We’ve entered the no-man’s land for baseball writers, where the best, most useful things we have to write about are things other people -- themselves just as dumbfounded what to write about as us, but with more connections -- have written. Take, for instance, this piece from last weekend’s Providence Journal, which it’s important to note is -- at least in this correspondent’s opinion -- home to the best group of writers covering the Red Sox in the region.
The headline, which enterprising reporter Tim Britton almost assuredly had absolutely nothing to do with, makes clear the intentions of the piece while rather brilliantly being non-committal to any of the information found therein. "Dave Dombrowksi unlikely to be as quick on the trigger in Boston as he was in Detroit" doesn’t just hint, but exaggeratedly winks and nods in the direction of something it has no real intention of discussing beyond its basic premise. It is, despite what’s actually said by the principles involved, portrayed as what the kids (why those kids have an interest in journalism jargon remains unclear) call a non-denial denial.
In it, the headline implies that Britton has posited one possibility (that Dave Dombrowski could fire John Farrell if the Sox run into trouble to start the season) through the soft denial of that specific story in the context of another: his firing of the GM and manager of the Detroit Tigers just six games (and six corresponding losses) into his first full season as President of Baseball Operations there.
The piece itself, which you should read at your leisure because Britton is a really fantastic writer about pretty much anything (including spring training banality), largely does no such thing. At no point does Dombrowski say anything of the sort to support such an idea, and rather explicitly tries to articulate the difference between the Tigers in 2001 and the Red Sox in 2016, as well as his mental space during both periods.
Editors at the Providence Journal most assuredly want you to think it does, however. And, to be clear, that’s exactly what they should be doing. It’s almost literally their "one job". This isn’t some dirty trick of journalism, it’s a way to get you to pay attention to a story during a time of the year when almost literally everyone involved is just looking to write about something that’s not actively boring.
But there’s more to it than that, something that haunts even the very best teams and organizations in the most luxurious leagues. We always want more, no matter how much we have. Take, for instance, the current Golden State Warriors, perhaps the greatest basketball machine ever assembled, with not one but two transcendent talents and a third wheel who may well go down as the second best shooter of all time after his own teammate.
Not only have they had to deal with the slings and arrows of old people uncomfortable with the happiness of others, but stories about the possibility of roster reshuffling to pick up Kevin Durant as a title mercenary next season for a team already on its way to a repeat of last year’s historic championship season. This story was, of course, at least a little of NBA guru Adrian Wojnarowksi flashing how much access he has with the most talked about team in sports. But it also spoke (loudly) to a need that we have a sports fans to find a shortcut (or at the very least, a clear path) to greatness.We’re always looking for the silver bullet of a signing, or perpetual motion machine of a trade, while simultaneously worrying how our prospects will integrate into our system and whether or not they are ultimately expendable if an attractive enough offer comes through.
Instead of staying the course, we clamor for change in a way that doesn’t just undermine the current success of the team but can, if done incorrectly, stymie growth in an organization for half a generation or more. I am no more immune to this than any of you, but the charming people in charge of Over the Monster have provided me with the platform to write about it. And, because of that, I feel comfortable saying this:
We’ve won a lot of things in the last decade, so maybe (just maybe), we might want to consider keeping a guy who managed a World Series team that appeared to be held together with charm and duct tape just three years ago.
Because, while I’ve spent a lot of time writing to you all – as I continue to do during this no man’s land of content – about feelings and hopes and dreams, the truth is that sports’ purpose is to serve as a constant in our lives. It gives us something to talk about, inspiration and, sometimes if we’re really lucky, the unadulterated joy of beating your buddy’s alma mater/favorite team.
Those moments are fleeting, and chasing them like a dragon will only lead to heartbreak (and, depending on your anger management skills, holes in walls.) So, this spring training, don’t give into the temptation of a denial story masquerading as a non-denial denial story, no matter how well written. You should also probably not spend the next three weeks figuring out how to move Pablo, Hanley and a pound of flesh -- or, if the trade proposals on New England sports radio are anything like New York’s, Pablo and Hanley for Mike Trouth and APTBNL.
Instead, try to embrace the sunshine as the spring begins to poke its head out from the cover of winter. Enjoy the sounds of the bats hitting balls, not the players swinging or throwing them. There’s too much craziness in the world to spend time wondering whether or not your favorite team would be better off with a new manager before hist fourth season starts when they won a title in his first.
Of course, if the team falls flat on their faces or gives up on the season before Memorial Day, then we should probably revisit this. But those will be real things actually happening, and not stories about stories.