Kelley Owes Times Readers Better.

Jeff · January 6, 2006 at 8:09 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Some months ago, Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times wrote an article entitled “Bavasi Owes M’s Fans Better.”

While sympathetic to the column’s premise, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this was the best way for Kelley to frame the issue. After all, doesn’t this particular scribe have his own vocal critics? Might not some see a piece arguing that a prominent figure in the local sports community is underserving his constituents as, well, ironic?

What if one of the column were written from a different perspective? Cue the dream sequence:

The office window was open. Softly, a breeze moved the clouds into soothing patterns. The sun shone on the verdant grass. And Steve Kelley sat down to write his latest cure for insomnia.

This was one of those hackneyed introductory devices we see all too often in Seattle.

Even now, a month into the New Year, reading The Seattle Times felt like the best decision. There was energy in the coffee mug beside the paper. An anticipation that this morning, this column might be different.


We have always said this, but Seattle loves having a two newspaper town. More specifically, Seattle loves its Times, one of the few family-owned major dailies left.

But newsprint belongs on the page, not on the face of a formerly eager reader who has fallen asleep on top of a loosely-linked series of one-sentence paragraphs. Too many sleepy-eyed sports junkies have turned to Steve Kelley.

And these readers deserve better.

Okay, end dream sequence. Cue next a post from’s “Why Your Hometown Sports Columnist Sucks” series.

Guess who it’s about. Then guess who inspired the post. You won’t be shocked at the first answer, and might (or might not) be surprised at the second.

Addendum: to adhere to our collective New Year’s Resolution of being nicer and promoting cuteness, here is — for balance — a link to the Times’ fine piece on Finnegan the squirrel. Be sure to check out the photo gallery for extra cute power. Also note that Finnegan the squirrel’s name is spelled differently from Bob Finnigan’s. Because that’s important.


29 Responses to “Kelley Owes Times Readers Better.”

  1. Dave on January 6th, 2006 8:22 am

    Those pictures are to cute as Albert Pujols is to hitter.


  2. pdb on January 6th, 2006 9:04 am

    I looked at the pictures in an attempt to back up or refute Dave’s comment, but after looking at about three of them I lapsed into a diabetic coma from their overwhelming sweetness.

  3. msb on January 6th, 2006 9:18 am

    ahhhhhh, nothing like Kicking Kelley to get the morning off right; I’d mock him some more if I could get a sentence to run on that long.

    re: Finnegan, thankfully I’d been innoculated by having viewed the adorableness back in October– dang those fuzzy little animals 🙂

    leading us all astray, this mpg is not so much for the cuteness factor as the cat-personality factor:

  4. morisseau on January 6th, 2006 9:55 am

    beautiful. Glad to see that Kelly’s poor writing form of stringing together one-sentence paragraphs has been noticed by other people

  5. J.L. on January 6th, 2006 10:41 am


  6. [blip] on January 6th, 2006 11:24 am

    [ot and see comment guidelines]

  7. Adam S on January 6th, 2006 11:59 am

    I response to the referenced column I wrote to Steve Kelley and his editor and say what Jeff said in the subject here — Kelley Owes M’s Fans Better (I was more polite in the actual note). I got a response from the assistant editor saying that they wanted to run it as a letter to the editor on Sunday (though that wasn’t my intention), but Kelley or his editor never wrote back to address the issue of accuracy of the piece.

  8. argh on January 6th, 2006 12:03 pm

    Re: Squirrels nursing on weird little French dogs.

    As Guy Fleegman in ‘Galaxy Quest’ said after seeing Tony Shalhoub wrapped in the passionate tentacles of Laliari the Thermian: “Oooo, *that’s* not right.”

  9. jglongball1 on January 6th, 2006 12:35 pm

    I noticed Steve Kelley at the Sonics game the other night.

    His next column was supposed to be about the team, providing insight into their most recent success/failure (take your pick).

    But on this night, in this arena, Steve was watching football on his laptop, seated at the media table.

    Even while an exciting NBA game took place right in front of his face.

    You see, Steve, the fans who sit behind the press table know who you are, and what you are doing.

    You owe your fans better.

