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Logic Problems
2005-03-02 11:00
by Jon Weisman

Logic problem 1:

"The Angels' stunning decision to suspend their second-best hitter during their most important two weeks of last season <97> then later trade him <97> resulted in not only an amazing division championship, but an unmistakable message," Bill Plaschke writes in the Times concerning Jose Guillen.

The cause-effect relationship of the Guillen suspension and the division title is nowhere to be found in Plaschke's column - assuming it could be found anywhere. And one wonders why the suspension resulted in a division title but not an American League pennant, a World Series title and the end of global warming.

Logic problem 2:

"The Angels needed to win big in the final week to make the playoffs. The Dodgers were already on the verge of clinching."

This is convenient spin. With one week remaining in the 2004 season, the Dodgers led the Giants in the National League West by 2 1/2 games. The Giants had won 10 of their past 13 games. The Dodgers had the advantage, but to say they didn't need to win big in that final week to make the playoffs is to ignore the tension everyone endured over those final six days.

The Dodgers had to win four out of seven games to clinch. The Angels, who trailed Oakland by a game entering the final week, needed to win five out of seven games. Just a one-game difference.

On Saturday, October 2, the Dodgers were three outs away from having their lead in their division reduced to one game with one game to play. Not because of a sudden collapse. The team had won six of its last nine games to that point. It was that close because it was that hard.

Logic problem 3:

"There were several times last season [Guillen] could have been suspended - for ripping his pitchers, for lying about attending a clubhouse meeting, for doing dumb things to draw attention to himself beyond his 27 homers and 104 runs batted in.

"He was very much like Milton Bradley. And the Angels were very much like the Dodgers, preferring to counsel him, soothe his teammates and cross their pine-tarred fingers that he could last the season."

The Angels were very much like the Dodgers. Everything else in Plaschke's column is designed to highlight the differences between the cultures of the two teams. Yet here we learn that up to the point of Guillen's suspension, the situations were practically identical.

Now, in March 2005, we look at life after the Angels suspended Guillen for the season after Incident X, while the Dodgers suspended Bradley for only a week after Incident Y - keeping in mind that Incidents X and Y were different.

"This spring, Guillen is 3,000 miles away, and the Angels are at peace."

The Dodgers? "The Dodgers must dance around Milton Bradley."

Must they? Yes, the Dodgers have had more turnover than an astronaut in zero gravity, but is there any indication that the Dodger clubhouse is in chaos? The dustup over who would play center field in 2005, Bradley or J.D. Drew, was minor at worst, misreported by much of the media and resolved with ease in two days.

"Two teams, two cultures, two choices," Plaschke writes. Well, for most of 2004, by his own analysis, it was "two teams, one culture, one choice." Despite their problems, Bradley and Guillen remained on their teams' active rosters for almost the entire season. And then, the paths diverged. After two different incidents.

Plaschke overlooked the important distinction between Guillen and Bradley. Bradley has an anger problem, but there is no evidence his anger is directed at his teammates or manager. Guillen's problems, as Plaschke documents them, were clubhouse problems. Whether or not one or both of them should be excused for their behavior, their situations are not parallel.

If Plaschke had uncovered evidence of dissension in the Dodger clubhouse, his column would have been more meaningful. If Plaschke had examined the difference between hostility toward fans and umpires vs. hostility toward teammates and management, his column would have been more meaningful. As it is, the column regrettably provides fuel for those who feel Plaschke's mind is made up before he begins his reporting.

To a great extent, especially on the Internet, writing negatively about Plaschke has become a cliche. It feels like a cliche - I enjoy it about as much as I would enjoy writing "out of the frying pan, into the fire." I enjoy it about as much as being in the frying pan. At some point, I do fear that the widespread criticisms become so numerous that instead of becoming conclusive, they lose meaning altogether. I don't see any reward in writing what I just wrote at all.

But there it is.

Update: I've given this some more thought and what's occured to me is that, despite all the criticism he receives, I don't think Plaschke is a lost cause. I think he is a good writer. Flawed, but most of us are flawed. He can write. I think the problem is that he's in a thinking slump. I'd love to see him snap out of it.

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