Why do people bother to hate professional athletes?

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Got a comment from longtime reader DelawarePhilliesFan in the Carlos Gomez video thread this morning:

There is this interesting streak in Craig….it seems to me to be part contrarian, part defense lawyer, part some sort of big brother protectorate….probably some other things too. As soon as people don’t like a player, he has falls in LOVE with that player and goes on these defense missions.

There is some truth to that, of course. I do tend to be drawn to underdogs or hated figures and I do like to mount unpopular arguments. Just part of how I roll.

However, I think there is a much more interesting question about all of this than why I defend unpopular or hated players like Carlos Gomez: Why, on Earth, do players like Carlos Gomez inspire hatred in the first place?

I get it when an athlete is truly an awful person. Like, in real life. If they’re a criminal or if they’r violent or whatever, obviously, people hating them is understandable.  But I am generally baffled at the vast majority of athletes who get placed in the villain role. It’s sports. And while, yes, sports can inspire emotion, I don’t get people who allow it to inspire negative emotion. Or, at the very least, people who hold on to that negative emotion long enough to form character judgments about athletes and to continue beating some drum against them.

Sports are great, but they pale in importance to stuff in real life. And if aspects of them are so unpleasant that they inspire you to hatred or even sustained disapproval — if an athlete angers you to the point where you feel the need to go on about it and let it color your opinions of the game — why on Earth don’t you disengage? Who wants to hate things they don’t have to?

UPDATE: A reader just sent me a link that I think goes a long way to explain all of this.

UPDATE II: This wonderful piece by John Thorn explains a lot of it too. This stuff just fascinates me.

Watch: Javier Baez snares a 106-MPH ground ball

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What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Just ask Javier Baez, who tracked down a sizzling 106-MPH ground ball from Jose Bautista on Friday afternoon. The defensive gem helped preserve the Cubs’ three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, paving the way for Wade Davis‘ 25th save of the season.

Baez also impressed at the plate, collecting an RBI single in the second inning before getting tagged out at home by Miguel Montero on a convoluted 9-6-3-6-2 putout. He returned in the eighth inning to pester Tim Mayza and cleared the left field hedge with a 409-foot, two-run blast for his 20th home run of the year. With the win, the Cubs improved to 64-57 and now hold a scant 1.5-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central.

Dodgers activate Adrian Gonzalez

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The Dodgers have reinstated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the 60-day disabled list after his recovery from a herniated disc. To make room for him they have optioned Rob Segedin to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Gonzalez last played on June 11. Since then the Dodgers have gone an astounding 46-9, with shoe-in rookie of the year candidate Cody Bellinger handling first base duties and posting a .978 OPS. When Gonzalez went down he was hitting .255/.304/.339 and only one homer in 49 games.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time he gets going forward. The Dodgers, of course, have a comfortable lead in the NL West, so they could afford to allow Gonzalez to play a good bit to see if his bat sharpens up while simultaneously giving Bellinger, who has never played more than 137 games in a season, a bit of a breather. Beyond that, though, the Dodgers ain’t broke, so it’s hard to see why anyone would want to tinker with things.