Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stiles takes on ALL comers - Topic: Delmon Young

When I finally get the opportunity to interview Delmon Young I'll ask him two simple questions:

1. "How many times have you been asked about it?"

2. "Can I get an invite to your Hall of Fame induction?"

I chose Delmon Young as my favorite Devil Ray for a very simple yet personal reason. I've been there... (in a sense).

Sure, I could've gone the easy route and chose The Most Exciting Player in Baseball or Steve Carlton II as my favorite Devil Ray player, but I chose to be a fan of Delmon as much as he inadvertently chose me to be his fan.

Let's back up a bit: You know sports, you know baseball and you know how to make your mind up about things, right? Well, I'm not so sure you do...

It's often been said that there's two types of people in sports - those who play sports and those who write about sports. In a truly Stiles fashion, I dance on, tightrope and straddle that fence often.

Well, I happen to think the WORLD is wrong about Delmon Young. The writers, the fantasy gurus, the sports guy on the local news channel, YOU included. And I'll tell you why.

Exhibit A
Everything you know is the same as nothing

Name everything you know about Delmon Young without mentioning the words "bat" or "umpire". Here, I'll help you:

He's Dmitri Young's little brother

He's a former #1 overall pick (2003 draft)

MAYBE you know he's an outfielder, or a right handed batter... maybe.

OK, given those things, HOW HOW HOW can you make an assessment of his character??
Now I'll let you use the words "bat" and "umpire" and suddenly he's a candidate to make the Cincinnati Bengals roster?

Exhibit B
the video

I've seen it more times than I've seen the Zapruder film. (it's close, anyway)

There's no footage of Delmon even LOOKING at the umpire when he threw the bat. The umpire did not make a move in ANY direction when the bat was flung. The catcher did not react in any manner, the pitcher did NOTHING. It was almost as if everyone was SO BARELY shocked/surprised that he threw the bat, they were rendered NOT afraid and went about their business as usual.

Young did not so much as scream, yell, rant or rave at the play.

He simply was called out on a pitch that clearly was NOT a strike. He disagreed with the call, probably called the ump a seeyesser and got run appropriately. Then he flung, threw, chucked, whatever-you-want-to-call-what-he-did-with-the-bat at the umpire, striking him.
Acceptable behavior? Absolutely not.

You never throw equipment. ack 100 years ago when I played organized baseball, I would always tell my teammates that "it wasn't the equipment's fault" or "don't blame the bat. It didn't strike out, you did".

So we agree this is unacceptable behavior from a professional athlete, but HOW HOW HOW does this one singular incident make Delmon Young a player with "character issues"?

He was suspended for 50 games. He paid the punishment... supposedly. He had LOTS of time to rehash a simple moment. He's thought about it more than I have, I know THAT much. He is going to be asked about and remembered for the incident for the rest of his career, most likely.
He did not get arrested, convicted or even charged with any crime except in the court of public opinion. I'm sorry, but there's SO MANY variables beyong the 28 seconds of video that aren't accounted for.


Can we all agree that this wasn't even CLOSE to the same vein as the Izzy Alcantara "incident"???

Exhibit C
He made a mistake in the heat of competition

Delmon IS guilty of being a multiple sport star athlete, having amazing physical tools and merely being "young". He lost his cool to the point where he tossed the bat, but WHAT else did he do? A mistake? Once again yes... BUT who doesn't make a mistake, an err in judgement, a decision with ill consequences in life?

I understand that the microscope of sports journalism is focused on pinpointing how horrible professional athletes are (even though there's a greater percentage of convicted criminals in our Congress), since controversy gets people talking and feel-good stories don't sell copy. But here's where "the two types of people in sports" (players and writers) show their discrepancies.

Exhibit D
Manny Stiles has "been there"

Once upon a time I was a pitcher for an adult summer-league baseball team. For one particular road game our team had just "signed" a pitcher of relative star quality who was going to start in place of me and I was bumped to the bullpen.

Well, the game started out and "new star pitcher" essentially got his tits ripped off and gave up 8 runs before getting yanked in the second inning. I came in the game in relief and got us out of a jam.

Then I went on to shut the other team down over the course of innings 2-8. Our team whittled the 8-0 lead away until the game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth. I poured my heart out. I pitched my ass off, I gave all I could. I reached deep within myself. All the cliches were in effect.

Now the game was on a Saturday and there was quite a turnout for such a meaningless baseball game. tehre was about 500-700 spectators and some were even trying to heckle me (I DO seem to get people talking). Emotions ran high, close plays were hotly contested.

The bottom of the ninth came around, I was still humming, in the groove, etc. I got the first out easily, got the second guy out on a K then went to work on the potential third out. He got on from an error by my second baseman and ended up on second.

The next guy up was pretty good, so I drilled him in the ribs to secure the force play at any base (I hated intentional walks but loved drilling dudes). So with two outs and men on first and second, my adrenaline RAGING from the moment, I took it to the next batter.

Being the 20 year old I was at the time, I just tried to blow it by him but he made contact! he dribbled a ball right back at me and with my poor follow through I was a bit out of position to field the ball cleanly and literally stuck a leg out to stop it. The ball hit my ankle and rolled foul, but obviously was still a fair ball, bases loaded.

We came all the way back from down 8 runs and here we were in the bottom of the ninth! The batter stepped in and all I wanted was an out. knew the guy at bat wasn't going to beat me. I went right at him, but I was wearing down. The batter took the count all the way to 3-2. Pitches were on the black and not getting called. The ump was squeezing me!

So on a full count, the batter took my offering (which was pretty much a strike) the Ump called it ball four, the raucous crowd erupted (as much as a crowd of 500 could) and he walked with the bases loaded to win the game 9-8.

