photo: John Mozeliak (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Many times, fewer words are better.
However, that was not the path taken by Baseball Prospectus (BP) in addressing the aftermath of their controversial interpretation of comments made by St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak about outfielder Dexter Fowler’s perceived energy level and hustle early last July.
Mozeliak’s original remarks, delivered via a podcast interview on ScoopsFromDannyMac.com on July 2, 2018, were labeled as “implicitly racist” by an unnamed Baseball Prospectus author in their 2019 Annual. The 24th edition of BP’s widely-read book was released earlier this month. The segment in question was part of a 170-word capsule analyzing Fowler’s past performance and projecting his future.
Likely due in great part to a February 22nd column by Ben Fredrickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the visibility of BP’s inflammatory characterization increased exponentially. Fredrickson dealt with several questionable areas in the original report beyond just the racist comment and closed by calling for an apology to Mozeliak.
The very next day, February 23rd, that is precisely what BP attempted.
However, instead of simply saying, “We screwed up” and moving on, BP dug itself a deeper hole, an action that doubled down on the original misdeed, in my view.
BP ran a 1,000-word article entitled “A statement on behalf of the Baseball Prospectus organization”. It was not attributed to a person, but to “Baseball Prospectus Management”.
The word “apology” was mentioned in the opening and the closing, but the vast majority of the content in between amounted to an unsuccessful attempt (in my opinion) to talk their way out of the mess in which they put themselves by trying to explain their unwarranted and baseless race-oriented characterization.
The “statement” held its own inaccuracies.
Among BP’s supporting assertions was that Mozeliak’s original remarks, his follow-on clarification and Fowler’s reaction were “still fresh” when the Cardinals section of their Annual was written last fall. In reality, all of those events occurred in the first week of July. The matter was history long before fall.
BP management obviously never listened to the original interview, as it was incorrectly attributed to “a weekly broadcast on FOX Sports Midwest,” whatever that is.
The most questionable part of the February 23rd statement was the explanation of the original author’s interpretation of Mozeliak’s words that they “bore a striking resemblance to the coded language, so common in baseball, attached to minorities.”
There is no basis whatsoever for this assertion. “Hustle” and “energy level” have no racial implications, yet in the February 23rd statement, BP management reinforced their belief that they do. They defended their approach as criticism of these supposedly “pervasive” remarks, but not of the man who spoke them. How does that work?
BP admits “the characterization as published was unfair,” but tries to explain it was due to space limitations.
In their closing, the unnamed BP management placed blame on an unnamed editor, not the original unnamed author, whose reckless approach started the entire matter.
The 1,000-word “statement” hardly made things better, and better is what I expected from Baseball Prospectus.
It feels to me like the apology needs its own apology. Then again, it would probably be 2,000 words, when just three would do.
Granted, they are St. Louis Cardinals fans, but members of The Cardinal Nation message board community did not mince words in their assessment of the February 23rd statement. Here are a few samples.
- Eurowolf – “The phrase ‘when you’re in a hole, stop digging’ comes to mind.”
- dac8b9 – “… a half-hearted retraction.”
- Robert Reed – “When you know you’ve done wrong, just say it and be done.”
- Mudville – “The damage that Baseball Prospectus did with their fake news has already been done. An apology only goes so far.”
Not surprisingly, no comments in support of BP were posted.
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