Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trash Journalism

Today the Toronto Star published a column by Damien Cox entitled Gotta At Least Ask the Question.  In the column Cox asks the question, "When it comes to Jose Bautista, how is it exactly that at the age of 29 he's suddenly become the most dangerous power hitter in baseball?"  Is this fair or foul?  Should every athlete that has a career year, especially in baseball, be put under the microscope and accused of cheating with absolutely no proof?

As someone who wants to get into sports journalism I am appalled at columns such as this.  How is this journalism?  What Damien Cox wrote today shouldn't be found under the 'Sports' section of a major newspaper like the Toronto Star.  This kind of crap belongs on TMZ or some other shitty gossip site.  I mean he doesn't even ask the question.  All he does is try and raise suspicions of Baustista and he doesn't ven have the balls to call him out.  Pathetic. 

How does smearing someone like Jose Bautista with articles like this count as journalism?  In the article Cox does everything except blatantly accuse Baustista.  He writes things like, "Anyone reading about the Roger Clemens perjury case this week should at least be willing to wonder about Bautista's sudden transformation into the dinger king" and "these numbers will surely net him an enormous increase on his current $2.4 million salary when his contract expires. That would motivate any player to find a way to improve his stats."

So according to Damien Cox Jose Baustista is a cheater, a liar and a thief.  Baustista is using steroids to achieve better stats so he can take the Blue Jays money in the off-season and then he can quit juicing after his big pay day.  That's what I take from it at least.

He also makes reference to Brady Anderson who's breakout season in 1996 is constantly used as an example of how steroids can make any player a superstar for one season.  Basically the whole article is a smear job on a guy that has been nothing but great for the Blue Jays this season, not only with his numbers but also with his attitude in the clubhouse.  Is this the way Toronto treats its loyal players?

If you watch Jays games on televsion then you see Bautista in the dugout after his at bats, or at bats of his teammates, talking to guys and giving them tips.  Since Yunel Escobar came over in the trade with the Braves he and Bautista have been attached at the hip and it has been great for both guys.  Escobar has dropped his "slacker" label and has been a solid addition to the Jays.  Baustista is a great Blue Jay and doesn't deserve this type of crap from a C- columnist like Damien Cox.

This of course became the major source of debate today on Toronto's major sports radio station The Fan 590.  People called in all day and had opinions ranging from 'he is definitely juicing and I demand a urine sample' to 'give the guy a break and don't just jump to conclusions.'  In this case I tend to agree more with the second group of people and not the guy who went out of his way to say at least 16 times that he wants a cup of Bautista's piss on his desk to test himself.

I am not one of these baseball fans who has become so cynical that I automatically assume that every player having a great year is cheating.  I prefer to look at the history of the player and form an opinion based on some of the extenuating circumstances.  For instance many people seem to forget that in September of last year Baustista hit double digit home runs which coincidentally was when Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy was hired.  A new hitting coach can have a huge impact on the players and could be a major contributor to Bombtista's new found power.

You also have to look at Baustista's physical appearance.  Unlike other power hitters accused of taking steroids such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi and David Ortiz Baustista has not really put on any real size.  He looks the exact same as last year and has maintained the same body shape since he first entered the league back in 2004.

But when it comes down to it I just don't like the way people accuse these athletes of cheating simply because they are having a career year.  Last year Raul Ibanez had a ridiculous season hitting 34 HRs with 94 RBI and a .272 average.  He was accused of taking steroids even though that wasn't even a career year for him.  This year his numbers have gone back down to his career averages and no one is saying a word. People have become so jaded thanks to the "Steroids Era" and refuse to believe that guys can just get hot.

This raises another point though.  How come its only home run hitters who are accused of taking steroids? Udalbo Jimenez is having an amazing season and everyone just credits his "maturity" and "stuff."  No one has accused him of taking anything.  Angel Pagan has 30 stolen bases already this year and his previous career high was 14.  No accusations of steroids against him.  Home run hitters get the brunt of the speculation and it really is unfair because we have already learned that most of the players that admittedly took steroids were pitchers and guys who didn't hit for power.

Sports fans need to realise that sometimes guys have breakout seasons.  Every year there are going to be a few guys who emerge as legit stars.  It happens in MLB (Bautista and Jimenez), the NFL (Cedric Benson and Elvis Dumervill), NHL (Henrik Sedin and Tomas Plekanec) and the NBA (Zach Randolph and Gerald Wallace).  You don't see guys in the NHL get accused of juicing when they put up career numbers.  Their new found skills are always credited to work ethic and dedication in the weight room in the off-season.  Yes these leagues haven't had the problem with steroids that MLB has but should they not also be treated the same in terms of scrutiny?

Back to the Damien Cox article.  Cox is known around Toronto as a guy that likes to stir up trouble and try and make mountains out of mole hills.  During the Stanley Cup Finals he wrote an article saying the Chicago Blackhawks should change their logo and name because it was offensive.  The guy is just a moron and with this pathetic excuse for "news" he has also shown himself to be a trashy and unprofessional journalist.

Bautista was asked about what Cox wrote by USA today and responded, "I haven't heard it once. Nobody's said anything to me."  If you're going to publish an article accusing someone of cheating and taking steroids at least be man enough to ask the guy first.  Sure even if he is taking stuff he is flat out deny the charges but at least you had the sack to ask him rather than just dragging his name through the mud.

I'm sure when Cox finally comments on this ordeal his response will probably go like this, 'I didn't accuse him I simply brought up the topic and let people make their own conclusions.'  If this is how sports journalism works I better start practicing:

Gotta Ask the Question:  Is Damien Cox the Biggest Hack in Sports Journalism?

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