Jeff Pearlman

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Sometimes you’re simply wrong …

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And today, on SI.com, I was wrong.

My column, which can be read here, blasted three Mets (Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez) for not joining their teammates on a visit to the Walter Reed Hospital. While I do think their absences were regrettable and, in the case of Castillo and Perez, somewhat inexcusable, well, I blew this one. I really did.

Started thinking about it this afternoon, while doing my regular Friday segment on Hardly Workin’ With Greg Burton, an ESPN Radio show in Richmond. Greg asked about the column, and as I began to dump on the players it hit me: How many times have I visited Walter Reed? How many cards have I sent the troops? How many meals have I cooked? How much money have I donated?

In other words, why am I expecting more of three ballplayers than I am of myself? And why do they have a greater obligation to charitable deeds than I do?

Answer: They don’t. If they were wrong not attending, I’m wrong for doing jack shit.

One person who rightly called me on this was Dave Singer, author of the excellent blog, NYSportsDog. If you read the comments section beneath my initial post of the column, you’ll see this from Dave:

I know all of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines there will enjoy the personally autographed books you’ll be bringing them.

E-mail me if you want me to go with you…really.

Regards,
Dave

•••

Inspired by Dave, as well as the Tweets of Sean Pidgeon (he’s also a contributor to a baseball blog, Surviving The Citi), tonight I contacted Walter Reed, asking if they’d have any interest in a sports writer coming for a visit, distributing books (Lord knows I’ve got enough copies of the Clemens bio sitting around :) ) and holding some sort of discussion. I’m no celebrity, obviously. But, again, why should we expect so much of the famous, and not of ourselves?

We shouldn’t.

PS: A final thought: Admitting you’re wrong is hard. It’s especially hard when you have something of a public forum. But I do try here to acknowledge my errors. Writing is an imperfect science. You want your words to convey your exact feelings, but: A. It’s occasionally impossible; B. Exact feelings change all the time.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry for screwing this one up. Again, how can I call out three ballplayers when I’m more or less guilty of the same sin?

PPS: One area from the column that I still stand by: Most players don’t understand the power they have to do good. They really don’t.

  • jmw

    Good move. One of the reasons I read your blog, and respect you, is I see in you a desire to do the right thing. This time you did.

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_Pidgeon Sean Pidgeon

    Hey Jeff,

    I like this blog entry. Nice job.

    You are a great writer. Your ’86 Mets book was one of the most entertaining I’ve read.

    Sean

    P.S. I’m not the author or creator of the Surviving the Citi Mets blog. That would be Brendan Bilko (twitter.com/pricedout). I’m just a contributor :-)

    P.P.S. Keep up the Sarah Palin criticism on your blog. One thing I know we both agree on is that she should not be our next president :-) :-)

  • Tim

    Well done, Jeff.

  • http://nysportsdog.blogspot.com Dave Singer

    Mornin’ Jeff. Big thumbs up for this…you’re a Mensch.

  • Ness

    During last night’s Mets game, Gary Cohen brought up a point that I hadn’t heard anywhere else: The Mets have been doing this visit for the past 3-4 years (always voluntary) and this year had the highest player turnout of all. There has never been 100% participation, so the frenzy around the 3 guys who just happened to be the ones who missed it this year seemed blown way out of proportion.

    I immediately thought of your column. And now I’m so glad to see this post. Well done.

  • Kab

    The mets should have made it mandatory

  • http://twitter.com/Sean_Pidgeon Sean Pidgeon

    Hey Jeff,

    Very nice.

    If you get to go to Walter Reed and sign some books, I’m sure the soldiers will appreciate it. Your ’86 Mets book is pure entertainment.

    Sean

    P.S. Thanks for the shout out to Surviving the Citi. But I’m not the author or creator; that would be Brendan Bilko (twitter.com/pricedout). I’m just a contributor :-)

  • Aaron

    I commend you this blog post and for reaching out to Walter Reed, but I still think you were absolutely right in criticizing the Met players, regardless of your own actions. They had the option to visit with their team and impolitely declined. That sends a clear message about their priorities,

    The only way to turn this on yourself would be if a group of authors were planning on doing something together charitable, approached you and you declined. Having read this blog awhile, I’m fairly certain you would have jumped at the opportunity.

