Kevin Youkilis

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Twins 4, White Sox 1: Kevin Youkilis made his Chisox debut and went one for four in a loss and gave us this odd picture of him in a White Sox uniform. Adam Dunn went 0 for 4 and struck out four times, but the list of things he gives less of a crap about than that is pretty short, I’d presume. Francisco Liriano went seven innings and allowed only one run. Looked like the Twins’ ace.

Reds 3, Brewers 1: When I was at Great American Ballpark over the weekend I learned that if Reds pitchers combine for 11 or more strikeouts that everyone in the park got a free small pizza and a free scoop of ice cream from LaRosa’s. Johnny Cueto and the bullpen came close to that on Saturday, and when, late in the game, a Twins batter would ground out or fly out, some people in the upper deck near us would boo because, dammit, they wanted their free pizza and ice cream.  Well, Mat Latos got it for ’em last night: 13 strikeouts in a four-hit complete game.

Royals 8, Rays 0: Luke Hochevar tossed a seven hit shutout while striking out eight. I wonder if anyone gets free burnt ends in Kansas City for eleven strikeouts.

Rockies 4, Nationals 2: You’d think that Steven Strasburg giving up only three runs while striking out eight and walking only one dude in Coors Field would lead to a Nats win, but the park played somewhat reasonably on a 100 degree night in Denver. Jeff Francis allowed only two runs over five and the Rockies’ pen shut ’em out over the next four.

Cubs 6, Mets 1: The AP headline as of 11:44 last night was “Wood pitches Cubs to win over Mets.” Made me think of Kerry and I got all sad and nostalgic. Of course I doubt Kerry Wood would show up to bat looking like this.

Padres 8, Astros 7: Last week at the Padres game I used Carlos Quentin as the example to my kids of why a player may be traded in the middle of a season. As in, “sometimes when a guy is playing well for a team that isn’t so good, he’ll get traded to a team that is doing better in the middle of the season in exchange for someone who might help the bad team next year.” Since then, the boy keeps asking me if Carlos Quentin has been traded yet. Not yet, Carlo. He was around to double in the winning run on the top of the tenth for the Padres.

Tigers 8, Rangers 2: Rangers starter Justin Grimm lived up to his name — and I’m sure inspired some punny headlines this morning — in allowing six runs on eight hits in a single inning of work which saw him throw 52 pitches. Way to lay one on the pen on a night that saw triple digit temperatures.

Cardinals 8, Marlins 6: Miami had a 6-1 lead as the eighth inning began, and a 6-2 lead entering the ninth, but then Heath Bell worked his magic, allowing four runs on three hits in the ninth. But hey, since it was such a large lead he surrendered, no blown save! I’m always looking on the bright side of things, folks. It’s just who I am.

Yankees 7, Indians 1: Robinson Cano stayed hot, homering and driving in three. DeWayne Wise — really? — homered, tripled and drove in three too. Maybe it’s too early for watching the standings, but a Tigers win and an Indians and White Sox loss pulls Detroit to within two of first place. For as miserable as their season has gone, they’re in the Central, so I’ve never really worried about them. Until they have to face teams like the Yankees in the playoffs, of course.

Phillies 8, Pirates 2: If you had told me that Joe Blanton would be one of the Phillies best two starters before the season started I woulda told you you was crazy. But there you go. Blanton struck out eight and allowed two earned runs over seven innings while walking one. Jimmy Rollins continued his recent tear by going long again.

Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 6: Colby Rasmus drove in three. The Jays also lost another starting pitcher to an injury when Henderson Alvarez had to leave the game early, but what the hell else is new for Toronto? On the Boston side of the ledger, two homers for Big Papi. Meanwhile, Will Middlebrooks went 1 for 4, a mirror image of Kevin Youkilis’ night in Chicago. Yeah, that’s kind of meaningless, but if you don’t think the Boston media won’t be keeping track of that kind of thing for the rest of the year, you’re just not familiar with their work.

Giants 8, Dodgers 0: Barry Zito shut the Dodgers out for seven innings on three hits. Meanwhile, Pablo Sandoval drove in three while Angel Pagan and Hector Sanchez added a couple a piece. The Giants — who a month ago trailed the Dodgers by seven and a half games — have closed the gap to two. After getting swept by the A’s last week, I’m thinking that the Dodgers want the hell out of the Bay Area.

Athletics 1, Mariners 0: Did you know that heading into yesterday’s games the A’s led the league in runs scored for June? Yep! That was weird. Seeing an A’s-M’s game end 1-0 in a crisp 2:18, then, is much more normal and comforting. Tommy Milone outduels Erasmo Ramirez, who struck out ten in eight innings in a losing effort.

