“rare movie review: maybe im not as smart as the average bear, but i liked yogi bear. “pic-a-nic” was funny every last time!” — Jon Heyman on Twitter, January 2011
At long last, the time has come to induct our second entrant into the PCHA Sportswriting Hall of Shame. Rick Reilly has been the sole member of the Hall since his 2011 induction, largely because it didn’t seem fair to Rick to make him share the space with anyone else. But Jon Heyman has accomplished so much and made such great strides that it’s not right or proper to keep him out any longer.
Heyman is really the first inductee of the social media era, because without his contributions on Twitter (like the above), he wouldn’t be here. Of course, his contributions to television and his columns are equally putrid. After the jump, a lengthy list of Mister Heyman’s bona fides.
What gets Heyman into trouble most often is his smugness. There are a lot of incompetent writers, columnists and analysts out there, but Heyman brings a certain je ne sais quoi to his idiocy — a smarmy know-it-all attitude combined with the world’s saddest attempts at sarcasm. It’s a problem with voice. Of course, there’s also the problem with him almost always being wrong about baseball. And life.
Heyman first made his mark as a Yankees beat writer at Newsday, and his written for Sports Illustrated before landing at his current gig with CBS sports. He also appears on TV for the MLB Network for reasons apparent to none.
Let’s tackle Heyman’s Hall of Shame qualifications one at a time:
1) He’s a Bag Man for Scott Boras
Heyman’s predilection for doing Scott Boras favors has become an industry joke. He spent the bulk of last off-season expressing disbelief that more teams weren’t interested in signing the aging, withered Damon and pushing him to executives to whom he spoke. A lot of reporters pass along info from agents to the public while cloaking it under the guise of “sources say,” but Heyman moved well beyond that and into the realm of actively lobbying for a player to get a job. Which is just weird. And unethical.
The Yankee Analysts took it a step further, showing by the numbers that Heyman gives Boras clients a disproportionate number of column inches. Scott Boras is a great agent…probably the best there ever was. But he’s also a dick and replete with vested interests, and having a member of the media do the Charlie work for him is an advantage he doesn’t need.
2) The Mystery Team
Heyman is famous for trade and free agent rumor mongering, and particularly for claiming that a “mystery team” might get involved and swoop up a certain coveted player. What this usually means is that an agent has told Heyman a mystery team is involved (probably over a steak dinner) and Heyman is just passing that bad dope right along. Which means he’s not just Boras’s bag man, he’s the bag man of every player agent looking for a little leverage in negotiations or general manager looking for a throw-in player in a trade.
3) His Obsession with “Scoops”
In 2012, not one sports fan gives a fuck who breaks a story, let alone a minor story about an off-season trade of C+ level baseball players. Yet a certain subset of reporters are obsessed with getting credit for said scoops…this is the same obsession that caused Rick Reilly to make an ass of himself on TV a few weeks ago demanding that Stuart Scott proclaim that Riles had a story first on Twitter.
Heyman is one of the worst offenders. Witness this tweet to Awful Announcing, who were writing about the fact that Buster Olney had blocked Heyman on Twitter (truly the great feud of our time):
@awfulannouncing that other person never credits scoops. Has own set of rules. Must think its ok since he links to features, who know
Who know, indeed. Nobody reads Fox Sports because Jay Glazer might break a story 15 seconds before Adam Schefter. And nobody cares whether Heyman, Olney or Ken Rosenthal is first to report that the Yankees have settled with Brett Gardner to avoid arbitration.
4) His Aching Need for Us to Know He Lives the High Life
Heyman doesn’t exactly come across as relatable. On one hand, he seems to want us to think that he’s an ink-stained wretch, carrying on the proud tradition of Jimmy Breslin and Ring Lardner. On the other, he wants us to to think he’s Kanye West, all Murciélagos and Louis Vuitton.
His bizarre predilection for tweeting about airplanes and airports is established (my personal favorite is “Got chastised for leaving newspaper on seat by male stewardess…”), but Deadspin has compiled a series of statements that take it much further, showing Heyman loves to humblebrag about fancy hotels, restaurants, limos and clubs.
