Firing the manager is usually a bad idea

Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles June 15, 2013
John Farrell in happier times — with David Ortiz in 2013.

The Fire John Farrell campaign is far enough along that Boston Globe columnist Christopher Gasper feels compelled to write about why the Red Sox shouldn’t fire him.

Personally, I’ve never understood the urge to fire managers. Sometimes you hire a really bad one and you have no choice. But when you’ve got a good one, you should keep him.

Lest we forget, after the 2011 collapse the Sox fired Terry Francona, the best manager they’d ever had, citing the truism that you can’t fire all the players. Less than a year later, they did fire all the players, more or less, leading to a World Series victory in 2013 under Farrell — a fine manager, but no Francona.

What bothers me about the 2015 Red Sox is that some of the problems were predictable — the lousy starting rotation in particular. But that’s on Ben Cherington and the front office, not Farrell. (No, I wouldn’t fire Cherington, either, but I assume he and the owners are engaged in some serious soul-searching.)

The Sox have plenty of problems, but Farrell isn’t one of them.

Photo (cc) by Keith Allison and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Common sense from Dan Shaughnessy

Not a headline you see every day. In this case, though, his curmudgeonliness meets the perfect topic: the please-kill-me-now idea to bring the Olympics to Boston. No, no, no. One quibble, though, as Shaughnessy writes:

Just for kicks, I ran the Olympic idea past a Boston business tycoon — a local lifer who has dealt with all the big shots on the business and political scenes.

“The Olympics in Boston would probably finish the city off for good,” he said, calmly.

Even if the lack of attribution doesn’t bother you, I would have loved to see an explanation as to why said tycoon wouldn’t let his name be used. Is he afraid of crossing the pro-Olympics crowd? Why? That could prove more interesting than his quote.

 

More reasons for Jerry Remy to disappear

Having trashed my WGBH colleague Margery Eagan for daring to write about his family, will Jerry Remy now go after Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo? Take the year off, Jerry. The Red Sox are entertainment — fun and games. At this point, you’re pretty much the opposite of that.

And here’s an excellent commentary by Marjorie Arons-Barron on “the ick factor” Remy now brings to Red Sox broadcasts.

Is Jerry Remy’s broadcasting career finally over?

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Instant update: I am gobsmacked that Remy is in the booth with Don Orsillo right now, Sunday at 1 p.m. That means the NESN announcement did not pertain to today and had nothing to do with the Globe story. Are NESN and the Red Sox really prepared to brazen this out? I guess we’ll find out a week from tomorrow.

It began on Friday with a seemingly trivial item in The Boston Globe’s sports section: Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy would be missing from New England Sports Network for the team’s last two spring-training games, but would be back for Opening Day on March 31.

On Saturday night, we learned the likely reason for Remy’s disappearance from the NESN broadcast booth — a massive, devastating report on Remy’s son Jared, slated for the front page of the Sunday Globe. Although the younger Remy’s notoriety was already well-established because of charges that he murdered his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, last August, Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz cast the Jared Remy story in a new, horrifying light.

The Globe’s 8,000-word story is fascinating not only because of what’s in it, but because it’s the first time since John Henry bought the paper last fall that its journalism has intersected with Henry’s ownership stake in the Red Sox and NESN. Needless to say, it also has serious implications for Jerry Remy’s career.

Among other things, we learn from Moskowitz that court documents show Jared Remy “terrorized five different girlfriends starting when he was 17” (he’s now 35); that he’s been credibly accused of instigating and taking part in an assault on a high school classmate that left the victim seriously brain-damaged (he later committed suicide); and that he was a longtime abuser of steroids, alcohol and other drugs. (OK, that last part we already knew.)

Worst of all, we learn that Jared Remy was never held accountable — that he was repeatedly given probation and granted chance after chance to turn his life around. And the reason for that, according to Moskowitz’s reporting, was his high-priced legal help, paid for by his enabling parents, Jerry and Phoebe Remy. Moskowitz writes:

Often he benefited from victims who did not want to testify, whether from fear or forgiveness, leading prosecutors to drop the case. But even when cases seemed airtight, judges often rewarded Remy with a nearly free pass — temporary probation without the stain of a guilty finding. Most offenders are lucky to get two such reprieves. He got six.

