Baseball is being ruined by the “cult of individualism,” says some guy

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I get accused — not wrongly — of over thinking things from time to time. Well I got nothin’ on David Sirota, who writes in Salon today about how our society’s veneration of the individual over the collective is ruining baseball.

The basis of his argument: a study which shows that teams who spend big money on individual players as opposed to spreading payroll out more equitably do better financially, even as they do more poorly in the won-loss column.

The observation leads to this kind of thing, which could lead to one of those Andrew Sullivan-style “Poseur Awards” were I so inclined to bestow them on people:

… considering the history, it’s hardly a surprise that the worship of the individual is so powerfully reflected in sports in general — even in those sports that are structured against the individual. That’s because while political forces like Reaganism and Tea Party-ism have certainly helped intensify hyper-individualism, nothing has been more powerful in selling that ethos than professional athletics.

Note: unless you’re quoting Walter’s take about nihilists from “The Big Lebowski,” anyone who uses the term “ethos” in general writing needs to loosen up a bit.

That aside, anyone who has taken a decent Western Civ course in the past 25 years or so knows that our society’s focus on the individual at the expense of the collective is something that began — or, rather, re-emerged — in the Renaissance, not some time in the 1980s when you decided you didn’t much care for the culture anymore. At least among elites, which is what superstar athletes are.

So what I’m saying is that this is not news, let alone troubling news.  The individual has been a major draw in baseball since basically the beginning of baseball. Just ask Babe Ruth. Or any other big name player who was given a contract to show up on some barnstorming tour at one time or another. Wait, you can’t ask them because they’re all long dead.

In other news, yes, there are lengths to how much over analysis I can stand. And with this, I think we’ve reached it.

Nick Williams has been trying to sell Jake Arrieta on the Phillies

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CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.

Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”

On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”

Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.

Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.