The Braves are winning. And it's not because of "grit"

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I follow the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Dave O’Brien on Twitter because (a) I’m a Braves fan; and (b) because O’Brien is pretty darn good. I think he’s a good writer, a good analyst, he’s entertaining, he likes good food and good music. You fit that description, and I’m just about guaranteed to follow you.

In the last couple of days, O’Brien has tweeted a number of facts about the 2010 Braves.  They’ve been pretty good facts too!  For example:

  • The only two NL players who’ve been on base more
    than Martin Prado (117) are Albert Pujols (123) and Prince Fielder
    (118);

  • Billy Wagner’s past 12 appearances: 11-1/3
    innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts, .105 opp avg, and
    8-for-8 saves converted.

The team is getting on base! The leadoff hitter is one of baseball’s most overlooked studs!  The closer is unhittable.  These, combined with an entire feature he wrote today on how good Tommy Hanson has been, plus the oodles of pages of analysis he’s written on Jason Heyward all provide ample explanation for the Braves being in first place.

Except that’s not good enough for O’Brien, apparently. Check this out:

Hudson hit nail on the head: These Braves are
tougher, grittier.

Then he links to a blog post he did today in which he accepts Tim Hudson’s assertions that the Braves are winning this year because they are just a tougher, grittier baseball team then they used to be. Literally, he says there’s “a toughness, a grittiness, a dirt-ball determination” about the Braves that is the difference between the 2010 edition and any of the other teams from the past five years.

O’Brien doesn’t dismiss actual performance — the latter half of the article expands on the facts from his tweets — but this stuff drives me nuts.  Yes, a player said it so you probably have to quote it, but I wish writers would acknowledge that in almost every single case a player’s characterization of his team as “tough” and “gritty” is a post-hoc determination that happens only on winning teams. Indeed, if anyone can find me an example of a losing team that was described as tough or gritty, I’ll eat my hat.

I don’t mean to pick on O’Brien here. It’s just that he writes so much and he writes so well most of the time that it kind of bums me out that he goes with this whole grit thing.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.

 

Justin Turner talks “Easy D”

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up prior to game six of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:

No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!

Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:

It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:

I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.

And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.