After today’s game I imagine that a lot of Cubs blogs are spewing a lot of vitriol towards the team and, in particular, Milton Bradley. I don’t blame them, and I definitely made some comments over at Another Cubs Blog out of frustration, myself. But there are going to definitely be personal attacks on him, and I imagine he’s going to hear some incredibly vile stuff from the bleacher crowd tomorrow. I try to stay away personal attacks, even when I attack a player’s performance. I suggested that Aaron Miles should lose his job in my piece at Mouthpiece Sports today. But I try not to get too worked up by the fact that he’s on the team, and I try to remember his performance on the field is separate from his character. Why? Because of Mister Rogers.
There was a phenomenal article in Esquire magazine about Mister Rogers a decade ago. I didn’t read it until much more recently, but it’s available here, online. The author really goes out of his way to establish what an amazingly decent person Mister Rogers was, and a particular part of the article stands out in my memory:
Mister Rogers always worries about things like that, because he always worries about children, and when his station wagon stopped in traffic next to a bus stop, he read aloud the advertisement of an airline trying to push its international service. “Hmmm,” Mister Rogers said, “that’s a strange ad. `Most people think of us as a great domestic airline. We hate that.’ Hmmm. Hate is such a strong word to use so lightly. If they can hate something like that, you wonder how easy it would be for them to hate something more important.”
I’m frustrated by this Cubs team. They were supposed to leave the rest of the division in the dust. Instead they’re scuffling at .500 and the offense is pathetic. But I always think of this when I get too worked up. I wonder if I can get that upset at a baseball team, how easy would it be for me to get upset over something more important?
And that’s the thing about a lot of Cubs bloggers and commenters out there, too, and a lot of professional writers. They’ll criticize the players’ play, but they also attack them personally. Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley are “headcases.” Aramis Ramirez has been accused of dogging it I don’t know how many times. Geovany Soto put on a few pounds, so he must be lazy. If it’s that easy for these people to decide they dislike the personality and work ethic of people they’ve never met, how easy is it for them to do it when it’s something more important?
The bottom line is that Bradley had a bad game today. He lost a ball in the sun, which may or may not be his fault. He lost track of the number of outs and threw the ball into the stands. That’s definitely his fault. He ran into an out, and that’s also definitely his fault. People are absolutely right to criticize his performance today, and this season. He’s not hitting nearly as well as he should, and public criticism is definitely something that comes with playing major league baseball. But there’s no reason to extend it to attacks on character or to just downright hateful comments, and yet that’s what fans and some writers seem to want to subject these guys do. Me? I’m just trying to remember Mister Rogers.