Jeff Pearlman

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What is T.J. Simers thinking here?

So my friend Lisa Swan pointed out a column written by T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times. Lisa asks whether Simers is “the biggest bully in baseball?”—and I’ve gotta say, fair question.

Is he?

I don’t know Simers and, to be honest, I’ve rarely read his work. But the piece Lisa is referring to, Simers’ oddball attack on the Dodgers’ Marcus Thames, oozes of, well, what? Snark—check. Pettiness—check. A galling lack of professionalism? Check, check. It’s the kind of work that gives sportswriters very, very, very bad names, because it basically says, “If an athlete doesn’t answer a question the way we want it answered, we’ll destroy him.”

I can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence, but I did. And it’s true.

To begin with, the following lines actually appear in the piece:

So I thought I might talk to Tims/Tems on Monday. Ordinarily I don’t like to start off a week talking to stiffs, but that leaves so few Dodgers to interview these days.

“Are you that horrible on defense that teams don’t think it’s worth playing such a home run threat?” I asked by way of introduction.

Maybe somebody else wastes time schmoozing with Tims/Tems, but he’s a one-year rental who has some explaining to do. How bad are you on defense that teams don’t dare risk playing you?

Really, T.J.? Really? Is this who you are as a writer? As a reporter? As a professional? I know people can pull stuff out from my past—You killed Rocker; you suspected Bagwell without proof; you …

And, yes, we all have our moments. But this is the kind of stuff Simers seems to do regularly, and it reeks of ugliness. I’ll eagerly rip a player for stinking. I’ll eagerly rip a player for treating others as dirt. Hell, I’ll rip a player for treating me like dirt. But I’ll never rip a player for refusing to respond to my rude-ass, holier-than-thou, I’m-a-columnist-for-the-Los Angeles Times-and-you-damn-well-better-treat-me-with-respect dime-thin question. I mean, does Simers genuinely believe that Thames owes him an answer to that sort of introduction?

I’d walk away, too.

  • http://thingsthatarefuckingstupid.wordpress.com/ Keane

    Rocker killed himself. Don’t burden yourself with that.

  • Nick F.

    Tragic that this hack has a job at a paper like the LA Times, while there are hundreds of unemployed and recently fired journalists that actually have some dignity and talent in them.

  • RZ

    That is just T.J. being T.J.

  • http://blog.timesunion.com/marshall Kevin Marshall

    Ditto what Keane said re: Rocker. It’s not like you set him up or anything like that. Guy’s just got a mouth and was bound to get himself in trouble sooner or later.

    As for Simers, I find it stunning that a guy like that poor freelancer from SI was crucified by every self-styled pundit in the industry for deigning to clap after a race with a stunning finish, while this will get nary a peep other than from your blog.

    It’s actually another example of what I view to be an inherent hypocrisy in sports journalism, especially with how hardline they are with some rules (no clapping and it’s inexcusable no matter what the circumstances), but the prevalence of stuff like this and writers like Simers is somehow okay.

  • http://www.subwaysquawkers.com Lisa Swan

    Thanks, Jeff! I thought journalists were supposed to be the eyes and ears of the fans, not to use their press pass power to bully players around.

    What makes it all the more shameful is that Thames is a great guy who had to overcome a lot to get to the majors. His mother raised five children despite being paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident in 1982. Thames grew up poor, and joined the National Guard while still in high school to help support his family. Those kind of details would make much more interesting reading for LA Times readers than Simers smacking down Thames for refusing to answer such a hostile question.

    And Kevin raises an excellent point. Sportswriters treating their subjects with such contempt, just because they can, ought to be frowned upon as well.

  • barry

    Best thing TJ ever wrote was during the Phillies-Dodgers NLCS in 2008. The Dodgers fans I guess were acting badly during the series. TJ wrote a whole column reasoning that they all must be transplants from Philly. I thought it hilarious. He couldn’t just say that all teams have some jerks as fans.

  • Zack

    Rocker’s mouth was going to do him in sooner or later, you had nothing to do with that.
    As for Simers/Swiners, he is nothing more than a bully.
    This was not a journalist who asked a valid question and got treated like dirt for it.
    This is a guy who immediately started out hostile and insulting and is angry that someone dared to walk away from him.
    His column isn’t even fit to line a bird cage with.

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