply couldn’t sustain that batting average, just as he couldn’t sustain the hitting streak.  However – if he somehow had managed to carry the streak and the .400 plus through May, then maybe Shaughnessy might’ve had a point.  At least, his line of questioning may have had some level of relevance, had Ortiz still been hitting .426 by Memorial Day.

Ortiz is on record asserting that anyone using PEDs in today’s ballgame is a fool and in recent days, he’s indicated that he’s been dope-tested five times so far this season, as well as giving blood and yet the Shank seems to believe that Ortiz just might be stupid enough to think he could get away with it.  Kind of unbelievable when you think about it, but then again, I’m not trying to sell newspapers.

Fifty years ago, Teddy Ballgame returned to baseball after serving in the Korean War.  A couple of weeks later, he was back at work in the Fens, hitting .407 in his first thirty some-odd games.  He was thirty five years old at the time and if his performance had raised any eyebrows in the Globe’s sports department, you can be sure that those long-ago reporters wouldn’t have made fools of themselves by asking Williams any of those have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife questions in the hope of breaking a story.  If there was any suspicion about Williams, there would have been a thorough investigation and an honest reporting of any wrong-doing.  More importantly, if nothing untoward was discovered, nothing would have been said, written or even implied.  Why?  Because fifty years ago, most Boston journalists had at least a little integrity.

Ortiz has shown admirable restraint in his remarks - particularly in regard to Shaughnessy’s distasteful remarks about Dominican players - but something else Papi said struck a chord with this writer:  "I have spent many years in Boston and still do not know the right way to do things: Do it right or do it wrong," Ortiz said. "If you do it wrong, they'll finish you. If you're doing well, they'll finish you, too."   Of course, he’s referring to the Boston Media Pack, the hive-mind behind the push to make The Allegation into the story and let The Truth take the hindmost.  This is what people like Shaughnessy do for a living – and he can obviously live with himself despite it all.   I sure couldn’t – which is why, given the choice, I’d write for FenwayNation and not the Boston Globe.  Lastly, I’m sure there are some of you reading this and wondering if I’ve bothered to email the Shank this time.  The short answer is no – like we say here in Oz, you can’t reason with a snake.