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Tag: will leitch

Baseball busts the barometer: A mistake shows how big the game has become

I learned this the hard way. You do not have to. Praise Jebus.

If you write about sports, and you exist somewhere where people know that you write about sports, they will parrot their cockamemie ideas to you whenever they have them. That trope about sports bloggers living in their mothers’ basements? Shit, that’s the best place to be. Mom doesn’t know Manny Ramirez from Handy Manny and if she figures out the difference, at least it’s cute.

I stayed out of the whole Jim Joyce/Armando Galaragga thing at work because I couldn’t stand to hear what my boss had to say about it. I just heard him spouting off to someone else in the office about how to fix instant replay, etc. It was excrutiating, but at least I could put on headphones.

That’s why I disagree with the estimable William F. Leitch (whose name is stuck in the Tag Cloud That Never Updates, below), who’s pointing fingers all over the Internet today at the Twitterati for ruining what he saw as a genuinely inspiring baseball moment. A mistake was made, the victim took it with grace… and yet here “we” were, ripping apart the umpire and the sport for allowing it to happen. I agree that the whole on-field reaction could scarcely have been handled better, nor the postgame reaction amongst the players and ump, all things considered, but to condemn the early accusers? If you’re trying to stop that tide, you might as well try to ask the sun to, you know, just cool it tomorrow morning because you’ve got some extra sleeping to do.

It’s understandable that Leitch would notice—he is, after all, a professional sportswriter. One of the few. Which means he can’t afford to just turn off the background noise to an event. He needs ideas, and sportswriting is as much about striking down bad ones as it is about coming up with good ones on your own. He needs to listen, but none of the rest of us need to. If I don’t like some of the reactions I hear, I can always unfollow someone or ignore what I read. So can 99 percent of America. If you think making an example out of the loudest is the best point you can make—I would counter that the number of voices, and their breadth, speaks positively to baseball’s strong connection to our increasingly connected world, and allows any single baseball game in real time to match the exposure of any one football game (which is, by any measure, a incredible feat)—you’re Sisyphus with a keyboard. If you think you’re going to stop people from having ill-informed opinions on things, you’re wrong.

But if you look at it the other way—people are going to have ill-informed opinions about something, and they have it them about baseball—now you’re getting somewhere. To his credit, Leitch goes through the four “memes” that popped up in the aftermath of the call and evaluates them, but not before admonishing “us,” whoever that is, for “our” conduct. I don’t suppose he’d prefer we were talking about The Real Housewives of New Jersey, because if we were, I do suppose he’d be out of a job. Let’s not miss what baseball has done right here.

Also, let’s not forget that Leitch is a really, really good writer; we’ll just leave the last word to Galarraga, who summed up the call with a smirk and one of the best in-context sports quotes of all-time:

“Nobody’s perfect.”

Is A-Rod Really “Clutch” Now?

Did Johnny Damon give the Yankees their 27th title with an alert baserunning play? Sure, CC and A-Rod and Teixeira and Posada and even Brad Lidge helped a little bit, but the Damon play might be the one to have secured the hardware for the Stanks. We’ll never know how Lidge would have pitching if Damon was on second base instead of third—when, stealing second base, he simply continued to a third base unoccupied because of the “Teixeira shift”—and whether the series would have actually been any different because of it. But if this series ends as we all think it’s going to end, this is the moment from which we can create stories. The Yankees seeing an opportunity and, after nine long years, taking it.

The series not over, but it’s close. For the Phillies to win, they’ll need something of a repeat performance from Cliff Lee, for Pedro Martinez to avoid for a second time the possibility of Yankee onslaught at the new Stadium, and for Cole Hamels to finally show up for the postseason. The Yankees will have to concurrently implode, with A.J. Burnett turning in one of his vintage Fenway performances, Andy Pettitte turning in one of his vintage Game 6 performances, and CC turning in one of his vintage playoff performances. Even then, it might not be enough. The ball has been bouncing against the Yankees for nine years. At some point, they have to get the breaks. On top of that, they have the better team. It’s not impossible for the Phillies to catch up, but it’s unlikely. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

It probably didn’t escape anyone’s notice that the guy who got the game winning hit last night was A-Rod, a guy who was excoriated for not being “clutch” so many times that he had a pro bono defense league among “sabermetricians” who otherwise hated him. They’d cite small playoff sample sizes, as if there was any excuse for the highest-paid baseball being so bad he was dropped from the lineup in the 2006 ALDS against Detroit. Michael Schur, aka Ken Tremendous of Fire Joe Morgan, has been Tweeting comparison stats all postseason that usually show A-Rod’s numbers to be comparable to his former buddy Derek Jeter. That’s well and dandy, but those numbers include this year’s playoffs; without this year’s explosion, A-Rod’s numbers are pedestrian or worse. Fans who pointed out that A-Rod failed in the clutch were simply pointing out the obvious.

Now that he’s turned it around, Will Leitch says “R.I.P, A-Rod Isn’t Clutch Meme.” First of all, I’m loathe to discuss any meme not involving Keyboard Cat. Second of all, calling it a “meme” implies it’s something silly and frivolous (It wasn’t. He hadn’t hit in the playoffs. It was true. God forbid someone watch something as dreadfully important as baseball and say the most obvious thing to pop into their heads). Third, the point Leitch, Schur and others make isn’t that anyone is clutch: players are simply good or they’re not. It’s a fair point. But A-Rod’s emergence now doesn’t obscure his very real failures in the past, the same way Barry Bonds’ monster 2002 postseason doesn’t obscure his performances in years prior. The difference is that A-Rod will probably win this year, and to a great many people, that will be all that matters. He’ll have his title. If we really want to speak truth to power, let’s not forget why the “meme” was started now that it’s dead.

Of course, as John Elway shows, winning once might be all that matters, and A-Rod is finally poised to do just that.

Am I Missing Something, Or Have The Sane Baseball People Gone Wacko?

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.

Will Leitch Interview

For those of you looking for lighter fare than Queens Stories 2, my Will Leitch interview, for his new book God Save The Fan, is up on Last Exit Magazine.

Will Leitch Interview

I just interviewed Will Leitch for Last Exit Magazine. If you want to read the interview, head on over and sign up for their mailing list, and it’ll be sent to you.