Dodgers Fans

Who do you root for when your team is eliminated?

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I’m going to root for my Barves as long as they’re still playing. Nothing will stop that. Not silly unwritten rules enforcement, not dumb “choptober” hashtags on Twitter, nothing. They’re my team and you root for your team until they’re eliminated. That’s how sports works. Even when they annoy you, they’re your guys.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t transfer allegiances if and when they’re eliminated. Or, if your team didn’t make the playoffs, that you can’t pick a playoff rooting interest. I do this every year to some degree. Indeed, being a Braves fan, changing one’s rooting interests in the middle of the playoffs has become something of a necessity over the years.

This is subject to change depending on what annoying playoff habits/chants/rituals any of these guys get into and drive me crazy, but for the moment my secondary rooting interests break down like this:

National League:

1. Dodgers: I love Kershaw and Greinke. I’m a slave to Puig-mania. I’ve come to respect what Don Mattingly has done this year. I also want Boston people who are convinced that Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are poison to have to explain how they can play on a World Series winning team. Lots of fun to be had here.

2. Pirates: Good story, Andrew McCutchen is a God. Pittsburgh deserves something to cheer for. My only reservation is that this bandwagon is going to be overflowing if the Pirates advance and I don’t want to be in that crowd.

3. Reds: Pattern here: I tend to like teams whose best player has skills I love to see. Joey Votto has the best batting eye in baseball and while a team full of guys like him make for long, boring games, I like to see him ply his trade. Plus: viva Ohio.

4. Cardinals: Eh, just not gonna happen. I don’t hate them. I don’t think there are any bad guys on this club. I just don’t like watching them for some reason. Maybe it’s a Buck/McCarver thing and the way their commentary gets when the Cardinals are involved. Maybe it’s the Best Fans in Baseball thing. But no, I can’t see myself cheering for the Cardinals at least until the World Series (I’m an NL guy) and maybe not even then.

American League:

1. Athletics: This is basically the “Major League” team here. Their owner is trying to move them and they play in a ballpark that is literally full of crap. I also want to see Bartolo Colon raise the AL Championship trophy while sucking on a BBQ rib bone or something. Plus: I’m covering the World Series again this year and I’d like to return to the Bay Area without being near death’s door due to that plague or whatever it was I had last year in San Francisco.

2. Tigers: Nostalgia. It will make my girlfriend happy and if my girlfriend is happy I’m happy. I’m not anything approaching a Tigers fan anymore, but I’ve met a lot in the past few years and I like them. Plus I know the fun places to go in Detroit now. Shut up, there are fun places in Detroit.

3. Indians: More viva Ohio. More comeuppance for the Boston scribes who thought Terry Francona was a problem (or who let the front office tell that story for a while without pushback). Chief Wahoo makes it hard, but I’ll get over it.

4. Rays: There is still some underdog appeal here and I’m a sucker for good starting pitching, but I feel like Joe Maddon’s Phil Jackson impression has worn thin and I really can’t root for a team that features a rapist, an anti-semite and a homophobe.

5. Red Sox: Eh, it’s been a nice turnaround and there are some likable players here, but non-Sox fans rooting for them is almost as bad as non-Yankees fans rooting for New York. They’re the classic overdog. Plus, they tend to play games that last until 1AM and I just can’t do that every October. The one saving grace is that I’ve never been to Fenway and now I possibly could. But I could also just fly there next summer if I want and not have to endure Sox October baseball.

So that’s how it breaks down for me. Lots of appealing options and a potential Red Sox-Cardinals series that may drive me back into being a football fan.

What’s your view on all of this? If your team tanks or has already been eliminated, who ya got?

Willie Mays gets a cable car named after him

Major League Baseball hall of famer  Willie Mays, who spent the majority of his career as a center fielder with the New York and San Francisco Giants, smiles as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants baseball team, Monday, July 29, 2013, during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. The team beat the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, their second championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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This is not exactly stunning news, but it’s Willie Mays’ 85th birthday today and any excuse to talk about Willie Mays is a good one. Happy Birthday, Willie!

The pretext is a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about how The Greatest Baseball Player of All Time (my view anyway) is getting an iconic cable car named after him. An icon named after an icon, I guess. The cable car is, appropriately, number 24.

Next month I’m taking my kids on vacation to California and we’re spending a few days in San Francisco. It’ll be a shame when I tell them we have to cancel half of a day’s plans while I make them wait for one particular cable car to come by so they can take my picture with it, but that’s just what they have to deal with given that I’m their dad.

Carlos Gomez calls out a hit piece-writing columnist

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Yesterday I wrote about a column written by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. It was about Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez, who has had a poor start to the year.

