Texas Rangers v Detroit Tigers

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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These were the last baseball games that count — despite the claim about the All-Star Game counting, which is certainly does not in any real sense — until Friday. That’s some b.s. right there. Why don’t they play the All-Star Game with only 25 guys on a team and let the rest of the league play regular games with each team a player or two shorthanded at most? Fine, you say that’s unfair? Well, so is deciding home field advantage in the World Series based on a dumb exhibition game, but we do that. Don’t tell me about fair.

Anyway, I’m in New York. I took in the Futures Game yesterday. More about that later, as well as some posts from on the scene at the All-Star Game. For now, though, here’s what went on in places where the games actually mattered:

Tigers 5, Rangers 0: A good reason not to hang around press boxes: when Justin Verlander had a no-hitter into the seventh yesterday, a bunch of baseball writers at the Futures Game openly hoped he wouldn’t get a no-hitter because that would require them to do more work or different work or something. That’s just kind of depressing, even if it’s understandable in a very narrow way.

Phillies 4, White Sox 3: John Mayberry hit the game-winning single in the tenth and with it the Phillies won their ninth in their past 13. Like half the teams that played yesterday, someone gave quotes about how maybe this one will give them momentum going into the second half. Assignment desk: someone look at the second half records of teams which won the final game before the All-Star break over the past, I dunno, decade. Let’s see if this momentum is real!

Nationals 5, Marlins 2: A three-run tenth wins it for the Nats, and with it ends a three-game losing streak and averts the sweep by the Marlins. Many teams are worse than the Nationals. Not many are more happy to see the first half end. Expectations are a hell of a thing.

Indians 6, Royals 4: Can’t kill this Cleveland thing. Detroit beat the tar out of them last weekend and then they come back and win two of three from the Jays and sweep the Royals. One and a half back somehow.

Reds 8, Braves 4: Jay Bruce with three hits including a two-run homer. Freddie Freeman sat out because of jammed thumb that will keep him out of the All-Star Game. Guess that Final Vote was a whole lot of wasted effort, eh? Just a total bloodbath series for the Braves. Freeman, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and B.J. Upton were all injured during this series.

Twins 10, Yankees 4: Thus endeth the ugliest half season (and then some) of baseball in the Bronx in a long time. Errors and ineffectiveness gave the Twins their first win over CC Sabathia in six years.

Mets 4, Pirates 2: Dillon Gee allowed one unearned run in six and two-thirds. Three runs for the Mets in the first ended up being enough. They kept showing highlights of this on the jumbotron at Citi Field during the Futures Game. It got bigger cheers than a lot of what went on at the Futures Game.

Orioles 7, Blue Jays 4: Lots of people are parroting the fact that Chris Davis set a record by tying the AL mark for most homers prior to the All-Star break. Not many are pointing out that the Orioles have played 96 games before the All-Star Break which is an awful lot and which can in no technically accurate way be referred to as the first “half.” Still, he’s hit a lot of homers and that’s cool.

Rockies 3, Dodgers 1: Nothing to do with this game but on the media shuttle bus on the way back to the city yesterday I heard a lot of good stories about Vin Scully. Behind the scenes stories which would make you laugh given how Scully has sort of been made into a demi-god over the past several years. Nothing which undermines all that is good about him or which makes him a bad person in any way, shape or form, but stories which humanize the guy a bit and remind one that he is, after all, a human being with a sense of humor and some real world foibles and things. One in which he dropped an F-bomb, which is absolutely hilarious to me. Though I’m sure it was the most melodically-dropped F-bomb ever. Michael Cuddyer hit a homer here. Guess I get to live the lifelong dream of seeing Michael Cuddyer hit in the Home Run Derby tomorrow.

Rays 5, Astros 0: The Rays won for the 14th time in their last 16 behind Chris Archer’s five-hit shutout. The Rays are 2.5 back of the Red Sox and probably didn’t want the All-Star Break to arrive.

Padres 10, Giants 1: Get no-hit on Saturday, rap out 12 hits on Sunday in the course of scoring ten. Barry Zito only lasted two innings. Carlos Quentin drove in three.

Athletics 3, Red Sox 2: Brandon Workman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his first big league start. Ends up with a no decision as Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer off him. Donaldson added the game-winning RBI single in the 11th. Dude is sitting at .310/.379/.522 with sixteen homers but isn’t an All-Star. Remember that the next time someone complains about life being unfair.

Brewers 5, Diamondbacks 1: Wily Peralta allowed only one run in seven and the Brewers snapped their four-game losing streak. They can now spend the break thinking about all the new losing streaks they’ll start in the second half.

Mariners 4, Angels 3: Seattle sweeps the Angels. Correction about the Nats and their expectations ruining their first half. The Angels have ’em beat by a mile in this regard.

Cardinals, 10, Cubs 6: A four-spot in the ninth by the Cardinals – including a three-run homer from Yadier Molina — officially ends the first half. Or two thirds. Or whatever we want to call it. For those of you keeping score at home, Allen Craig actually put them ahead with an RBI single before the homer. He did so even for those of you not keeping score at home.

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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