Then one of the least proud moments of my life happened. I was dejected, spent and angry. I frustratedly kicked my glove like I was Ray Guy, over the backstop. A child of maybe 8-10 years old said "nice kick!" and I launched the loudest FU Bomb of my career, tossed the "Mike Vick one-fingered peace sign" at the stands and began to punch the fiberglassed benches in utter disgust and rage. If you've ever punched fiberglass, you know how it shatters and splinters into a mess.

People were becoming frightened and scared and lucky for me I had a very good friend that grabbed me and my stuff and took us back to my car where I proceeded to redecorate my car with knuckle dents to the hood. My buddy told me to calm down, I did what I could (my best) and it was "just a game".

I was starting to have my senses come back to me when he asked:

"Are you OK to drive, or do you want me to walk home?"

It's at moments like that you can clearly define the difference between a good friend and everyone else. Anyone else would have gotten a serious ass whoopin', whereas my good friend knew THAT was exactly what I needed.

To this day, it's still a funny line.

What's the point of this mess? In the heat of strenuous effort/battle/love and war, sometimes your best/better/good judgement flies out the window. I would NEVER EVER act like that again (and am still appalled that I DID act like that once). You never fully realize your worst capabilities until it's too late. If somebody, anybody would have made a move at me, I would have probably attacked them! I was a raging fool (and I am NOT proud of this)

I probably could have been arrested (for the destruction of public property, maybe even for assault for threatening the kid).

Delmon was 20 when his incident occurred, I was 20 too...

There has to be a place where we can allow people to "mess up" without labeling them "Messed Up". I feel Delmon Young deserves the chance to be considered human (vulnerable, fallable, unperfect) even though he was given beyond-human physical abilities. I give people the benefit of the doubt at least once.

If Delmon Young did what I did and he did what I did, would anyone ever care to know the difference?

Exhibit E

Look, I'm not one to call out the slightest controversy and slap the proverbial race card on it, but open your eyes a bit wider than uniform colors here. It's clear to me that there's some racism involved with public perception of Delmon Young. It sickens me that it's so apparent in "the world we live", "this day and age", whatever...

More than "Black man beats Whitey with a stick for once" jokes...

Delmon Young is percieved as being a doo-rag and gold chain wearing, gangsta wannabe hip-hop culture thug by far too many people whom have never even SEEN him! How many people NEVER watched the clip still called him "hip-hop thug" or more simply "dumb nigger"? How many people that "would never use the N-word" still think about him the same way whether they want to admit or not?

How many people hear the name "Delmon" and don't think "that's a black guy's name"? Or see a picture of him and envision meeting him in a dark alley. It truly doesn't matter to me personally what skin color a person has (name someone who got to choose), but I know there are people that feel this way. I have had people tell me "players like Delmon Young don't respect the game", "he's a ghetto punk" and other similar statements of blatent, overt ignorance.

Keep in mind that the people I have heard bad mouth Young 1) don't know him, 2) have never met him and 3) couldn't pick him out of a lineup if their life depended on it, but would just as easily bet their life that he is as likely to "be in a police lineup as a batting lineup"... huh?
We are SO trained in this society to have the headline tell the story and have the video "evidence" slam the gavel on the 'sentence'.

There is a fear in people that grows in the petri dish of ignorance. Racism is one thing, but so is ignoring racism. As much as I wish it couldn't be true, Don't double down on the ignorance.

I haven't met Delmon Young personally (yet), but I have a pretty good idea that he'll be different than I expect, different than you expect and different than the media expects me to expect. He might just be a "regular guy" in some respects!

...or maybe he'll be happy and jovial like O.J. Simpson...

Exhibit F
The Devil Rays Corallory

WHAT do you know about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Seriously? How can SO MANY people know next to nothing about the Devil Rays yet know what's beating inside of #26's jersey? From the time he was spending in the minors?


The day that all the smacked asses stop running their mouths about how they know everything about what they saw on SportsCenter one time will be the finest day of them all.
Playing professional baseball is a privilege not a right. Me thinks Delmon "gets" that concept. No worries here.from Manny..

Exhibit G
What lies ahead (emphasis on "lies")

For all the reasons stated above, I empathize with Delmon Damarcus Young. I can't help but feel sorry for how he has to handle a ration of B.S. (not blown saves) over an incident of such meaningless insignificance that has been blown out of proportion by idiots who can't conjure up a real story, fear, racism and ignorance

Delmon Young will need to have an MVP-like season or four before the journalists of the world will let the bat incident rest. Again, in the grand scheme of things (at least to me) it's the deadest story in Florida (hanging chads anyone?).

And GOD help us if even the slightest event conjures up the "incident". Delmon could be a saint for the rest of his career, if another player throws a bat, or hits an umpire GUESS whose name will be dragged through it....

In less than a month, the story will pop up again as the one year anniversary comes around (April 26th). Of course, no one will ask him about THIS season, or what he's doing NOW, they'll just want to pin Delmon down under that 28 second clip like that grainy book jacket flap can tell the whole story inside.

Maybe Delmon can learn some "bat control" and stop swinging at EVERYthing thrown his way, maybe mix in a walk every so often and the "witty" journalists can come up with some actually FUNNY headlines (now who's the funny one?)

Maybe he'll continue to be the free swinging slugger that got him to the bigs, I don't care. As long as he goes out there and plays baseball, he WILL have a great, incident-free career. And I'll be rooting the WHOLE time!

Of course, I'll be busy making my plans to visit Cooperstown in 20 or so years...

Go Devil Rays!

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