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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Sun vs. Marcus Stroman, Part II

Steve Simmons exhibits impressive discipline in his latest for the Toronto Sun, as he mostly  tries his best to sound like a right-thinking adult while attempting to throw Marcus Stroman under the bus. A close reading shows how badly he fails at it, but less keen readers — and when we’re talking about something written for the Toronto Sun, there’s sure to be plenty of those — may have missed the trick.

Of course, for those of us reading the piece on the web, any hint of subtlety was blasted away by the editor who chose the photo and two videos (Stroman’s exchange with Tim Anderson this week, and his ejection against Oakland the week before) that are embedded in the piece. Ahh, but let’s dive into the subtext a bit anyway, shall we?

Here’s how I first reacted to the piece on Twitter.

There’s more going on than just that, though. It’s a piece that at times postures like some kind of mature review of the Stroman “situation” — conveniently keeping Ringmaster Buffery’s circus open for at least another news cycle — but from the very opening, it’s clear what the implications are going to be.

I asked a Blue Jays executive a rather simple question about a month ago: When did Marcus Stroman become a jerk?

His response was rather telling at the time: “You don’t become one,” he answered.

A few people on Twitter were quick to suggest that it’s odd that a Jays executive would say such a thing to Simmons, of all people. I recoil at the idea that people think reporters so casually will make up quotes out of thin air — distrust of the media is a genuine and serious problem these days — and I have no doubt that someone in some capacity did say these words. I do wonder, however, about the context.

Remember when Brandon Morrow decided he needed to be more of a jerk because that’s what “you need to be to really succeed”? Playing with a chip on one’s shoulder is often seen as a good and necessary thing. Also, let’s not forget that Paul Beeston is now the club’s “President Emeritus” — thoroughly useless, but quotable in perpetuity as an unnamed “executive,” no doubt.

Or maybe someone in the real front office really does think Stroman is a jerk! Or at least has sympathy for the media members who have to deal with him when he’s particularly prickly.

Why would it matter if he was or wasn’t? That could be an interesting conversation, if anyone actually wanted to have it. But the implication, as always, is that it just does.

“You have to understand something,” Simmons then condescends. “Sporting people are normally rather protective of their own.” OH SHIT, says the Sun reader, THIS IS A BIG DEAL, as Stroman is then given the full-on Manny Ramirez treatment — literally.

“How many times have you heard a coach or a manager say ‘Oh, that’s just Manny being Manny.'”

(Actually it just happened once, in 1995, and then lazy reporters ran with it for 15 years as derisive catch-all for a man’s entire persona. *COUGH*)

“If Manny’s great, or any of the other Mannys out there are great, it’s easy and convenient to look the other way.”

Stroman has been great this season, Simmons then reminds us. THAT’S WHY HE’S GETTING AWAY WITH “IT,” this all implies.

And what is “it” and why is “it” a problem? Still no real answer.

“His on-field behaviour, and some may say his off-field deportment, is open to questioning,” we’re told. The on-field stuff I addressed in my response to Buffery’s piece, but off the field? What about it? What specifically? And it’s open to questioning to what end? Questioning how? And why is what he does especially worth questioning? Every other Blue Jay must be a saint off the field, I guess. (Oh! Unless this is all really about Stroman’s treatment of the media, written in the guise of wise and honest admonishment from someone who just has the team’s interest at heart. LOL).

“Another Blue Jays clubhouse voice,” uhh… let’s just call him Muck Bartinez, “wondered how much Stroman suffers from the absence of the now-retired Mark Buehrle in the clubhouse. Buehrle was a mentor to the young pitcher. When Buehrle left, his voice of veteran reason became Jose Bautista.”

OH SHIT, NOT BAUTISTA! shouts the Sun reader as he spits his triple-triple all over his F-150 — fully understanding, as even he surely does, what that implies.

Next season, with no Bautista around, who does Stroman turn to next?

WELL THIS HAS JUST GONE FROM BAD TO WORSE!

I mean, RIGHT??? How in the world will this 26-year-old ace pitcher and businessman possibly find a babysitter for himself sufficient to meet the standards of “deportment” insisted upon by the Toronto Sun?

