As Pitch did a few episodes ago, this episode steals a framing device and thematic trope from Aaron Sorkin and The West Wing, as we start off the episode by finding out Ginny’s in counseling with vague quick flashbacks, and then flesh out everything else that’s happened. This isn’t quite “Noel,” the first West Wing episode in this style, and Kylie Bunbury probably isn’t winning an Emmy like Brad Whitford did, but it’s a heck of an episode. It also has nearly no baseball in it, which made us wonder: Is this the start of a transition from "this is a show about the first woman major leaguer (in the modern era)" to "this is a show about people, one of whom is a woman that plays baseball?”
Jarrett: Our journey starts with Ginny signing a multi-million dollar marketing deal with Nike. Once again, we use actual brands in this episode, Nike and New Balance, which I think helps the overall vibe. We get a very Nike seeming mock commercial that compares Ginny to Jackie Robinson, Sally Ride, and Barack Obama. It’s pretty damn cool—except it’s not cool with Ginny, who suffers a panic attack in the middle of the following night, revealing anxiety issues that are not surprising but hadn’t been fleshed out. Ginny also isn’t cool with Nike asking her to ditch her beloved old glove from Ghost Dad for a new Ginny-branded Nike fielding glove.
Meg: It’s been a minute since Ginny has had to grapple with her unique position in baseball. After settling into the clubhouse, she’s mostly been portrayed as a good fifth starter. We don’t get the sense she’s in any danger of being sent back down, she has a good relationship with Mike and Blip; she’s doing fine. But there is a disconnect between being a good fifth starter and being an historically important fifth starter, and there has to be a part of that which feels unearned. She’s good enough to be in the clubhouse; whether she’s good enough to be thought of as historically great is an unsettled question from a baseball perspective, and the rush to settle it in order to sell shoes has to feel… not great.
Jarrett: Then Ginny gets bombed in her next start, right before the big LA launch party to introduce Ginny as the face of Nike. The party comes and Ginny seems uncomfortable but okayish, until she ends up hiding behind catering carts and asking a nice-seeming waitress to go party elsewhere with normal people her own age.
Meg: I always wonder why stuff like this doesn’t happen more. A lot of young players are well-disciplined but they’re also in their early 20s, under enormous pressure, and in possession of means. If you think about it, it’s sort of shocking we don’t see more party videos. The everydayness of baseball lends itself to rigorous routine, but that kind of routine can make you feel a little nutty. Imagine how liberating it would feel to be able to blow it all off, even for just an evening.
Jarrett: Especially within the context of fairly harmless partying. Ginny isn’t doing anything illegal or even untoward in this, just diving into a pool. I suppose when we do see these types of antics, we don’t pay attention all that much unless it’s either blown up by the team into a big issue (thinking of Tyler Seguin and the Bruins here) or it’s someone the magnitude of Ginny. But, I mean, Matt Harvey’s lifestyle and the subsequent videos and photos thereof have been a constant concern in New York media and fandom for the last four years.
Back in the world of Pitch, this all ends up with Ginny stealing a dude’s New Balance shoes to do a trampoline basketball dunk into a pool. Because she’s Ginny Baker, someone is there taking video and the fact that she stole New Balances instead of Nikes is a silly yet major issue, much more than the fact that she was doing a trampoline dunk into the pool in the middle of the night. We got to see the dunk from a few different levels and it majorly owned.
Meg: The dunk was amazing. This wasn’t the first glimpse we’ve gotten of how manufactured some aspects of Ginny’s life are, but when Amelia informs her she’ll be donating tickets to veterans and giving them bags of Nike swag, it drove it home yet again. Ginny has spent various parts of the series reminding Amelia that she isn’t a brand, she’s a ball player. She spent large parts of this episode reminding Amelia and herself of the same. But she can’t escape the brands. The brands come for you, and they manufacture PR.
