British journalist says baseball’s “slickly-packaged razzmatazz” — and other aspects — are metaphors for America

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Gonna be honest. I woulda linked this article no matter what it said. Once I saw the phrase “slickly-packaged razzmatazz” I was sold.

But I read it, and BBC’s Washington Bureau Chief Simon Wilson sees America in America’s Game. Partially in the obvious — the beer, hot dogs, National Anthem and racing presidents about which the “razzmatazz” line gets trotted out — and sees something deeper. After making the time-worn observation about how even the best hitters fail two-thirds of the time, he says:

As a sport, it is really all about failure. Or more precisely how the players psychologically handle failure – the fact that they are going to miss the ball more often than they hit it. And as I have sat in the stands over the years, I have begun to realise just why there is such a rich tradition of treating baseball as a metaphor for life in America … This is indeed the land of opportunity where children grow up being told what a “great job” they are doing and how they might all be president one day. Which is all fine of course, except that for many, perhaps for most Americans, success never really comes.

But despite that — despite the odds being long, the economy sputtering for so long — Americans, he observes, pick themselves up, dust themselves off. They move to far flung places and start new jobs and try to make a new go of it. “Failure – the theory goes – will breed the next success,” Wilson says and believes that it applies equally to baseball and America as whole.

I want to believe that. Indeed, when I think of the promise of America or the American dream I don’t think of some Horatio Alger story. I don’t think of someone coming from nothing and making millions. I think of people who are near nothing anyway but still go on and still plug away and don’t spend as much time lamenting their lot as they do trying to better it, at least marginally.

Maybe that’s just as much a rarity — or even a fantasy — as the Horatio Alger story. And maybe it’s colored a lot by where I grew up. People in Flint, Michigan and Southern West Virginia tend not to go in for Horatio Alger. They just plug on. But I it’s what I think of as the best of America.

The Jose Fernandez statue may be in jeopardy

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Last November it was reported that the Marlins planned to build a memorial for Jose Fernandez, likely including a statue. The effort was said to be a pet project of the Marlins owner, Jeff Loria, who was close with Fernandez.

Today the Miami Herald reports, however, that those plans are in limbo due to the sale of the team:

The planned statue to honor Jose Fernandez, which was departing owner Jeffrey Loria’s idea, is now very much in question because it will not be erected before Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter take over, and it will ultimately be the new owners’ call. That matter has not yet been discussed, with the sale agreed to only in the past few days.

There’s nothing in the report suggesting that they’re opposed to the statue — it’s possible this was placed in the Herald by people close to the new group in order to test the waters — but there always was the sense that the idea was something of a priority for Loria personally. One wonders how much momentum it will have once he’s gone.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that Fernandez was eventually found to have been under the influence of alcohol and cocaine and was behind the wheel of the boat at the time of the accident that claimed his life and the life of two others, making any memorial to him suspect in the eyes of some people.

Thankfully we don’t spend a lot of time and energy discussing the ethics of statues in this country, so I’m sure it’ll have no bearing on the matter.

A couple of links: The story behind uniform numbers and the best players at each height

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There are two articles circulating this morning that are good time-killers. I’ll link ’em both here for the sake of efficiency.

The first one is a fun little thing from Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated, picking the best player at each height. Random, yes, but in a year where two of the top AL MVP candidates are Jose Altuve (5’6″) and Aaron Judge (6’7″), it seems timely.

The second one is from ESPN. They talked to a whole bunch of players and asked them how they chose their uniform numbers. Some are pretty obvious: Xander Bogaerts was a Derek Jeter fan, ergo he’s number 2. Some were just given their number. Others picked birthdays and things.

There are two weird bits that stick out, though. First, from Anthony Rendon, who doesn’t much care for his number six and thought about switching to number 24 for this year. He didn’t for financial reasons:

“I was going to switch for this year. I could’ve taken 24, but MLB makes you buy all of the inventory, and it would’ve been like 40 grand. I told them, ‘Don’t make any more then. Just sell it and get the total down, and maybe I’ll change it next year.'”

That’s kind of weird. I had no idea MLB made guys who changed their number buy up uniform stock. Seems like something a coal mine owner would do back in the 20s.

Then there’s Adam Ottavino of the Rockies, who wears the number zero. He couldn’t wear it in St. Louis, though:

Ottavino is the only pitcher to ever wear zero. He said it’s an “O” for his last name, and he has worn it since little league. His former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, would not let him wear it, but the Rockies said yes.

I suppose I can see having a policy of no players wearing zero. Like, it would make no sense on the merits, but I could understand that such a policy might exist for whatever reason.

The Cardinals, however, had a player — journeyman outfielder Kerry Robinson — who wore zero in 2002-03. I don’t suppose they’re holding that for an eventual retirement ceremony in Robinson’s honor, so it must mean either that (a) the Cardinals changed their policy about that at some point in the past 15 years; or (b) they were just messing with Ottavino. I sort of hope it was the latter, just for the yuks.

Anyway, happy reading.