Tag Archives: MLB

Day Five: A Simple Flow Chart for Hall of Fame qualifications.

Here’s a quick flow chart for all of the criteria one needs to vote for the Hall of Fame:

Screenshot 2015-01-04 19.37.33

That’s it. That’s all you need. I don’t give a shit if the player in question was a dick to the press, or if someone thinks they took something illegal (even if they have no proof). Was the player, within the context of his era, great at playing baseball? If yes, he’s a Hall of Famer; if no, he’s not. It’s pretty simple. Self-aggrandizing assholes don’t need to be complicating this.

Anyway, here’s how I’d vote if there were no restrictions on how many players one could vote for: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Kent, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, McGwire, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Sheffield, Smoltz, Sosa, Trammell, Walker.

That’s a lot of players, and unfortunately you can only vote for ten. If I had a hypothetical ballot, I’d likely go the same route as Twitter-pal-with-an-actual-vote, Mike Berardino, who voted strategically and left off Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson (who were essentially guaranteed entry to the Hall) and used his vote on players in danger of falling off of the ballot.

All of that said, this is probably how I’d vote if I had the privilege of doing so: Bagwell, Biggio, Edgar, Moose, Piazza, Raines, Trammell, Walker (like Mike) and then McGwire and Sosa over Schilling and Smoltz, mostly because Schill will stay on the ballot and eventually get in and Smoltz is getting in this year (why he’s in over Moose and Schilling I’ll never understand), while Sosa and McGwire are in serious danger of falling off the ballot.

Just for good measure, in a world that makes sense, one where I wouldn’t have to game the system, my actual ten-man ballot would be: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Edgar, Pedro, Moose, Piazza, Raines. (Moose over Schilling simply because of preference; I consider them equals.)

And, just to make a prediction, I’m guessing Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio all make it. Mike Piazza and Tim Raines will both be close, and (I hope, otherwise Jonah will kill everyone) they’ll get in next year.

Okay, now that that’s done, I’m gonna go ahead and mute all Twitter discussion of the Hall of Fame after the announcement on Tuesday.

Leave a comment

Filed under 365 Days, Sports

Game Recognize Game: On Carlos Gomez and “playing the game the right way.”

Athletes sometimes do stupid things. That’s because athletes are people, and people sometimes do stupid things – Johnny Knoxville, for instance, has somehow made a living out of it. So when athletes do stupid things, the most one should really do is laugh – mistakes are not a referendum on one’s character.

To wit:

(GIF via Mike Prada, SB Nation)

via Mike Prada, SB Nation

Nick Young took a shot that looked like it was going in – watching live, even I had thought so – so he turned around and raised his arms in celebration, only to realize the ball had spun out. After the miss, Young, or “Swaggy P,” got a little annoyed that he missed and got back on defense.

That was the end of the play.

Neither Amare Stoudemire nor Pablo Prigioni, nor any other Knick, chided Young after the play or even after the game (though it didn’t help that they had lost to Young’s team by 34 points). Fans weren’t angry at Young for “disrespecting the game” or “showing up” his opponent – we laughed. We GIF’d and Vine’d the play, chalked it up to Swaggy P being Swaggy P.

What Nick Young did on that play is, in reality, no different than what Carlos Gomez had done on Easter Sunday.

Gomez hit what he believed was a home run, flipped his bat, and took a couple of slow, admiring steps out of the box only to realize the ball had hit the wall, at which point he hauled ass to third base. It was a play that, at most, deserved a facepalm (especially for Brewers fans, considering that Gomez had potentially cost himself an inside-the-park home run).

Pirates’ starter Gerrit Cole, however, took exception to this, and shouldered the responsibility of reminding Gomez of baseball’s normative decorum – never mind the fact that Sunday’s was only the 23rd start of Cole’s career while Gomez is an eight year veteran, or that Gomez’s pre-mature celebration saved Cole and his team of an earned run – because baseball, you see, must be played “the right way,” which is to say that baseball must be played in a manner approved by folks like Gerrit Cole.

Incidents like this don’t happen that often, but they occur often enough that a familiar pattern has begun to emerge. Just last season we had different situations involving Carlos Gomez and Brian McCann, and Jose Fernandez and McCann. In each of these three situations a white, American ballplayer has decided to inform a Latin American player how they can/cannot act, and how they can/cannot celebrate their considerable feats.

