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Count on professional crank Richard Griffin to make the worst of the Blue Jays' weekend in Tennessee. After yet another tiresome diatribe about how the "young guys" (read: inexperienced computer geeks) are taking over the game, and after interviewing one of his aging wannabe-GM cronies from the Expos' front office, Griff ends with this snarly collection of thoughts:

As for the Jays, from the time Ricciardi checked in through last night, here is a listing of their less-than-impressive player transactions: Added to the 40-man roster were two Rule 5 right-handers, Aquilino Lopez and Gary Majewski, and outfielder Jason Dubois. Traded to the Reds was shortstop Lopez, bringing back the 23-year-old Arnold from Oakland. Signed to a two-year deal was arbitration-eligible infielder Dave Berg.

Certainly no stamp of genius on Ricciardi this week. Even though, since opening day of '02, the former A's assistant has pared $25 million (U.S.) from the payroll, which makes Rogers ownership happy, the only significant player addition has been starter Cory Lidle, whose eight wins from last season must replace 23 victories from others who have disappeared.

Ricciardi spent his final night in Nashville at the Titans' NFL game.

Sigh. Where to begin? Griffin shows no interest in the Rule 5 acquisitions beyond their names and ages -- if the Jays had lost a AAA farmhand with Lopez's numbers, Griffin would've been all over Ricciardi, yet he offers no praise for acquiring same -- and spends no time considering the role they might play in this year's or future years' version of the team. Who was he expecting to find on Rule 5 Day, Barry Bonds?

And upon which GM, pray tell, should the "stamp of genius" be applied this week? Brian Cashman didn't get much accomplished beyond playing footsie with Todd Zeile. Billy Beane came back with Erubiel Durazo, a fine catch but not exactly a stunning acquisition. Brian Sabean made waves, but he did so with Peter Magowan's chequebook, and a lot of guys can look smart waving around fat wallets. It was a slow Winter Meetings all around, and JP at least came back with the pitching prospect he wanted. Moreover, I'm confident he laid the groundwork for future deals: the John-Ford Griffin thing with Oakland has yet to be resolved, and I still think he's hunting for an Ortiz or a Vazquez to insert into the rotation.

And you have to love that parting shot. Where should Ricciardi have been last night, after the deals were all done and the other teams had packed up and gone home? Sitting in his hotel room feeling bad about Chris Carpenter? No, more likely he should've been in the hotel bar with the "real men" like Griffin and his increasingly irrelevant ilk, throwing back the bourbon and trading war stories.

It's fair to say that none of us here at Batter's Box care much for Richard Griffin. We all have our reasons, but mine are largely professional. He's possibly the most widely read baseball columnist in the entire country, but he abuses that position, discarding intelligent journalism and even-handed critical analysis in favour of lazy, mean-spirited, animus-driven attacks on a game he neither likes nor understands anymore and the people who are shaping it. If he had any professional integrity, he'd resign the beat to someone like Geoff Baker and go write his memoirs. Instead, he poisons millions of readers every column. He ought to be embarrassed.
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_Geoff North - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 12:03 PM EST (#100994) #
Also amusing is how he lumps Ken Williams of the ChiSox in with Beane, Ricciardi, Epstein and Bowden (I'm also skeptical about Bowden's inclusion with the other three). Good to know that computers will never replace a good scout.

The more I read his columns, the more and more I just find them to be funny. Maybe they're satire.

Maybe not.
_Kent - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 12:20 PM EST (#100995) #
Anything I could add to that would be full of obscenities; I admire your restraint.

Is it time to organize an e-mail and letter campaign to the Star to let them know how we feel? Griffin has been this way since he came to Toronto, and his campaign against Gord Ash, who deserved the criticism, was relentless. Here's one example, from April 2001.

His unprovoked attacks on Ricciardi are spiteful, and began the day after J.P. was hired. I assume that if RG was allowed near a word processor in those days, he would have derided Pat Gillick for winning "only" two World Series.

One of my favourites, a week after Ricciardi came on board, is this one, where Griffin's "genius" is exposed for all to see. He starts, typically, with an endorsement of Dave Stewart, who Rich supported as GM, and concludes that Moises Alou was the best available free agent last year to fill the many Blue Jays needs. If I made suggestions or predictions like that on BB, I would stop writing out of embarrassment, but in addition to being a fool, Griffin is shameless. That one-two punch -- the worst possible GM and an overpaid, declining, constantly injured hitter in a position where the Jays were already loaded -- would have hastened the demise of baseball in Toronto. Dr. Ricciardi gets no credit, ever, for reviving a franchise that was on life support.

