The thinker

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.

Braves sign former football player Sanders Commings

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 15:  Cornerback Sanders Commings #26 of the Kansas City Chiefs on the sidelines during the pre-season NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 15, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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The Braves have signed former football player and current outfielder Sanders Commings, an Augusta, Georgia native, to a minor league contract, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports.

Commings, 26, was a defensive back who played for the University of Georgia before being selected by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. He appeared in two games in the 2013 season.

Commings also played baseball for Westside High School and was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 37th round of the 2008 draft. He chose to attend the University of Georgia instead. When football didn’t pan out, Commings started training with Jerry Hairston, Jr. Hairston said he was “blown away” when he saw Commings hit for the first time.

Obviously, Commings’ path to success as a professional baseball player will be long, but it’s a no-risk flier for the Braves. The club has past experience with football players, including Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan.

The next task for the Braves will be to acquire Ryan Goins from the Blue Jays. That way, players will look at the lineup card each day to see if it’s Commings or Goins.

Justin Verlander: “I’d like to see the AL and NL have the same rules… I vote NL rules.”

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 10:  Starting pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on August 10, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
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On Thursday afternoon, Rays pitcher Chris Archer asked his Twitter followers, “Lots swirling around what needs to be changed about the game of baseball. What do y’all want to see changed, if anything, & why?”

Tigers ace Justin Verlander responded:

To that, Archer said:

For what it’s worth, Verlander hasn’t been much of a hitter. In 47 career plate appearances, he has three singles and no extra-base hits. And if the AL did get rid of the DH rule, the Tigers would have nowhere to put Victor Martinez. Verlander, though, would have an easier time pitching to opposing pitchers rather than their DH’s.