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May 26, 2011

Span and Sain and Pray for Rain

One Cliche at a Time

by Emma Span

Anyone who watches a lot of baseball coverage realizes early on that most of what players, coaches, and managers say to the press is essentially meaningless. “We’ve just got to find a way to score runs.” Yes, that generally helps. “I was looking for a pitch I could drive.” Good strategy. “That’s baseball.” Thank you. “We’ve just got to give 110%.” Why stop there?

The pinnacle of inane sports reaction quotes is, of course, “it is what it is,” quite possibly the five least meaningful words it’s possible to string together in English. I’ve been ranting about “it is what it is” for years, which makes it all the more painful when, every now and then in a moment of stress, I find myself saying it. Of course it is what it is. If it ever isn’t what it is, that’s when I hope someone will let me know.

Anyway. I’m sure most of you will recall that famous Bull Durham scene where Crash Davis teaches Nuke how to talk to reporters. “You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: ‘We gotta play it one day at a time…’”

The trendy clichés have evolved over the years since that movie, however—though there is always a place for play it one day at a time—and I figure it’s time for an updated baseball cliché list to guide young players, in case their media training classes don’t quite cover it: the fine art of talking without saying anything. The following paragraphs are taken entirely from actual postgame quotes over the last two weeks, from dozens of different players (in most cases, though not all, it’s one sentence per player). I find them oddly soothing.

AFTER A WIN:

Obviously, it's good for us to come in here and do this and keep moving and playing well. It feels nice to contribute to a game where everyone contributes. You just have to focus on taking it one inning, one pitch at a time. My job is to keep it close and good things are going to happen. I just wanted to win the game. I was throwing my normal game like I pitch to any other team. I thought I was throwing a lot of strikes. I would say every time I go out there I get better and better mentally.

I was putting the ball in play and seeing the ball well. I was looking for a ball to drive. I wasn't looking for the pitch at all, but he just threw it over the plate and I put a good swing on it. They left a couple of pitches over the plate and I took advantage of them. I thought it was foul at first, but it didn't end up curving. I didn't know if it would get out or off the wall. Guys are getting on base, which is good… If there's nobody on base, you can't drive anybody in.

You have to keep focused. I don't understand how it happens, but I'll take it. It shows that baseball is a crazy game. See, I don't worry about it. If you keep winning, everything will take care of itself.

We don't complain. The good thing is that we won the game. I felt all along our team would go on a roll somewhere. We definitely needed this one. That's the team that we can be. We just keep battling and grinding and don't give up.

AFTER A LOSS:

It was an uphill battle from the get-go. It's very frustrating, because we know we can play. It's hard to stay positive.

He didn't have a consistent location or a consistent command and it cost him. I wasn't making my pitches. I wasn't hitting my spots. It was almost like even if I was, they were still going to find a hole. That's baseball. You get days where you nub three or four and they go for hits. I didn't try to walk anybody and when I got behind in the count I still pitched my game. They can be down three runs, down one run, it doesn't matter, you can't let off the gas pedal. I left it out over the plate and he did what he's supposed to do. I consider it a mistake and good hitting. It was a bad pitch and he's great hitter. My job is to go out there and get outs. I kind of got away from my game, I guess. It's not frustrating, I just have to get better. I just worry about preparing for the next start.

When it comes to my at-bats, I should have done a better job. He kept us off balance. You’ve just got to tip your cap. We had our chances through this lineup to get a hit. Opportunities are there, but we just haven't seen them get that hit.

We just had a tough day. We just haven't gotten many breaks. That's part of the deal. We couldn't get a break. Every team is going to have a game like this. We're not out of anything. This team will bounce back. I know it. We have to forget about today. Come Friday, our heads will be clear and we'll be ready to go again. Get some sleep and come back ready to play.

It is what it is.

ALL OTHER SITUATIONS:

The last couple starts, I've felt a lot better. I definitely feel better than I did before. It's not about one guy. It's about the ballclub. I have a job to do, and that's to do what's best for the team. He's just playing baseball. It shows that baseball is a crazy game. It's going to be a big challenge. They're a great team, but we've been playing good. Hopefully we can come out on top.

It is what it is.

Emma Span is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Emma's other articles. You can contact Emma by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Payoff Pitch: How ... (05/26)
<< Previous Column
Span and Sain and Pray... (05/12)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Span and Sain and Pray... (06/13)
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Baseball ProGUESTus: A... (05/26)

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