Meta

Quote of the Day: Some meta-bloggy things

14 Comments

As always, give this one a pass if you don’t care about the navel-gazing stuff about blogging (and a bit of politics, but not directly), but I find it fascinating, so whatever. And yes, this rambles a bit, but I think I get to a point that is useful for our purposes.

This quote came from Andrew Sullivan today:

A blogger who is not prepared to make a total fool out of himself is not a real blogger.

It’s a satisfying quote in and of itself, but it’s made more fascinating in context and I want to unpack that a bit.

For those who don’t know him, Sullivan is a political blogger. One of the first political bloggers, actually, and one of the most widely read ones at that. And he’s terribly controversial too for any number of reasons. Some of the controversy is rooted in his personal life, career path and history. In more recent years it’s because he’s kind of an odd duck, politically speaking: he’s a long-time conservative who, since the middle of the past decade or so, has more or less gone to war with the conservative/Republican establishment (and they with him).

Part of this is philosophy and a big disagreement between he and his peers regarding what conservatism truly is. Part of it is Sullivan’s repudiation of the Iraq War, of which he was originally a staunch supporter. Part of it is that he is a huge fan of Obama and sharp critic of the current GOP. Part of it is that he’s just unique: you don’t find too many dudes who are Oxford-educated, devoutly Catholic, openly-gay (and HIV-positive), pro-gay marriage with a long string of conservative bona fides, jobs and positions who suddenly becomes a champion of a ton of lefty causes while still claiming to be a conservative.  We love labels in this country and Sullivan doesn’t wear many of them well.

The context of that quote:  Sullivan has taken some hits recently for claiming to be highly critical of Obama while really being a fanboy. I actually see both sides of this. He is critical of Obama on a lot of things. Torture, civil liberties, some cowardly foreign policy positions and some other things.  But it’s also the case that it seems like nothing short of Obama killing someone in cold blood with a Glock on national television will cause him to change his view of the man. Kind of a tough position to be in when you claim — as Sullivan’s personal motto does — that he’s “of no party or clique.” Fact is, he’s emotional. People try to slam him (with some homophobia implied, I believe) by calling  him “excitable”, but he’s basically an emotional writer.

Today Sullivan copped to a lot of that, but offered this defense (and here is where this starts to be relevant for us):

A blog updated every 20 minutes or so can only reveal a blogger’s human gyrations in the kind of granular detail a weekly columnist or less frenzied blogger can avoid. It is not always pretty; but I always try to keep it honest and open. Maybe I should be ashamed. I certainly feel exposed. And I wish I were omniscient and prescient and never had emotional responses to events … but that wouldn’t be much fun would it?

I agree with Sullivan on some things and disagree with him on others.  But it is an absolute fact that, as a blogger, I model myself after him. This was a conscious decision back when I started out in 2007. Originally in terms of blog frequency — I think Sullivan’s popularity has a lot to do with the fact that he posts A LOT — but eventually in terms of temperament too.

No, I’m not as emotional as he is, but I really do believe in the idea that a blog is an organic, reactive medium that should best be read as a whole over time. That the blogger, if he wants to create and speak to a community, has to be willing to react quickly and from the heart even if it means being wrong sometimes. To not try to be omniscient or pretend that he didn’t totally whiff on something once when writing about that topic again. To believe what you believe and to state it strongly, but to be prepared to change your position when the facts change on the ground and to not spend too much time trying to tortuously bend old positions into new ones as if they were always consistent. Human reasoning and learning doesn’t work that way.

I don’t always do that, of course. I have blind and stubborn spots. And of course this is a baseball blog not a political blog like Sullivan’s, so the stakes aren’t exactly as high, meaning that one need not look as fearless or foolish when those inevitable “human gyrations” occur.  But that is the goal and it is the thinking.

And it’s why I usually criticize writers who approach baseball from a position of authority, as if they know it all and you readers don’t. It’s why I laugh at people who slam me in the comments because I’m changing my position on something. What, we can’t learn too?  It’s just baseball.  Sure, I thought Bryce Harper was a punk when I first encountered him, but that was a kneejerk reaction. I feel differently now. So what? You never change your mind?

OK, enough of that navel gazing. I just like to throw this kind of stuff out there from time to time in order to make sure people know where I’m coming from.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
11 Comments

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.