And on more than 10 occasions while already serving probation or waiting for an earlier case to be resolved, Remy was arrested again on new charges or otherwise ran afoul of the law — a pattern of incorrigibility that would ordinarily get a person locked up.

Former prosecutor Joshua Friedman is quoted as saying Jared Remy benefited more from good lawyering than from having a celebrity father. “You get a high-priced attorney, you get better justice,” Friedman told Moskowitz. “If he had been Jared Smith from a well-off family, he may have gotten the same result.” But Moskowitz’s story leaves little room for doubt that Jerry and Phoebe Remy always erred on the side of leniency with their troubled son, possibly missing opportunities to break the cycle of violence long before Jennifer Martel was killed.

As Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham writes: “Remy wasn’t worthy of one chance, let alone the countless breaks his victims, parents, and judges gave him.”

So what is the likely fallout of Moskowitz’s reporting? Here are three quick thoughts, subject to revision as we find out more in the days ahead.

1. Jerry Remy’s career as a Red Sox broadcaster may have ended today. Remy disappeared from Red Sox games right after Jennifer Martel’s death last August. It wasn’t clear that he would return until January. At that time, Remy said all the right things. But that was hardly enough to inoculate him from stories like the Globe’s.

Remy is a Red Sox legend, both as a broadcaster and as a player before that. He has always been portrayed as a good guy. He’s also a sympathetic character, having overcome lung cancer, depression and other ills. But even though he is not responsible for his son’s actions, the Globe story makes it pretty obvious that his continued presence during Red Sox broadcasts will be an ongoing distraction. It’s time for Remy to go — and to hope that, with the passage of time, he might be able to find some other role.

2. The Globe has definitively staked out its independence from John Henry. Last August, shortly after Henry announced that he intended to purchase the Globe and its related properties from the New York Times Co. for $70 million, Globe editor Brian McGrory took his regular turn on “Boston Public Radio,” on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM). When the subject of how the Globe would cover the Red Sox came up, McGrory told hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, “John Henry would be out-of-his-mind nuts, and I don’t think he is, if he tried to affect our sports coverage. I get the concern. I understand it fully, [but] I’m not going to be asked to change our coverage.”

The Jared Remy story clearly isn’t a sports story, but I take McGrory’s remarks to be all-inclusive. And, yes, Moskowitz’s article did contain some embarrassing details for the Red Sox, which at one point employed him as a security guard — and let him drive the 2004 World Series trophy to an event in the Berkshires. Naturally, Remy got bagged for driving 92 mph on the Mass Pike.

3. But wait. Maybe the Globe is serving John Henry’s interests after all. See Point No. 1. You’d have to be a conspiracy theorist to think the Globe timed this in order to solve one of Henry’s problems just before the baseball season starts. Still, if NESN made a mistake in letting Remy come back, this gives station officials a chance for a do-over.

More: Several people, including John Carroll in the comments, have told me they think the Globe should disclose the John Henry connection every time it reports on the Red Sox or NESN (excluding baseball games) — and there was no such disclosure today. I’ll admit I’ve reached the point where I assume that only the most clueless don’t already know that. But still — it’s a good policy, and it only takes a line.

Photo (cc) by Eric F. Savage and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Ben Bradlee Jr. on Ted Williams’ ‘immortal life’

Ben Bradlee Jr.
Ben Bradlee Jr.

Veteran investigative reporter Ben Bradlee Jr., a former top editor at The Boston Globe, discussed his biography of Ted Williams, “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams,” at Northeastern on Wednesday. I live-tweeted the talk at @NUjournalism and Storified the results. Please have a look.

Photo (cc) by Dan Kennedy. Some rights reserved.

Swartz case leads Media Nation’s top 10 of 2013

Aaron Swartz speaking in 2012
Aaron Swartz speaking in 2012

Last January, not long after the young Internet genius Aaron Swartz committed suicide, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate wrote powerfully about the abusive prosecutorial tactics that may have led to his death.

Swartz faced a lengthy federal prison sentence for downloading academic articles at MIT without authorization. Even though the publisher, JSTOR, declined to press charges, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz brought a case agains Swartz under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. As Silverglate put it, the law is “a notoriously broad statute enacted by Congress seemingly to criminalize any use of a computer to do something that could be deemed bad.”

