media, Sports

It takes more than a blog post to take down The Sandman

Joel Sherman, baseball columnist for the New York Post (Our Nation’s Newspaper of Record), fears that Mariano Rivera’s reputation will be unfairly tarnished because an Angels Blog, Halos Heaven, posted the video above and speculated that it shows one of the greatest players ever throwing a Gaylord Perry Special:

In this age, a stellar reputation built over years can turn to spit in a few clicks of a mouse… In the few hours in between film clip posting and absolution by MLB, every save in Rivera’s illustrious career was put in question.

Sherman’s fear of a rogue blogger making unfounded and senseless claims is understandable, especially given the fact that Major League Baseball at least payed lip service to the idea they were “investigating” the charges.  But Mariano Rivera’s reputation is not in danger.

Predictably, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi denied any chance that Rivera threw a spitter.  But so did Rivera’s former manager, Joe Torre – as well as fellow Dodgers coaches Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa, who coached Rivera in New York.  Even the opposing manager, Mike Scioscia, said he was surprised the idea had even been brought up.

Rivera has people standing up for him now because of his entire career – not for the success he’s enjoyed, but because of how he enjoyed it.  A recent Sports Illustrated article summed it up nicely.  David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon – from the Red Sox – gushed about their respect for his personality:

“I have respect for Mariano like I have for my father,” says Boston designated hitter David Ortiz. “Why? He’s just different. If you talk to him at an All-Star Game, it’s like talking to somebody who just got called up. To him, everybody else is good. I don’t get it. To him everybody else is the best. It’s unbelievable. And he is the greatest.”

Sure, coming from a steroid cheat that may seem tainted, but Ortiz isn’t the only one singing Rivera’s praises – or the only one whose respect Rivera has won.

Writer Tom Verducci reminded readers that Rivera taught Roy Halladay – a pitcher for a rival team – how to throw his signature pitch during the 2003 All Star Game.  While over the past 30 years, great closers like Dennis Eckersley and Francisco Rodriquez have celebrated strikeouts the way NFL players celebrate touchdowns, Rivera shows respect to every hitter he dominates.

It’s an important lesson in image management: for all the power of online communications, there is no substitute for genuine substance.  So when a blogger posts an accusation – with flimsy evidence – accusing Rivera of cheating, you can bet there’s a reputation at stake.

And it sure ain’t Mariano Rivera’s.

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