Monday Metaphors: Grammy Edition

I didn’t watch the Grammy Awards last night, as I’m still protesting the fact that the trophies celebrate an obsolete auditory delivery system and I refuse to live in the past.  Instead, I thought back to the Grammies of my (relative) youth, and how crazy stuff always used to happen to the Grammies.  Now all thoat crazy stuff happens at the MTV Video Music Awards, which we all pretend matter because we don’t want to admit that MTV knows shit about music right now.

It’s easy to forget, as we are mired in the final month before Spring Training begins in earnest, a period in which not much actually happens around the league, that this offseason has been pretty nuts as well.  Here are a couple such instances of the insanity.

The Dominican Identity Crisis is Milli Vanilli

Man, if you can’t trust the Germans, who can you trust?  Milli Vanilli was a pop duo, supposedly consisting of Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, who exploded on the music scene in 1989 with four hits, including three #1s off their debut album, Girl You Know It’s True.  Milli Vanilli performed at the 1990 Grammy Awards and took home trophies for Best New Artist, beating out Neneh Cherry, soul II Soul, Tone Loc, and the Indigo Girls.

Looking back, their songs were incredibly simplistic, ridiculously trite, and horribly over-produced.  Yes, I had that album on cassette.  Shut up.

Anyway, you undoubtedly know a little about the group’s downfall when it was discovered that Pilatus and Marvan had never actually sung any of the songs.  First, the recording the duo was using skipped during a live performance at MTV headquarters.  Then some of the artists who actually performed on the album began claiming credit for their work.  Finally, the group’s manager and developer Frank Farian admitted that Pilatus (who had previously declared himself a better artist than Dylan, McCartney, and Jagger) and Morvan had never sung a note.

The Grammys rescinded their awards and their label dropped them and deleted all their recordings.  Pilatus and Morvan faded into obscurity.  Pilatus got into drugs and eventually died of an overdose, while Morvan actually continues to have a solo career.  Nevertheless, the scandal destroyed their credibility and was a stark reminder that some people will do anything to get rich.

It’s really no different from what Juan Oviedo and Roberto Hernandez Heredia (formerly Leo Nunez and Fausto Carmona respectively) did when they took on the identities of younger Dominican neighbors or family members to improve their prospect statuses.  Milli Vanilli’s deception was entirely about the group’s image, not their music.  The original singers, who went on to tour as “The Real Milli Vanilli,” were deemed not pretty enough to serve as the front men for the group.  And ultimately, the popularity of the group is impossible to separate from the image cultivated by Rob and Fab.  Similarly, it’s undeniable that Oviedo and Hernandez are remarkably talented pitchers.  They have pitched well at the Big League level, and at times have excelled.  But at some point, it becomes impossible to separate whether they would have received the same opportunities and the same instruction if they had been considered a year or two older at the start of their careers.  Like Milli Vanilli, we’ll never know what they would have been if they’d played it straight, and their decision could seriously hurt their careers going forward, especially if they can’t get visas to play in 2012.

That said, when you consider the poverty rampant in the Dominican, and the relative lack of opportunity, it’s understandable (if not forgivable) that young men look to gain any advantage they can as they try to hook on with a Big League organization.  Poverty breeds desperation, and the potential to set your family up for life, as Hernandez and Oviedo have done, is a powerful draw.  It’s far more understandable than what Rob and Fab did after growing up in the relative prosperity of Paris and Munich, where they were chosen by their manager from the ranks of professional break dancers to head the group.

Yet understandable or not, their deception completely changes the way that I, and others, look at players from that country.  After all, as the New York Times reported a month ago, baseball is incredibly worried that there are more of these cases out there.  After all, these weren’t 18 year olds in the minors, these were established Major Leaguers, who have made millions of dollars under an assumed name.  While it’s unfair to suspect every Dominican player of doing the same thing, it’s only responsible to take the risk that these players aren’t who they say they are into account when a GM starts thinking about contract extensions, trades, and free agent acquisitions.

Jon Heyman’s Article About the Red Sox’s Finances is Soy Bomb

In 1998, the 57 year old Bob Dylan was performing on the Grammys to promote his comeback tour, when one of his background dancers, Michael Portnoy, stripped off his shirt, leapt forward and began dancing wildly with the words “SOY BOMB” written across his torso.  Dylan seemed confused and annoyed, but continued to play through the rest of the song.

After the show, Portnoy changed his story several times about the meaning of “SOY BOMB,” sometimes talking about soy as representing “dense nutritional life” and sometimes as Spanish word for “I am.”  The truth, however, is that Portnoy was simply trying to use Dylan’s performance to steal some of the spotlight for himself and his career as a comedian and “Director of Behavior.”  It highlighted what must be an incredible streak of megalomania, a need to be the center of attention, and a total lack of shame.

He and Jon Heyman should hang out.

Heyman wrote his guess last week that the Red Sox were not spending big this winter because club owner John Henry “overspent on soccer.”  He was taken behind the woodshed by Buster Olney and by Craig Calcaterra, and he was completely refuted by a Red Sox source who pointed out that Henry interests “Roush Fenway (Racing), NESN, the Red Sox, and Liverpool are all profitable businesses that do not have to rely on revenues moving from one to another.”

Heyman does this every so often, tossing out lazy bombs that may or may not be failed attempts at humor.  But, and by now he knows this is the case, all they really do is shine the spotlight on Jon Heyman.  Now, one would think that the be-sweatered one would not actually want to be associated with an opinion so demonstrably idiotic.  But he’s a full-throated Jack Morris supporter (and was a Bert Blyleven detractor), so clearly he’s found that idiocy drives pageviews.  Indeed, as with Mr. Portnoy, it’s clear that being the center of attention is too great a lure for an attention-whore like Heyman to resist.