Maybe That’s Why He Asked For A Trade

SF’s excellent post about Selena Roberts’ myth-perpetuating rant got it just right. Roberts, who continues to be one of my least favorite sports scribes (Lupica tops the list) for her continual negativity, decided that Johnson’s apparent trade request was an admission on his part that New York had gotten to him, that he couldn’t handle the pressure. In a two page column, Roberts waxed poetic about just how difficult it is for some people to make it in the unsympathetic hell hole that is New York City. Travis Bickle would have been proud. It would have helped Roberts’ case if she had actually provided detailed evidence to support her scared suburbanite’s view of the terrible city. Another thing that would have helped her is if she had bothered to investigate the circumstances surrounding Johnson’s request. Reading today’s Daily News I discovered this:

Johnson, who is coming off back surgery, did not request a trade, but the Yankees began discussions with other clubs after GM Brian Cashman called Johnson to offer condolences after Johnson’s older brother died recently. During the call, Johnson told the GM it was important to be close to his family.

This is the first time I’ve read anything about Johnson’s loss. I’ve read plenty of insinuations by Roberts and posters in the blogosphere (none of them here) that the Big Unit asked out because he couldn’t hack it. I guess I understand the reasoning that underlies such an assumption, but to me, it’s one of the things I most dislike about sports fandom. And I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it in the past. That is, I’m sure I have called into question a player’s fortitude or, more to the point, his manliness when I have been disappointed by his performance. In this case, with these details out, it would seem the height of cynicism to continue insisting that Johnson asked about a possible trade because he can’t handle the pressure of NYC. Perhaps I’m especially sensitive about this subject because of recent events in my life, but I feel Johnson is doing the "manly" thing in seeing if he can be near his family during this difficult time.

14 comments… add one

  • YF- That was far and away one of the best assessments and well thought out posts I have seen. I really apreciate your honest assessment, and I also think this site is INCREDIBLE, Thank you SF and YF for simply raising the Bar in the Blogoshphere.
    Go RED SOX!

    JDG-SF December 29, 2006, 12:58 pm
  • Sigh. Yet again the NY Times raises heckles here at YFSF. It’s utterly crap, I think we can all agree on that. And yes, Roberts does always seem to write negative articles – I thought I was being harsh on her so it’s nice to see others agree with me. Maybe the Times thinks that instead of, you know, breaking sports news and informing their readers about what’s going on behind the scenes (spin-free), they’re better served by having a resident curmudgeon to spew her bile across its pages. Whatever, man.
    And poor Unit if that is truly why he wants to move back home; he has my sympathies. Sounds like the kind of story Peter Gammons will eventual write…

    Sam December 29, 2006, 1:24 pm
  • Sam –
    Roberts’ column, for me at least, merely highlighted a myth, the myth of how New York (or Boston, or other tough towns) can ruin players. I don’t want to get into a flame war about what we think about their reporting or columnists – we disagree about the Times being “utterly crap”- witness Harvey Araton or Dave Anderson or George Vecsey, who more than make up for Roberts, Chass, etc. Nick, though he also admonishes Roberts, is also highlighting something endemic to sportswriting: the willingness of writers (and fans, too), to reduce transactional moves to indicators of human qualities, to apply a blanket charge of “weakness” to a person because they prefer to go somewhere else. We often, as Nick eloquently points out, do not know (or know too late) the circumstances behind these preferences. Nick’s post, and my post as well, are much less about the New York Times and Selena Roberts than they are about fandom and sportswriters in general, about the reflexive nature of mythmaking and name-calling.

