Friends! It's come to my attention that Domonic Brown is on a little bit of a hot streak these days. In fact, I hear he's hit 15 homers in his last 32 games! Why, that does seem pretty good, doesn't it?
But wait just a second: how could this be? I thought it had long since been established that Brown was a bust! Why were the Phillies even still giving him chances? Shouldn't Ruben Amaro have dumped him long ago on the nearest sucker before he lost all his trade value? If you can't confidently draw final judgments about a player's career by the time he's reached the age of 24 and accumulated a whopping 433 at-bats, when can you?
Okay, okay... so before we go any further with this, let's acknowledge a few caveats. Thirty-two games are only thirty-two games. Brown is obviously not going to keep up a 76 HR/162 G pace for the rest of his life. At some point, pitchers will adjust to him and he'll have to adjust back to continue succeeding. Also, his game still has some weaknesses. Most notably, his defense, while improved, still seems to be rather subpar (at least, if 500 innings of UZR are to be believed).
But all that said: 15 homers in 32 games, bichaz. NL Player of the Month in May, bichaz. Second in the majors in homers, bichaz.
You know, it's been said that one of the most annoying aspects of our modern media-saturated society is the near-absolute lack of accountability for the table-pounding pundits whose voices seem so ubiquitous. As long as you say things that enough people, on some primordial level, want to hear, then you can be as ignorant as want, as vitriolically as you want, with full confidence that if it turns out later that "oops there were no WMDs," nobody will remember what you said and you'll never have to face any professional consequences for it. Sadly, the sports media is no exception, and it isn't just limited to the paid gasbags. Whether you're looking at radio show hosts, columnists, TV talking heads, bloggers, twitterers, newspaper website commenters, or plain old fans, there are just so many people everywhere whose opinions come straight out of their rear ends, but whose credibility in the eyes of their peers never seems to suffer.
Well, here, friends, is an opportunity to buck that trend, just this once. Every Phillies fan and his mother knows that as recently as six weeks ago, Domonic Brown was tremendously unpopular among a very large segment - perhaps even a majority - of this city's sports media and fan base. Those people are now scurrying to cover their tracks, but we know they're out there. They were the ones who continually argued, often quite nastily, that "everyone knew" that Brown would never amount to anything. He was a "loafer." His swing was "unfixable." He was a "bill of goods" sold to us by the front office. Remember that? Well, hold those people accountable and don't let it go. Not just because they were wrong - all of us are wrong sometimes, after all - but because they were wrong in a way that was obvious all along, and they were frequently jerks about it.
Think about it. Dom Brown was the number-one prospect in baseball at mid-season 2010. That doesn't guarantee success, of course, and yes he then had some struggles, but those struggles occurred in the context of (1) being brought to the majors prematurely, and (2) recovering from an injury that has long been known to temporarily sap home run power. And even after all that, Brown still held his own at the plate in a relatively small sample of major league plate appearances, and while he did have some serious defensive problems, a good athlete can improve his defense with practice. Given those facts, how freaking stupid did you have to be to write this guy off? Who writes off prospects before they even turn 25, with or without a hamate bone fracture?
Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to be seeing a lot of mea culpas from the culpable. Instead, we're going to see a lot of furious attempts to rewrite the past and avoid accountability. Some tactics you might encounter include:
1. The bandwagon jump - acting like you were Dom's biggest fan all along
2. The awkward silence - just disappearing for a while and possibly changing your screen name on websites
3. The "look over there!" - shifting focus to a different scapegoat and hammering away at him so vehemently that people forget how wrong you were on Brown (here's one decent example; a few more are in the comments here)
4. The "McNabb" - reacting to a player proving you wrong not with contrition but with a bitterness that drives you to create fake controversies to harm the player's reputation (must be a paid media personality to pull this off)
5. Straight-up denial - see below for this brilliant analyst's stab at this:
@timwilly25 yep that's my thinking, a month doesn't make up for 3 years of failing— Mike Angelina (@MikeAngelina) June 3, 2013
@timwilly25 yeah I definitely hope he keeps it up but just being realistic, don't see it, never have— Mike Angelina (@MikeAngelina) June 3, 2013
Whichever tactics you see being used, don't let them succeed. Remember what these people said. If you see links to the dumb arguments they made in the past, archive them. And both for now and for the rest of Brown's career, let's point and laugh at clowns like Angelo Cataldi, who spent the better part of 2012 mocking Brown as a "five tool stiff." As everyone knows, Cataldi doesn't actually care about the truth of his opinions; he just adopts opinions on the basis of whether they'll rile his listeners up by demagoguing their basest instincts and channeling their rage at scapegoats. It's frankly a gross way to make a living, and when he makes an idiot out of himself in the process, that ought to be memorialized.
Finally, one last word about some of Brown's defenders over the past two seasons: not all of them covered themselves with glory either. Far too many otherwise intelligent Phillies fans indulged themselves in all kinds of absurd rhetoric about how the front office, by demoting Brown between mid-2011 and mid-2012, was "ruining" him - or, worse, deliberately wrecking his career because they "hated" him. Reasonable people can question the wisdom of the Phillies' strategy for developing Brown during that time period, but the idea that the front office ever gave up on him was always baseless and fantastical to the point of delusion. It was understandable to have some concern about their intentions toward Brown during the lead-up to the disastrous Hunter Pence acquisition, but once that trade went down and Brown was still here despite what was otherwise a massive overpay, it became pretty evident that Ruben Amaro was committed to him. The front office deservedly comes in for criticism on certain issues, but this particular critique was always invalid and honestly pretty embarrassing to see. The whole point of sabermetrics is that it's supposed to be evidence-based and not about personalities. I don't know if Amaro deserves a ton of praise for doing the right thing here, but I do know that he deserves at least some praise, and I also know that anyone who spent the last two years leveling these intemperate and now discredited accusations against him has no right to withhold that praise at this time.