Like Barry Bonds, Baseball Widow hasn't retired; she's just not playing.
Enjoy the archives. . .

Thursday, March 18, 2004

It Never Pays to Accept Free Advice

Baseball Widow's Rule of Thumb on Advice:
Advice is free; It's good advice that will cost you.

ESPN Radio's Dan Patrick and Rob Dibble chatting about young minor leaguers in camp. . .
Dibble says it's not uncommon for some vets to purposely give bad advice to the youngsters.

Before delving into the meat of the statement, Baseball Widow would like to reflect on the passive aggressive language "not uncommon." Baseball Widow won't promise accuracy in the quoting, but she thinks that's what he said. Dibble didn't say it was common, mind you. He just said it was not uncommon. So now when stories start flying about the narcissistic oldtimers, Dibble can't be accused of starting the brouhaha. Not he; he didn't say it happened every day. He just said that it's not uncommon. Oh, if only someone had said that steroid use was not uncommon, think of the pandemonium we could have been spared. "Steroids? No, I wouldn't say they're in common use. They might be not uncommon, but I wouldn't say they're common." Somedays I feel we're closer and closer to (nerd alert) Ingsoc.

Why would veteran players give newbies bad advice? Clearly, because the geezers are nuts. They feel threatened by the prospects, who, upon turning in a good performance might (gasp!) take their jobs. So they play mind games, they psych them out. Any good Southern Belle knows that killing 'em with kindness is more than a metaphor. How many young women have been denied their Tri-Delt bid after a Big Sis slammed them with the moniker "nice"?

Read any pop-psychology book on working and playing with others: good leaders encourage the growth and promise of their underlings. It's almost axiomatic that if you surround yourself with greatness, you can't help but become greater than you were. On the other hand, if you fear the quality of your colleagues and desperately try to keep their abilities oppressed, you will succeed in surrounding yourself with garbage. And what happens when you stand next to garbage long enough? There ya go.

Ever notice how you'll hear talk about So-and-so, who's been great at helping out the younger guys on the team? Do you ever hear about What's-his-name, who's infamous for being surly with rookies? Of course you don't. Here are two possible reasons why:

1. It's rare that a guy will step up and help out the new kids. Rare activities are reported as news. Remember, things that happen every day are not newsworthy. How often do you hear news reports when it rains in Seattle? Baseball Widow has more ideas on the sensationalism and feedback loops of the News Cycle, but that's another post.


2. Perhaps there's a code of ethics in sports reporting that prevents journalists from codifying dugout practices. Remember the outcry against Jim Bouton when Ball Four was published?

Either way, it's interesting, and we'll come back to this later. In the meantime, wouldn't it be funny if the "not uncommon" steroid use in baseball is actually the result of bad advice from veterans who are just hanging on at the end of their careers--trying to get younger guys to fall into unhealthy habits? What if Dusty Baker had turned to rookie teammate Jose Canseco in 1985 and said, "You know, kid, if ya really want to make it big you should use steroids. Steroids, yeah, that's the ticket."

In the words of Homer Simpson, Baseball Widow is not not licking toads.

No comments: