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July 31, 2017

Short Relief

Kris Bryant Gets Ejected, Tim McCarver Commutes, and the Greatest Two-Sport Athlete in History

by James Fegan, Martin Nolan and Patrick Dubuque


Three Conversations That Might Have Gotten Kris Bryant Ejected

By: James Fegan

I will admit to being obsessed with ejections in major league baseball. The determination of what the breaking point is in discourse, especially among the salty, weathered men who play and monitor a sport full of screaming and yelling is a line we need sketched out. In that vein, famously mild-mannered Kris Bryant was ejected for the first time in his major league career last Tuesday by Lance Barksdale.

Since this incident, all discussion has centered around what Bryant could have possibly said to spark a disinvite from the proceedings. Profanity has been ruled out, and Joe Maddon sketched the parameters as “awkwardly benign,” so we can conclude that Bryant said something free of cursing, generally acceptable in principle, yet unforgivable in context.

*

KRIS BRYANT: You like Game of Thrones?
LANCE BARKSDALE: Hell yeah
KB: The only good imperialist is a dead imperialist
LB: Well, sure b--
KB: WHICH IS WHY I’M ROOTING FOR THE NIGHT KING
LB: Please stop

*

KB: Like knock knock jokes?
LB: As much as anyone but seems like an odd t--
KB: Knock knock
LB:
KB: Knock knock
LB: Who’s there
KB: The myriad of economic and social repercussions put in motion by the terms of the treaty of Versailles
LB: Well, I’m not answering this

*

KB: Not a strike
LB: You can’t argue balls and strikes
KB: A declaration is not inherently argumentative
LB: How could it not be in this context?
KB: Maybe I’m being helpful
LB: Well, I’m declaring it argumentative
KB: I don’t agree with that
LB: Now you’re arguing balls and strikes
KB: Not if you remove it from the balls and strikes context
LB: Nothing can ever be truly decontextualized
KB: Well then, everything is truly political
LB: Oh shit, politics in the workplace!


Choose Your Own Tim McCarver Adventure

By: Martin Nolan

Can you, Tim McCarver, make your way to the field to announce the game?

You are Cardinals announcer and legendary baseball entity Tim McCarver. You step out the door of your New York City hotel with nearly 60 years of professional baseball experience rattling around in your head. As you make your way to Citi Field for a game against the Mets, an elderly woman draped in decorative scarves steps in front of you brandishing an ancient medallion.

“Hello young man, do you wish to commune with the demons of the old city?”

Do you:

A) Extol the virtues of moving a runner over with a productive out
B) Share some of the wisdom you picked up from pitching coach Ray Rippelmeyer in the ‘60s

“Ahh, a baseball man,” the old woman responds, “just as I suspected. Follow me, quickly now.” She ushers you down a nearby alley and hoists you into a dumpster - but it’s no dumpster at all! It’s a secret passage leading into the sewers.

What is your next move?

A) Wander forward as you complain about the way teams today handle young pitchers with kid gloves
B) Wander forward as you rattle off the names of cast members from the 1953 film Stalag 17

As you wander further forward into the darkness of the sewers, you come across a massive rat with the head of a pigeon. You stop dead in your tracks as the pigeon-rat’s booming voice declares “I am Simurpius, ruler of the dampness, keeper of the darkness! He who encroaches upon my kingdom must correctly answer my 40 riddles or be eaten alive!”

Do you:

A) Express your desire for players to stop fraternizing so much with opposing teams
B) Say nothing as you reflect on the days when batters used to shorten up their swings with two strikes

“No one has ever dared to so brazenly ignore the wishes of Simurpius!” Cries the rat-pigeon. “You must be a powerful spirit indeed. Go on, you may consult the Cube.”

Simurpius steps aside to reveal a floating cube that glows in the darkness. The Cube shows all things - the entire spectrum of human emotion - all at once. No human has ever set eyes on so much truth.

Do you:

A) Think about just how nice it is to see the young guys out there hustling on the diamond
B) Tell the Cube about the importance of moving a runner over with a productive out

The Cube is impressed. The Cube hums the following rhyme: “Round bat, round ball, for a hundred years more, McCarver will be on the call.” The Cube then grows, it grows so big that it engulfs you. You close your eyes. When they open, you are in the broadcast booth at Citi Field, ready for the first pitch.

Just another day at the ballpark for you, Tim McCarver.


The Greatest Two-Sport Athlete Ever

By: Patrick Dubuque

When you think of the greatest modern two-sport athletes, the mind is drawn to the mid-nineties heyday: Bo, Deion, Brian Jordan. History buffs might conjure names like Jim Thorpe and Gene Conley, while people who care about track and field might say Bob Hayes or Jackie Robinson. A majority of the current electoral college, of course, would vote for Tim Tebow. They, and almost certainly you, are all wrong.

You can judge a two-sport star by how successful he is at his lesser sport, or his greater sport, or the combination of the two. But the thing about all two-sport athletes is that for the most part, there’s a ton of overlap in the underlying talent. The speed and reflexes that made Deion Sanders elite as a cornerback made him useful as an outfielder. And of course Jackie Robinson was great at track; the dude was fast. The greatest two-sport athletes is a list less of physical skill than of opportunity: those willing (or able) to qualify. But there’s one man whose greatness rested in almost entirely separate realms.

Jose Capablanca was born in Cuba in 1888, a frail yet intelligent boy. At 17 he attended Columbia University, passing its entrance exams with ease, with only one target on his mind: to join the school’s prestigious baseball club. He started on the school’s freshman team, taking over as their starting shortstop. We don’t know how well he did--the box scores, sadly, did not survive--and we can only speculate where his career would have taken him, because he soon dropped out of the university he had worked so hard to attend.

Capablanca, as it turned out, was the Michael Jordan of chess: surpassed, perhaps, in the modern game, but unrivaled in his time, one of the greatest to have ever lived.

At twenty he trounced US Champion Frank Marshall, 8-1, with fourteen draws. He traveled to Europe, dominated tournaments, until the current World Champion, Edmund Lasker, explicitly resigned to hand Capablanca the title. (After Jose raised some prize money, Lasker agreed to have a match after all, but quit halfway through with a large deficit and complaining of ill health.) Capablanca went eight straight years without losing a single tournament game, unthinkable and basically impossible by modern standards.

After his retirement, however, he was interviewed in 1935 by a reporter for Collier’s magazine. Capablanca was an elusive interview, but he was finally won over--by the promise that the reporter might acquaint him with Mickey Cochrane.


James Fegan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see James's other articles. You can contact James by clicking here
Patrick Dubuque is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Patrick's other articles. You can contact Patrick by clicking here

Related Content:  Cubs,  Cardinals,  Chess,  Interactive Fiction

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