  • http://busleaguesbaseball.com Brian

    Jeff,

    I found this post while responding to a post about your SI.com column on another blog. I’m glad you realized where your criticism was off (glass houses, throwing stones, yadda yadda yadda). You should be an inspiration to all of us to sit up and ask what we’ve done lately to make someone else’s life better.

    I still think your point was wrong on Beltran, however. If the idea is to impact lives, that’s exactly what he missed this visit to work on.

  • Aaron H

    Jeff –

    Three thumbs up. But you have to pass out the Mets book:)

  • Muhammad Goldberg

    Perhaps I am truly “un-American” but I fail to see the problem here..why on earth should ANYONE feel obligated to visit a soldier who returned from an unjust, criminal war? Sorry, but to say “I don’t support the war but you gotta support our troops” makes zero logical sense. How can anyone justify supporting those who carry out the crime, even if they are only following orders??

    The United States government is responsible for hundreds of THOUSANDS of innocent lives being lost in Iraq..why on earth should these soldiers be respected?

    Please Jeff, don’t let the mainstream mindset corrupt you like this. If you want to salute real American heroes then donate some time and money to the ACLU, or Pat Tillman’s family, or your local teachers union.

    Wake up America..the US military is NOT defending your freedom. This point cannot be repeated enough..God Bless America the Free, and not the country that exists now, where everything “our boys” do has to be respected.

  • http://www.njbaseball.net NJBaseball

    One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned in this media frenzy is how many other teams have 100 percent attendance when they visit Walter Reed on trips to Washington and Baltimore? I watch and read about more than just the Mets, and most (probably all) teams will send representatives to Walter Reed when they’re in the area. I have no idea what the attendance percentage is, but I’d be surprised if Perez, Castillo and Beltran are the only three out of all the players who visited those two cities this year who did not make the trip. Yet, they play for a team from New York, with all its media outlets. Plus, they play from the second team from New York, the one that doesn’t have a first-place record to overshadow all the off-field drama. If there aren’t enough wins to write about, let’s blow everything else out of proportion.

    That said, Castillo and Perez were just being selfish, which is no surprise, especially from Perez, who has been nothing but all season. Beltran does not deserve the same scorn, in my eyes, because he had a previous charitable commitment. It’s not like he avoided Walter Reed to go see a movie or have lunch or even visit the Smithsonian. I don’t think we need to start weighing which cause is better or more important than another.

    Glad to see this post, though, Jeff. Well done.

  • jmw

    You’re right Muhammad.
    Osama should have the freedom to bomb whatever he wants in America.
    Open the borders. Let the terrorists run free.

    The problem with the war was the incompetence of the Bush administration that let Osama out of their grip. (He was surrounded. We weren’t allowed tighten the trap with more troops).

    It is not a crime to go after a criminal.
    It is not a crime to pursue your attackers.
    You can roll over and let yourself be run over if you want – I will not.
    I will support our troops just not the idiots in charge.

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    JMW, where on earth do you get the idea that I support Osama bin Laden?

    You are correct, the Bush administration let him go, their Saudi connections prevailed alas…

    If our troops are in a criminal war, then they are criminals. This is plain as day. What you advocate is the Godfather defense..Michael knew the Family was wrong, but he joined anyways..we know how that ended.

    Justice & Peace for the world, US troops home NOW!

  • jmw

    We went to Afghanistan to capture Osama.
    That is why we are still there.
    That means it is not a “criminal” war.

    Osama declared war, just as Japan did by attacking Pearl Harbor.
    He went to Afghanistan to hide. His people, the Taliban, ruled Afghanistan. They rule by terror.
    It is not a crime to be in Afghanistan.
    Calling the brave men and women solders, who are there, “criminals” is pure ignorance.

    And it is just plain STUPID to hate on our solders.

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    Osama Bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia. The people of Afghanistan have to pay for his attack on the US? What kind of logic is this??

    Comparing Osama Bin Laden to the Japanede Imperial Army & Navy is kindergarten level analysis.