I'm not suggesting you read them all without taking your blood-pressure medication, but here is a list of Griffin's columns for the past two years. Even if the headline seems favourable, there's always a backhanded shot, or several, in the column, unless it sticks to a non-Blue Jays subject.

I'm ready to go Howard Beale on Griffin, and I hope J.P. enjoyed the football game.
_Bill Elleker - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 12:31 PM EST (#100996) #
Griffin's sulk is easy to understand. Twenty years ago, when those of us in the "glamour zone" of of a particular commercial trade used to go to "winter meetings" at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago, we went prepared.

Prepared to spend a bundle, (we'd been postponing major purchases in anticipation of the wining and dining vendor rush) -- Beefsteak Charlie served a prime rib a fella could nap on -- and prepared for three days of entirely unhealthy living. I don't recall that it was an atmosphere particularly conducive to clear thinking. Hunches, flyers, favours, sure. But it was break time, wasn't it? A few years later I found myself on the supply side. Same story, but more and longer days. I admit it was fun.

Beset by compu-geeks on stairmasters. Hell of a fate for a two-fisted
guy. Still there must be some among the fit and numerical who smoke Colts and pound tequila. Sorry, Griff. I know what you're missin'. But we all hafta grow up.
_Ryan Adams - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 02:02 PM EST (#100997) #
I've been considering writing the sports editor and the ombudsman about Griffin's antics. The guy is obviously biased against the Jays and will do anything possible to paint the team in the worst possible light, even if it means lying or contradicting himself.

We all know his handling of the out-clause was bad, but the most glaring incident occurred right after Ricciardi was hired. Ricciardi said at his press conference that Buck Martinez was going to be the manager in 2002, so Griffin naturally said the following on November 15:

"They needed a man willing to replace a self-doubting manager with someone who could motivate this group of players and was willing to adapt to the tools and abilities in his shed, rather than trying to force square pegs into round holes. Martinez still is convinced you can hit-and-run regularly with a team that strikes out 1,000 times."

In the weeks following Ricciardi's hiring, the talk began about how Martinez's approach didn't really fit well with Ricciardi's and that it was unlikely Martinez would last very long. On December 19, Griffin gave us this:

"The feeling in this space is that the popular ex-catcher and broadcaster has the right to be the man to lead the team into 2002, realistically being, as it is, a rebuilding year."

Griffin's earlier criticisms of Martinez would seem to apply regardless of whether or not it was a rebuilding year, so there shouldn't have been anything over that month that would have changed his mind. It's obvious that Griffin tailored his arguments to go against whatever position the team took, just so he could make the Blue Jays look bad whenever the axe did fall.

This is the Star's contact list. The ombudsman should definitely be CC'd on anything you send to the Star, since Griffin's coverage of the team has been quite unfair over the years. I might send them a fax or regular letter about Griffin sometime after Christmas, outlining some of his inaccuracies and hatchet jobs.
Dave Till - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 02:39 PM EST (#100998) #
I don't like Griffin any better than anybody else in this thread, but we shouldn't forget that his goal is to get the reading public to buy his newspaper, not the Sun, Globe, or Post. If we write an angry letter to the Star, it may be taken as an indication that Griffin is doing the job he's supposed to be doing - after all, he's getting noticed, isn't he?
_Kent - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 02:44 PM EST (#100999) #
Billy, there's no doubt "growing up" is possible, and there may still be hope for some of us, if not for Griffin and his fellow throwbacks.

I agree with the notion that a computer, by itself, can't replace a scout. Someone smart has to sit at the keyboard first. Any list of "good" scouts includes Gillicks and Ricciardis who are multi-talented enough to assume greater responsibility, along with an unfortunate number of lifers, unable or unwilling to change with the times, who whine to each other about the geeks taking over "their" game.

More of Rich's worst: this abidication of truth and logic, that upset me so much in BB #53, and three wild swings and misses from last season -- Tosca's not part of Ricciardi's long-term plans, a clear indication of his inside knowledge, Demotion a douse of cold water for Lopez (including a hint that dumping Mondesi was a mistake!) and a ludicrous comparison of Ricciardi to Michael Jackson, J.P. gets little applause for his Moon Walk. The Star should spare us this garbage, and I wish Griffin would just beat it.
Craig B - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 04:22 PM EST (#101000) #
Beset by compu-geeks on stairmasters. Hell of a fate for a two-fisted guy.