  10. Jim Thomsen on January 6th, 2006 12:49 pm

    I’ve been reading Steve Kelley columns for more than 20 years, and even worked with him a handful of times when I was a Times intern sportswriter in the summer and fall of 1987. I can remember when he was seen as a fresh, direct tell-it-like-it-is columnist who regularly won national awards and even won some industry plaudits as a prose stylist. He was an impolitic breath of fresh air in a staid Seattle columnizing landscape populated by Steve Rudman of the P-I (who himself was preceded by the Godawful Tracy Ringolsby) as well as Blaine Newnham (whose nickname among some snarktastic Seattle-area sportswriters I knew was “A Wholly Owned Subsidiary Of The Tyee Club”) and Kelley’s old-school, boosterish predecessor, Georg N. Meyers.

    The problem is that Kelley hasn’t evolved a whit since 1984. He still writes the same way, tilts impotently at the same power figures, still contradicts himself every few years with no irony whatsoever (it would be a fun project for a journalism-school student to track back through Kelley’s columns online and see how many times what he said in 2004 stands at complete odds with something he wrote in 2001).

    He stays in a safe place, doing increasingly less actual reporting and more commenting, not realizing that his very profession is sliding into irrevocable irrelevance. He is the sportswriting equivalent of an empty .270 batting average, with few walks and little power, drivging and in and scoring fewer runs with each passing season. He stays in the lineup merely on the basis of the apocryphal belief in batting average as an indicator of ability, because his managers are either too lazy to make a change or honestly believe that he is an effective performer. And surrounded by equally bad players like Bud Withers and John McGrath and Greg Johns and Blaine Newnham (now the sports-columnist equivalent of Pat Borders), the point is hard to argue because he DOES look good in comparison.

    He has a positive Value Over Replacement Columnist only because the weighted baseline value of an average leaque columnist is so low.

    And so it will go until Kelley retires in another decade or so. He’ll write his two or three columns a week, people will skim through his prose on the Sounder train or the Metro bus or the state ferries and shake their heads and chuckle, and they’ll leave the paper behind on their seats, forgotten, and get on with their lives.

    The Seattle Times has made the decision for all of us that that is good enough.

    Thank you, Jeff, for saying it isn’t.

  11. peter on January 6th, 2006 1:08 pm

    My question regarding Finnegan the Squirrel:

    Can he miss bats, keep the ball on the ground and soak up 180-200 innings a year?

  12. IP on January 6th, 2006 1:37 pm

    Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Kelley is probably the worst-writing local columnist I’ve ever seen.

  13. colm on January 6th, 2006 1:47 pm

    And finally: tsunami in the south Pacific, hurricanes in the Gulf and earthquakes in Pakistan, but don’t worry because there’s a poodle in Wandsworth that can tap-dance.

  14. PaulMarrottWeaver on January 6th, 2006 2:03 pm

    I cringe when I see a Kelley column. It is such consistently bad writing, and even some bad logic to boot. We’re never going to get rid of this guy.

  15. fearofmusic on January 6th, 2006 2:24 pm

    My favorite Kelley moment was when he wrote a column pointing to the loss of David Bell as why the Mariners weren’t as good in 2002 as 2001. It was a thing of beauty.

  16. Evan on January 6th, 2006 2:28 pm


    ‘Cause with Bell, another 116 win season was right there for the taking…

  17. Jim Thomsen on January 6th, 2006 3:58 pm

    One good evolution with Steve Kelley: No more Ducky Ponds or Jim Ratt columns.

  18. DMZ on January 6th, 2006 4:03 pm

    My favorite Kelley column, and I know I beat this drum each time this comes up, was his “Alex Rodriguez is a scummy guy with no loyalty” while he was filing his articles from home so he didn’t have to cross the Guild picket lines (for which, as you may recall, he was amply rewarded for by management).

  19. Jake Brake on January 6th, 2006 4:09 pm

    Well put, Thomsen. I can only add that what separates Kelley from the merely bad to the insultingly bad is the fact that he actually has some talent (unlike the other Times and P-I sportswriters), but instead of using his gifts, he chooses to mail it in 95% of the time. Every once in a while, when a story or issue seems to capture his interest, he can still write a damn fine column that occasionally transcends the bounds of basic sports writing and touches on deeper themes. Which makes his standard-issue, trite, cliched, one-sentence-paragraph drivel all the more insulting to the people who read his columns.

    An interesting note about Kelley. I have a close friend who was in and out of Children’s Hospital for several years with a chronic childhood disease. Apparently Kelley is a regular there, very giving of his time to the sick kids, and an overall good guy; he and my friend got to know each other quite well over the course of a few years. I asked my friend what Kelley had to say about working for the Times, and he said Kelley hates working there and spends as much time as possible outside of the newsroom.

