Monday, May 07, 2007

Today, the Max Mercy Hall of Fame welcomes its fourth member. It's been a long time since the last such ceremony. It is difficult, though, when almost all of the sportswriters cited in this space frequently (Bob Ryan, Jay Mariotti and Dan Shaughnessy) have been inducted. Jackie MacMullan is safe, for now, because her feature on the travesty that is the Celtic business model was too good.

So that leaves the man, the myth, the loser ... Bill Simmons. You know him in his capacity as the Sports Guy on's Page 2. Of late, when I talk to the handful of people who have followed this blog since the beginning, I've been calling Simmons the Zach Braff of sports journalism. Never having seen any of Braff's films, I draw the comparison from the sitcom Scrubs, where he plays the somewhat less than masculine Dr. John Dorian.

I don't know Bill Simmons, so I might be off base here, but I could see him sitting in front of his computer daydreaming about a floating head sportswriter. In Scrubs, Braff's character daydreams that his head and his body can detach so that he can accomplish two slightly less than masculine pursuits at the same time. I could see Simmons wishing that he could leave his body walking on the treadmill while he watches the View or whatever he watches to psyche himself up to do what he does.

In addition to his resemblance to Zach Braff, I have other problems with Simmons the writer. First, he made himself into the "celebrity" that he is ripping guys like Isiah Thomas and saying some harsh things while he did it. That was fine, but as soon as a blog like Deadspin dares to crack a joke or two at his expense, Simmons starts whining about how evil blogs can slander people with impunity.

Then there is the fact that Simmons continually reminds his minions that he is a basketball expert and has seen every meaningful Celtics home game in person from the mid 70s to 2003. I do not necessarily feel competent to dispute his status as an expert, but I would like to remind those few who will read this that Simmons didn't begin to criticize Ainge and Banner 17 for the mockery of a great franchise that they have foisted on the people of Boston until the tail end of this season. Let's not forget that Simmons didn't always seem to disapprove of tanking games.

So what if none of the sports media figures in New England had dared to/bothered to do same? Does that somehow give Simmons credence because he willfully ignored the dreadful effects of the Walker trade until very recently? I have been ripping Ainge for the benefit of my small body of readers for a year, which doesn't seem very impressive but can be explained because this site is barely 13 months old at this point. I haven't gotten a cookie for my efforts, so I don't think we should give Simmons one either.

For a long time, I've been thinking about bestowing this honor on the Sports Guy. I held back because I thought he was funny, a virtue which covers a multitude of sins for a writer. His most recent effort on the big fight and the announcement of the Yankees signing this weekend wasn't funny, though. I think after all these years, Simmons is now a prisoner of his gimmicks like the unintentional comedy scale and anecdotes about his super-cool friends. Any chance he had to progress as a writer is probably gone by now, so it seems like as good a time as any for his induction.

Bill Simmons has ten reasons he is happy the Yankees signed Clemens. The underlying premise of his list is that he has never forgiven Clemens for leaving Boston in the manner in which he left. See, this all unfolded in the days before Simmons became an online celebrity so Roger Clemens was not informed that he owed Bill Simmons, as the voice of Red Sox Nation, something more than 192 career wins.

Maybe Clemens could have worked harder to stay in shape over his last seasons in Boston, maybe he shouldn't have confirmed for every one that he was in fact mailing it in by coming alive and striking out 20 Tigers at the tail end of a mediocre 1996 season, but he did. Maybe Roger shouldn't have waxed poetic about leaving Boston to play close to his home in Texas before he signed with Toronto, but he did. And when he was traded to New York in 1999, he really hurt Bill Simmons. Red Sox fans have gotten over that for the most part, and it's time Simmons did as well.

I found the repeated efforts to drop so many not even remotely subtle hints that Clemens has prolonged his career through the use of banned performance enhancing substances to be in poor taste at best, and questionable ethically at worst. Leaving aside for a moment that the only link between Clemens and performance enhancers comes out of the Jason Grimsley trial (which makes it sort of like using material from McCarthy's hearings), there is the fact that Clemens has not undergone any inexplicable physical transmutations like Barry Bonds and his gargantuan cranium.

As for the simple question of his age, Nolan Ryan did break down in his mid-40s, but he also threw a no-hitter in the season in which he turned 45. And contrary to popular opinion, Cy Young won all of his 511 games by the time he was thirty. No pitcher has been able to perform in his mid-40s ever, in the history of Major League Baseball. Not even once. Unless they had chemical help.

Hell, did you think that the legendary Satchel Paige pitched as long as he did through good fortune and hard work? Come on. He was famous for saying he kept himself young by swinging his arms as he walked to jangle his juices around. The operative word there is juice.

Also, it was quite mature of a man who spends 90% of his professional life waxing poetic about his various roadtrips and sojurns in the warm summer rain with J Bug and Hench and Joe House to beat to death the joke that Clemens and Pettitte might be more than friends. It's good to see the voice of Red Sox Nation rise above the frat-boy homophobia that so endears Red Sox Nation to mature Americans secure enough in their identity to refrain from making childish jokes.

There were a couple of other gems in this piece. I liked his little joke about Josh Beckett maybe winning 30 games. I, for one, would love to see that. Not so much because it would carry the Sox to their first division title in many years, but because it would hurt the franchise down the road, and hurt it badly. After winning 30 games in 1968 derailed a promising career for Denny McLain, no pitcher will ever challenge that mark again. It's like setting the record for carries in a season by a running back in the NFL. The record might as well come engraved on a tombstone.

I also love the fact that Simmons missed the real error made by the Red Sox in this situation. It wasn't allowing Clemens to get away and sign with the Yankees, it was making an offer to him in the first place. In case you may have forgotten, Schilling is planning to play at least one more year but he is only under contract for this season. So in offering a prorated $18 million to Clemens, the Red Sox may have unwittingly raised the compensation and benefits package they will have to offer Big Schill to retain his services.

I do not mean to imply that Schilling will want to travel on his own terms the way Clemens does. Or that Schilling will wait until a team with deep pockets and a big hole needs to scare up a pitcher in May or June. But he is going to have it in the back of his mind that they offered Clemens a considerable salary and assented to his other demands just to try to keep him away from the Yankees. And there is plenty of space in that massive dome to hold onto simple facts like that, since it's not exactly bumping up against profound insight into the mysteries of the universe.

Then again, if Simmons didn't miss points, he probably would not have made it all the way to the Max Mercy Hall of Fame. Now there is little to do but wait for some enterprising soul to write a companion volume to Simmons' epic "Now I Can Die in Peace". I would suggest "Well...We're Waiting" for a title since he's so fond of quoting Caddyshack.

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