    SF December 29, 2006, 1:46 pm
  • johnson’s got nothing to prove about his “intestinal fortitude”…period…and, while it’s sad about the family’s misfortune, it’s good for a change to see the yankees as a team with a heart…

    dc December 29, 2006, 3:04 pm
  • by the way, murray chass, was the 2003 winner of the: “J.G. Taylor Spink Award is the highest award given by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to its members. The award was instituted in 1962 and named after J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News from 1914 to 1962, who was also the first recipient.”..courtesy of wikipedia…the 2004 winner: peter gammons

    dc December 29, 2006, 3:09 pm
  • on a completely unrelated note:
    aaron f. boone signs with the marlins.
    http://tinyurl.com/ud2my

    Yankee Fan In Boston December 29, 2006, 3:40 pm
  • roberts: so is it the microscope of the new york media that finally got to you?
    rj: no. it’s the fragrance of bum urine i can’t handle anymore.
    roberts: now sir, thats just unfair. we’re working on that.
    rj: DON”T TALK BACK TO ME.

    sf rod December 29, 2006, 6:36 pm
  • it’s good for a change to see the yankees as a team with a heart…
    Remember, dc, that the Yankees’ “heart” is only likely to be compassionate if the players offered for RJ are good enough. Not to be too cynical, but the team will not take .50, .60, .70 on the dollar to make sure Randy can grieve closer to home. That’s just like any other team would act — I want to be clear that I am not picking on the Yankees for this.

    SF December 29, 2006, 8:08 pm
  • Cashman has already made it clear that he won’t trade RJ unless he’s satisfied with the return, and I seriously doubt that the desire to be closer to his family is the only reason Johnson wouldn’t mind it if he were to leave the Yankees. He can’t have exactly relished his two years in New York.
    Besides the family issue, he could win his 300th game in Arizona, where his best years were(4 Cys and a world championship), and whose uniform he will be wearing when he goes into the hall.
    Supposedly, Arizona has about 10 mil. it can spend on this year’s budget, so since RJ is due 16 mil., the Yanks will probably have to pay some of his 2007 salary unless that can be reworked into an extension, and then there’s the 40 mil. the D’Backs still owe Johnson in deferred payments. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out or not.

    Whatever December 29, 2006, 11:18 pm
  • … and whose uniform he will be wearing when he goes into the hall.
    Interesting you should say that, Whatever. I always figured he’d go in as a Mariner. No reason for that; it’s just what I’ve always thought of him as wearing when I thought of him. H started his career in Seattle, spent the most years there, became a dominant pitcher there, etc. I’m not really disagreeing with you. It just struck me as interesting because it differed from my poorly thought out assumptions.
    Am I missing someone, or would Johnson be the first HOF-er to wear the cap of a 1990s expansion team? Helton has a case for the Hall in Colorado, but he’s no sure thing and he seems further from retirement than Johnson.

    Paul SF December 30, 2006, 1:14 am
  • i realize you’re not picking on the yanks sf, but the fact is they didn’t have to accomodate johnson’s request to even explore a trade…my understanding is that he initiated it…having said that, i agree they would be foolish to get back less than full value…i hope they have a brain to go with that heart…

    dc December 30, 2006, 9:25 am
  • Paul,
    “and whose uniform he will be wearing when he goes into the hall.”
    I guess that is a bit of an assumption on my part, but considering that’s where he won his ring, 4 straight Cy Youngs, where he will most likely be living when he retires, and if this deal gets done, where he will probably win #300, that would be my guess.
    I do still have flashbacks of RJ in a Mariners uniform, especially him shutting down the Yanks in a start and relief appearance in that 1995 ALDS.

    Whatever December 30, 2006, 10:37 am
  • they didn’t have to accomodate johnson’s request to even explore a trade
    But why wouldn’t they, regardless of his personal situation? I think you are giving the Yankees credit for being “nice” when all they are doing is being “smart”. Again, not unlike any intelligently un organization.
    Compassion from a team would be giving a player an extended leave of absence in the middle of a pennant race, continuing to pay them while they grieve even though it’s hurting the team, potentially. Exploring possible trades for a high-profile commodity doesn’t really qualify as compassionate to me.

    SF December 30, 2006, 11:10 am
  • sf, i know you don’t want to give the yanks credit for having smarts or being nice, so i’ll concede that it may be in their best interests to shop johnson, or anyone for that matter, around if the value is there, but you have to admit the timing is more than a bit of coincidence as pointed out in the article referenced…or, the yankees are cold-hearted bastards who only care about winning…uh, i’m ok with that too…

    dc December 31, 2006, 12:13 am

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