    Soldiers who committ war crimes ARE war criminals. John McCain himself admitted this in an interview on 60 Minutes. He is a war criminal for his actions in bombing Vietnamese villages.

    Wrap yourslef in the flag if you choose.. I prefer my Aemrican heroes to bring justice to the world, not cluster bombs.

  • jmw

    All sorts of people are born in one country but align themselves with others.
    Osama aligned himself with a much more radical group known as the Taliban.
    The Taliban ruled Afghanistan.
    Osama went to Afghanistan to hide out, with the aid of the Taliban.
    Osama did not hide out in Saudi Arabia. He is banished from Saudi Arabia.
    Are you suggesting we should have invaded Saudi Arabia just because he was born there?
    You go after the criminal where the criminal is at, and you take out those that aid and abet that criminal.

    On the plus side when we first went into Afghanistan our forces were greeted by a people THANKING us for freeing them from the tyranny of Taliban rule.
    Over time significant mistakes, incompetence, and the criminal actions by a small few has eroded that relationship significantly.

    Osama compares to Japan because he attacked the US. It was an act of war. Should we have not gone after the Japanese in all those Pacific Islands? By your logic the people of the islands of the Pacific shouldn’t had to have paid for the Japanese attack on the US.

    You would like to say, “Terrorists should be stopped, as long as we stop them in our own country. If they live under the good graces of someone else we need to let them be.” Total Ignorance.

    Do you support the treatment of women by the Taliban?
    Do you support the stoning of people for adultery?
    Do you support the forcing of radical ideology upon a people that believed much differently?
    If you don’t support these things then you should support the American Heroes that brought Justice to the Afghan People.
    You should also support the American Heroes that seek to bring Justice to a Criminal responsible for the deaths of so many including those of 9.11

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    JMW, with respect, I would counter that you seem very mis-informed. We have not brought any sort of justice to Afghanistan. The country is in chaos. We’ve supported war lords with bribes and weapons, and even that has not brought any security.

    The Taliban are a bunch of neanderthal thugs. However, even the most basic understanding of Asghan history would show you that invading the country was a monstrous mistake. It’s a morass..this war will never ever end.

    Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda can in NO WAY be compared to Imperial Japan. That was a highly militarized country with colonial outposts. In what possible scenario of war do they compare to a bunch of religious fanatics with box-cutters?

    Osama is a criminial, go after him as you would in any extensive police action. However, the whole notion of “terrorism” and “terrorist” is absurd, more childish nomenclature. Some religious fanatic bombs a hotel, that is terrorism. Our soldiers bomb a wedding party from the sky, that is “collateral damage” and a “regrettable mistake”?

    George Bush & Tony Blair are war criminals. I will never support soliders who carry out orders from such evil men.

  • jmw

    You read too much Doonesbury.
    When we first came to Afghanistan the people welcomed us with open arms. In fact many still do. The reason was because of the smothering oppression of the Taliban overlords. Taliban doctrines and teachings were NOT the way of the Afghan People. The ruled by force and fear. When we freed the people of the Taliban we were thanked many times over.
    Somehow you missed my comment:
    “Over time significant mistakes, incompetence, and the criminal actions by a small few has eroded that relationship significantly.”

    Doesn’t matter what weapon you use. If you go into your enemy’s soil and kill 3,000 people as a planned attack, it is an act of war. The attack was planned with military precision as an act of war. That was the motivation – An Act Of War. Do you get it? What they did was in their mind an Act of War.
    They had no plan of going away. That was just one step in their plans.
    Your plan, of doing nothing, would have made them stronger and more people would have died.
    September 11 they used box cutters, in the past they have used other weapons such as bombs. (Yemen December 29, 1992; World trade Center February 26, 1993; Two US Embassy’s August 7, 1998)
    Coordinated and planned attacks are signs of a military mind. The comparison to Japan in WW2 is very reasonable.

