Statue Planet of the Apes

Quit erecting statues of living people

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This has almost nothing to do with baseball, so spare me the “slow news day?” comments and just move along if you don’t like it.

There’s a story in the Arizona Republic about how people want to build a statue of Jerry Colangelo, the original owner of the Diamondbacks and previous owner of the Phoenix Suns.  The problem: local business politics make it awkward:

Ken Kendrick, the team’s managing general partner, once feuded with Colangelo, who unceremoniously left the team after the 2004 season. Their relationship is much improved, and Kendrick said he’d be supportive of any plans to honor Colangelo. But he also said it “creates some awkwardness for me to participate in this discussion.”

and

… it would require a new mayor, Greg Stanton, to impose a statue on a [Phoenix Suns] team now owned by Robert Sarver, who has struggled to match the popularity of his predecessor.

At John McLeod’s recent Ring of Honor ceremony, Colangelo and Sarver were introduced in succession. One man received heavy applause, while the other received the opposite reaction. How amenable would Sarver be to furthering that perception with another celebration of Colangelo?

Know what? There are a bunch of statues on the Statehouse lawn here in Columbus. And there are are tons in Washington D.C. There are statues of notable people in every other city too. And there are buildings and museums and colleges and airports and bridges named after famous people all over the place.

Know what else? Until very, very recently, all that naming was done after the namesake was dead. And there was a reason for that: so no one had to worry about whether the honoree’s successors would feel uncomfortable or awkward about it like they do in Phoenix.  Also, so that there can be some perspective about the honoree’s accomplishments.  It was also done that way in case the honoree, after his statue was erected, decided to go on a multi-state killing spree, thereby leading to more awkwardness about what to do with the friggin’ statue now that it honors a mass murderer or something.

Now we insist on honoring people like this while they’re living for some reason.  With politicians, I think it’s done to stake territory and claim some sort of political victory or to rewrite history.  Ronald Reagan got the the second largest and most expensive federal building ever constructed named after him — a building which questionably meshes government and private sector functions — despite the fact that he deplored federal power and involvement in the private sector and was an enemy of government sprawl, bureaucracy and waste. But hey: it’s a trophy on some prime real estate and that’s what matters despite the fact that it’s a pretty inappropriate honor for the guy given what he represented while in power.

In the private sector I think there’s something about rich people who are afraid of death. Or who crave immortality maybe. Give them (or their friends, because most people don’t spearhead these things for themselves) a statue or a park or whatever now so that they may bask in the glory and the honor now, while they still can. Which, hey, understandable.

But it doesn’t seem to me that that’s what such honors should be about. They should be about history and lessons for the future and inspiration to others, which are decidedly outward looking, not inward looking, and thus the honoree’s current status — dead or alive — should be irrelevant.

Maybe it’s not the most important thing in the world, but I think of all of this as just one of many ways in which an old civic culture we once had in this country is disappearing. I’ll spare you all of my other examples because they have even less to do about baseball than this thing.  But for now: we used to put up statues of dead people. Now we put up statues of living people.  And that just seems wrong to me.

Yasiel Puig visits the Statue of Liberty, meets a Yasiel Puig fan

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig reacts in dugout after hitting a RBI sacrifice fly against the San Francisco Giants during fifth inning of a spring baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sunday, March 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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Yasiel Puig is in New York to face the Mets this weekend. Yesterday was a day off so he got to explore New York. You can tell he’s not a New Yorker because he actually went to visit the Statue of Liberty.

I likewise assume that Puig made it to where the boat leaves for Liberty Island with plenty of time to spare, because God knows he’s had a week in which him hustling to make it just in time wasn’t gonna happen.

In other news, Puig made a friend on the boat:

Wade Boggs did not wear his Yankees ring to his number retiring ceremony last night

BOSTON, MA - MAY 26:  Wade Boggs acknowledges the crowd during the retirement of his jersey #26 prior to the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies at Fenway Park on May 26, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The other day we had the non-controversy of Wade Boggs wearing his 1996 World Series ring, which he won with the Yankees, to a ceremony honoring the 1986 Red Sox. Last night, however, Boggs was feted as an individual, with his number 26 being retired at Fenway Park.