Silverglate’s article was republished in Media Nation with the permission of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, where it originally appeared. And it was far and away the most viewed article in Media Nation in 2013.

Today we present Media Nation’s top 10 posts for 2013, based on statistics compiled by WordPress.com. They represent a range of topics — from the vicissitudes of talk radio to a media conflict of interest, from Rolling Stone’s controversial cover image of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the sad, sudden death of The Boston Phoenix.

The top 10 is by no means representative of the year in media. Certainly the biggest story about journalism in 2013 involved the National Security Agency secrets revealed by Edward Snowden to The Guardian and The Washington Post — a story that did not make the cut at Media Nation.

Here, then, is our unrepresentative sample for the past 12 months.

1. Harvey Silverglate on the Aaron Swartz case (Jan. 24). Few people were more qualified to weigh in on U.S. Attorney Ortiz’s abusive tactics than Silverglate, my friend and occasional collaborator, who several years ago wrote “Three Felonies a Day,” a book on how the federal justice system has spun out of control. But Silverglate’s take wasn’t the only article about Swartz to generate interest in Media Nation. The aftermath of Swartz’s suicide also came in at No. 11 (“The Globe turns up the heat on Carmen Ortiz,” Jan. 11) and No. 13 (“Aaron Swartz, Carmen Ortiz and the meaning of justice,” Jan. 14). In a bit of poetic justice, a project Swartz was working on at the time of his death — software that allows whistleblowers to submit documents without being identified — was unveiled by The New Yorker just several months after his suicide.

2. The New Republic’s new owner crosses a line (Jan. 28). A little more than a year ago, the venerable New Republic was saved by Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook who is using some of his fortune to restore the magazine to relevance and fiscal health. But he crossed an ethical line last January when he took part in an interview with President Obama, whose campaign he had worked on, and tossed a series of softball questions his way. At the time I wrote that Hughes was guilty of “no more than a minor misstep.” So how did it rise to No. 2? It turns out that a number of right-leaning websites picked up on it, bringing a considerable amount of traffic to Media Nation that I normally don’t receive.

3. Dailies go wild over sports controversies (Aug. 30). Four months after publishing this item, I find it hard to make heads or tails of what was going on. But essentially Globe-turned-Herald sportswriter Ron Borges contributed to a Rolling Stone article on the Aaron Hernandez murder case, which generated some tough criticism from both the Globe and the well-known blog Boston Sports Media Watch. That was followed almost immediately by a Globe article on the ratings collapse of sports radio station WEEI (AM 850), which brought yet more tough talk from, among others, ’EEI morning co-host Gerry Callahan, who also happens to write a column for the Herald. Yes, Boston is a small town.

4. Rolling Stone’s controversial cover (July 17). I thought it was brilliant. I still do. The accusion that Rolling Stone was trying to turn Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into some sort of pop-culture hero is absurd and offensive — and not borne out by the well-reported article that the cover was designed to illustrate.

5. Glenn Ordway walks the ratings plank (Feb. 14). Ordway built sports talker WEEI into a ratings monster only to see its numbers crater in the face of competition from the Sports Hub (WBZ-FM, 98.5). Ordway was by no means the problem with WEEI. But station management decided it could no longer afford his $500,000 contract, and so that was it for the Big O.

6. A big moment for The Boston Globe (Dec. 17). It was actually a big year for the Globe, from its riveting coverage of the marathon bombing and the standoff that led to the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the paper’s acquisition by Red Sox principal owner John Henry. But two days in mid-December were emblematic of the paper’s continuing excellence and relevance — a long, detailed exposé of the Tsarnaev family that revealed Dzhokhar, rather than his older brother, Tamerlan, may have been the driving force behind the bombing; an investigation into a case of alleged “medical child abuse” that pitted a Connecticut family against Children’s Hospital; and a nationally celebrated series of tweets by staff reporter Billy Baker about a Boston teenager from a poor family who had been admitted to Yale.

7. The Boston Phoenix reaches the end of the road (March 14). A stalwart of the alternative-weekly scene and my professional home from 1991 to 2005, the Phoenix was a voice of incalculable importance. But with even the legendary Village Voice struggling to survive, the alt-weekly moment may have passed. At the time of its death, the Phoenix had more than 100,000 readers — but little revenue, as advertising had dried up and both the print edition and the website were free. I scribbled a few preliminary thoughts in this post, and later wrote something more coherent for PBS MediaShift.