Now, some of you might be thinking: Hold on a second here, isn’t this, like, the oldest team in the league? Aren’t there a whole lot of veterans in the clubhouse who could be there to help mentor Stroman? And while yes, all of that is true (and singling out Bautista and then nobody dun dun dunnnnn! is transparently deliberate), the bigger question remains, mentor him into being what?

If the answer is “something less detrimental to the team,” then please explain to us how anything he does is detrimental.

Based on some chatter on this subject on Twitter earlier in the day, this appears to be the best these types have got:

Anybody seeing any answers there? Any hint of what is actually supposed to be the problem? Any substance at all?

And the thing is, when the excuse for nebulousness verging on dog whistle veers toward “well, you don’t quite know the whole story but I do,” it’s pretty hard to take from people whose job it is to literally to report things.

Could these Sun pieces turn out to be credible in some of their implications? I suppose. We’ve seen the video of Stroman’s scrum following the White Sox game, and he wasn’t not being kind of a jerk (though the way he behaves with the media doesn’t necessarily say anything about the way he behaves with anybody else). But that doesn’t mean they’re not horseshit, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they’re not trying to lead people into thinking a particular way — a way that just so happens to try to peck away at the brand and the reputation of a very brand-conscious athlete who these media guys seem not to like very much.

Funny how that works sometimes, eh? Just the Sun being the Sun, I guess.

  • The Humungus

    I really have only one response to this. It’s a phrased uttered by many a rational sports enthusiast, and likely by anyone who attempted to listen to the TSN morning show while Blundell was still around.

    Yo! Fuck Steve Simmons!

  • Will Murray

    Thankfully, by being a nondescript person on the internet, I don’t see a ton of stupid BS in my mentions, so I can essentially self-select who I follow, what I read, and what I watch. In short, my feed is decidedly pro-Stroman. That said, there’s almost certainly a wide enough audience to lap up anti-Stroman BS from those more than willing to dish it out.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s confirmation bias, but the guiltier ones tend to be the older ones who are used to an era where their words carried more weight in a smaller, print-based world, and whose nights used to be spent kicking back and sharing war stories with their pals in the front office.

    Whatever, maybe Stroman can head up to the press box and turn the soda machine on early and get in the good graces of the veterans at the Sun.

  • Afclark82

    The whole tone around the Jays is irritating and has been for years. This whole Bautista/Stroman not having the right “attitude” is bull shit and will always be bull shit. They are both stars and personalities that any other sport would embrace. I don’t understand why having an opinion and showing emotion is a bad thing for the games.

    Other current annoyances:
    – hate on Goins. He is the 25th man on the roster who was supposed to play once a week. He sucks, sure, but every team in the league has someone identical to him (or just slightly better). He is only playing so much because of injuries and no prospect depth at high minors.
    – complaints about Sportsnet media being homers/Rogers apologists. They work for the team owner, they are around the players everyday, and they are who they are. If you don’t like it then watch MLB.tv for the US feeds. You might be surprised to find the other teams media/broadcasters are the same or worse. Deal with it or read the Sun (aka toilet paper), it’s not changing anytime soon.
    – Complaints about ticket prices, stadium quality, and budget. Like it or not the Jays are a business and if you break the 2 million attendance mark shortly after the all star break your owner will raise prices. Any business and any team in the world would do the same thing. They are in the top 10 budgets in the league and planning massive stadium renos over the next few years, so it is money well invested.
    – Gibbons/Atkins/Shapiro hate also makes no sense. They are rebuilding the farm system on the fly and did a decent job trying to stay competitive with their pickups. They weren’t successful but all the injuries and very bad play sure didn’t help. Who would have thought Tulo and Bautista would be as bad as they have been? Or that Sanchez would miss most of the year with a blister and fingernail problem? Or that Estrada would falter like he has? Poor performances happen. Remember when the Red Sox went from the WS to almost bottom of the division?

    Rant over and feeling a little better. Just seems people forget where we were when AA took over: no prospect depth, a unhappy star that wanted to move on, and still 5 years away from a playoff spot.