(Gerrit Cole claims to have allegedly told Gomez that he can celebrate if he hits a home run, yet McCann took exception to Fernandez and Gomez celebrating after home runs – so apparently even the Protectors of the Game can’t agree on the “right way to play the game.”)

That a 23 year old in his first full big league season believes he can tell a veteran player like Carlos Gomez how to handle himself speaks, at best, to his personal privilege as a kid from Newport Beach, California, and, at worst, to his (false) sense of paternalism, an attitude which – no doubt – has been fostered by the game’s prevailing white power structure.

In 2012, Major League Baseball was 63.9% white – a number which doesn’t take into account all of the white coaches, scouts, executives, etc. around the game – and 26.9% Latino. That same year, the NBA was 78% African-American, and a majority of NBA head coaches were people of color. There’s a reason why Nick Young’s mistake is brushed off while Gomez’s is considered “disrespectful to the game”; there are no “unwritten rules” in the NBA or the NFL, but there are in baseball and golf. In a league dominated by white American culture, the majority has taken it upon themselves to dictate, judge and otherwise punish the behavior of others – assimilate, or face consequences.

Worse, this nonexistent code of conduct is seemingly enforced by umpires and the commissioner’s office, which appeared to be the case last season when Bryan Morris (perhaps not coincidentally of the Pittsburgh Pirates) plunked Jordany Valdespin after he “pimped” a home run one night earlier and faced no retribution (thanks to Zachary Levine for bringing this to my attention). Major League Baseball’s failure to suspend Morris, Cole or Brian McCann, is an implicit endorsement of these players’ actions. Their failure sends a message that white ballplayers have carte blanche to say or do whatever they’d like to black or brown players without repercussion; it sends a message to black and brown players that they cannot react to those rules henceforth established by their white counterparts, lest they be branded as “thugs.”

This isn’t to defend the actions of Carlos Gomez, he clearly overreacted, but an overreaction is the result of consistently being told that you’re not carrying yourself correctly, or playing the game properly – even if you led the entire league in bWAR last year. As Tomas Rios told me on Twitter, Gomez has taken so much shit over the years that he’s simply decided to stop taking it – he’s earned his place in the game, same as McCann and especially Cole. He’s one of the best players in the entire sport, who the fuck is Gerrit Cole to tell him what he can or cannot do?

These incidents, however, aren’t truly about “respecting the game” or “playing the game the right way” (Craig Calcaterra’s done a pretty good job of illustrating why that’s bullshit), after all one of the most storied (and perhaps apocryphal) moments in baseball history is Babe Ruth’s “called shot” during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. (Could you imagine the reaction if Yasiel Puig had done this?) What these incidents are about is one group of people enforcing certain behaviors and attitudes on others without consideration for their own cultural norms. This does not mean that they’re racist, rather that they’re staking a false ownership claim over the culture of baseball.

Baseball does not have to represent all things to all people; it’s a game that is played differently all over the world, whether in the US, Japan, Cuba or the Netherlands. Kids in the Dominican Republic and kids in Orange County both grow up playing baseball, but they might learn to play different styles of baseball in the same sense that English is spoken in England, the US and Jamaica, but they’re all different dialects – different cultures have adopted the game and made it their own.

(There’s an argument to be made – one that I do not possess the data nor time to make – that baseball’s cultural exclusivity plays a role in Major League Baseball’s steady decline in African-American players. Sure, blacks and Latinos can play big league ball, but if the sport isn’t accepting of their cultures and personalities, why would they want to play baseball if they could play a sport like basketball, where their cultures and personalities aren’t just accepted, but embraced? Characters like Nick Young/Swaggy P, JaVale/Pierre McGee or Ron Artest/Metta World Peace could never exist in baseball, the closest we’ve ever gotten are Nyjer Morgan’s “Tony Plush” days in Milwaukee, and he found himself in Japan two years later [though he’s back now].)

If Major League Baseball wishes to become the globalized sport that they clearly aspire to, they cannot, and should not, expect for their players to assimilate into this milquetoast version of baseball we play here in the States. Carlos Gomez – a man whose playing style places his body at risk of injury on a nightly basis – plays the game “the right way.” So, too, does Brian McCann; and Gerrit Cole; and every other player in baseball. That’s because there is no right way. Everyone who has ever stepped foot on a baseball diamond – whether they be from California, the DR, Japan or any other place where baseball is played – has their own way of playing the game, none is more right than the next.