8. The return of Jim Braude and Margery Eagan (Feb. 6). Eagan and Braude’s morning show was the one bright spot on WTKK Radio, an otherwise run-of-the-mill right-wing talk station that had been taken off the air a month earlier. So it was good news indeed when the pair was hired to host “Boston Public Radio” from noon to 2 p.m. on public station WGBH (89.7 FM). (Note: (I am a paid contributor to WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press,” where Eagan is a frequent panelist.)

9. Joe Scarborough grapples with history — and loses (Feb. 17). Asking cable blowhard Scarborough to write a review for The New York Times Book Review about the relationship between Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon could have been a smart, counterintuitive move. But it only works if the writer in question is, you know, smart.

10. The bell tolls for WTKK Radio (Jan. 3). As I already mentioned, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan were able to walk away from the rubble of WTKK, which was shut down by corporate owner Greater Media and turned into an urban music station. Just a few years earlier the station had been a ratings success with trash-talking hosts like Jay Severin and Michael Graham. But tastes change — sometimes for the better.

Photo (cc) by Maria Jesus V and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Cy Young approved this message

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Statue of Cy Young at Northeastern University. The Red Sox used to play on land that is now part of the Northeastern campus, and hosted several World Series here. Looks like Cy was ready to go if Koji faltered.

We are alive

Click for the GIF.
Click on image for an animated GIF

It was 5-0. I was giving serious consideration to throwing in the towel. I started dozing on the couch. If the cat hadn’t been sitting next to me, I’m sure I would have gone horizontal and achieved complete unconsciousness — and thus I would have missed one of the great comebacks in Red Sox history.

There were many heroes (none bigger than David Ortiz, of course) and goats in this one. But how amazing is it that the Sox might not have won if Jose Iglesias hadn’t made that error in the ninth? Yes, Prince Fielder should have snagged it, but Iglesias shouldn’t have thrown it in the first place.

Before the series I had picked Detroit in six, mainly on the strength of their overwhelming starting pitching. By the seventh inning I was starting to wonder about a sweep. Now? Go Sox!

How’s that trade working out? (XX)

The story isn’t online, but here’s a teaser from the new issue of Sports Illustrated:

STILL KICKIN’ IT

He was once the unlikeliest of idiots in a band of heroes that made history. Nearly a decade later, Bronson Arroyo is still standing, still chilling to his own beat, still one of the game’s most dependable innings-eaters.

I believe Wily Mo Peña played in Japan last year. Not sure what he’s doing this year.

A not particularly happy ending for George Scott

For any Red Sox fan who came of age in the late 1960s, the death of George Scott conjured up a lot of memories.

I got hooked in 1968, the year after their Impossible Dream season, and I remember being utterly perplexed at the horrendous slump Scott had fallen into. He finished the season batting .171 with just three home runs. Fortunately for him and the Red Sox, better times were ahead.

There are a lot of worthwhile remembrances for you to peruse, but perhaps the most disheartening is Gordon Edes’, who reports for ESPN.com that Scott ended his days unhappy over his treatment at the hands of the sport he excelled at. Edes writes:

George Scott, according to his biographer [Ron Anderson, the author of “Long Taters”], never got over the bitterness he felt over the fact that Major League Baseball, and the Red Sox in particular, never offered him a job when his playing days were over — as an instructor, a coach or a manager.

Scott was a good player and a fan favorite. Unfortunately, he enjoyed his best years after the Red Sox traded him to Milwaukee following the 1971 season, bringing him back just as career was beginning to fade. The statistics say he hit 33 homers for the Sox in 1977. My memory says he hit 31 of those homers before the All-Star break. Two years later, he’d be out of baseball.

My last George Scott memory was from the late 1990s, when he was managing the Massachusetts Mad Dogs in Lynn. I took my son to Fraser Field one night. Afterwards, we hung around for a while, hoping for an autograph, until an announcement was made that Scott wouldn’t be available. I didn’t blame him. It couldn’t have been an easy life.

Also worth reading: