“Odd Man Out”: Huffington Post Drops the Ball
Blogger Jon Greenberg has posted a review of Odd Man Out on the Huffington Post. Click Here to read Mr. Greenberg’s review.
Greenberg chooses to defend Matt McCarthy, downplaying the inaccuracies as “sloppy,” “mundane” and “trivial.”
He’s entitled to his opinion, although the overwhelming evidence suggested by those (such as me) who have done their homework is that the word “fabricated” better describes several passages.
Greenberg appears to be guilty of his own sloppiness. He writes:
The anger and accusations have come from several fronts. A relentless Angels blogger engrossed with the team’s minor league system has hammered the book for a month, admittedly before he even read it.
Apparently I’m the “relentless” blogger in question. But Greenberg is flat wrong when he says that “admittedly” I have not read it.
Those of you who are FutureAngels.com readers know that I received an advanced copy in January and posted a review on January 30. That was more than two weeks before the Sports Illustrated issue hit the magazine racks with the Odd Man Out excerpt, and more than three weeks before the book itself went on the bookshelves.
In fact, to my knowledge, the only review to appear in print before mine was the Orange County Register review by Sam Miller on January 29.
I’ll also note that in mid-January McCarthy’s publisher promised me an interview with Matt, but asked to postpone it until the week before the book’s release in late February. After I posted my review on January 30, I never heard from the publicist again about the interview. I said I wanted to interview McCarthy with a recorder on the line so all of you could hear for yourself his answers in his own voice, so there would be no disputing what either of us said. I asked her to forward an e-mail from me to Matt so I could contact him directly. She said she would; if she did, Matt did not respond.
Strictly my speculation, but my guess is that once they saw my review, and Sam Miller’s, they knew people were out there fact-checking and the jig was up. McCarthy well knows I was around Provo in 2002 — which is why there are plenty photos of him in the FutureAngels.com Photo Gallery — so perhaps he decided to duck an interview with me, knowing I’d ask hard questions about events in the book I knew didn’t reconcile.
Greenberg buys into McCarthy’s claim that any errors in the book are merely chronological slip-ups.
But back on March 6, I posted this article about a game at Ogden which clearly showed one incident described in the book was more than a chronological slip-up.
In summary, McCarthy claimed that manager Tom Kotchman ordered pitcher Hector Astacio to deliberately throw at an Ogden batter after Provo shortstop Erick Aybar was twice hit by pitches. Right away, I thought that didn’t sound right — (1) because I’ve heard Kotchman many times tell his players the best way to retaliate is to win the game, and (2) it’s against Angels policy to throw at other teams’ batters because beanball wars can result in an injury.
Looking into the facts, I found that Aybar had not been hit by a pitch at all in the game. Neither had any Provo batter. I posted the box score in that blog so you could see for yourself.
McCarthy claims he heard Kotchman order Astacio to throw at the Ogden batter. But that also doesn’t ring true. McCarthy was the starting pitcher the night before; the usual routine for a starter is that he spends the next game in the stands behind home plate charting batters or working a radar gun or just chilling out. If McCarthy was in the stands, not the visitor’s dugout, then he couldn’t have possibly heard Kotchman order Astacio to throw at an Ogden batter.
The next inconsistency has to do with McCarthy’s claim that Kotchman pulled Astacio from the game when Hector refused to throw at the batter. Well, look at the box score and you see that Astacio was getting lit up — he’d already given up five runs in four innings. This game was in the second week of the season, when Rookie-A managers usually have their starters on a relatively low pitch count that works out to three or four innings. So it looks to me like Astacio was done.
In any case, McCarthy claims he went into the visitors clubhouse to use the bathroom and found a distraught Astacio. McCarthy claims he consoled Astacio.
Well, again, this doesn’t make much sense to me. In Ogden, the visitors clubhouse is accessed through a door in the left-center field fence. The visitors are in the first-base dugout. So for a player to use the bathroom, he’d have to run all the way across the field between innings. Presumably Kotchman and pitching coach Kernan Ronan would have noticed a pitcher on his off-day sprinting across the field.
