Baseball is not a movie. Stop trying to dramatize it.

63 Comments

I think I stumbled upon the single most significant thing said about the entire baseball-PEDs story. The writer, Tom Verducci, likely did not realize he was saying the most significant thing about it all, but he did all the same.

After correctly noting that athlete after athlete has denied using PEDs in the past, only to later be found to have used them, Verducci says we can’t take anyone’s denial at face value anymore. Why?

… but we have seen how the movie ends too many times.

Thinking of this as a movie — or a grand drama of any kind — is why the discourse about PEDs has become so stupid.  When we think of it as a drama we require heroes and villains. We require quick resolution. We require a stunning, conclusive and emotionally satisfying dénouement.

But baseball isn’t a movie or a play. It’s a sport, played without a script by real living and breathing human beings.  We’ve been conditioned to think of it in dramatic terms because the sporting press developed as a means of dramatizing that which most people didn’t get a chance to see in newspaper accounts, but it is not itself a drama.

When baseball gets into the realm of PEDs and law enforcement our tendency to treat it as a drama is even stronger. Sports are often dramatized, but TV shows and movies have featured cops, doctors and lawyers more than anyone else by a factor of a million.  Put that all together and it’s almost impossible not to think of things like BALCO or the Biogenesis story in the same terms we think of “Law and Order” or “House.”

But that’s not how real life works. In real life stuff happens. If that stuff seems problematic or suspicious, it often, but not always, gets investigated. That stuff may have been motivated by evil, but it may have also been motivated by stupidity or accident or a combination of them all. Or there may be a mistake.  When the stuff gets investigated something approaching justice may result. But just as often nothing may come of it because there are dead ends or nothing particularly bad happened or because everyone just loses interest in the stuff. There may be consequences to it all or it may be meaningless.   It almost always takes a long time to determine whether the stuff meant anything or not.

That reality is really problematic for people who are used to packaging three hour ballgames into 800 word chapters and 162-game seasons into a novel, complete with heroes and villains. Which is why people in that world seem to eager to leap into this sports-legal-medical gumbo and begin to hash out plots.  It’s way easier to do that than to sit back and see what happens and what it all means. If it even means anything.

We let them do that with the games because they are, after all, just games. But when someone’s reputation, fortune, career and sometimes their very freedom is on the line, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to expect them to lay the hell off for a bit and let events unfold before they try to stuff them into the little dramatic constructs with which we’re so familiar.

Video: Nolan Arenado throws out Ty Blach from his back

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Giants starter Ty Blach thought he had a one-out single in the bottom of the third inning of Wednesday afternoon’s game in San Francisco, but Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado had other ideas. Arenado ranged to his left and dove. The ball began to skip away from him, but Arenado quickly re-grabbed the ball, spun around from his knees and whipped a throw across the diamond. He fell on his back like a turtle that had been flipped over as the out on Blach was recorded.

Arenado had also given the Rockies their 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a two-run single. He finished 2-for-4 with two RBI on the afternoon. On the season, he’s hitting .294/.346/.547 with 15 home runs, 61 RBI, and 50 runs scored in 348 plate appearances.

Report: Umpire John Tumpane pulled a woman from the edge of the Roberto Clemente Bridge

Dylan Buell/Getty Images
7 Comments

Stephen J. Nesbitt and Steph Chambers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have an enthralling report involving umpire John Tumpane. On Wednesday afternoon, prior to the game in Pittsburgh between the Rays and Pirates, Tumpane had finished a run and lunch. As he was crossing the Roberto Clemente Bridge just outside of PNC Park, he noticed a woman climb over the bridge’s railing above the Allegheny River.

Tumpane was worried and headed towards the woman. What began was an act of heroism. He started a conversation with the woman, who said, “I just wanted to get a better look of the city from this side,” and then said, “I’m better off on this side. Just let me go.”

Tumpane refused to let her go. He had his arms wrapped around her and spoke words of encouragement until police and paramedics arrived. As the woman was being put into the ambulance, Tumpane asked for her name and prayed for her. He said he hopes to reconnect with her before he leaves town for the next series. He called it an “interesting afternoon.”

The recap here doesn’t do Chambers and Nesbitt’s reporting justice, so please head over to the Post-Gazette to read the full story.

In a sport in which home plate umpires are some of the only ones wearing caged masks, it’s easy to forget that they are human beings, too. We curse at them for making calls that go against our teams, but they can be capable of greatness, too. Tumpane certainly showed that on Wednesday.