A couple of weeks ago, my pal Eric Simon pointed out an old column on the Internet and I've been letting it swirl around in my brain and now I'm done swirling and will do some sharing.
This is CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel, three years and four months ago:
The Philadelphia Phillies just locked up Ryan Howard for the next six years, rewarding not only Howard but also themselves -- considering they scouted, drafted, signed and developed him -- while keeping in place the best nucleus in baseball.
Naturally, people think this was a stupid move.
The Phillies aren't stupid. People are. People like Keith Law of ESPN.com, and anyone out there who thinks like Law -- like a lot of people on the message boards below this Danny Knobler blog item -- when Law wrote that "this is one of the worst extensions of its kind."
Howard had played the past several years in a bad mood. With this monster extension, the Phillies just made him happy.
They made lots of other people unhappy with it, but like I said earlier, lots of people are stupid.
This is one of the best extensions of its kind.
I was one of the stupid people, of course. Which is fine. I've been called far worse. Just yesterday, in fact. And the point of this little screed isn't to suggest that Gregg Doyel is stupid, or that Keith Law is always right. Keith thought the Howard contract was terrible (it was) and that Barry Zito's deal with the Giants would be a disaster (it was, at least in isolation; they did win a couple of World Series with him). Keith also thought Dustin Pedroia couldn't play. Pobody's nerfect.
What you would like to see from people like Gregg Doyel and Keith Law and Robert Montgomery Neyer is some humility, some self-awareness. Frankly, Doyel's a great example of the hypocrisy that I run into all the time. "People" like Doyel -- that is, people who are a little scared and offended by thoughtful analysis that includes numbers -- love to rail about the arrogance and the incivility of objective analysts, and especially objective analysts who work on the Internet and probably never worked for a newspaper. There are national baseball writers who I like a lot, personally, but who see a bogeyman around every corner of the Web.
Well, nobody can beat Gregg Doyel when it comes to incivility. It's one thing to say someone's being stupid -- hell, I think Dayton Moore is being stupid just about every day -- but it's something far different to write that someone is stupid. I know, with metaphysical certitude, that Dayton Moore isn't stupid. Stupid people, with few exceptions or perhaps no exceptions at all, do not become general managers of Major League Baseball franchises. They just don't. Dayton Moore isn't stupid and Keith Law isn't stupid, and I'm happy to guess that Gregg Doyel isn't stupid, either.
But he was stupid about Ryan Howard and, worse, he was uncivil and arrogant while writing about people who disagreed with him. Which is fine. When you think you're smarter than everybody else, it's difficult to avoid being (or seeming) arrogant. I'm no exception.
Here's the thing, though ... When you're uncivil and arrogant, it becomes particularly important to revisit your mistakes, apologize for your misdeeds, acknowledge your imperfection. Doing these things is a sign of strength, not weakness. Incivility and arrogance appeals to stupid people, but everyone else will lose respect for you, and the only way to regain their respect is to show some humility and vulnerability, admit you were wrong and try to learn something from the experience.
I don't know what I've learned from all of my mistakes and my incivility and my arrogance over the years. Something, I hope. What I do know is that I can't find a single mention of Ryan Howard in one of Gregg Doyel's columns in the last three years and four months. If you can, please let me know, as I would love to embrace his vulnerability.
What I also know: Gregg Doyel's colleagues consider him one of America's finest columnists. Just in case you're wondering why nobody trusts the media any more.