Bah. I'm as much of a compu--geek as anyone, and I'll take on anyone and everyone in steak and whisky consumption. The other numbers men I know who went to the WMs were doing plenty of bar time, from what they tell me they spent the whole time in the damn bars. (And _tequila_? Please. Proper log-rolling is done with grapes or malt, not agave).


after all, he's getting noticed, isn't he?

True, but newspapers (believe it or not) also set considerable store by the standards of journalism they display. OK, maybe not the Sun, but most newspapers do. If/when Griffin displays a complete lack of credibility, the Star should know about it.
Coach - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 05:25 PM EST (#101001) #
The Star contacts are appreciated, Ryan. I think a flood, even a steady trickle, of complaints, beginning after the holidays, might have more impact than one or two people responding at various intervals. I also believe, perhaps naively, that the phrases "cancel my subscription" or "refuse to buy" get the attention of most papers. Jordan, what's your opinion from the editor's chair?

Ryan said, "It's obvious that Griffin tailored his arguments to go against whatever position the team took, just so he could make the Blue Jays look bad..." and mentioned lies and contradictions. That kind of evidence, as opposed to "I hate Griffin," will help clarify the distinction for his bosses (who may know very little about baseball or the Blue Jays) between "getting noticed" and "unacceptable."

Craig, my own capacities for "fun" are considerable, but if I was ever making a multi-million-dollar transaction, I'd postpone the celebration until after the handshakes. Maybe the "numbers men," as advisors, can wait in the bar until their bosses need them, but I'd bet on the sober stairmaster guy to outwit and outlast the partying GM.
_Ryan Adams - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 07:37 PM EST (#101002) #
I agree with Dave that it is Griffin's job to attract readers and many columnists do take strong positions on issues to do that. The problem with Griffin is that he does much more than that and it turns people away from the Star's sports pages. Discussions like this one are not uncommon about Griffin -- I don't know how many times I have seen someone say that they don't read Griffin at all, or only read his column for the laughs. I don't think that's something the Star would be pleased to hear.

As a Blue Jays fan, I want to see quality coverage of the team. I want to know what is happening with the team, and Toronto baseball writers are (unfortunately) the best method of getting that information. As far as getting that information goes, the Toronto Star is well down on my list of sources. I rely far more on the Sun, Globe and Mail, ESPN, Sportsnet and than I do the Star, mostly because a lot of the Star's are written by Richard Griffin. Bob Elliott and Jeff Blair provide much more information and insight in their columns than Griffin, who seems to be limited to rants on subjects he knows very little about. I can't remember the last time I read anything insightful from Griffin.
_Jordan - Tuesday, December 17 2002 @ 10:07 PM EST (#101003) #
I also believe, perhaps naively, that the phrases "cancel my subscription" or "refuse to buy" get the attention of most papers. Jordan, what's your opinion from the editor's chair?

Kent, unfortunately, they usually have very little effect, especially on a newspaper with a circulation as huge as the Star's. Dozens of people cancel their subscriptions every day, often for reasons as pointless as their horoscope not being accurate or Doonesbury being over their head. Editors don't even field those calls anymore, and Circulation couldn't care less because there's plenty more where the cancellers came from. Moreover, the Star Ombudsman (who's particularly gormless, apparently) has his hands full with complaints about racist, biased or otherwise slanted coverage. Our objections about Griffin, valid as they are, likely would barely register on radar. That's not to say we shouldn't try, because there should be some record at the paper of reader dissatisfaction with their lead baseball columnist, and maybe if a critical mass develops, somehting might happen. But I wouldn't wait for a response.

Not too sound too cynical, but newspapers usually respond to only two types of pressure groups: advertisers and politicans. The former will threaten to pull their ads if their company or industry gets bad press, or if circulation numbers are really bad (cf. the National Post), and the paper won't normally do anything to jeopardize those relationships. The latter are the true power brokers in the municipality where the paper is published, and that includes the police force. Big papers like the Star rarely go digging for the real, real story about what's happening in the city, because the network of confidences and influence between the heavy municipal hitters and the paper's executive are extensive. It's not so much that you can't believe what you read in the papers -- though you should certainly be wary -- but that what you really need to read about, you probably won't.
_Dave - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 12:28 AM EST (#101004) #
the outed lurker says:

I'm hated Richard Griffin for a long time. About 4 years, I guess -- that dates back to about the first time I read him. After a few months worth of columns, I got so incensed that wrote him an email, probably more to vent than anything. Told him that he had to be the most negative bastard ever and not only was he negative but he rountinely altered "facts" to try to back up his cynical, pessimistic rants. He obviously never wrote back but I felt better. Anyway, since I realized (starting with Baseball Primer and then here) how much of a hated joke he was, I haven't been able to get enough of the feedback about his delusions.

