Some nights nothing goes your way, including the manager.
Every close-knit group of friends will develop its own vernacular. Spend enough time with the same people and you’ll share enough experiences and stories that it doesn’t make sense to spell out the entire metaphor—you just quote the line from the movie everyone has memorized, and everyone understands.
Similarly, people who love baseball develop their own semi-secret language around the game—maybe not every Tom, Dick and Harry at the ballpark, but you’re enough of a diehard to read Baseball Prospectus, so you know what I’m talking about. The vocabulary comes from old friends or coaches, or from indelible moments from the past, and every fan has his or her own unique set of idioms.
A decade after Barry Bonds, a few days after Bryce Harper: On the search for a solution to what might or might not be a problem with overzealous intentional walkers.
A friend of mine is, for reasons passing understanding, a Washington Nationals fan, and she emailed me Monday morning, understandably upset about her team’s performance over the weekend. Among her grievances was that Bryce Harper, the exquisitely coiffed hitter of baseballs and swearer-at-of-umpires, drew three intentional walks and came to the plate seven times without putting a ball in play.
So she suggested that MLB institute a rule against intentionally walking the same batter more than twice in the same game.
I don’t remember whose it was, but I saw an opinion on Twitter this week that got me thinking. “We don’t make good baseball movies anymore,” was the gist of it, and that’s the truth.
We used to make baseball movies all the time—many of them good, some not—and if you came of age in last 15 years of the 20th Century, you couldn’t swing a bat without hitting a squinting Kevin Costner. I don’t know if anyone else calls it this, but I call it the Golden Age of Baseball Movies, starting with The Natural in 1984, going on to The Rookie in 2002. Within that golden age was a second subset, the golden age of children’s baseball movies, in which Rookie of the Year, The Sandlot, Angels in the Outfield and Little Big League came out in 1993 and 1994 alone, alongside numerous other films about kids playing sports. I was getting into baseball for the first time around then, and I remember feeling like a new baseball movie came out every week.
Can teams tell the difference between Bad and Weird?
It’s tough enough to look at a 17-to-22-year-old boy and predict with the certainty appropriate for a multimillion-dollar decision what kind of baseball player he’ll be in five years without also having to determine what kind of man he’ll grow up to be.
The second part is a messy bucket of four-day-old fruit cocktail called makeup. Makeup is useful, because limited though a scout’s interaction with a player might be, it’s better than nothing. Makeup comprises things like work ethic, receptiveness to coaching and ability to respond under pressure, which impact on-field performance directly, as well as other qualities that reflect the truth that teams aren’t just trying to hire ballplayers—they’re hiring employees. Good makeup can also mean that a player will fit in with the corporate culture, that he’ll get along with his co-workers and behave in a manner that reflects well on the company.
Three years ago, Michael was dead wrong about the shift. He still is, but now he has a powerful ally.
I love Joe Girardi, in large part because he looks like a Serious Dad. He’s got the kind of stern face that makes you believe that you were actually wrong to play Indoor Softball in front of the new TV.
By virtue of his Serious Dad Face, among other skills and virtues, Girardi has navigated two tricky ownership groups, become the only manager ever to win Manager of the Year with a losing record and—most importantly—won the 2009 World Series.
One look at the uncertainty of your favorite prospect.
Yesterday afternoon a tweet appeared in my mentions, more or less out of the blue, about a particularly impressive crop of former college baseball players in last night’s game between the Lakeland Flying Tigers and the Brevard County Manatees.
That shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that most good SEC players will find their way to High-A sooner or later, and the Flying Tigers are the Florida State League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, who have pretty much drafted all my favorite college players over the past few years: In 2014 alone they picked up South Carolina catcher Grayson Greiner and his teammate Joey Pankake, whose three years in Columbia I followed and chronicled obsessively. They added Vanderbilt pitcher Adam Ravenelle and Virginia pitcher Artie Lewicki, both College World Series standouts that year, in the same draft, and a year later picked up Tennessee outfielder Christin Stewart and TCU pitcher Tyler Alexander with their first two picks in 2015, then added LSU catcher Kade Scivicque in the fourth.
The 19-strikeout game is rarer than the perfect game, but is it more impressive? The answer is complicated, and time-sensitive.
Sometime in the past few years, certain circles of modern sabermetric/internet baseball community became performatively disinterested in the no-hitter, which is one of those things I understood the appeal of but never really felt edgy enough to get on board with myself, like punk rock or those cool haircuts where you only shave the sides of your head.
The perfect game is still the pinnacle of single-game pitching achievement, but second place now belongs to the ultra-high strikeout game: pitchers who chase 18, 19 or even 20 strikeouts in a single nine-inning start.
Baseball is coming out of a culture war fought between establishment forces and a coalition of forces representing the values of modern capitalism, the democratization of publishing and the advancement of empirical science. The end result of this war is that while 25 years ago, baseball was run by baseball men who did baseball things for baseball reasons, and was commented on by men who viewed the game largely through that lens, people who run the teams are younger men with business degrees, who employ physicists, statisticians, scientists and engineers to figure out how to understand how to build a winning team. Some of these empiricists reside in a somewhat more diverse media landscape, alongside orthodox baseball voices as well as people who came to at least some level of authority involving baseball through nontraditional means.
I can’t speak to what’s happening in front offices themselves, but in media, the war metaphor is instructive. The so-called baseball people and their adherents resent that the intellectual hegemony they enjoyed before baseball’s empirical revolution, and before the advent of the internet, is gone. Like any conquered population, some are adapting and moving on under the new paradigm, while others are attempting to stage an insurgency.
Six months of waiting end in almost immediate disappointment for two players.
Talk to enough diehard baseball fans and you’ll find people who find comfort in the length of the baseball season. Baseball will never really feel like an event because it isn’t one—it’s mundane, quotidian. Football is a vacation. Football happens once a week on national TV—you block out your day to watch football. Baseball happens six times a week, times 30 teams if you’re an MLB.tv addict. You don’t block out your day to watch baseball, but baseball’s on the radio while you’re driving home from work or doing the dishes. It’s on the TV when you’re at the bar with your friends. It’s humming in the background while you fall asleep on the sofa on Sunday afternoon.
Baseball is always there when you need it because baseball is always there.
What happens when the surest thing in baseball gets too old for an extension? If you aren't careful, things get weird.
Sometime three or four years ago, it seems like a lot of baseball fans had the same realization at the same time: “Wow, Adrian Beltre’s really good—even Hall of Fame-worthy. But nobody realizes this, so he’s going to miss the Hall of Fame when he comes up and we’re all going to riot.”
Fortunately—perhaps—for Beltre, public opinion corrected itself. Fortunately for us, Beltre’s tacked on a few more years of star-quality production for us to watch. When the Texas Rangers signed Beltre to a six-year, $96 million contract after an insane one-year stint in Boston in 2010, it looked like one of those veteran free agent deals where the team pays in extra years as well as in extra dollars. But entering the last year of that contract, his age-37 season, Beltre’s been superb—worth every dollar of that $96 million, and more.