A little dishing on sports

You’re better than that!

I have a good friend who hates Mark Jackson with a passion normally seen only during Adam Lambert’s live performances.  My friend complains that Jackson was an extremely arrogant player back in the days of their pickup basketball games of the early 80’s and that Jackson’s game did not warrant such arrogance.

I hated Mark Jackson, too, but only because I am a Knick fan and a basketball fan and Jackson was responsibly for defiling both during the 90’s.  As a Knick fan, it pained me to watch Jackson catch the ball in the middle post with about 18 seconds on the shot clock and proceed to use his ample posterior to back smallish Knick guards, Chris Childs and Charlie Ward into the electronics department at Macy’s or until a foul was called – on the guys who are simply trying to hold their ground! – whichever came first.  As a basketball fan and season ticket holder, I hated that this type of play was legal, and hated to watch such boring basketball.  Moreover, I was very disappointed that Mark Jackson, who I had watched since his days at St. Johns, and who was a scintillating point guard – a great ball handler and passer and a guy who played with flair – would resort to WWE tactics to win basketball games.  I knew it upset me, but I couldn’t quite articulate how I felt at the time.

And then Mark Jackson became an announcer.  He’s making a name for himself now on ABC/ESPN telecasts, having already developed a number of catchphrases for himself, including, “You’re better than that!”  There it is.  That’s what I’d wanted to say all along.  Mark Jackson, you’re better than that!

As a sports fan, I find myself saying that often, including today when I read Jeff Pearlman’s article on the signing of Jason Bay by the New York Mets.  Pearlman, who I should note, is an excellent columnist and the author of a book I really enjoyed, Boys Will Be Boys, about the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s, as well as a book about the 1986 Mets.  Jeff Pearlman is better than an article comparing the Bay signing to the 1982 George Foster trade simply because both players are in their early 30’s, play left field and will bat in the middle of their respective lineups.  Yes, it’s true that Citi Field is not kind to power hitters and Bay will be hard-pressed to match his 36 homerun output of a year ago, but these are two different players in two different eras and what Bay brings to the Mets is significantly different from what Foster brought to the Mets.

First of all, Foster was a player clearly on the decline at age 33.  His numbers had dropped 3 consecutive years after his 52 homer career year in 1977, before a slight uptick in the strike-shortened 1981 season.  Bay, on the other hand, is only 31 in an era when 30 is the new 25.  Moreover, his numbers are pretty steady over the last 4 years.  Will his homerun totals drop in a move from Fenway to Citi?  Probably, although, Bay spent several years playing home games in PNC Bank Stadium, a tough hitters park, and acquitted himself fine there. 

Second, and more importantly, Foster was a man with a reputation of being aloof and selfish, and he was frankly not regarded as having a positive impact on a clubhouse.  Bay, on the other hand, brings a reputation as “a gamer,” and a guy who “is a role model of a guy who grinds it out every day.”  Is all that info true?  Time will certainly tell with Bay and it must be noted that Foster felt he was the victim of racism by Mets management during his time with the club and surrounding his release late in 1986 when the team replaced him with Lee Mazzilli.  While I am sympathetic to Foster’s claims, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that a guy who took a limo to the ballpark was not revered by teammates on a level comparable to Willie Stargell’s status with the Pirates. 

All that having been said, I don’t disagree with Pearlman’s underlying argument that the Mets should focus their attention on improving their horrible pitching, although as a survivor of the Vince Coleman Era, you’ll excuse me if I’m reluctant to sign off on a rebuilding of the team around speed and defense.  Regardless, Mr. Pearlman, George Foster 1982 does not equal Jason Bay 2010.  Come on, man, you’re better than that!


2 Responses to “You’re better than that!”

  1. […] simultaneously overestimating how good Antawn Jamison was and how much Shaq had left in the tank; I made the case for why Jason Bay would be a better Met than George Foster; and I ridiculed Frank Isola for arguing that Kobe Bryant was still by far the best player in the […]

  2. […] simultaneously overestimating how good Antawn Jamison was and how much Shaq had left in the tank; I made the case for why Jason Bay would be a better Met than George Foster; and I ridiculed Frank Isola for arguing that Kobe Bryant was still by far the best player in the […]

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