Brief Encounter

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

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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: Keith Hernandez has fun with the telestrator

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17:  Former Major League Baseball first baseman Keith Hernandez gets readt to throw out the first pitch prior to game one of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets at Citi Field on October 17, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Mets’ broadcast trio of Gary Cohen and former major leaguers Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez ranked third out of 30 teams in FanGraphs’ 2016 Broadcaster Rankings for good reason. Beyond great play-by-play calling and in-game analysis, the three clearly have fun doing their jobs. It’s what makes bad broadcasts stick out like a sore thumb and makes other broadcasts, like the Mets’, a daily must-watch.

During the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game between the Mets and Marlins, Hernandez decided to test out a new telestrator installed in the SNY broadcast booth. First, he drew a circle over Darling’s head, then replaced it with a spotshadow circle. Before putting his toy away, Hernandez showed off the “cone of silence,” which he quickly renamed the “Gary Cohen of silence.”

10/10, would watch again.

Todd Frazier takes a swipe at the Reds’ front office

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 27: Todd Frazier #21 of the Chicago White Sox points to the dugout after hitting a double against the Chicago Cubs during the fourth inning at Wrigley Field on July 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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In a recent interview with Jon Greenberg of The Athletic, White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier took a swipe at the Reds’ front office. The rebuilding Reds traded Frazier to the White Sox as part of a three-team deal this past December.

After the season, Frazier will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility. Frazier told Greenberg he’d like to stay with the White Sox. He praised the club’s ownership and then, unprompted, he decided to castigate the Reds’ front office.

I would love to stay here. It’s a great club, great ownership. It was very different in Cincinnati, it wasn’t good. The bottom line here is these guys know what they’re doing. I see the guys [Hahn] gets, he’s not afraid to pull the trigger. You’ve got to have a guy like that. Whether it turns out to be for the best or not, you take a chance sometimes, and I think he’s done that a lot. It’s up to Jerry [Reinsdorf, owner] and Rick [Hahn, VP/GM] and their team to figure out what they want to do and it’s up to them.

It’s not clear if there are specific incidences to which Frazier could be alluding, but it’s a very obvious piece of criticism.

Frazier, 30, has regressed a bit offensively compared to the previous two seasons, batting .213/.295/.448 with 32 home runs and 81 RBI in 532 plate appearances. The White Sox could pursue trading him during the offseason.