If McCarthy was charting behind home plate, though, he would have been in civilian attire and easily could have used the bathroom on the concourse beneath the stands, which would have been much closer. Having been to Ogden many times myself, I know that it’s possible to access the clubhouse by walking up the third base concourse into the front office, then hang a right and pass through a door into the clubhouse. But that’s a long way to go for a pee, especially when a bathroom was right below you on the concourse.
Greenberg apparently doesn’t see any harm in McCarthy embellishing his stories, but I can see plenty of harm in this one tale. For openers, it makes Kotch look like a head hunter. What if an Orem pitcher this year uncorks a wild pitch and accidentally hits a batter? The opponent’s manager may think Kotch ordered a purpose pitch and may order retaliation. Such retaliation often comes at the expense of a team’s top hitter. Do we want to see an Angels’ top prospect break a hand or worse because McCarthy chose to embellish? What if an umpire tosses an Orem pitcher and Kotchman because he thinks a wild pitch was a purpose pitch? Not to mention that Kotchman could get suspended and fined by the league for ordering such a pitch.
The review in today’s Los Angeles Times quotes Howie Kendrick as saying that McCarthy’s claim he went to dinner with Kendrick and Casey Kotchman was also false. Reviewer David Davis wrote, “[McCarthy] says he was inspired to write Odd Man Out after former colleagues began making contributions on the field. Guys like pitcher Joe Saunders and second baseman Howie Kendrick, who now play key roles for the big-league team in Anaheim.”
Given that McCarthy apparently made up the spring training friendship with Howie Kendrick, and the many denials by other players mentioned in the book who are now in the big leagues, I have to wonder if McCarthy simply used their names to embellish the book to make it more attractive to a potential publisher.
Alan Schwarz, The New York Times sportwriter who wrote the authoritative dissection of McCarthy’s claims, replied yesterday on BronxBanterBlog.com to McCarthy’s claim that Schwarz refused to accept McCarthy’s “point-by-point rebuttal” of the inaccuracies Schwarz questioned. Schwarz said that McCarthy’s claim is “not only preposterous but adds to his growing list of outright falsehoods.” Schwarz has an audio recording of his conversation with McCarthy which he offers to “make available to any interested party” to prove McCarthy is lying. I’ve left a message to take him up on the offer, although I suspect he wrote that in anger and the Times lawyers will stop him.
Finally, on a personal note … As to Greenberg’s claim that I’ve been “relentless” in hammering the book — guilty as charged.
The book is untrue. I don’t like lies. This happens to be a subject about which I’m very knowledgeable, so I can speak with some authority as to the truthfulness of the book.
McCarthy now says he should have used a fact-checker. One reason I wanted to talk to Matt before publication was to offer to fact-check the manuscript for him if there was going to be a revision. I knew right away when I read it that it had a lot of mistakes — some of which were trivial, but others that would be damaging to the reputations of many people. Tom Kotchman can take care of himself, but what about the many guys named in the book who long ago left baseball and now work in blue-collar jobs while trying to feed a family and pay a mortgage? McCarthy alleges underage drinking, attempts to seduce underage girls, and players offering to peddle illegal druges. These are all crimes. The statute of limitations expired long ago, but nonetheless both employers and spouses are going to question if the player actually engaged in these illegal behaviors.
If Greenberg doesn’t like me standing up for the truth and for what’s right … too bad.
The least he can do is post a correction admitting his accusation that I hadn’t read the book was false. It would be even better if he’d post where he got that lie from.
UPDATE March 13, 2009 11:00 PDT — I posted a comment at the end of Mr. Greenberg’s blog entry asking him to retract his allegation that I haven’t read the book yet criticize it anyway. That comment was deleted within a half-hour after I posted it. Read into that what you will.