The Blue Jays will . . . not be blue some days next year

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The Toronto Blue Jays, like a lot of teams, will wear an alternate jersey next year. It’ll be for Sunday home games. They call it their “Canadiana,” uniforms. Which, hey, let’s hear it for national pride.

(question to Canada: my grandmother and my three of my four maternal great-grandparents were Canadian. Does that give me any rights to emigrate? You know, just in case? No reason for asking that today. Just curious!).

Anyway, these are the uniforms:

More like RED Jays, am I right?

OK, I am not going to leave this country. I’m going to stay here and fight for what’s right: a Major League Baseball-wide ban on all red alternate jerseys for anyone except the Cincinnati Reds, who make theirs work somehow. All of the rest of them look terrible.

Oh, Canada indeed.

Sports and politics share some of their worst excesses

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19:  Montana alternative delegate Susan Reneau shouts "guilty" as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes a column today — likely part of the Post’s overall Inauguration coverage — about how the world of sports and sports fandom is a refreshing change from the world of politics. It’s a place where “facts are still facts,” he says. Where  “debates, though sometimes loud, are surrounded by oceans of substantiated facts and often informed by respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points.” Contrasted with politics, of course, where objective fact has turned into opinion and vice-versa.

I get what he’s trying to say and I think he’s well-intentioned. But I also think he badly misreads both sports discourse and political discourse, each of which have borrowed the worst excesses from the other. And by this I do not mean the extent to which the substance of sports and politics overlap, which we have often argued about in this space. This is not a “stick to sports” point. I’m talking about the way in which sports fans interact with sports and political people interact with politics, even in a relative vacuum.

Politics has coopted sports discourse in the most toxic and wrongheaded of ways. The idea that “scoreboard!” is all that matters. The belief that winning is the only objective as opposed to a means to an end. Notions of rooting and tribalism, and that “our team” and “the opposing team” is the proper way to view the parties to the contest. All of those things — each of which make sense to varying degrees in a sports context — have been imported into politics and have served to degrade them.

Likewise, contrary to what Boswell says, sports fans and commentators have eagerly begun to traffic in political-style reality creation, distortion and spin. He takes an oblique swipe at the “hot takers” like Skip Bayless and talk radio shouters, but he’s deluded if he thinks that they do not have more influence over sports fans than do than “the respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points” which he describes. Bayless and his crowd are a direct aping of “Crossfire”-style political shows.

Likewise, the concept of fan loyalty is increasingly discussed and routinely encouraged by sports leagues and teams in terms that were once reserved for party politics. The notion that those who have succeeded have done so because they are worthy and all of those who are worthy have succeeded is likewise fully believed by both sports fans and political actors. The idea that validation of one sort — electoral or competitive — justifies overlooking the political or athletic actor’s real life transgressions likewise crosses political and athletic lines. How much do sports fans and citizens overlook crimes and misdemeanors if there is a sufficient redemption or comeback narrative to cloak them?

Yet Boswell believes there to be a fundamental gap between how sports and politics are practiced and consumed. To explain it, he says this:

One partial explanation for the gap between the way we talk about sports and the way we talk about some other subjects may be the distorting force field of ideology. When we have a deep attachment to unprovable beliefs, ideas and emotions get intertwined. The psychological cost of disentangling them can be profound.

Tell me that you have not witnessed that dynamic among people whose identities have become far too wound up in the sports teams for which they root. There is ideology among sports fans just as much as there is among political partisans, even if the stakes aren’t as high.

He also says this:

For example, Clemson and Alabama have split the past two college football titles. Yet both coaches, in both years, deferred respectfully to the results, didn’t seek scapegoats, didn’t claim the results were invalid and, by their example, encouraged their fans to take pride in the battle — won or lost — and analyze it with enthusiasm but without distortion.

As if sports fans haven’t spent years re-litigating the Tuck Rule, Don Denkinger or Maradona’s Hand of God. As if notions of good sportsmanship and proper perspective are satisfied by merely accepting results. As if cheating scandals, real, imagined or inflated beyond all perspective, have not caused people to question the very legitimacy of the players in question.

As I said at the outset, I get what Boswell is trying to get at. And I find it admirable that he’s looking to sports to find some grace in an increasingly graceless world. Moreover, none of this is to say that sports don’t provide some refuge from raging political storms. They do.

But the world of sports is every bit as susceptible to the reality-denying, magical thinking storms which have increasingly come to characterize politics. And those raging political storms are very much fueled by a type and mode of passion that was first cultivated in sports and repurposed for a larger stage.

I mean, are these things really all that different?

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