Old-school baseball writers and announcers have, by and large, become a straw man for online critics, who broadside their often ridiculous generalizations with statistics and watch them try to wriggle out of them or double down on their assertions that Derek Jeter is “clutch” without providing any new evidence. This was the entirety of the idea behind the website Fire Joe Morgan, and spawned a new type of “journalism” — take down the stupid guy! Yeah!
The problem with this type of work is that the people doing it are starting to double back on themselves. They’re so concerned with what everyone else is writing that they’re missing the low-hanging fruit. There are so many observations that could be made about what’s going on in the baseball playoffs that aren’t being made by either the “traditional” or “new” media that the “observations” they’re making instead are ridiculous.
Take the play for which Jeter was heartily lauded by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver last night. Bobby Abreu hit a ball into the right center field gap, and took a wide enough turn around second base that he couldn’t get back before Jeter threw to first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had raced over to cover. On the play, second baseman Robinson Cano had stationed himself in front of Jeter, but Melky Cabrera’s throw went over Cano’s head and into Jeter’s glove. Seeing Abreu lose his footing, Jeter snapped a perfect throw off, to the delight of Buck and McCarver.
Was it a good play by Jeter? Yes. But did anyone ask why it happened, then or now? Everyone said Abreu screwed up—and he did—but they never asked why. If you follow the play, it’s easy to see that Abreu was so far around second that there’s no reason for him to think he could have gotten back if there was someone there. So one might ask: why would he do this? How about because the second baseman and shortstop were both in front of him? It’s incredibly likely that Abreu thought there was no one on the base, but there was Teixeira, who had raced behind Abreu to make the play you’re taught to make in Little League but gradually forget to do. It was a brilliant play, for sure, just not for the person who got credit for it.
If Will Leitch wants to know why people hate Joe Buck, that’s why. Also, he announces the game’s like he’s Jacob Silj. But my real pet peeve is Buck’s constant attention to what critics will say. He always unloads, “well, the critics will say…” and ping-pongs opinions on the game. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but he does the faux-equivalency thing the MSM is guilty of w/r/t political reporting. Just because there are two opinions does not mean they are of equal merit. STOP TALKING ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE WILL SAY ABOUT THE GAME, AND TALK ABOUT THE GAME. (Oh, and being better than Chip Caray doesn’t make him good.)
Unfortunately, Leitch’s buddy at Deadspin, Tommy Craggs, is not much better. An Angels fan took a video of Mariano Rivera spitting on the ball last night and got a overboard with his analysis… leading Craggs in the odd position of trying to argue against video evidence to try and make a point. Perhaps realizing the silliness of his endeavour, at the end of the post he said it would be “just about the coolest thing ever” if Rivera did throw a spitter—just in case, he, you know, did. Which he did. Craggs’ point, I guess, is that some random Angels fans on a blog are more worth making an example of than focusing a laser beam on the obvious:
1) That yes, Rivera threw a spitter.
2) Yes, it’s cool (I agree).
3) If Rivera is throwing spitters, it stands to reason pretty much everyone else is. So calm down.
Concerned with this? No, he’d rather tell you why your eyes don’t work. (Don’t worry, they work fine.)
I’m all for criticism (as you can see). But base it on what you see, and not what other people say. The game’s the thing. If you read something that’s tearing someone else down just for sport, just quit reading. You’re not going to learn anything anyway.
UPDATE: ESPN’s Amy K. Nelson tweets: “rivera spitball” No. 19 on google trends right now. so stupid.” Right, it’s stupid for people to be curious of things. The commissioner’s office also thinks you’re stupid, btw. They’ve just released a statement saying there’s no evidence he spit on the ball. I’ll assume they mean besides the evidence they have. Did Sammy Sosa have a corked bat or not?
Look, do I think the spitting thing is a big deal w/r/t fair play? Of course not. It’s silly and will pass, and I agree with Craggs that it’s even pretty cool. But it did, you know, happen.
UPDATE 2: Amen to new pals of this website Stupid Sports Blog for nailing this.