Jarrett: But there’s another twist, as the waitress happens to record Ginny’s secret drunken true thoughts about how miserable she is playing baseball and how she doesn’t want to go back to her day-to-day job. The waitress thankfully turns the video footage over to the Padres, because she’s concerned about Ginny’s overall mental health, as opposed to somewhere like TMZ. Surprisingly, the most sympathetic to Ginny out of the Padres team-plus-Amelia is our crusty old Dan Lauria of a manager, Al Luongo. It seems like Luongo himself probably has dealt with anxiety and mental health issues, and I wonder if we’re heading towards exploring that.
Meg: The thing about crusty old managers is that they’ve seen it all. They’ve seen every possible expression of cracking under pressure, and he has the good sense to try to help. This is the most we’ve felt the presence of Ghost Dad in a while, though thankfully he doesn’t actually make an appearance. The question you always get with sports movies featuring an overbearing parent is how much does this kid even want to be an athlete? Does Ginny even want to pitch? Toward the end of her therapy session with Rita Wilson, who was wonderful in this, she’s finally able to admit that she doesn’t know if she even wants to do this. The mere suggestion of the question is terrifying. Think back to the pilot. Ginny admits she has no friends, no interests outside of baseball. She (and her father) doggedly pursued a path to the majors. Of course, the scarier question still looms for her. Because if she doesn’t want to pitch, what does she want to do?
Jarrett: It’s a scary thing, and quite an authentic and relatable one. I think a lot of people in their early-to-mid-20s have faced that kind of dilemma, albeit on a much less public and grand scale. I hope Rita Wilson sticks around a bit, too.
Mike Lawson has quite an episode here as well. His inadvertent discovery of Ginny’s panic attack through Amelia comes out and causes more friction between Ginny, Mike, and Amelia. So Mike and Amelia do the adult thing and split up, except Mike then does the somewhat un-adult thing and gets smashed at the party. Then he does the really not-so-adult thing and drunkenly Ubers to his ex-wife’s house. She’s having friends over for dinner with her new beau, and Mike lampshades the whole thing by pointing out it’s literally a recycled Major League plot.
British Pediatric Heart Surgeon New Fiancee/Not Nick Swisher, of course, invites Mike in for dessert at the dinner party. After some general awkwardness we get our Mike and JoAnna Garcia Swisher heart-to-heart, where Mike once again declares his love for his ex and she once again shoots him down because he just wants the chase and not her. We get melodramatic intonations about Mike figuring out what he really wants. This is obviously going to end up being Ginny but I still have no idea how long we’re going to spend getting there.
Meg: They were so close to not making me worry. They could have had Mike reconnect with his ex-wife, or stay with Amelia, or just be the platonic idea of a catcher parading as a single man. Instead, they had both Amelia and his ex-wife hint that there is something out there he really wants more than the chase. I hope I am wrong, but I fear that this is all setting up a bold declaration from Mike, a rebuff from Ginny, and a reason for Mike to request a trade.
Jarrett: Finally, we get a C-plot involving Eliot. Eliot was one of the more concerning characters in the pilot episode, but has faded a bit into the background since, serving as Amelia’s all-purpose assistant more than a social media guru. He fills that role more noticeably here, being asked to give up his random party flirtation with a pretty girl to go track Ginny down with Amelia. In the middle of the chase, he reveals that he gave up a good life—a girlfriend, a band, presumably other stuff—to be on Team Ginny. So Amelia gives him a title bump and a raise. Go Eliot, I guess. Then at the end of the episode the sword of Damocles from the Trevor episode pops up: Ginny’s hacked private photos. So that’s probably going to be next week’s episode.
I really liked this episode as a deconstruction of Ginny, but it’s also by far the least baseball-y and most difficult to write about.
Meg: After an episode spent (please forgive the expression) on the inside baseball of the trade deadline, it was nice to refocus on why we care. This is about Ginny and her journey, and like any rookie, it isn’t always a smooth one. That she faces a different level of pressure by virtue of being “Ginny Baker” is something that needs to be continuously explored, because “wearing it” in the course of one’s life is really tricky. At the end of the episode we see her newly determined and energized. I imagine we’ll spend the rest of the season figuring out to what end.
Next week, Ginny’s nude selfies surface (words I never thought I’d write at Baseball Prospectus), and the baseball world reacts!
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