Baseball players are social misfits

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Former big leaguer Brent Mayne has a new post up over at his blog and, like most of the stuff he writes, it’s pretty fantastic.

The subject: how baseball players are shielded from normal social interaction and how that turns them into social misfits. Not in the way we typically hear about athletes being coddled and told they’re special thereby giving them ego problems. No, Mayne’s point is far more mundane: ballplayers don’t deal with airports and reservations and conversations with people and stuff and it makes them, well, weird and insulated. He says it in much more plain and useful terms than I just did, though, so by all means go read it.

Mayne’s observations dovetail in with one of my pet social/political concerns, and that’s social equality. Not financial equality, mind you. I believe people should be rewarded for their talents and efforts. For as much of a commie as I may seem at times, I have no problem with personal wealth for the sake of personal wealth. Indeed, I’d like a great deal of it for myself, please.

But I am a bit distressed at the way that wealth — and not just wealth, but technology too, the access of which can be dependent on wealth — has, quite recently, really, served to cut off people from what I’ll call “the public square” for lack of a better term. Don’t want to wait on line with people anymore? Pay a little extra to get VIP service. Don’t want to deal with the masses in the stands at the ballpark? Spring for club level seats. Don’t want to head to the department store? Hire a personal shopper.

These (and a bunch of other examples) are all matters of convenience or luxury which are understandably desirable. And I’m not suggesting that we try to put a stop to them because they’re just part of the market functioning, and I’m a fan of the market more or less.

I just worry that we’re losing something as a society by not having to wait on line next to one another or assemble in the same social spaces as much as we used to. That, like Mayne and other ballplayers, the ability to eschew interaction with the general public, however understandable, desirable and inevitable it may be, is causing us all to become social misfits to some degree.

I mean, if you never stand next to strangers in close quarters, what’s forcing you to cover your mouth with your handkerchief when you sneeze? Metaphorically speaking, I mean.

And yes, working by myself from my own home for the past several months has had much to do with thoughts like these staying close to the surface. I hate offices. Never liked working in one. But when I go out in public lately, I sometimes feel like I have three heads and that I can’t put two sentences together with people in conversation.

Anyone else feel this way or am I just off in Crazy Craig Land here?

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.