No, the Bautista-Odor fight wasn’t “great for baseball”

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I’ve seen a lot of sentiment since yesterday afternoon that the Jose BautistaRougned Odor fight was supposed to have great meaning of some kind. More to the point, that it was actually good for baseball. I don’t think it was bad for baseball — it was just a thing that happened, just like fights have happened in baseball for 150 years — but to say it was “great for baseball” seems odd to me.

C.J. Nitkowski of Fox thinks it was great for baseball because it “created buzz” and jacked up the TV ratings. If you saw some of his tweets yesterday, you learned that it was also great because it, somehow, put “nerds” in their place. I don’t fully understand what Nitkowski was getting at with that, but it had something to do with the slide rules and people wanting baseball players not to get injured which, I guess, he considers to be a bad thing. You’ll have to ask him about that.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post thinks it was great for baseball for another reason: there’s too much friendliness in the game, in his view, and it’s better when opponents hate each other. As New York writers always do, Sherman makes something that has nothing to do with New York about New York and uses it to explain how upset he is that Yankees players are friendly with David Ortiz now instead of hating him like the Epic Yankees-Red Sox rivalry allegedly¬†demands. Never mind that the grand old days of the rivalry he describes are, like, 12 years old and no one is left on those teams from that time except for Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. Never mind that the rivalry past 2004 or so, the last time the Yankees and Red Sox met in the playoffs, is primarily a creation of fans and the media and that the players don’t care at all anymore and likely didn’t care as much as people like to think they did.

These takes have one thing in common: for them to make coherent sense, players have to play roles to satisfy an audience rather than be actual human beings with feelings. Bautista and Odor are buzz-creators or rivalry-stokers here as opposed to humans who got caught up in an emotional thing and let their aggression take over for a few minutes due to some provocations that made sense to them in the heat of the moment. No, they were serving the audience in some way and, not only that, they had to! For the good of the game!

This is all artificial nonsense. Baseball players are people. Their job is to serve the audience when they play baseball. While there were aspects of what happened yesterday that were in and of themselves entertaining (mostly because no one got hurt) it’s not their job to serve fans and the press with that stuff and the fact that they did didn’t Mean Anything Big And Important. It was just a thing that happened. Players likewise can be and should be friends with one another if they choose to be without it harshing the buzz of some columnist who misses what he got to write about over a decade ago. Not saying Odor and Bautista ever will be, but if they do a commercial goofing on their fight this fall, we will not have lost anything by their antipathy¬†being diminished.

I don’t know. I read stuff like what Sherman and Nitkowski wrote and I wonder whether the people who think like that view players as people with agency or mere characters in a drama. I wonder, if Bautista and Odor issue statements apologizing to one another today or make that commercial one day, if guys like Sherman and Nitkowski will be sad. More than anything else when I see stuff like this I think about all of the weird and unfair gladiatorial expectations we place on athletes and remember exactly where it comes from.

David Wright isn’t ready to retire

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There’s no doubt that the last three years have put David Wright through the ringer. The Mets third baseman missed the bulk of his 2015 season with spinal stenosis and made it through a month of games in 2016 before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. In 2017, a bout of shoulder impingement, rotator cuff surgery and a laminotomy procedure on his lower back kept him off the field for all 162 games.

Despite the continual setbacks, Wright told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, he doesn’t believe retirement is in the cards for him this year. “When the end comes, the end comes,” he said Friday. “Hopefully, I’ve got a little more left. But I guess that’s to be determined.”

The 35-year-old last appeared for High-A St. Lucie in 2017, powering through three games with one hit and five strikeouts in 10 plate appearances. His career has advanced in fits and starts since 2015, but you don’t have to do too much digging to find his last great performance with the Mets. Wright earned his seventh career All-Star berth in 2013, slashing .307/.390/.514 with 18 home runs and a terrific 6.0 fWAR in 492 PA. While he isn’t expected to mash at those levels in the near future, if ever again, the Mets believe the veteran third baseman might still have something left in the tank as he tries to extend a 13-year run in the majors.

Per DiComo, the only thing standing in his way is a clean bill of health — not just for the upcoming season, but for the years to come. Wright said he wouldn’t risk returning to the field if it came with long-term implications for his quality of life.

The surgeries are obviously serious stuff, but it just kind of plays with your mind mentally, where you don’t know how your body’s going to hold up,” Wright said. “You don’t know how you’re going to feel a month from now. You don’t know how you’re going to feel a couple weeks from now. You’re hoping that it continues to get better, but you just don’t know.

Given the uncertainty that surrounds his return to the game, it’s a prudent outlook to have.