It was an emotional night for him. He was visibly choked up and said all sorts of things which clearly showed how much more, at heart, he is a Boston Red Sox legend than he is a legend of either of the other teams for which he played. And he made a comment about the Yankees ring thing too:

He wore his Hall of Fame ring on Thursday.

“I’m proud of it,” Boggs said of the ’96 Yankees’ ring. “But I didn’t feel like it was appropriate today being that it’s my day, it’s my number and everything like that. So I left it off.”

The dude hit .328 for his career and had 3,010 hits despite not even playing a full season until he was 25. He could wear a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring out there and no one would have the right to say boo to him.

Must-Click Link: Big Brother is Watching Ballplayers

Big Brother
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Over at Vice Rian Watt has a great story about how technology is changing baseball. No, it’s not about sabermetrics or statistical analysis. At least not as you all know and understand those things. It’s about how the players themselves are now becoming the data. About how wearables — little devices which monitor everything about an athlete’s behavior — and analysis of that behavior is changing clubs’ understanding of what makes baseball players excel.

Which is fine if you approach it solely from a technological standpoint and do that usual “gee, what a world we live in” stuff that such articles typically inspire. Watt, however, talks about the larger implications of turning players into data: the blurring of their professional and personal lives:

Welcome to the next frontier in baseball’s analytic revolution. Many of this revolution’s tenets will be familiar to anyone who works for a living—the ever-growing digitization and quantification of things never-before measured and tracked, for instance, or the ever-expanding workplace, the blurring distinction between the professional and the personal, and the cult of self-improvement for self-improvement’s sake. These broader trends are colliding with baseball tradition on backfields and in training facilities around the major leagues, and those collisions have raised questions about privacy, security, and what employees owe their employers.

Players already accept drug testing and rules about personal behavior. But can a club, armed with knowledge about how it affects a player’s performance, make rules about how he sleeps? What kind of shoes he wears off the field? Everything he eats?

I’m the last person to fall for slippery slope fallacies. In most instances there are lines that can be drawn when it comes to regulating the behavior of others and making new rules. But in order to draw those lines you have to ask questions about what is and what is not acceptable. You also have to acknowledge that it’s really easy for technology to get ahead of our ability to comprehend its ethical implications.

Vin Scully recites the “People will come” speech from “Field of Dreams”

James
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You all probably know my thing about “Field of Dreams.” Specifically, that I hate it. Maybe my least favorite baseball movie ever. And I have sat through “The Slugger’s Wife” at least twice. That’s really saying something. At some point I’ll watch it again and liveblog the experience to explain my position on this — I know all of you think I’m nuts for not liking it — but just accept that I don’t like it for now, OK?

But just because a movie stinks doesn’t mean every aspect of it is bad. I loved Burt Lancaster in everything he did and he did an excellent job in “Field of Dreams.” Same with James Earl Jones for the most part. I thought he did a great job playing a character which, at times, didn’t have as much to work with as he could’ve had. No, there are good elements of “Field of Dreams.” If there weren’t — if it were just a total turkey — it wouldn’t inspire the feelings I have about it. If it were an unmitigated disaster, I’d occasionally re-watch it on a so-bad-it’s-good theory.

The “People will come” speech is good. Not necessarily for its content — there’s some hokeyness to it — but because James Earl Jones does a great job delivering it. He could read the dang phone book and make it compelling

Yesterday Major League Baseball launched a partnership thingie with the Field of Dreams site in Iowa. Part of that effort involved having Vin Scully recite the “People will come” speech over some baseball footage. Watch and listen:

Personally, I’d prefer Vin to tell some kooky story about an opposing player actually being a part time flautist or what have you. He’s had many monumental moments, but Scully is Scully for the way he makes the workaday and the mundane sound poetic, not because he takes the already poetic and elevates it further.

Still, this is good. Even to a hater like me. And I’m sure a lot of you will love it.