    That would seem to offer an explanation as to why his writing sucks out loud; he hates his job and the company he works for. But Steve, for the love of Bob, why do you insist on staying with something you hate and inflicting your misery on others instead of working to change your situation? What an asshole.

  20. Jeff on January 6th, 2006 4:09 pm

    Derek’s is pretty good for a favorite Kelley column. A strong runner-up: “My round of golf at Washington National” by Steve Kelley. Ye gods.

  21. Jim Thomsen on January 6th, 2006 4:10 pm

    As much as I rag on Art Thiel, I’ll give him this: He walked the line. I was working in Walla Walla at the time (the paper was owned by The Times) and a few of us came into town and brought a stack of hot pizzas for the picket-walkers on a cold January day. Thiel and Ron Judd were very appreciative. I remember asking if Kelley was around, and Judd offered only a derisive snort.

  22. Jim Thomsen on January 6th, 2006 4:11 pm

    Oh, and just last year, when The Times was bitching the loudest about bleeding money in its JOA suit with Hearst, Steve Kelley wrote about golfing in Afghanistan.

  23. Jim Thomsen on January 6th, 2006 4:21 pm
  24. Jim Thomsen on January 6th, 2006 4:52 pm

    Steve Kelley’s “Greatest Mariners Hits”:

    — “After some games, Miguel Olivo looks into the mirror. Stares deep into the dark brown eyes that have betrayed him this season. Stares even deeper past the eyes, deep inside himself looking for answers.” (July 18, 2005)

    — “Boo. It’s all you can do. Boo all of the miscalculations made last winter. Boo because the Mariners’ ownership has shown little concern for the feelings of the fans. Boo because the franchise is all about making money, not winning pennants. Boo the fact this team didn’t even bother to talk about a contract extension for Garcia, guaranteeing he would be a lame duck this year. And boo the demise of this once-contending club.” (June 28, 2004)

    — “For the next couple of months, pay little attention to the trade rumors. Until July, Freddy Garcia should be staying in Seattle.” (May 19, 2004)

    — “Already Olerud’s swing is returning. He’s scorching line drives again, finding two-base gaps. Last year’s slump has been put in some coherent order. He believes the season was an anomaly. He is one of those what-ifs who make this Mariners season so intriguing. What if Freddy Garcia is ready to contend for Cy Youngs again? What if Edgar Martinez can stay healthy for 140-some games? What if shortstop Rich Aurilia can have another season like his 37-homer, .324 year of 2001? And what if the real John Olerud returns?” (March 28, 2004)

    — “His day begins early. Down in the bowels of the stadium, in the batting cage in whatever ballpark his team is playing. Long before the gates are open, John Mabry is swinging at baseballs. Before even some of his teammates have arrived, Mabry already is into his routine. Preparing for the unknown. Hitting line drives off the mechanical fastballs and curves flung by a pitching machine. Then moving onto the field and working on his swing in batting practice. He takes ground balls at first base and third. He chases fly balls in left field and right. He hits balls off a batting tee. He runs laps around the stadium. He lifts weights.

    Hours later, the game begins. Then John Mabry, career utility man, waits.” (Aug. 18, 2003)

    — “What if Mike Cameron put everything together for six months instead of six weeks? What if he found a batting stroke that was comfortable and was able to keep it like a quilt from April through September? How good could he be if his speed, his power, his glove and his instincts were tethered together every day for maybe 155 games?

    Cameron is a conundrum. He is a great athlete, a diligent worker, a dedicated professional. You watch him on the nights when it’s clicking — when he’s outrunning a shot in the gap, or timing fastballs and sending them into tomorrow, or measuring a pitcher and stealing a base — and you swear you’re watching greatness.

    Then, you watch him when he’s slumping — when he’s impatient as a funny car, when he’s lurching, over-striding and striking out — and you suffer with him, because you know how much he wants to succeed.

