Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Vast Write-Wing Conspiracy

Before Sunday's game, the Nationals optioned the struggling Marlon Byrd to New Orleans, and recalled another outfielder, Matt Cepicky.

With Byrd's recent struggles and infrequent playing time, it's not really a great loss. Cepicky is a capable fifth outfielder and gives the bench something it lacks: a little pop.

The transaction itself really isn't that interesting.

But the way it was covered is.

All three major news sources (Nationals.com, WaPo and the Times) spun it exactly the same way and told the same story about Marlon's attitude with his demotion.

Here's the WaPo as an example:
[T]he outfielder took it hard, saying nothing as Manager Frank Robinson called him into his office to deliver the news.

Not that Byrd hadn't probably already figured it out when Matt Cepicky walked into the clubhouse just up from New Orleans, but his defiance seemed to disturb Robinson.

"He had an attitude when he came in, had an attitude in here and he had an attitude when he left," Robinson said as he sat in his office before the game.

The other two outlet reported on this apparent attitude problem in mostly the same way. (Nationals.com even went the extra mile noting how wonderful Cepicky's attitude is/was)

How is that? They weren't at the meeting Why is it a big deal? There've been many promotions and demotions throughout the season. Why did this one get covered so extensively? I'm pretty sure 90% of the players who get sent down don't go down with a smile.

I guess what bothers me about this is, that with all three media outlets reporting essentially the same version of what is otherwise a non-story, it really seems like it's a front office campaign to run the guy down. We're supposed to be shocked that anyone would dare 'disrespect' Frank and therefore accepting that Byrd is being shipped out for a name the average Nats fan doesn't really know.

I suppose that it could also be a shot across the bow to the other players that this is Frank's team and that you have to play by Frank's rules. (As if the Ohka and Day trades weren't already an indication of that.)

It's frustrating because it's another indication that the team isn't afraid to run down its players and paint them as malcontents before shipping them out of town.

It's true that Byrd doesn't come across as a truly bad guy in this, but all three articles are intended to make you question the guy's character a little bit.

Intead, I think it shows good character.

I want a guy to fight. I want a guy to show that he belongs in the majors. Just as I think that Guzman's obstinance in the face of mounting statistical evidence that he's not a major leaguer is a good sign, so is this.

I'm glad that only Bill Ladson fell for the entire party line (that they were calling up a guy who understands and is completely accepting of his bench role). But it does bother me that everyone included the first part of the storyline on something that is completely a non story.

Just because the front office tells you something, it doesn't mean that it's news.


One piece of news DID come out of those blurbs though. And were I the writer, that would've been my focus, instead of the Byrd non-story.

Cepicky moves ahead of Ryan Church on the depth chart. Frank feels that Cepicky is better suited to the pinch-hitting role that Church has struggled at recently.

And apparently, the idea of the four-man outfield rotation has gone KAPUT too. Look for Preston Wilson to get the majority of starts in left, leaving Church in the old Marlon Byrd role: last man off the bench.

Church hasn't looked good lately. I imagine that some of that is psychological. With the Wilson trade and the idea of infrequent playing time, he's probably been pressing, trying to make a good impression so that he could continue to be a key player on the team. Unfortunately, it seems that the more you try, the worse you look.

But compounding that are his physical problems. Over the weekend, he talked about how he still feels pain from the wall-banging catch he made in Pittsburgh. When he swings, he claims it feels like he's being stabbed.

No wonder he hasn't hit.

It's also a shame that he felt the pressure to play before he was healthy though. But with Jose Guillen, Tom Boswell and Jim Bowden forming an unholy trinity of bitching about Church being hurt, he almost HAD to come back before being ready.

And because he took their 'expert' advice, he looks all the worse for it.

Sucks to be Ryan.


  • I've read and re-read the account of Marlon's demotion and does it seem to anyone else that he wasn't ever told he was being demoted. That Cepicky just showed up one day and Marlon went "What the Hell" and busted into Frank's office where he told him the news? If that's the case I can't blame the kid for having an attitude when he left.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 8/02/2005 9:37 AM  

  • Oh and I fully expect a "Ryan has an attitude problem" column from Bos this week.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 8/02/2005 9:38 AM  

  • A little off-topic, but Bret Boone is available. Bowden can sign him and the Nats can have bookend middle infielders. :-)

    By Anonymous A wary fan, at 8/02/2005 10:50 AM  

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