Ben Verlander is in a tough position. He’s the less-talented, more-handsome little brother of a future Hall of Fame pitcher, and he’s trying to make his way as a baseball analyst. With a last name no one has ever heard except on him and his brother, it’s impossible for anyone to ever think of him as “Justin Verlander’s brother Ben.”
So there will always be rumblings of nepotism or “no one would care what he thinks if his name was Ben Smith,” and sometimes Ben thinks has to resort to Hot Takes to overcome that.
In a recent conversation on his Flippin’ Bats podcast, he and his co-host, Alex Curry, were talking about the possibility of enigmatic shortstop Carlos Correa signing with the Dodgers. Curry mentioned that she’d seen a couple polls where 41% of Dodgers fans said they’d eventually accept Correa and 59% said “No way.” Verlander had feelings about that.
“I don’t believe that. … If Carlos Correa is an All-Star next year for the Dodgers, that second half he’s gonna be loved. And guess where Correa shows up more than anybody? The playoffs. Come on, 59% of people saying ‘no way’ to accepting Carlos Correa? Come on. The name of the game is winning baseball games, right? And if you have a guy on your team that’s a star and is helping you win baseball games, you’re going to accept him.
“I’ve got news for you, 59% of people who said ‘no way would I accept Carlos Correa’: You’ve sure accepted Mookie Betts! Right? What was he doing in Boston? Then he comes over and you’ve accepted him just fine. So come on, wake up. The guy plays great, he’s an All-Star. If you make the playoffs and he’s your shortstop, you’re gonna accept Carlos Correa. Come on, give me a break.”
Like I said, Verlander is in a tough spot, and that spot gets even tougher when he has to talk about the Astros’ cheating scandal because his brother was on that team. We all have biases, but that’s not an excuse. If anything, Verlander needs to be aware of his bias and actively work to avoid letting it cloud his judgment.
But since he can’t do that, I’ll do it for him.
Verlander asks what he thinks is a rhetorical question, but it’s really not: “What was Mookie Betts doing in Boston?” There’s an answer to this question, Ben, and the answer is: “Nothing even remotely like what Correa did with the Astros.”
There are reports on all of this. We have official information on what happened with both the Astros and the Red Sox. It’s publicly available and easily accessible on the very same internet you use to share your podcast. You want to know what Mookie did in Boston? Let me quote the Red Sox report to you:
“I find that unlike the Houston Astros’ 2017 conduct, in which players communicated to the batter from the dugout area in real time the precise type of pitch about to be thrown, Watkins’s conduct, by its very nature, was far more limited in scope and impact. … I do not find that … most of the players on the 2018 Red Sox knew or should have known that Watkins was utilizing in-game video to update the information that he had learned from his pregame analysis.”
Let’s compare that to the Astros report:
“Witnesses consistently describe this new scheme as player-driven …. [E]veryone
proximate to the Astros’ dugout presumptively heard or saw the banging. … [T]he Astros continued to both utilize the replay review room and the monitor located next to the dugout to decode signs for the remainder of the regular season and throughout the Postseason. … Most of the position players on the 2017 team either received sign information from the banging scheme or participated in the scheme by helping to decode signs or bang on the trash can. Many of the players who were interviewed admitted that they knew the scheme was wrong because it crossed the line from what the player believed was fair competition and/or violated MLB rules.”
We all see the differences here, right? Boston’s cheating was almost entirely unknown to the players. Houston’s cheating was planned, orchestrated, and carried out by the players. You see the difference, right Ben?
I don’t even think Verlander is necessarily wrong in his overall assessment. If Correa signs with the Dodgers and plays well, most Dodger fans will eventually accept him. It’s the nature of fandom.
But to try to use a parallel to Betts — “They accepted a guy who didn’t do anything wrong, why wouldn’t they accept the guy who actively cheated?” — just shows a lack of critical thinking that is almost unbelievable.
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