Monday, July 23, 2007


By his account, Jerome Preisler is a successful writer who is of Jewish decent. As someone who is a member of a minority, you would think Preisler would be empathetic towards other minorities. Apparently not.

As you may remember, a month ago or thereabouts Gary Sheffield was quoted for a piece on HBO's "Real Sports" show as saying
that (I'm paraphrasing here) Joe Torre was unfair to him because he (Sheffield) is black. Sheffield went on to say that the rest of the Yankees organization was also not a good place to be if you are a black person (again, paraphrasing). As part of the piece, Sheffield's comments were relayed to Kenny Lofton, a former teammate with the Yankees and also a black man, who corroborated Sheffield's story.

Then, Joe Morgan, lead color commentator on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, said during a broadcast that Joe Torre should answer Sheffield's comments (I didn't hear Morgan make this request, I'm taking it from Preisler's article).

This is going to seem out of place (much like in Preisler's article), but I should also mention that Preisler spent the first 972 words of the 2093 word article telling a story about the time that he and his wife were insulted at a dinner party in Maine by some racially insensitive friends. The gist was that during the dinner party, Preisler's friend's 30 year old daughter asked him in front of a whole table of people why Jews only care about money. When Preisler demurred, his friend said something along the lines of, 'Yes, Jerome. Why is that?' Thats when his wife took him by the hand and they stomped out. Preisler relates this unfortunate incident to Joe Morgan's comments about Sheffield's comments about Torre.

...deep breath...

Preisler says (and I quote), "It is impossible to take either Sheffield or Lofton seriously." As a write, Preisler should know to be more careful with words. Using the word "impossible" paints Preisler into a corner. Further the use of such language in this context can be seen as supporting racism. I'm not saying it is, but it could be seen that way. There is no question that this is a delicate topic, and painting it with a broad brush is simply a bad idea at best, or worse and more likely in this case, blatantly insensitive and dense.

He goes on to say that both these players didn't play particularly well with the Yankees, especially Lofton, and that both were bitter about their departures from the team. Preisler doesn't mention that players depart teams all the time, and I'm sure many are unhappy about it, but this is the first allegation of racially-based disrespect that I can remember.

As for Morgan's comments, Preisler proclaims that Torre does not have to explain himself at all. Indeed, according to Preisler, it is Joe Morgan who must explain his comments, and even beyond that, apologize to Joe Torre for his informed opinion.

I should point out now how incredibly strange it seems to write that Joe Morgan has an informed opinion on anything. Lest people misunderstand my position, Joe Morgan is a terrible announcer and baseball writer. He clearly does little if any research, and as such his opinions are often based on nothing at all. Add to that that he frequently contradicts himself and you get that I am not a fan of Joe Morgan as a baseball pundit.

But, what Joe Morgan undoubtedly does know about, is racism. As a black man who grew up in the fifties and sixties and was in the public spotlight in the seventies, there is little doubt that Morgan is unfortunately well schooled in this area. Morgan played at a time that Hank Aaron was receiving death threats for daring to come near Babe Ruth's home run record. On this topic, Morgan knows of what he speaks.

Preisler dismisses all of that even though he sites no knowledge of the situation beyond watching Joe Morgan on TV. He hasn't talked to Sheffield, Lofton, Morgan or Torre, yet he's prepared to dismiss everything because Sheffield and Lofton didn't play well when they were with the Yankees. Which, I might add isn't true. Lofton was the best center fielder on the team that year, and Sheffield was excellent with the Yankees up to the time he got hurt in his third and final season with the team.

Furthering the weirdness, Preisler decides that a story about being unfairly treated because of your race is a good allegory to explain away Gary Sheffield's statements about being unfairly treated because of your race. Huh? Somehow, Preisler reaches the conclusion that it is Sheffield who can't be trusted and is clearly in the wrong here. And Lofton too. Oh, and Joe Morgan. Again: Huh?

So, why would someone who has experienced racial misunderstanding (and presumably more than that) write an article dismissing someone's claims of racial misunderstanding? To explain that, we just have to look at the byline. Preisler is writing for the YES Network which stands for Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (I believe; its pretty much just called "YES" everywhere on their website).

The fact that the Yankees sign his paycheck and he's defending the Yankees and Joe Torre shouldn't be surprising. Do you think they'd have printed his article and asked for another if he had said, "I'm Jewish, and as the victim of racism in the past, I can personally say that things like this do happen. Here is an example... I will be the first one to stand up and say that this should be looked into more deeply." Yeah, I don't either.

Writing a piece designed to disparage Sheffield's (and Lofton's) claims on the basis of zero knowledge of the situation other than, you know, Sheffield sucks at first base, is odd to say the least. But more importantly, running what is essentially a hit-piece isn't an acceptable way for a professional baseball team to deal with allegations like these.

The fact that some may think Sheffield
a bad person, a bad fielder, or a loud mouth does not mean that what he is saying now isn't true. The same goes for Lofton. Anyone who dismisses such charges out of hand does not deserve to have his articles published on a major media site, whether he kisses their asses or not.

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