Likewise, maybe there’s no way to “respect the game” other than by playing hard and embracing the styles, cultures and norms of all others who do, even those who “pimp” on triples – as the old pimping proverb goes: game recognize game.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Kobe Bryant, Roy Halladay, and the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

[This piece was originally published on The Umpires in May. It has been re-posted here with permission, and a couple of footnotes.]

“To field a groundball must be considered a generous act and an act of comprehension. One moves not against the ball but with it. Bad fielders stab at the ball like an enemy. This is antagonism. The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self, which is the source of all suffering and poor defense.” – Aparicio Rodriguez, The Art of Fielding

Defensive wunderkind Henry Skrimshander, the protagonist in Chad Harbach’s wonderful novel, The Art of Fielding, lives by the words of his idol, fictional St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aparicio Rodriguez (based, it would seem, on real-life Cardinals shortstop Luis Aparicio). “Skrimmer,” as he was called, consumed Rodriguez’s book (of the same title) as if it were gospel, memorizing lines and recalling them while in the field. The Art of Fielding, for Henry Skrimshander and Aparicio Rodriguez, was more than Yoda-like fielding advice, it was a philosophy.

If Aparicio Rodriguez was based on Luis Aparicio, his book, The Art of Fielding, one would think, is likely based on Ted Williams’ The Science of Hitting. In Harbach’s fictional universe, Aparicio Rodriguez was the greatest defensive shortstop in history; in other words, Aparicio Rodriguez was the Ted Williams of fielding the baseball. The difference between Aparicio Rodriguez, Ted Williams, and most other ballplayers is that Aparicio and Williams approach the game cerebrally (even if one only did so fictionally). Baseball, to them, isn’t a competition of physical tools, it is a science; an art form.  

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Walter White, Alex Rodriguez, and appreciating an antihero.

Never give up control; live life on your own terms. – Walter White

If there’s anything that the Golden Era of modern television has taught us, it’s that America loves an antihero. The most important television characters of the past decade all fit this description: Tony Soprano, Stringer Bell, Omar Little, Don Draper, and Walter White are all iconic modern antiheroic protagonists. Walter White more than any of those other men, however, best embodies someone who isn’t just defined by his moral shortcomings (depending on your own personal moral and ethical philosophy), but consumed by them.

Over the past five seasons we’ve watched Walter White evolve (devolve?) from the underachieving, cancer-stricken, high school chemistry teacher hoping to provide for his family, to the methamphetamine cooking sociopath with an insatiable greed – I’m in the empire business.

He has murdered, plotted to murder, been an associate to the murder of a child, poisoned a child, cooked and sold drugs, and sexually assaulted his boss, and yet he seems to be far more likeable than Breaking Bad’s central moral figure, that being his wife, Skyler, who has essentially become Walt’s hostage.*

*There’s a strange backlash towards TV wives – Skyler White, Carmela Soprano, etc. – which may be steeped in misogyny, but also in the fact that these women represent the only people potentially capable of stopping their husbands from committing the crimes we love watching them commit on a weekly basis. Whatever your thoughts are of Skyler as a woman who cheated on her husband (or as a woman who slept with her boss), in her marriage, she’s the only one truly looking out for the best interests of her family. As Vince Gilligan told Vulture, “She’s telling him not to be a murderer and a guy who cooks drugs for kids. How could you have a problem with that?”

Walter White’s transformation began with the realization that, if he were to die, his family would be left with close to nothing. Walt’s decision to “break bad” was made with the intention of providing for his family – $737,000, that’s what I need – and yet, through a series of poor decisions, bad luck and pure ego, he was never satisfied with his returns, despite making more money than he would ever need.

What was once an endeavor justified through his own utilitarianism, cooking methamphetamine became an obsession, an obsession fueled by pride, and one which, it would seem, will lead to his demise.

One of my favorite scenes from Breaking Bad is from the season five episode, “Fifty-One,” after Skyler’s “suicide attempt,” as she laments what happened with Ted Beneke (the failed-attempt to get him to pay off his IRS debts, not the affair):

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays, Sports

Some picks for the 2013 season, just because.

I’m only doing this because I like having this kind of stuff on the record. (Keep in mind that the awards are picks and not predictions.)