Look, if Heyman’s rich, great for him (not really; few sportswriters deserve it less), but he can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a likable schlub while you’re slapping our faces with wads of cash.
Shit, did I catch some of David Simon Cowell’s classist rage? Is that contagious?
5) The Fact that He’s Wrong About Almost Everything
Heyman appears on the surface to want to understand advanced statistics. He engages sabermetric-based writers and occasionally drops a WAR reference in a column. But that’s merely gilding the Luddite. Deep in his heart, Heyman still loves batting average and wily old scouts who think you can’t teach hustle.
The most recent example: when Dayton Moore made a Brock-for-Broglio level boner (here’s a nice breakdown explaining why the trade is so awful for Kansas City) and traded baseball’s best prospect, Wil Myers for James Shields et al., every baseball analyst with a brain lambasted Moore for trying to save his own job at the expense of the franchise’s long-term health. The Royals aren’t ready to contend, Shields won’t be nearly as good away from Tampa, Myers has the potential to be Mike Trout II and so on. Heyman, though, had other ideas, claiming that the Royals “are stamped as a threat as of today” and tweeting and retweeting that the Royals had done a great job with the trade.
OK, no big deal, right? Everyone’s wrong sometimes.
This very same off-season, Heyman came down against Cy Young Winner and all-around Best Person in Baseball R.A. Dickey for daring to voice complaints about the Mets’ side of contract negotiations at a charity function. This despite the fact that the Mets sent Dickey to said function knowing full well they were about to trade him. And despite the fact that Dickey was requesting an extension well under market value and the miserly Mets were trying to low-ball him even more while orchestrating a Boston-style media campaign to undermine him with fans. This despite the fact that I’m pretty sure Dickey wasn’t actively complaining to Sandy victims about his contract. Heyman wrote that he was “glad to see” Dickey apologize for something he never should have apologized for.
So, we’ve got inability to accurately analyze a trade and inability (or unwillingness) to accurately analyze a social situation.
Do I even need to tell you that Heyman supported Miguel Cabrera over Trout for MVP? He also had Derek Jeter above Robinson Cano on his ballot, which is flat-out ridiculous and indefensible.
During the insane Roger Clemens trial, Heyman wrote that Andy Pettitte was losing his Hall of Fame vote because he lied under oath, when in fact he did no such thing, and added pointless conjecture that Pettitte also lied about how much HGH he did: “I’d say the chances are 50-50 (at best) that Pettitte misremembered his own supposedly very limited usage.” Ahh, do you smell that? That’s vintage Heyman smarm.
He’s on record as voting against Bert Blyleven (because wins) and for Jack Morris (because ace) on his HOF ballot, while also voting no on should-be gimmes like Alan Trammell and Jeff Bagwell.
There’s more, you guys, so much more. Heyman constantly declares that trades or contract signings are wins and losses for the players and teams involved, and claiming that Team X “won the off-season” or trading deadline. And he’s almost always deliciously, provably wrong. He seems to always have an agenda, whether for players and executives he likes or agents he’s been bought by, and he crafts his opinions to adhere to that agenda. He is one of the world’s foremost violators of the worst kind of sports journalism – using phrases like “some executives think…” or “one scout told me…” to advance his thoughts on players. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with anonymous sources. There’s a shit-ton wrong with weasel words and phrases to make something sound more important, accurate or universally held than it is.
6) His Personality
It’s not very good. It’s bad enough, in fact, that it caused Pat Burrell to want to beat him up one time in a bar, which is just about the most wonderful image ever.
And please enjoy this exchange with Kevin Goldstein, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, as Heyman whines about Goldstein not giving him paid content for free.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our second inductee into the Pop Culture Hall of Shame, Jon Heyman. It ain’t just Riles, anymore! We do hope you’ll all join us for the induction ceremony next summer in a small, rustic town with covered bridges where we can make believe sportswriting was invented.