    It is very difficult to invade Afghanistan. We had Osama surrounded and for all intents captured but Bush screwed it up. We need the help of the people to succeed. We don’t go out and target weddings to get that support. On the other hand the Taliban and Al-Qaeda do target the innocent. BIG difference.
    The Taliban did go and hide among their supporters who were having a wedding. 37 civilians died so did 26 militants. We’ve discussed this before. http://jeffpearlman.com/?p=5313#comments

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    JMW, hysterical comment about Doonsebury aside…

    Al Qaeda is not a country. It is not an army. They have no borders, no fixed location, no known HQ that can be attacked. Conventional war CANNOT apply in this case, regardless of how you classify their attack on the US. (BTW, I am sure you know of the US role in creating Al Qaeda during the jihadist fight against the Soviet Union..these things DO come back to haunt you..)

    In less than 5 years the US was done in WWII. We are now in year 9 of the war in Afghanistan..the US is conducting drone bombing operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and the Sudan..where does it stop? Why should I support this insanity just because of 9/11??

    JMW, I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. Why can’t I love the US Republic and despise the militarism infecting our society? Do I not have the freedom to say that our military is NOT defending anything, but rather acting as the enforcers for an imperial government?

  • jmw

    I understand what Al Qaeda is. They have an ally in the Taliban. The Taliban has allowed Osama to hide with their blessings.

    We do tend to create monsters, Al Qaeda being just one. Of course Saddam was another as was the Shah of Iran. And that is just in that part of the world.
    I suppose if we give birth to a monster we should take the responsibility to remove the monster. If we had taken action against the Shah we maybe never would be in this place to begin with.
    Incompetence has certainly put us there too long, but allowing these monsters to grow unchecked would be a greater mistake.

    There has always been militarism, it is actually less today.
    When I was 18 I won the Lottery, probably the only one I will ever win.
    If I had lost I would have been drafted into the Military and found myself fighting the Viet Cong.
    I was prepared to go CO but I was an Atheist and apparently Atheists weren’t allowed to be a conscientious objectors.

    You have the freedom to say what you want, even if it is racist, homophobic, hateful, insane or in your case ignorant. As do I.
    I do not defend the corrupt or the criminal, but I DO defend the brave Men and Women that put their lives on the line to defend this Nation.
    While you may think they are not defending this Nation they are doing just that. You take offense at how they do that and you have good points. It is INTENT and SACRIFICE that makes them Heroes.
    The press likes to report on all that is bad. Our military does a lot of good every day for the people in these countries. These acts never make it to the news.

  • Muhammad Goldberg

    JMW, you mention Vietnam (and thankfully you did not experience that horror), then turn around to say that our troops are defending the nation..don’t you see the contradiction here? Almost all of the 20th century military actions the US has conducted were NOT about defending the nation..

    I suppose you would reject my argument even if it came from a veteran? Many of whom agree with me? Or how about Smedley Butler (look him up).

    I remain steadfast: Love the US Republic, Hate the Empire. Close all our military bases abroad NOW and try to build a better country at home!

  • jmw

    On war…
    True, most were not for defense.
    Going after Osama is.

    That is the difference.

    In today’s world we can’t drop our guard. Wish we could, we can’t.
    People like Osama, won’t quit. The best we can do is keep the pressure on them so that we can reduce the amount of damage they WILL do.

    It is a fantasy to think closing our bases would end the attacks. A childish dream.

    The attacks will continue. Many will die, as the extremists will work to impose their law on all that become too weak to stop them.
    These people will continue until there is no music, and nothing to read except the Quaran. Women must be covered head to toe, and uneducated (except the Quaran) the accusation of adultery is usually enough for a woman to be stoned.
    All men must have a beard. No drinking no gambling. It is OK for a man to beat his wife.
    These fundamentalists are determined to enforce Sharia Law to the most extreme.
    Women and children are legitimate targets to achieve the goal of an extreme Wahhabi world.
    It is called World Domination. Osama and his kind believe it must be their way or death.
    Even more moderate Muslims must be destroyed or converted to Wahhabism.

    That is the reality of leaving Osama alone, and bases closed.

    It must be nice, for you, to be so naive.
    Fortunately the world leaders are not.
    Our Presidents be it Clinton, or Bush, or Obama ALL recognize the need to stop the madness of extremists.

    I suppose that ends it, I will check back for a couple of days to read any response you may have. I’ve said my piece and I’ll let you have the last word, unless you have a question for me you would like me to answer.

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    JMW, I appreciate the civil discourse. Too many people resort to the “love it or leave it” argument when on this subject.

