The so called “buzz” on NYC sports “talk radio” this week branding Mets GM Omar Minaya a racist is simply ludicrous. However, the people keep calling in with their rants and the radio jocks help feed the flames, so the issue made the newspaper yesterday. In a solid article in the NY Daily News, Bob Rasmussen (who covers the sports radio scene) clearly took the issue apart and showed that this matter is nothing but a lot of hot air (with emphasis on quite an abundance of hot air).
One thing is certainly true about what Minaya has done for the team: he has greatly improved the lineup. Granted there has been a change in demographics, as Rasmussen notes in his piece: “When Minaya arrived, there were eight Latin players on the team. As the Mets head to spring training, there are 18 Latin players on the 40-man roster.” While this seems like a significant increase, it certainly is more a case of quality players being acquired who just happen to be Latin.
The thing that bothers me about these claims the most is that the callers and the wacky jocks are missing the whole point. Ever since Minaya was named GM he has striven to make the Mets a top-notch organization and first-class team. One of the finest ways he moved toward those goals was by appointing Willie Randolph as field manager. Minaya didn’t chose Willie because he is black, and anyone who claims this is the one who might be racist. Willie Randolph was chosen because he had all the right tools and necessary coaching experience to be a fine manager, and it didn’t hurt that he is a native New Yorker who grew up a Mets fan (just like Omar Minaya).
The players that Minaya has acquired since he began his tenure as GM include Paul Lo Duca and Billy Wagner (who are white). The addition of quality players such as Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, and Ramon Castro are part of Minaya’s quest to make the team a serious contender and not, as these callers claim, part of some master plan to recast the Mets on the basis of race.
I am a life-long Mets fan, and I certainly welcome the changes Minaya has brought to Shea. We suffered long enough under Steve Phillips (who is white) and his less than inspiring leadership as GM. Remember his most famous flops: Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno? Most notably, Phillips wasted the opportunity of having arguably the best player in Mets franchise history, Mike Piazza, and was never able to build a quality team around him.
The inherent problem with something like “talk radio” is that it’s for the most part blather. The people who somehow get on there usually have something to prove to their friends (or alternately their enemies) who are listening or some kind of axe to grind. I have been listening to these shows for many years, but now I am convinced it’s time to give them up no matter how much I love sports.
I’ve never once felt motivated to call in to these shows, and the reason is that I might care about the situation being discussed, but I’m not so inspired or crazed enough to bother dialing the number and waiting a long time to maybe make it on the air. It’s just not worth my time. One thing these callers seem to indisputably have is plenty of time, and they waste it by calling into these shows and making ignorant and baseless comments. Saying Omar Minaya is a racist is like calling Bigfoot a Rhodes Scholar: it just doesn’t add up or make any sense at all.
This whole thing has made me think more about the power of the spoken word. How can listeners accept it when so many of the callers speak as if they have inside information or know something we don’t? Most of these guys (and the majority on sports talk radio are guys) are probably calling from the back of the bar after a few boilermakers, the corner payphone, or from their cellular phones whilst stuck in traffic. They have opinions and are entitled to them, but “talk radio” takes it to another level because millions of listeners are now hearing what they have to say.
My paternal grandfather once read a crazy story in a tabloid about aliens landing on a farm and believed it was true. When I asked him why he replied, “Because it was in the paper.” Frighteningly enough, he was also convinced that anything he heard on the radio or saw on television had to be true as well. Yes. he came from a very different generation, but sometimes I have a feeling that many people today still are too easily swayed by what they read or, in this case, what they hear.
I do hope this baseless story gets dumped very quickly, but I’m not counting on it. For now, I’m going to stop listening to “talk radio” on the sports channels. Besides, now I have the option to listen to David Lee Roth in the mornings. I no doubt will get a plethora of useful information about a variety of things I can’t even begin to get angry about, and that will be so much better for me.