added 5/27/2009 by Scott Barzilla
It's been awhile, and I realize for those that are not fans that has been a good thing. I could focus on the six game losing streak, but that would be far too depressing. So, I will look at three major developments since the last time we spoke and as you probably might have guessed, they are all related in some way.
The first goes to changes in the structures of Astros.com. I have been a fan of Alyson Footer's for awhile and as much as people in baseball circles can say, I consider her a friend. For those that don't know, she took a promotion to work with the Astros. She is going to help them develop new avenues of revenue through the new social media circulating through the internet. She told me she does not have to abandon her objective nature with her new job, so I would say she is in a good spot.
She will be replaced at Astros.com by Brian McTaggart. As most of us know, that means that the number of qualified writers covering the Astros has dropped by one. In terms of day to day beatwriting, that means the number has dropped to zero. I actually enjoy "The Unofficial Scorer", but I don't consider that to be beatwriting as much as interesting commentary. Obviously, most of you already know what I'm driving at.
Jose de Jesus Ortiz has been trying to defend himself lately because people have called him on what he has been doing over the last several years. Unfortunately, he has had to come out and say he is not racist. Very few people should have to defend themselves on that level, so I hesitate to accuse anyone of that on that level. On the other hand, there are plenty of journalists and public figures that I would call race baitors and he is one of them.
A few of you may wonder what the difference is. For me, it is very clear. It means that while Ortiz himself is not a racist, he gains notoriety for himself and the Chronicle by playing on people's sensitivities on the subject. He has done that before by claiming that the Astros are a racist organization directly and indirectly as it pertains to their dealings with Hispanic players. He is currently doing it with his over the top criticisms (and reports of criticisms in the clubhouse) of Cecil Cooper.
If players in the clubhouse are criticizing the manager it should be reported. However, I always find it interesting when no one goes on the record and an inflammatory nickname (Hugo Chavez) gets thrown around. Are players really calling him that? Even if they are, is it necessary to report that? What purpose does that serve? This is the type of thing that those of us that call him a race baitor point to. Suddenly, the lines between reporting, commentary, and an alternative agenda get blurred.
To wrap this story up full circle we get to Cooper himself. Even though Ortiz's stories are inflammatory, it doesn't mean that there aren't kernels or truth in them. We just have to dig harder for them then we should. There have been too many examples of miscommunication to ignore. One of those might have deprived us of our closer for longer than was necessary. Furthermore, his use of the pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired.
All that being said, count me as someone that will go to Astros.com for accurate news on the team. It's sad when an employee of the team is the most unbiased observer you can find. I wish Alyson Footer and Brian McTaggart the best of luck in their new positions and hope some sober heads prevail at Houston's leading misinformation source.