So, to get to the point, I got pumped when I started to hear talk of making a real attempt to rid the Star of Dick. I got equally unpumped when the last post gave the thread a reality check. He did bring up something, though, that interested me. Is Rogers not a powerful enough company in terms of advertising and allies that it couldn't apply a bit of REAL pressure to the Star? The Jays are an investment that the owners need to become profitable again. Well, I'm sure Dick's pieces aren't exactly driving the poorly informed masses to the turnstiles - and those casual fans are the ones that they need to draw back. And plus, Godfrey loves his boy JP, who is being unfairly torched on a regular basis. In short, they have both a personal and business interest in having Dick ousted. I know if it went public it would look like a conflict of interest (him being critical, the jays getting him fired) but Dick's own work can certainly hang himself in the public forum. The whole thing could be initiated with an online petition, starting here, eventually being submitted (along with damning Dick columns - all of them?) to Godfrey. We could voice our dissatisfaction and tell him why he should voice his.

I know it's a bit of a stretch, but what the hell - if it could help rid the journalistic world of Dick (his name is so telling in this form, isn't it?) I figured i'd take the time to write it.
Craig B - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 12:31 AM EST (#101005) #
Actually, it's nice to hear a journalist (after a fashion, more a meta-journalist I guess) say these things.

In my short press career I drank with far too many (newspapermen in particular, but the TV hairstyles most of all) who had no idea of how the corporation(s) they worked for actually functioned.

There generally tends to be a window, though, particularly in smaller cities, where the publishers and executive are often just passing through. It doesn't last long; once a publisher gets the lay of the land in a town the openings close up pretty fast.

The Star will not likely come down too hard on Griffin if he is bashing a Rogers product. I hadn't thought of this before, but sadly we may be in for the long haul with the grim reality of black-and-white Jays coverage: fawning adoration from the Rogers empire and unmitigated venom and bile from all the other media carriers. If the team were to be sold to a non-media concern, we'd probably see a change in coverage overnight.
Dave Till - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 10:10 AM EST (#101006) #
Ryan: I'm glad to hear that you know many people who are turned off by Griffin's column - perhaps the Forces Of Light will eventually win the day after all. :-) And it's a sad day when the Star's baseball coverage isn't as good as the Sun's, as Sun writers normally only use one-syllable words (there are exceptions, of course).

I must confess that I have long since given up on expecting insightful coverage of the Blue Jays from the Toronto papers. I think most of the Toronto baseball writers probably got fed up with their jobs after having to endure many years of Interbrew-era mediocrity. We won't get really good baseball analysis until we get a good team again.
_Kent - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 11:02 AM EST (#101007) #
A couple of months ago, when I was blogging away all alone, I speculated that the Star might want to buy the team, and therefore encouraged its attack dogs to bite.

That post (BB #19; transferred from the original, comment-proof BB) also has my brief review of the infamous "Rain Man" story about Keith Law: "cribbed like a high school essay" from a vastly superior, if uncannily similar, New Yorker piece on Billy Beane.
_Matthew Elmslie - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 11:52 AM EST (#101008) #
Has there ever been really good baseball writing in Toronto? There are good sportswriters, certainly, but they don't tend to concentrate on baseball. Obviously Griffin is the worst among the regulars (although not for the quality of the prose itself, which isn't bad at all), but I don't think he's that far below the average. (I say 'regulars' because Peter Worthington (I think) did a column on the Jays a while ago that analyzed their batting averages and won-lost records and concluded that they were terrible and had no future.)
_Jordan - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 12:36 PM EST (#101009) #
Is Rogers not a powerful enough company in terms of advertising and allies that it couldn't apply a bit of REAL pressure to the Star?

Dave, it's an interesting thought; without having the Star in front of me, I would imagine Rogers is probably a substantial enough advertiser (cable TV, video rentals, cellphones, etc.) to get the paper's attention if need be. And Paul Godfrey (who a friend of mine in the TO newspaper trade refers to as the Unofficial Mayor of Toronto) certainly has weight to throw around too.

