Bush league

Tuesday 1/14/20

Completed the personal essay on moving. 7500 words long. I need to go through it and fix it.

But, I did see two statements, from disposed Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and fired manager A.J. Hinch.

This line from Luhnow's statement told me all I needed to know about him at this juncture:

"The sign-stealing initiative was not planned or directed by baseball management; the trash-can banging was driven and executed by players, and the video decoding of signs originated and was executed by lower-level employees working with the bench coach."

The bench coach was, of course, Alex Cora, and you should call him out, or you can, anyway. (I find it unlikely that Luhnow did not know what was going on only insofar as a GM should know something like this, but I also find it likely because it no longer surprises me the most basic-level shit people do not know in many areas of their existence; sometimes it feels like we are on the Good Ship Oblivious.) If we look at the level of the sentence, we see the extreme difference between using this phraseology--and everyone knows he means Cora and is in fact speaking about Cora--and if he said Cora's name, which looks childish. Same meaning, but the presentation matters. One word can mean a lot. Even with the same, in essence, meaning.

I point this out because I don't understand why people use PR firms. Anyone with basic level reading skills can figure out what someone else wrote, why it was written the way it was, and that manner in which it was written rarely has anything to do with sincerity. (Also, the person at the PR firm is unlikely to be a better writer than you are--they are just going to place in their standard bits of language.) It's to gain an outcome, and I would say that the manner in which the outcome is sought insults people's intelligence, in general. It is fine to want to gain an outcome. Right? Of course. But all things being equal, I think it is better to try and gain an outcome not because you will say whatever you need to to gain that outcome, but because the outcome is warranted, and you can, in part, show why.

I think, personally, that is the best PR.

But to finish with Luhnow: "by lower-level employees." What a dumb remark. Somebody should have flagged that. Like you're better than they are? Sounds like he's talking about some feudal caste system--he might as well have said peasants or plebians. Does he have droit du seigneur as well?

Hinch clearly did not write a word of his statement. Write your own words. Be honest. Write in your voice.

"As a leader and Major League manager, it is my responsibility to lead players and staff with integrity that represents the game in the best possible way."

See the tenses? That is PR Firm 101. That opening "As." Meaning, "this is not my past, this is who I am, you can hire me in the future." The "As" is reiterated with the "is," which sounds like he's in denial, but again, PR 101. Who does not see through it? There was more along these lines, but I don't think it helps, and I wonder who buys these statements, who does not think, "Dude, that's not even you talking."

I had this agent once, totally incompetent. And he sends out a story of mine, CCs me on the email. The note was like six words long. Three were spelled incorrectly, no closing punctuation. So sloppy. Unprofessional. Thought he was this maven. Big-time agent. There was no account of why this story worked for this venue--a real reason, and it was easy to give plenty; nothing specifically tailored to the editor he sent it to. Total hack work. Again, the default setting. Bare minimum, and mindless. I would never have sent so shoddy a note, if it was even a note--looked more like a drunken text. Set me up to fail. But he had this title, and it was like because he had this title, he must know! A lot of PR people are that way. A lot of publicists (largely a matter of mass spamming) too. (The ones who are really good, believe me, you notice it, and you are more likely to want to see what they are repping.) What a good PR person should have done is said to this guy, you write it. Be honest. Write it your way. Then, the PR person should have gone over it, to make sure there wasn't something newly damaging.

Be honest, be yourself, talk your way, legitimately convey and explain, and you get better results.

Hinch struck me as a pretty good guy. Which can be meaningless. It is meaningless. I don't know him. And as we've talked about on here before, when do you really know someone? But I thought he handled himself well, honestly seemed to care, with the whole sexist-celebration thing last year in the Astros' clubhouse (the ex-GM's comments, meanwhile, made me think about the remarks from a higher-level employee, whatever that guy's name was).

Hinch concludes with:

“To the fans, thank you for your continued support through this challenging time —and for this team. I apologize to all of you for our mistakes but I’m confident we will learn from it — and I personally commit to work tirelessly to ensure I do."

Stop it, dude. You sound insincere. This isn't even you talking. As you are talking about how much you care? You don't even care enough, it would seem--I am sure it is otherwise--to be the person saying what you have to say. And again, the tenses simply mean, "please don't never hire me again." The "we" is a total fudging. Who is the "we"? You and the Astros? The "we" means you are together; you are not. The royal "we"? That you have even made it possible that someone can think you are using the royal we is bad PR. Also sounds like he is prepared to live in the past, and I am sure he is not.

Or maybe PR means "do the lip service." For instance, he couldn't say nothing. How would that look? He'd look like he had anger issues and was pissed he got caught. But man, that's depressing, the idea that what is central is ticking off a token "going through the motions" box that people who might employ him can see later. I don't know. I understand that there are motions we must go through because it's just how life is. There are a lot of them. Not everything is about saying the truth, a lot of times are not about saying the truth, but I still think it is best in a case like this to speak for yourself in your way.

The phrase bush league is in my head. You don't hear it often anymore. But it was this catch-all--that originated with old school baseball--that meant it was amateur hour, essentially. To short-change someone on a tip is bush league. It's a kind of corner-cutting deal, a lack of class deal, a lack of personal accountability deal, with this implication of sloth. So if Ted Williams came on the field as a rookie in 1939 with his shirt untucked, Jimmie Foxx might have called him bush league. The agent and the story submission was bush league. Banging on trash cans to alert batters to pitches is bush league. Don't be bush league. And perhaps check out Ring Lardner's baseball fiction. He was a Chicago sportswriter in the 1920s who wrote some masterful short stories as well--and some fascinating letters (actually, I can show you a hotel in Boston where he wrote some from, which is still in operation)--and you will see the term bush league in there a time or two.