The column, as I noted, was a hatchet job, blaming Gomez for the Astros’ problems despite the fact that Gomez is by far from the biggest of the Astros’ problems. It was particularly bad in that it presented an unedited bit of broken English from Gomez which seemed calculated to cast Gomez in a bad light. Many journalists were critical of Smith in this regard, noting that he could’ve used a translator, could have paraphrased or could’ve done some mild correction via brackets, as is often done with quotes from non-native English speakers.

Last night Gomez took to Twitter to call out Smith himself:

It’s possible to write a column about how a player hasn’t lived up to expectations without being an insensitive jackass. It’s possible to do so even in the sharpest of ways. Smith didn’t do that, however, and didn’t make an effort to try, it seems. Gomez is right to take issue with it. And I suspect that Gomez’s teammates and organization take issue with it too. Which likely doesn’t bode well for Smith getting cooperation from others in the Astros family.

Reminder: athletes are not heroes

Zack Greinke
Associated Press
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This is something of a “greatest hits” piece and it’s topic I’ve talked about here before, but I’m reminded of it again because of Facebook’s memories thing which tells me I wrote about it seven years ago today back when I was still doing stuff at my old Shysterball blog at the Hardball Times.

The topic: ballplayers as heroes. The subject of the 2009 post on the matter was Zack Greinke, who was then beginning his breakout year with the Kansas City Royals. A columnist talked about how uplifting Greinke’s story was, what with him having overcome some struggles with anxiety disorder which had caused him to leave the game for a brief period. In early 2009 he was back, baby, and better than ever and many wanted to turn him into something larger than just a ballplayer excelling at his craft.

In the post I wrote about how, while such an impulse was understandable, it was a dangerous one as athletes have been made into heroes for years and years and, so often, they end up disappointing. Because we built them up so high, however, we don’t see such instances as the mere exhibition of human fallibility. We see them as some greater failure or even a betrayal, which is both ridiculous and unfair to these men and women, even if they have failed in certain ways. They have worked hard all of their lives to be good at a particular sport. They did not promise us glory or inspiration, yet we assume that they owe us those things. Their failures, however they are manifested, are matched by our failures at expectation management.

But it’s even more pernicious than that. Because, as I wrote at the time, when we create heroes, we necessarily create the need for villains and we will go out of our way to find those too, justified or otherwise:

“Hero” is too strong and baggage-laden a word anyway. As [Bill] James notes, it places a heavy burden on young men, and these guys are under such scrutiny day-in and day-out that they really don’t need it. What’s more, the term hero it necessarily assumes its opposite — villain — and demands that we search them out too. You know, to restore balance to the universe and everything. Often — as in the case of A-Rod and Gooden and Bonds and all of the others — they’re the same people, just older . . . Hero creation, worship, and subsequently, destruction has long been a part of baseball. But it’s not an essential part, and in my mind not a desirable part.

Seven years later we’re still doing this. As Bill James noted in his “Historical Baseball Abstract,” “When a young player comes to the major leagues and has success right away, writers will almost always write about what a fine young man he is as well as a supreme talent.” Many of them, like Zack Greinke, will prove to continue to be fine older men, just as they were fine young men. Some will not. Would it not be better if we didn’t get so invested in how fine a young man any one of them is? Or, short of that, if we didn’t act so betrayed and victimized if they turn out not to be such a fine young man?

I like to hear a good story about a baseball player who, by all outward appearances, seems like a good person. But I’m content to give such a story a smile and leave it at that. If we require heroism, there are people who do truly heroic things in the world beyond throw baseballs.

Andrew McCutchen apologies to an official scorer he said should be fired

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) watches from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Pittsburgh. Detroit won 7-3.(AP Photo/Don Wright)
Associated Press
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Andrew McCutchen made an error on Wednesday night. He thought he shouldn’t have been charged with one on the play, however, and afterward said “whoever scored that an error should be fired. That’s unbelievable. I did everything I could to catch it.”

It was a dumb comment for two reasons. First, a player “doing everything he can” on a play doesn’t make a misplay not a misplay. The “e” ain’t about effort, man. I realize scoring has gotten somewhat lax in recent years and players are routinely not given errors if it looks like they really, really tried, but there is not an intent element to the crime of making errors on the playing field. If you muff one, you muff one.

It was a dumb comment for another reason, and that’s that it was just not very nice. As we noted when David Ortiz or some others have made publicly disparaging comments about official scorers, it’s the ultimate punching down. These are people who have other jobs, aren’t public figures, don’t get paid a lot and really, really don’t have it in for anyone. Publicly criticizing them is bad enough, publicly demanding their jobs is pretty low.

Thankfully, with a day’s worth of reflection, McCutchen realized that this was the case and apologized. There aren’t public words from McCutchen available, but the club said that he reached out to the scorer and personally apologized. As he should’ve.