I don't think the Rogers people would take this sort of action, though, for two reasons. One, they probably view Griffin as pretty small (though annoying) potatoes: he makes life difficult for JP and incessantly criticizes the organization, but is he doing real damage to the value of the franchise, truly hurting ticket sales and fan interest? Possibly, but I think his columns are more like kicking mud on the car rather than bashing the windshield. It would be difficult to quantify a columnist's negative effect short of his calling for fan boycotts or similar sustained attacks (I have this vision of Griffin at the head of a mob storming Skydome, burning spreadsheets and breaking keyboards over their knees). Like the Star, Rogers and the Blue Jays are big organizations too, and they're busy enough dousing the major fires without turning attention to a long-smouldering problem like Griffin. My guess is that our friend Richard simply hasn't yet crossed the threshold between Annoyance and Problem -- and because he's shrewd if not smart, he knows exactly where that threshold is.

The second reason, which is even more compelling, is that advertisers take action against a high-profile columnist or media personality at their peril. It's one thing to say a few words to your sales rep and ask him to tone down his paper's criticism of your company's labour practices. It's another to threaten to pull ads unless the newspaper outlet muzzles a veteran columnist whose name and photo appear four times a week. It would be very easy for Griffin to write a column titled "Ted Rogers wants me fired," and to detail how Griffin's criticism of Ricciardi was so devastatingly accurate that Godfrey tried to censor the Star and silence its independent voice. Media martyrs are dangerous entities, and for good reason -- attempts like these are not unknown. So for Rogers, it's a cost-benefit analysis. If Griffin really is out of control and launching full-scale attacks on the fans' confidence in the team, then you marshall your assets and arguments and take him on, because you have to. But even at that, you probably won't win the P.R. war -- that's what newspapers do for a living, after all. Most likely, you decide that Griffin or someone like him is irritating as hell, but not damaging enough to justify the publicity hit you'll risk by going after him.

So it's left to fans like us to have our say. As mentioned, I would certainly encourage people to write Griffin and cc: the Ombudsman to complain about his coverage, though try not to get angry or personal, because they'll ditch any letter with an obscenity or an ad hominem attack. State your objections to his coverage and cite examples of specific columns that rile you, and ask politely for a reply. Even if you don't get one, you'll at least be read and considered.

And hey, even Griffin is only human: if enough fans encourage him to change his attitude, well, anything can happen. It's Christmas, after all, and even Scrooges and Grinches can be made to see the light.
_Ryan Adams - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 03:30 PM EST (#101010) #
Normally I'd suggest writing William Houston, the sports media columnist at the Globe and Mail. However, he's not a big baseball fan and he's been ticked off at the Jays recently because of the way they fired Buck Martinez. I imagine he would side with Griffin.

To me, Griffin has become like the boy who cried wolf too many times. With all his lies and distortions, I don't know when I can take something he says seriously. I don't have that problem with other writers in Toronto. I know that many will make factual errors at times or come to the wrong conclusions, but I normally don't question their honesty.
_JimmyAAA - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 06:16 PM EST (#101011) #
The second reason, which is even more compelling, is that advertisers take action against a high-profile columnist or media personality at their peril. .....It's another to threaten to pull ads unless the newspaper outlet muzzles a veteran columnist whose name and photo appear four times a week. It would be very easy for Griffin to write a column titled "Ted Rogers wants me fired," and to detail how Griffin's criticism of Ricciardi was so devastatingly accurate that Godfrey tried to censor the Star and silence its independent voice. Media martyrs are dangerous entities, and for good reason -- attempts like these are not unknown.

In Vancouver several years ago, the Canucks tried to muzzle Tony Gallagher, a columnist with the Province newspaper, by refusing him access to the team. The Province actually published the letter the Canucks sent and basically started a major league S**T storm. Ploys like that will almost always backfire.

BTW - Gallagher was and is very Pro-Player. Although he is an excellent writer, much like Griffin he has own little axe to grind. In his case, almost every column has to bring op the issue in on how such and such is underpaid.

I actually though he was collecting a commission from the NHLPA. I later found this was obviously untrue (THIS IS A TRUE STORY)as Mr. Gallagher being the poor starving newspaper scribe he is, tried to use his press credentials to get into his son's minor hockey game. Hey $2 is $2.
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