In the 30+ years that have taken me from obnoxious elementary school student glomming onto the babysitter’s son learning about baseball to the esteemed position of Detroit Sports Czar, I have, at times, engaged in conversations with local and even occasionally national sports journalists/commentators thru sports talk radio, Twitter, internet comment boards, and even emails directly to the personalities themselves. Unfortunately, as with most things, these exchanges have focused on disagreements, with my opinion of the main “antagonist” typically being one of sheer idiocy.
I was reminded of one such exchange the other night when I was out with a friend and casually mentioned the idea of Bruce Rondon being Lynn Henning’s son. My friend politely asked what the hell I was talking about, and I dug up the email exchange I’d had with good old Lynn.
A little background. Lynn Henning is a local beat writer for the Tigers and Spartans who’s been known for injecting himself into the news instead of reporting it. Perhaps most famously, Henning created a rumor in 2006 that Kenny Rogers – who had started the All-Star Game, for whatever that’s worth – was pitching so poorly that he would be replaced in the rotation by the immortal Chad Durbin. The Tigers were the biggest surprise in baseball, so not only was this big news in Detroit circles, eventually Henning found himself being interviewed on national sports outlets about what he’d heard in the Tigers’ clubhouse (in my experience one of his favorite fallback defenses). Rogers was not replaced in the rotation; he would go on to go 3-0 in the 2006 postseason with a 0.00 ERA and win the only World Series game the franchise has won in 34 years.
Chad Durbin would throw 133 innings for the Tigers with a 4.58 ERA over 2 seasons. He did not pitch in the postseason until he joined the Phillies.
I have read Henning off and on (mostly off these days, unless he says something truly inane) and engaged with him somewhat regularly over email. To Henning’s defense, he does respond, although my somewhat snarky attitude has led to him typically responding with something to the effect of, “I’m in the clubhouse, and you’re not,” no matter how ridiculous his position was.
Well, around 2013 the Tigers had a young fireballer named Bruce Rondon that Henning (and a large portion of the Tigers’ brass and fan base, myself included) became quite enamored with. He was the second coming of Joel Zumaya, which would have been great if Zumaya had ever made a career for himself and not injured himself playing Guitar Hero or 4-wheeling in California.
Unfortunately, Rondon was both injury prone and incredibly immature, with the most memorable achievement of his career to date coming when he was sent home early at the end of the 2015 season due to his “effort level”, which is never a situation where the guy is giving too much effort.
Henning never came to grips with this. Rondon was injured and unavailable for the 2013 postseason, the Tigers’ best chance to win the World Series since at least 1987 and perhaps even 1984. He missed the entire 2014 season after needing Tommy John surgery, which is almost an inevitability in today’s day and age. Henning’s belief was that had Rondon been available in both postseasons the Tigers would’ve overcome their bullpen woes and won the World Series at least once if not both seasons. This might be reasonable if Rondon had pitched more than 28 innings in his career and put up better numbers than a 3.45 ERA and 1.360 WHIP.
And so, in April 2015, after yet another column (that I unfortunately cannot find) extolling the virtues of the immortal Bruce Rondon and downplaying his failures, I sent Henning the following email:
I’m wondering if you can answer a question for me. After reading your column about Bruce Rondon – and after reading pretty much every Rondon column you’ve ever written – there’s only one rational explanation that would explain your fawning over the kid.
Is Bruce Rondon your son?
I understand, children blind us. If he were my son I might think his injuries might’ve cost us the 2013 World Series, even though pinning such high hopes on a guy with less than 30 innings pitched in the Majors would seem ludicrous. If he were my son I might also criticize Angel Nesbitt for his youth, even though Nesbitt is actually older than Rondon and has thrown only 22 fewer innings than Rondon. In short, I’d do anything I could to promote my son’s success, even if it meant downgrading my own work in the process.
Obviously this is ludicrous. I don’t think Bruce Rondon is your son, but I can’t be too sure. I can’t imagine you traveled to Venezuela in 1990 to do a story on Johnny Paredes or Urbano Lugo and happened on a comely lass who turned out to be Rondon’s mother. But you can understand why the question would be asked. You have written numerous articles on Rondon, all of them relating to how much benefit he will be to the Tigers or how his injuries may well have cost the Tigers a title, if not two. As a diehard Tigers fan who studies the statistics – although, admittedly I don’t have access to the team like you do – I find it ridiculous to put so much weight on the shoulders of a guy who’s got the injury history of Joel Zumaya and statistics that don’t exactly raise comparisons to Craig Kimbrel.
So settle a bet for us. Rondon’s your kid, isn’t he?
Admittedly a little immature, but hey, I did my research. I looked up Rondon’s stats, found out how old Angel Nesbitt was, even looked up what Venezuelan players were on the Tigers’ roster in 1990, the year Rondon was born. I did some work on this!
Henning’s response was…predictable:
Idiocy has no limits. Nor does childishness. As you prove. If it’s any consolation, you’ve forwarded the stupidest e-mail of 2015. And you don’t want to see what you beat out. But congrats on one triumph in your life. One …
Alright, I deserved that. And I did want to see what I beat out. But I couldn’t leave that alone.
I’ll cop to the childishness. There’s no denying that element of my email. But idiocy? You can’t call someone an idiot simply for pointing out blatant factual errors (such as Angel Nesbitt’s “youth”) or inquiring – albeit in a very roundabout way – why you believe that a player as young and inexperienced as Rondon is somehow the savior of the Tigers’ bullpen.
Based on conversations with others who have written you it’s my understanding that you choose to insult people who have written you questioning your facts, or you try to rationalize your shoddy fact checking. That’s your right, but it’s yet another reason why so many people think you’re a hack.
I could’ve taken a more mature approach to my question, but I’ve done that in the past and your basic response has been, “I’m in the locker room and you’re not so I know better than you.” Knowing that, I figured I’d have some fun. What’s life without a little entertainment?
Keep up the work.
P.S. Will I get any kind of recognition or mention in the paper for winning the stupidest email of 2015? I’d like to tell my parents that I’ve finally got a triumph in my life.
He never responded to my question, which sort of bothered me, especially since my mother passed away last week and I never got to tell her one of my accomplishments. So I had to share this with my dad before it was too late.
I’m sure he’s very proud.