Posnanski hits the nail on the head:
What player in baseball do you think has the most ANT — Announcer Nonsense Talk — spoken about them?
By ANT, I’m not just referring to stuff announcers say. I’m referring to a sort of universal praise that does not tie to logic or anything tangible but instead to a sort of whimsical hope and powerful narratives … You know ANT when you hear or read it — it is when people start speaking in broad generalities about a player (“This guy just wants it more”) or when they start over-crediting a player for dubious achievements (pitcher wins and RBIs tend to be the sweet nectar of Announcer Nonsense Talk) or when they start to turn sports achievement into life achievement (“That was just a courageous pitch!”). And like I say, it’s not only announcers who do this — far from it. You see it everywhere.
We’ve talked about this with Michael Young quite a bit, and anyone else who gets labeled a “professional hitter,” or a “competitor” while little or note is taken of the fact that there are serious flaws in his game which undermine the “he’s a superstar!” narrative. Heck, Jim Rice made the Hall of Fame based on a form of ANT which had him being the most “feared” hitter of his era. Despite there being nothing whatsoever to suggest he was particularly feared by the pitchers of his day.
Posnanski applies ANT to Jeff Francoeur and he’s dead-on. I’m more curious as to how players become big ANT guys in the first place. I think it has something to do with early promise leading to a lot of speculative praise that, once unfulfilled, needs to be bolstered by ANT so that all of that early praise doesn’t seem so misguided. Jeff Francoeur splashed big and then appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the words “The Natural” on him with a partial season under his belt. Do you think the narrative industrial complex is simply gonna say “Oops! we were wrong!”? No, they’re gonna spend the rest of his career acting as if the early awesome stuff was the norm and the rest of the data — which creates the bulk of the overall data set — is explained away or ignored.
And it doesn’t just happen in sports. Orson Welles got this treatment. If you don’t think so, listen to some cinephile trying to convince you how good some of his later stuff was.
Where sports differs, however, is that I think there’s also an element of media-friendliness too. Orson Welles was a pain in the butt, but reporters and announcers like Jeff Francoeur and Michael Young for very good reasons: they’re friendly guys who help make the media’s job easier. It’s understandable that, in turn, the media will look to say nice things about them. That’s not some cynical point. I don’t believe it to be some unholy and disingenuous quid pro quo. Humanity is such that we like to be nice to those who are nice. If anything, there’s something good underlying the perpetuation of ANT. Something which speaks to the better side of our nature.
But however nice it is, there’s no escaping that it’s nonsense.
It’s the last Clayton Kershaw start of the regular season. Prepare yourselves accordingly.
The Dodgers already have the NL West in the bag, but they’re still fighting for home-field advantage against the Nationals. Should the two teams end up with the same regular season record by Monday morning, the edge will go to the Dodgers, who have a better head-to-head record this year. Kershaw has already been announced as the starter for Game 1 of the NLDS, while the Nationals have kept their lineup close to the vest for the time being.
Facing the Dodgers is Giants’ left-hander Ty Blach, who is poised to make the second major league start of his career this afternoon. The Giants are in a precarious position heading into the last two games of the year and have the potential to force a three-way tie among NL wild card contenders. A thorough breakdown of the wild card and home-field advantage possibilities has been outlined here.
You can find more from Saturday’s action below.
New York Mets (Bartolo Colon) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Phil Klein), 1:05 PM EDT
Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 1:05 PM EDT
Baltimore Orioles (Wade Miley) @ New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 4:05 PM EDT
Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) @ San Francisco Giants (Ty Blach), 4:05 PM EDT
Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) @ Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark), 4:05 PM EDT
Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman), 4:10 PM EDT
Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 4:15 PM EDT
Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmerman) @ Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair), 7:10 PM EDT
Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez), 7:10 PM EDT
Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi) @ Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis), 8:05 PM EDT
Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Colorado Rockies (Jeff Hoffman), 8:10 PM EDT
Houston Astros (Collin McHugh) @ Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs), 9:05 PM EDT
Oakland Athletics (Jharel Cotton) @ Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma), 9:10 PM EDT
Raul Alcantara was in the business of distributing home runs on Friday night.
Robinson Cano caught the tail end of a 94.1 m.p.h. fastball in the first inning, driving it to center field to put the Mariners on the board. In the second, Norichika Aoka found his fourth home run of the year on a similarly-placed heater. The Mariners then targeted Alcantara’s off-speed stuff, picking on the right-hander’s changeup and slider to get two more home runs in the third: the first, another dead-center blast by Cano, and the last, a bomb by Nelson Cruz that popped off the center field wall and survived an umpire review.
Taijuan Walker, who enjoyed the spike in run support from his 3.6 average, was not immune to the home run bug either, giving up the first and only run of the night on Ryon Healy’s 102-m.p.h. home run in the sixth inning.
While Walker excelled at run prevention, he also came one walk shy of hitting a career-high mark, with five walks spread over six innings. Seattle’s bullpen stepped in for three perfect innings to close out the game and, despite six perfect frames from Oakland relievers Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe, quashed the A’s hopes of closing a four-run gap.
The Mariners’ win on Friday puts them one game back of the wild card; if they take the rest of the series and the Tigers and Blue Jays lose one of their remaining weekend games, the Mariners will tie for the remaining wild card spot. With Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez on the hill this weekend, winning shouldn’t be an issue. Getting the Blue Jays to collapse against the Red Sox (and, to a lesser extent, the Tigers against the Braves) is another story.
Here are the rest of the box scores from Friday’s games. Keep an eye out for the first modest bat flip of Jose Bautista‘s career, Madison Bumgarner‘s eighth RBI of the year, and the Orioles’ three-homer inning.
Orioles 8, Yankees 1
Marlins 7, Nationals 4
Mets 5, Phillies 1
Cubs 7, Reds 3
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Tigers 6, Braves 2
Rangers 3, Rays 1
Rockies 4, Brewers 1
White Sox 7, Twins 3
Indians 7, Royals 2
Cardinals 7, Pirates 0
Diamondbacks 5, Padres 3
Angels 7, Astros 1
Mariners 5, Athletics 1
Giants 9, Dodgers 3