AL Rookie of the Year:

  1. Jackie Bradley, Jr.
  2. Wil Myers
  3. Leonys Martin

NL Rookie of the Year:

  1. Julio Teheran
  2. Oscar Taveras
  3. Adam Eaton

If I had to guess, I would say that the writers would vote for Myers over JBJ simply because I believe Tampa will make it to the playoffs and the Red Sox won’t. I also don’t think they’ll properly value what Bradley brings to the table defensively (see: Trout, Mike). I would have chosen Adam Eaton in the National League if it wasn’t for his injury. Teheran will have a full season, with great run support, an excellent outfield defense, and a full-season of Andrelton Simmons playing shortstop will probably save him a handful of runs – this will also give him a nice win total, which we know the BBWAA loves.

AL Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Yu Darvish
  3. David Price

NL Cy Young:

  1. Stephen Strasburg
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Adam Wainwright

I would have voted for Verlander in 2012, and I can’t envision any scenario in which he doesn’t get hurt and doesn’t finish in the top two. Darvish is just a hunch that he’s going to break out in a big way. In the NL, Strasburg and Kershaw might as well be 1 and 1A – I could see them going 1-2 for the foreseeable future. Wainwright is going to earn his new contract in a big way this season.

AL MVP:

  1. Jose Bautista
  2. Mike Trout
  3. Miguel Cabrera

NL MVP:

  1. Jason Heyward
  2. Bryce Harper
  3. Joey Votto

Honestly, I could put all six of those guys in any order and be confident in the pick. I’m willing to bet that Harper wins it over Heyward because he’ll bat third (while Heyward bats 2nd) and will have more RBI opportunities. As for the American League, it just feels too predictable to go for Trout or Cabrera, and I think the Toronto offense is gonna put up some huge numbers this season, and Jose Bautista will be the beneficiary.

AL East:

  1. Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Tampa Bay Rays*
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central:

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Minnesota Twins

AL West:

  1. Oakland Athletics
  2. Texas Rangers*
  3. Anaheim Angels
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros

I can’t picture the Yankees finishing higher than 3rd place in the American League East – too much has to go perfectly right that the odds are heavily against them making the playoffs. I think it’s possible all five AL East teams finish over .500. And maybe I’m crazy, but I’m not as high on the Texas Rangers as many others – their rotation (other than Yu Darvish) is fairly unspectacular, and they lost quite a few arms in the bullpen. That’s all without mentioning that their outfield isn’t great (Nelson Cruz is trending in the wrong direction), and that they plan on having Lance Berkman bat 3rd. Despite all of that, I’m still picking them to win the second Wild Card spot, if only because I believe Anaheim’s pitching is that bad. It’s also entirely possible that Cleveland (not Kansas City) pulls a Baltimore and makes a run towards the Wild Card, and Kansas City’s poor record will lead to Dayton Moore and Ned Yost losing their jobs. I also don’t see Houston being nearly as bad as everyone thinks – they’ll be the worst team in baseball, but it won’t be historic.

NL East:

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. New York Mets
  5. Miami Marlins

NL Central:

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Cincinnati Reds*
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs

NL West:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies

The National League is absolutely stacked this year. It’s incredibly difficult to leave San Francisco out of the playoffs, and I had high hopes for Arizona until all of their injuries this spring. The Milwaukee Brewers were sneakily the senior circuit’s best offense last year, and I get the feeling they’ll only get better in 2013 – I could see them or Arizona making a run. The Phillies will probably end up trading Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay and they’ll still finish with a better record than the Mets and Marlins.

World Series:

St. Louis Cardinals over Tampa Bay Rays in seven games.

I’m not sure why more people aren’t as bullish on the St. Louis Cardinals as I am. Their lineup is loaded, they have a strong rotation with a bonafide ace, and their bullpen is filled with a nice mix of flamethrowers and junkballers who get hitters out in a myriad of ways. They also have the best farm system in baseball, and young guys like Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams, Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong and Joe Kelly are all going to make significant contributions. It’s also because of this system, and because of the versatility of guys like Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig, that, if any of their regulars are injured mid-season, the team won’t miss a beat. These are all the same reasons why I chose Tampa Bay in the American League. What puts St. Louis over the top will be their ability to absorb some salary – if the Indians fall out of contention, we’ll probably be seeing Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop sometime this summer, and there’s an outside chance they could even pull off a blockbuster for Troy Tulowitzki (they’re the only team who can). Even without making a deal for a stud, the Cardinals’ organizational depth is what will separate them from the pack during this marathon of a season.

Happy baseball, folks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports