There was quite the stink raised this weekend when newly minted Hall of Famer - and notorious sourpuss - Jim Rice made some comments to a group of Little Leaguers that appeared to lump Derek Jeter in with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez as those that "are setting a bad example for the young guys." Rice would later go on to say that he was "misquoted" and that it was blown out of proportion because of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. I'm not sure I agree with him. Here's what he said:
“You see a Manny Ramirez, you see an A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez), you see (Derek) Jeter ... Guys that I played against and with, these guys you’re talking about cannot compare,” Rice said to Little Leaguers gathered in the cafeteria.
"We didn’t have the baggy uniforms. We didn’t have the dreadlocks,” Rice said. “It was a clean game, and now they’re setting a bad example for the young guys.”
Sounds to me like a classic case of "everything was better in *my* day". It shouldn't come as a surprise, though, considering that Rice has always been known as a grump and that he did spend the last 15 years waiting around for the Hall to call. I can't imagine his demeanor got any better during that time.
Of course, Rice was conveniently forgetting many things about the era that he played in, from the Oscar Gamble afro to the "money grubbing" complaints that the owners (and fans) threw on the stars of the day as they entered the free agency era to the surliness of players like Reggie Jackson and Rice himself and, finally, to the cocaine and drug issues that were so prevalent - and damaging - in the '80s. It wasn't exactly the cleanest era to be a player in.
This is far from new, though. There's hardly a time when the disciples of one generation (the fans, the writers, the players) aren't complaining about the current generation. I actually discussed a great example of this in May, when Sean Forman linked to an article he found in a 1950 issue of Baseball Digest called "Baseball's New Elite." In that article, the author complains about this "new era of ballplayer" who cares too much about getting a cigarette endorsement and not enough about the game on the field. In the meantime, he indicts (by association) such paragons as Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, and Duke Snider. It's a good reminder as to why we shouldn't listen to these old curmudgeons when they break out the "In my day...!"-routine and a good excuse to take another walk through the Wezen-Ball archives. Enjoy.