Kovacevic: Pittsburgh spared shame of vilifying Wright
What a relief, huh?
I mean, just think of all the embarrassment, all the hanging heads, all the shame that was averted late Thursday afternoon with the announcement that the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez was, indeed, being added to the Home Run Derby.
Could have been a colossal mess, you know.
No, not for David Wright, the Mets' third baseman charged with choosing the participants.
Not even for Major League Baseball, which comically delegates that task, then ducks for cover upon any controversy.
I'm talking about us.
I'm talking about that segment of our city's sporting public that had been breathing pure hellfire over Alvarez's omission all week via social media and talk shows and, resultantly, those people who sounded as if they were polishing pitchforks to storm Wright and the Mets this weekend at PNC Park.
I'm talking about the venom that popped up with a mere one-minute Twitter search of the term “David Wright” earlier Thursday:
“I really want to go to the David Wright hatefest this weekend!!!”
“I want to throw garbage at David Wright!”
“I'm more pumped to yell obscenities at David Wright on Friday than I have been for anything recently.”
“David Wright is a piece of trash!”
“I hate people. And David Wright.”
And trust me, that was the sanitized stuff.
Not much in life is easier than finding idiots on the Internet, of course, but this hardly has been limited to fans. It's been all over local media, too, even on the Pirates' broadcast the other night, when Greg Brown and Bob Walk invested a whole half-inning on invectives for Wright's snub.
And when Alvarez happened to homer that inning, Brown shouted out: “Take that, David Wright!” in a tone suggesting Wright had just been caught in some cave near Kabul.
Walk, though far more measured, encouraged fans to “make your voices heard” this weekend.
These were team employees — smart and good men, at that — advising a crowd projected to be 30,000-plus to cut loose on an individual playing for the other team, as if there's no inherent danger in doing so.
It's only a game, you know.
In fact, it isn't even that, which is what's been weirdest about all this. It's a skills competition. It's reality TV with a bat and ball. It's a four-hour cage session — complete with old men throwing from behind L-screens — staged primarily so Chris Berman can hack-hack-hack his way through an evening of back-back-back triteness, and ESPN can fill an otherwise hollow day of programming.
And this ignited the firestorm of the summer?
Look, Wright blew it with his picks. That's obvious. In addition to omitting Alvarez with his 23 home runs, he did likewise with the Phillies' Domonic Brown, who also has 23. In their stead, the three sluggers he chose to join him were Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer of the Rockies and Bryce Harper of the Nationals.
Wright's explained rationale for all, and I paraphrase: Gonzalez was leading the league and still is with 24 home runs. Harper was the top fan vote-getter and, in spite of just 13 home runs, has moonshot power. And Cuddyer, as Wright openly conceded, was his choice as a lifelong friend in addition to having 15 home runs.
Wright was bailed out a bit Thursday when Gonzalez withdrew for a finger injury, but he still did a lousy job.
It's a lousy system, too, and baseball looks far worse in this than Wright. Changes are being promised for the future.
But again, whatever.
Remember last summer's Derby when the sports world collectively cringed as Kansas City fans mercilessly booed the Yankees' Robinson Cano for a similar slight of the Royals' Billy Butler?
Those people came across as petty, perennially last-place losers. Players spoke openly afterward about not wanting to sign there as free agents.
That's exactly what could have happened here, exactly the image that could have been conveyed, that of acting like losers even while the team is suddenly a success.
Hey, it still might happen, for all any of us knows.
But if you're still waffling on what to do about Wright, do a little homework: The David Wright Foundation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for multiple sclerosis research. He's popped into New York-area children's hospitals with so many spontaneous visits that they no longer surprise. He and his fiancée, Molly Beers, work with cancer clinics to build TV/video-game rooms, similar to what Mario and Nathalie Lemieux have done here for years.
I called Adam Rubin on Thursday. He's covered the Mets for a decade — currently with ESPN New York — and knows Wright professionally as well as anyone.
“I'll tell you this: David Wright's about as good and wholesome as it gets,” Rubin said. “He was raised right. Son of a law enforcement official and a school aide in Virginia. He's as polite and courteous as anyone you'll meet, a real credit to baseball.”
So yeah, if you want to stay stubborn, go ahead and stick it to the guy because the right contestant wasn't picked for a glorified game show.