Do you remember retired Admiral James Stockdale, who in 1992 was Ross Perot's running mate in that year's Presidential election?
I will never forget his deer-in-the-headlight stare into the television camera during the Vice Presidential debate. He leaned over the podium and said to the American people in a gravely voice, "Who am I? Why am I here?"
Sometimes, that's just how I feel.
I'm not a writer; I'm a high school history teacher. My command of the English language is no better than any of you who read what I write. I mean, why would anyone take time out of their busy day to read what I have to say about the Washington Nationals when they could just as easily read what real journalists write in Washington's newspapers and on the many national websites that follow them?
But as I was reading Thomas Boswell's column in the Washington Post this morning, I remembered exactly who I am and why I'm here. Those of us who moonlight as sportswriters here at bleacherrepot.com—I'll call us fan journalists-are the Radio Free Europe and Voice of America of the sports world.
We give the dissenting view.
Paid journalists-writers like the aforementioned Boswell-don't always report on what we fans want to hear. And sometimes, what they report is their subjective opinion couched in a blanket of perceived objectivity.
Twenty years ago, Tracy Ringolsby or Dick Young or Howard Cosell would write an article and we had no way of knowing if they were being honest with us. Today, each column is subject to introspection, vivisection and fact checking, all done by an on-line Army of unpaid seekers of the truth.
People like the writers at Bleacher Report.
Take that column by Thomas Boswell for example. As a young man, I began reading his articles when the Washington Redskins finally started to win some games (thank you George Allen). I would run down the stairs on Monday morning and snatch the Washington Post off of the porch, checking to make sure Boswell's byline was on the story before munching on a bowl of Rice Chex while reading his every word.
He was my only conduit to Sonny Jurgenson, Billy Kilmer, Larry Brown and Chris Hanburger.
He wasn't God, but he was close.
But see, I had to believe what he told me; I had no reason to question him and no way to verify what he said.
But today, the path between fan and team isn't just a single, unpaved road traveled only by a single, anointed reporter. Now we have the information superhighway with it's ten-lane blacktops and maglev mass transit system.
Here we put into use my all-time favorite quote from former President Ronald Reagan.
"Trust, but verify"
And so I trust men like Thomas Boswell, but I also verify. And, today at least, what he wrote wasn't pretty.
In the beginning of his article ("Route To the Bottom? It Starts at the Top"), Boswell makes the tired and unfair comparison between this year's Nationals and the 1962 New York Mets, the model of franchise futility.
But there is no honest comparison, save of course the number of Mets' losses that year (120) and the projected losses for the Nationals this year (117).
The Mets were a rag-tag, moribund group of has-beens and never-will be's. Only one of them-17-year-old Ed Kranepool-is still remembered by Mets' fans today (though to be fair, pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell went on to become a United States Congressman).
The Nationals' roster, on the other hand, is replete with players that other teams lust after. Jesus Flores, Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Elijah Dukes and Jordan Zimmermann are just some of the team's young talent around which a winner can easily be built.
So why the comparison, Boz?
Referring to the team's "blueprint of broken promises," Boswell points to the Nationals' refusal to resign Alfonso Soriano following the 2006 season.
So Tom, you think the Nationals should have resigned him?
For his $18 million a year salary ($136 million total), Soriano has averaged .289-31-72 with a .334 on-base percentage for the Chicago Cubs over two full years.
Do you think the Nationals would have paid that much to Soriano and still been willing to plunk $15-20 million down for Steven Strasburg this summer?
He also complained about Stan Kasten and "The Plan," suggesting that if Kasten was truly copying the Braves model that he created, the team would be signing many more free agents right now. He referenced the 1991 signings of Sid Bream, Rafael Belliard, Terry Pendleton and Otis Nixon as proof that the Braves would sign badly needed players, but the Nationals won't.
Oh, Boz ....
Kasten has repeatedly promised that when the Nationals were ready to contend, the Lerner family would happily pony up the resources to sign the "final pieces" for a contending Nationals' team.
Memo to Boz: the Nationals aren't ready to contend yet.
If you'll notice, Boswell didn't mention that in those developing years, from 1988-1990, Kasten didn't sign anyone of consequence. He waited until the team was ready to compete before signing those veteran players.
If Boswell wants to see Stan Kasten do in Washington what he did in Atlanta, he need only open his eyes.
The Nationals, just like the Braves, have refrained from signing big name free agents because they aren't ready to win. Once the young pitching staff matures, I'm sure we'll see the Nationals make the same kind of moves that the Braves did almost two decades ago.
Look, I'm in no way suggesting that Tom Boswell and other writers shouldn't be subjective in their writing, but they sure should be honest. Sports fans today are far more knowledgeable and have access to all of sports history at their finger tips. It's almost impossible to slip a curve ball by them anymore.
The Washington Nationals are facing so many real problems these days that they don't have time to defend themselves against this never ending silly symphony of complaining journalists.
And that's where the Bleacher Reporters come in.
We read. We research. We evaluate. We fact check.
And then we give you our view. Sure, it's subjective at times, and not always wholly accurate.
But it gives you, the reader, a second opinion.
We report, you decide.
Oh wait, can I say that?