    • Holly Wood

      Agree with everything you say except your comment on Goins. Solid defensively, some clutch hitting, yes the average is down, likely due to his inability to stop hitting into the shift, coaching and discipline may get him another 20-30 points next year. Jays could do a lot worse than Goins at short. Or have you forgotten Jose Reyes

      • fred2

        Yeah, sorry, but Goins’ average isn’t ‘down’. It’s exactly where Goins’ average is going to be … 10 to 20 over the Mendoza line with zero power. ‘Coaching and discipline’ … lol. Even with the RBIs this year and good defense (and clutch isn’t a thing), he’s a below replacement level player. Reyes was terrible in 2015 … and still had just about the same wRC+ as Goins.

        Goins current RBI when RISP streak is fantastic, and long may it continue, but you still have to reckon it’s a combination of luck and pitchers in trouble preferring to pitch strikes to the #9 hitter than Jose Bautista.

        • wb

          Unfortunately Goins’ defense isn’t even very good, this year. He’s at -4.3 UZR (-16.3 UZR/150) at SS for 2017, a steep drop from 2015 (+2.3 and +7.8 respectively). At 2B he’s at -0.05 UZR and -2.0 UZR/150, also a big drop. From the eye test, his range has dropped dramatically. He’s a defensive replacement that no longer plays good defense. As for the RBIs with runners in scoring position, likely a combination of small sample size and pitchers pitching him differently with risp, because they know there are better hitters coming up. A couple of years ago I would have said yes, he’s a useful back-up. Currently, Goins’ usefulness comes from being able to play multiple positions, but Barney can do the same with a higher ceiling.

    • jerjapan

      Five years away from a playoff spot? Talk about a BS narrative. There are informed criticisms that can be leveled at everyone you mentioned – Rogers can spend more – Shapiro essentially promised that they would if the fans continued to support the team and hey, we are 4th in the game in attendance. Nobody required Shapiro and Atkins to sign Morales, and while they have done plenty of positive things, our last offseason was a fail. And AA was too cavalier with prospects – two trade deadlines later and the price we payed for Price looks excessive. But we have a farm system ranked 9th by BA in part because of the draft team that AA put in place, and because of the lower level talent AA assembled. Our farm rankings will only continue to grow as the A level talent AA assembled gets closer to the bigs. He did acquire the best prospect in the game, after all. It’s not Reese McGuire and Teoscar Hernandez that have us ranked 9th.

    • lukewarmwater

      Well the general thought these days is that once guys hit 33 or 34, the best years are behind them, injuries occur more regularly as poor Tulo joins the Joffrey Lupul club. The injuries also take longer to recuperate from compared when to the player was 22. 82 please let me know how many 34 year old pitchers are having successful seasons this year. Suprise, surprise, father time is indeed catching up on numerous players throughout the league not just the Jays. Oh sure there are the occasional exceptions, but it is the way it is.

  • Barry

    There is some comfort in knowing that the Sun’s self-serving campaign against Stroman will likely have no impact. The Sun isn’t terribly relevant in the baseball sphere, and I’m not sure many Jays fans actually read it; when they do, it’s to sneer at yet another Steve Simmons troll piece. In short, “credibility” is not exactly the Sun’s reputation among baseball fans. I guess there will be Leafs fans who are now convinced that Stroman is a loose cannon.

  • fred2

    Hard to resist the thought that the adjective Simmons would really like to use, but knows he couldn’t get away with, is ‘uppity’. You know the players the writers love … taciturn bores (much as I love them) like Smoak and Pierce and Goins and Tulowitski. Not so much the – ahem – ‘colourful’ players, eh? But of course Donaldson can be as colourful as he likes, including an attitude to the press that can sometimes verge on rude, and can be caught on camera shouting ‘suck my cock’ across the diamond with hardly a comment in the press. Odd, isn’t it?

    • lukewarmwater

      Fred you couldn’t possibly be implying that some of the media, fans and perhaps management feel that Marcus is another P.K. Subban. Ready to be dealt as you point out they might consider Marcus to be just a twinge too COLORFUL. How the Habs doing these days???

  • jerjapan

    Stoeten, I often disagree with you, but I think you nailed it in this piece. There is a cynical part of me that can’t help but wonder if Stroman being a rich, outspoken young black man who doesn’t play the game the ‘right’ way has anything to do with the Sun’s coverage.

  • Terry Mesmer

    The Sun won’t be happy until Stroman stops showing up for work, starts showing up drunk in public, films himself smoking crack, and complains that lefties at the Star made it all up.