Do we need heroes in sports?

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Buzz Bissinger has a post up over at The Daily Beast today, lamenting the absence of colorful heroes, rakes and rogues in sports today:

Sports are bigger than ever. It occupies us more than ever. It is ever exploding. There are still routinely great performances. But behind those performances there is less and less human dimension, either colorful or heroic … Are there any athletes in the modern-day era of sports either truly heroic or just truly colorful?

He comes up with a few examples. In the hero category he rightfully cites Pat Tillman, although his heroism had little to do with sports as such.  He also names a couple of people who fit the “colorful” bill well enough by virtue of their lack of self-censorship, like Rex Ryan, but notes that, for the most part, sports figures are programmed to be dull and non-responsive and private.

And he’s right.  It’s just that I just don’t know that this is a problem for anyone besides sports writers looking for juicy quotes.  While I love the stories about players of yore, the ones I love the most aren’t really about heroism as we tend to define it within the context of sports.  They’re the things written by or about people on the margins (think Jim Bouton), not the stuff written about the big names as they’re making their big marks.  The Mickey Mantle book that came out last year was way more insightful and interesting than anything anyone got from him when he was the king of the world.

Moreover, I don’t know that, insight aside, it’s all that healthy for our society to celebrate athletes as heroes.  How many of those would-be heroes pan out as true heroes over time?  How many role models turn out to be anything but?  Bissinger correctly notes that the relatively bloodless content of the game — the live action and recaps and box scores and all of that — has taken precedence, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  If anything, it helps us to remember that sports are just that — sports — and not some substitute for real life. As always, XKCD got it right when it comes to identifying what we’re really doing when we try to make sporting events into something greater than what they are.

I get what Bissinger is saying. And as someone who grew up on the sort of sports coverage in which heroes and rogues meant everything, I too sort of miss the lack of color we see today and like it when someone breaks from the “I’m just trying to help the ballclub” script.

But I don’t know that it’s a bad thing in an absolute sense. It’s just where sports and society is heading. And it may very well us to bring some different perspectives into the sporting world that could, just maybe, make our society’s relationship with sports a bit more healthy than it was in an age where narratives were applied and dramatic roles were assigned to people playing what are, in effect, random games.

Blue Jays acquire Rob Refsnyder from Yankees

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The Blue Jays acquired Yankees’ infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder for first base prospect Ryan McBroom, the teams announced Sunday. Refsnyder was designated for assignment by the Yankees earlier in the week and is expected to report to Triple-A Buffalo, while McBroom could find a landing place on the Blue Jays’ Double-A roster in Trenton.

Refsnyder, 26, had trouble heating up at the plate during his third campaign with the Yankees. He batted .135/.200/.216 with a double and two stolen bases through his first 40 PA in 2017 and was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre coming out of the All-Star break. His numbers solidified during a 38-game stint in Triple-A, where he posted a .312/.390/.464 batting line with 15 extra-base hits in 159 PA. He’s not slated for a major league gig with the Blue Jays just yet, but could see some time at second base behind Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, especially with Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki still on the mend.

McBroom, 25, was ranked No. 30 among the Blue Jays’ top prospects in 2017. He profiles as a bat-only first baseman with little speed or range in the infield, and was working through his second season at Double-A New Hampshire prior to the trade. He entered Sunday slashing .243/.321/.402 with 12 home runs through his first 392 PA of the year.

The Marlins won’t deal Giancarlo Stanton before the trade deadline

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Marlins’ president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters Sunday that he has no intention of dealing Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Justin Bour, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna or Dan Straily at the trade deadline this July. That’s a decision he feels would be better left in the hands of the Marlins’ new ownership, though the hand-off may still be a ways away.

That doesn’t mean that teams aren’t interested in the club’s core players, however. From Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:

It’s not stopping calls from coming in,” Hill said of the interest. “It’s been fairly consistent, with people checking in to see where we’re at to see if we may be open to expanding the players we’re talking about. But we haven’t put any of those guys in play.

ESPN’s Buster Olney adds that there’s a catch-22 when it comes to moving superstars like Stanton. He represents the face of the franchise and one of the team’s most significant assets, but the remainder of his 13-year, $325 million contract also makes up a sizable portion of the Marlins’ debt.

While the club may not be ready to deal some of their marquee players just yet, they don’t intend to sit pat at the deadline, either. They’re still looking to shed some payroll in the bullpen after dealing right-handed reliever David Phelps to the Mariners and appear to be listening to multiple offers on fellow righty A.J. Ramos. Ramos, 30, has seen mixed results over his first 37 1/3 innings of 2017 with a 3.86 ERA, 4.8 BB/9 and 11.1 SO/9, though Hill appears optimistic that the Marlins can extract considerable value from a trade.