I would never criticize another writer solely for making a factual mistake. It happens to all of us and, while it’s regrettable, it’s understandable that once in a while, your memory of a game-changing double was actually a game-changing single, or a Scott Servais K was actually a Tyler Houston K.
But what I cannot tolerate is when those factual mistakes are used in service of a particular narrative, which is, in part, driven by the mistaken fact.
To wit, from Phil Rogers:
The last time Matt Garza went to the plate at Wrigley Field, Mike Quade told him not to swing. He was worried Garza might hit into a double play, which would keep Starlin Castro from having a shot to get his 200th hit at home. And Garza still swung, grounding out, which led to Castro getting walked intentionally.
No big deal, maybe. But Greg Maddux wouldn’t have swung.
“I was in my mode,” Garza said. “I’m going to go out there and compete. I’m not going to give up. That’s what it is.”
Are the Cubs shopping Garza because he’s a free swinger? Hardly, but after that game on Sept. 21, Quade gave Garza a surprisingly lukewarm endorsement.
Doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of Matt Garza, does it?
Rogers is suggesting that the Cubs are considering trading Matt Garza because he isn’t a team player, and he uses the September 21st game to illustrate his critique. If only Matt Garza had followed Mike Quade’s instruction, Starlin Castro wouldn’t have been batting with first base open (Bryan LaHair was on first for Garza’s at bat and went to second when Garza grounded out), wouldn’t have intentionally walked, and probably would have gotten his 200th hit at home. Shame on Matt Garza, Phil Rogers suggests.
The only problem?
Starlin Castro wasn’t intentionally walked after Matt Garza grounded out.
Castro walked, sure. But it came on five pitches, the last of which was just off the edge of the plate, a ball that Castro easily could have put wood on. Instead, he took it, to the surprise of everyone watching, including the Cubs’ announcing team. Castro was walked once intentionally in the game … in the 5th inning.
I don’t expect Phil Rogers to remember every moment of every Cubs game – I certainly don’t – but a long-discussed, highly-publicized moment like this? And a moment upon which he’s basing this criticism of Garza? Could he not be bothered to, say, look at a box score or game recap?
I’m not here to blast Rogers for his factual mistake, which, alone, is excusable neglect. I won’t even dig Rogers too hard for ostensibly contending that Garza was plainly wrong for refusing a questionable order from a manager who isn’t even in charge anymore.
But I’m pretty irritated that Rogers uses that factual inaccuracy to make Matt Garza look even worse. It fuels a superfluous and manufactured criticism of a man who was, by all accounts, a model teammate in 2011, and cared more about the Cubs’ success than almost any other Cub.
Worse, that manufactured criticism is not even necessary to justify trading Garza. Matt Garza is not Milton Bradley ripping on the fans, or Carlos Zambrano walking out on his teammates. Garza is a valuable piece and a respected member of the Cubs’ clubhouse. All things equal, the Cubs would keep him for many years.
The decision to trade Matt Garza is predicated on the answers to a pair of simple questions: (1) can the Cubs reap more long-term value by trading Garza for multiple pieces now? and (2) can the Cubs reasonably approximate Garza’s value to the team in 2012 and 2013 by way of the players returned and the salary saved in the trade?
If the answer to the first question is yes, the Cubs should consider trading Matt Garza. If the answer to both questions is yes, the Cubs absolutely must trade him. And I didn’t need to concoct a specious criticism of an otherwise great player to come to that conclusion.