Is Sportswriter T.J. Simers the Biggest Bully in Baseball?
Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers is raising eyebrows with a bullying, vitriolic column about new Los Angeles Dodger player Marcus Thames that’s over the top, even by Simers’ snarky standards.
Thames, who signed a $1 million-plus-incentives deal with the Dodgers in January, is expected to platoon in left field and bat against left-handers. He’s not a good defensive player, but he does have some pop in his bat — he hits a homer in every 15.5 at-bats or so. At any rate, Thames is not a make-or-break player for the team.
But Simers, who has a history of using his bully pulpit to be, well, a bully in his spot with the Times, tried to provoke an argument with Thames for no reason. Simers begins his column by lumping Thames in with what he calls “head cases,” without giving any evidence. He then made fun of the way the player pronounces his name (Thames says it is “Tems,” while a Dodgers PR person said it was “Tims”) and calls the player one of the Dodgers’ “stiffs.” The writer then sarcastically wonders if team owner Frank McCourt will start selling tickets to “Thameswood.” A lot of bile for a part-time player, don’t you think?
Simers was just warming up the hate. Without bothering to formally introduce himself, Simers unleashes this opening question on Thames:
“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?
Tims/Tems just smiled.
I didn’t know taking the time to introduce yourself to a player and say hello was “schmoozing.” I thought it was common courtesy. You know, the way it’s also common courtesy to pronounce somebody’s name correctly. And if Simers thinks this is a bad signing, the person with “some explaining to do” isn’t Thames, it’s Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.
As somebody who watched Thames as a Yankee last year, I would acknowledge he is pretty bad in defense. But there was no need to go all Mike Wallace on the guy, especially since he has never had a personal reputation of being anything other than a solid citizen. What, exactly, was the point of trying to antagonize Thames in such a bullying way? Simers’ job is to be the eyes and ears of the fans, not to pick fights with ballplayers because he couldn’t find anything else to write about that day.
It gets even worse. From the article:
I asked again, because I remember my dealings with [Kenny] Lofton, who would never answer the first question. Eventually he would, while also complaining, “You never write down what I say.”
I always told him the same thing. “You’re boring, but I come back hoping one day you might say something of interest.”
When I came back on Tims/Tems, he sat silent. I can see one problem he might have on defense if everyone is relying on him to yell “I got it.”
He said he wasn’t going to talk to me because I hadn’t introduced myself. That would have allowed him to pull out the little card the Dodgers’ PR department provides players advising them how to get a running start on Page 2.
I can’t imagine this is the first time in 10 years that Tims/Tems has been asked why he stinks on defense, thereby limiting his time as a regular player.
Unable to answer, he just stood and walked away.
Simers is the writing equivalent of a fan who spews obscenities at an outfielder for inning after inning, and then throws a hissy fit when the player tosses a souvenir baseball to somebody else. What contempt he shows for his interview subjects.
Aside from the fact that Thames couldn’t have both “stood” and “walked away” at the very same time, how, exactly, was Thames supposed to respond there? Roll up into the fetal position, and cry “you’re right, I can’t field”? The player handled the situation about as gracefully as he could have. If he had offered any sort of response, Simers would have seized upon it to rip him to shreds.
Remember, we’re not dealing with a fair journalist here. We’re talking about a writer who refers to his son-in-law as the “Grocery Store Bagger” and critcizes his young granddaughter’s spelling abilities. A person who made fun of the Los Angeles Sparks reaching out to lesbian basketball fans, griping about “how are the Sparks going to separate the lesbians at the ticket windows from someone like my wife?” and saying that if the Mighty Ducks did a similar promotional effort, “you could have, ‘The Gayest Place on Earth’ right down the road from ‘The Happiest Place on Earth.’” And yes, he gets paid for these offensive attempts at humor.
Simers has a history of player-bashing, too. He is a guy who repeatedly called former Dodger Andruw Jones “the Tubbo,” challenged him to a weight loss contest, then did a faux-outrage column when Jones finally had enough of his attacks. Simers also gave Kobe Bryant the nickname of “Our Ball Hog.”
But here’s the thing that irks me the most. If Simers had bothered to do a little research on Thames, he would have found an infinitely more interesting story for LA Times readers than trying to make the player look foolish.
Marcus’s mother was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1982 car accident, yet she still managed to raise her five children by herself, inspiring her family. Veterine Thames told New York Times writer Jack Curry in 2006 that her health problems “made [Marcus] want to show that he could make something out of himself.” Oh, and she had to have a tube inserted in her throat just to talk to Curry, thanks to having to have a tracheotomy done in 2002. And Thames, who said he was inspired by his mother, joined the National Guard in high school to take care of his family. How many 11th graders do that?
But hey, why actually give your readers real insight about a new player’s life story, when you can just use your press pass and status as a big name with the LA Times to smack him around and try to make him look foolish? Dude’s got issues.
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