While it’s not part of their official job description, two Major League Baseball managers provided useful grammar lessons this week. Who says sports isn’t educational?
Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge benched starting shortstop Brendan Ryan after the normally slick-fielding Ryan failed to complete two double plays because of poor relay throws to first base. Asked whether he told Ryan why he was sitting, Wedge said to reporters, “I think it’s inferred.” Seattle Times reporter Geoff Baker blogged that Wedge had replied “with a long, drawn-out roll of the r’s” to emphasize his point.
Sorry, Skip, but it’s “E-Wedge” on that one. Riding the bench might make Ryan infer that was his manager’s message, but Wedge was actually trying to imply it, not infer it. Use “imply” when something is suggested without being explicitly stated, and use “infer” when someone is trying to arrive at a conclusion based on evidence. To imply is active: Wedge’s action with Ryan implies that the manager is benching the shortstop because of the poor defensive execution, while Ryan might infer that Wedge didn’t think highly of his recent level of performance.
Wedge certainly comes across as a stern, no-nonsense guy in his media interviews and also in recent TV and radio commercials in which he talks off-the-cuff about winning and player accountability when they come to the ballpark. Current Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, on the other hand, has as a former player and then a manager with the Chicago White Sox, carefully developed a different persona: a full-nonsense guy. If Major League Baseball were casting the new film version of the classic TV comedy The Three Stooges, Ozzie could easily play Larry, the one with curly hair. Ozzie tried to blame his latest gaffe, praising Fidel Castro in a Time magazine interview, as an unfortunate facet of English being his second language (he was thinking one thing in Spanish but saying another in English, he claimed). Still, Guillen appeared genuinely contrite at his press conference held to explain his comments and admitted the furor has left him sad, embarrassed and feeling stupid. “I am stupid,” he said at one point, “but I’m not dumb.”
Well, not exactly. If Ozzie had wanted to say he was “incapable of human speech,” he would have been correct, but obviously lying. However, since “stupid” and “dumb” are really synonyms (both defined as “lacking intelligence”), then Ozzie’s statement is clearly incorrect. If Ozzie admits that he’s stupid, he is also admitting he’s dumb – about as dumb as he was when he started praising Fidel Castro in the first place.
Of course, using baseball managers as examples of proper wordsmithing implies they ought to know something about it. They don’t. That’s why they need an editor.