    But I must STRONGLY challenge your description of Islamic extremist groups. These people are a very very small minority with barely any support. Having the US as a boogeyman enemy only helps them recruit young fighters. You speak as if they are some monolithic enemy however. Now who is being naive??

    During the cold war we faced an opponent with thousands of nuclear weapons directed right at us! You somehow equate that threat with a few hundred ignorant jihadists?

    Our bases are not for defense, this is obvious and has been admitted clearly by many government members. For more read Chalmers Johnson’s “The Sorrows of Empire”.

    I do have one last question for you: do you know how many people have been killed worldwide in Islamic “terror” attacks in the last 15 years? And, do you know how many have been killed my the US military? Are some lives worth more than others?

    Peace.

  • jmw

    No, I don’t know.
    And yes, some lives are worth more than others.

    The terrorists TARGET the innocent. The US goes after the enemy and sometimes innocent lives are lost. Many times those “innocent” people are actually aiding and abetting.

    I was actually shocked at how few innocent lives were lost in the bombing of Baghdad. We did an amazing job of accurately striking specific targets.
    We continue to do that. The drones are part of that strategy.

    I can’t repeat this enough, Osama TARGETS the innocent.
    We do not target the innocent, but the innocent are hit. Often because the enemy uses them for shields.

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    Jayzuz, JMW…are you actually saying some lives are worth more than others? What kind of thinking is this??

    Even the most basic look at the #s will show you that civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan FAR FAR exceed the lives lost on 9/11. But I guess they are just Arabs and South Asian Muslims, it doesn’t matter if they die in drone attacks cause the US aims are good…frankly, this kind of thinking in America is one of the reasons I left. Slaughtering Afghan and Pakistani peasants for some “greater good” (as you see it, I see it as simply old fashioned geo-politics) is revolting.

    Every day civilians are killed by our drone attacks..where on earth do you get your news from?

  • jmw

    It doesn’t matter the race, religion, nationality, or sex. What matters is what kind of person you target.
    Terrorists target the innocent, we target the terrorists.
    Are you telling me that the life of Osama is worth the same as those people targeted at the Twin Towers?
    The life of a terrorist is worth nothing.
    When your so called “civilians” choose to aid and abet those terrorists they choose to put their life on the line.
    When some guy is sitting in his office sipping coffee he was not putting his life on the line.
    If the Taliban actually cared about the people they would hand Osama over. They choose to hide him, putting the innocent at risk.
    Osama is a legitimate target.

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    JMW, this is growing tiresome..first of all, exactly who are “the terrorists”? This is a word with no meaning..”War on Terror” is a pointless phrase used to justify and and all military actions.

    Secondly, you are obsessing about Osama bin Laden and ignoring my other points. The US has military bases in over 100 countries, and is currently conducting bombing operations in Iraw, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. How is this in ANY WAY justified? PLEASE try to look at the world in a more broad-minded manner..

    You cannot argue facts: we are an imperial nation. Osama bin Laden is irrelevant. Lastly, 9/11 was apalling..but no more apalling than 9/11/73, when we sponsored a coup in Chile that led to thousands of deaths and 17 years of Pinochet dictatorship (are you even aware of this??) Americans are so self-absorbed it’s embarassing..

  • jmw

    I am aware of many of those types of operations done by countries all around the world.
    You seem to think that if someone does something wrong it is OK for someone else to do something worse.

    Don’t play ignorant you know what a terrorist does and you know what separates them from the rest.

    Randomly setting off a car bomb in a market place is a terrorist act.

    I don’t think you are as stupid as you are pretending to be.

    You are right it is tiresome.

    The last word is yours if you wish.

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    Randomly setting off a car bomb in a market place is murder. Sending drones over one of the world’s poorest countries and killing scores of civilians in pursuit of a phantom..this is also murder.

    Go after Al-Qaeda like you’d go after any mass murderer, with a worldwide manhunt. We’re two wars in..no sign of him yet. HUNDREDS of thousands dead in Iraq and Afghanistan..do their deaths mean nothing to you?

  • jmw

    Till next time, take care.

  • Muhammad Goldstein

    “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching
    spiritual death.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life