    This is the most important season of Cameron’s career. This season he expects to find a consistent swing. The search is his great adventure.” (April 3, 2003)

    — “Freddy Garcia got pounded. Again. His pitches were up in the strike zone. He fell behind in the count. His fastballs were fat. And he got hit. Hard. In last night’s 5-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics, the Mariners’ worst fears were realized. This is what all of the angst in March was about. On Opening Night, in another showcase game, their ace couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning. Garcia was riddled like James Caan’s car in “The Godfather.” (April 2, 2003)

    — “He looks as if he were put together by computer imaging. Freddy Garcia is the pitching prototype. A fastball in the mid-90s, a curveball that defies physics, a changeup that almost appears to stop in midair. He has legs as strong as Roger Clemens’. He has a right arm as alive as Curt Schilling’s. If a manager were choosing from a pitching catalog, Garcia might be his first choice.” (Feb. 14, 2003)

    — “Even though they won again yesterday. And Ryan Franklin made another legitimate bid to become a starter next season. And Willie Bloomquist looked like Roberto Alomar in his first start at second base.” (lead from Sept. 23, 2002)

    — “When he sat down for lunch at his Palm Harbor, Fla., home on Wednesday the only thing certain in Doug Creek’s life was the sandwich in front of him.” (lead from July 26, 2002)

  25. mpbiggs on January 6th, 2006 4:54 pm

    Kelley: Mike Morse has 30 HR Potential. Me: Over how many seasons?

  26. Chris Becker on January 6th, 2006 5:29 pm

    If Finnegan the Squirrel is anything like his namesake Bob, then it’s only a matter of weeks before he’s typing spring training puff pieces about the greatness of Jarrod Washburn!

  27. Jeff on January 6th, 2006 6:12 pm

    Jim: I, for one, appreciate your journey through the heart of darkness to compile such a list.

  28. Jim Thomsen on January 6th, 2006 6:13 pm

    That’s Col. Jim Kurtz to you, Jeff.

  29. msb on January 7th, 2006 4:50 pm

    #10– hey, that’s Godawful Hall-Of-Famer Tracy Ringolsby, mister 🙂

    my Kelley favorites are usually involve either Jr or Alex:

    from April 2004:

    “So even though trading for a healthy Griffey makes sense — it would upgrade the Mariners’ outfield defense, give them the potential for another 30 to 40 home runs and send a message that fat-cat ownership isn’t more concerned with its ever-expanding profits than it is about finding a way to return to the postseason — Griffey won’t be returning to Seattle.


    I believe he could be reborn in Seattle. If the Mariners sent center fielder Randy Winn and one of their dozen pitching prospects (Rett Johnson sounds right) to Cincinnati, they could have Griffey and the Reds could absorb as much as half of the $66.5 million left on Griffey’s contract.”

    But Lincoln won’t take the chance. Once again, front-office pique is getting in the way of a pennant race. Inaction off the field is affecting the action on the field.


    Maybe this week or next the Mariners will make a trade for Pittsburgh
    catcher Jason Kendall, who has four years left on a $42 million contract.

    It will be an admission that another trade by former general manager Pat Gillick fizzled. Just as Jeff Cirillo was a bust, so is catcher Ben Davis.

    Kendall will be another line-drive hitter in a lineup that needs more bang. Although his career average is .304, he has hit all of 64 home runs in eight big-league seasons. He has a below-average arm and will have to learn the quirks and tendencies of the Mariners’ pitching staff and the American League on the job.”

    and what might be my all time fave up ’til now was written in Oct. 2004, just before the Red Sox came storming back to win the ALCS (and Alex had his moment of glory, slapping the ball from Bronson Arroyo’s hand) Oddly enough, Steve never referred back to this column

    “A-Rod proving he’s a Yankee”

    BOSTON — Cool the boos. Bury your anger. Throw away those leftover fake dollar bills. Forget the past.

    Like it or not Seattle, A-Rod has arrived.

    In New York, in prime time, in October, he is living up to every expectation. Fully playing to his prime. Living large in baseball’s penultimate series.

    In this over-heated, over-hyped American League Championship Series, third baseman Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is playing the best baseball of his career.

    Hey Boston! Who’s your daddy?

    It’s A-Rod.


    Faster than Michael Phelps in water, Rodriguez’s head and heart are coming. At 29, he is playing as if he belongs on this stage, as if everything else — his greening in Seattle, his lost seasons in Texas —was a necessary prelude to this October.


    And to think, the Red Sox were favored in this series. They were going to ride the big sticks of Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and all the self-proclaimed Red Sox “idiots” into the World Series.

    But once again, the Red Sox have played scared and played dumb. And they haven’t found answers for a new Yankee, Alex Rodriguez, who has played just as well this month as all of the old Yankees before him.”

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