Author: Craig Calcaterra

Miguel Cabrera Getty

Yes, we hate your team and your favorite player. Every single one of them.


source: AP

Last night D.J. wrote a post about Miguel Cabrera. The concluding paragraph:

After winning back-to-back AL MVP Awards in 2012 and 2013, Cabrera took a bit of a step back last season by his usual lofty standards, batting .313/.371/.524 with 25 home runs and 109 RBI over 159 games. When you consider how noticeably hobbled he was, it’s pretty amazing that he was able to do what he did.

Crazy, right? An intemperate hot take totally slamming and disrespecting the player? Well, I guess it must have been because this is a response I woke up to on Twitter this morning:

Granted, this particular correspondent is a tad more unhinged than your usual reader. He is on a three-year streak of claiming a guy who won two straight MVP Awards is disrespected and underrated and has never stopped accusing us of being racists and anti-Latino for whatever reason. Tigers fans I know think he’s kind of insane.

But even if this particular person and his particular response is extreme, the pattern is fairly common: objective criticism of a player (if you can even call what D.J. wrote criticism) is met with claims that the writer is “biased” or that they hate the team in question.

Just about every sports writer encounters this. Buster Olney hilariously refers his critics to a chart our own Bill Baer created  in which he has been accused of hating all 30 teams. A running joke exists in which Keith Law hates every team on which he comments. I am routinely accused of hating the Cardinals and the Phillies when, in reality, I just like winding up their easily-wound up fans. OK, so in my case I get why I get those reactions — and I actually seek them out — but the trolling stuff aside, it’s all rather hilarious to see sports fans truly believe that any given writer cares enough about their rooting interest to actually hate them. To harbor grudges over baseball games of all things.

And it’s not just the crazy people. Spend enough time engaged in sporting discourse — and I spend all day in it — and you begin to realize that even fans who are not unhinged like our friend above often possess tremendously large blind spots when it comes to the team they root for. Even the incredibly smart and reasonable folks.

It’s not a bunker mentality with the smart ones. It may, for example, manifest itself in a very reasonable proclamation that they are no longer following a given, admittedly bad sports writer . . . but it just so happens that the tipping point was a column criticizing their favorite team. Or perhaps you’ll see it manifested in the criticism of a rival team or player for Incident X, while being strangely silent when their own team involves in almost identical behavior. A totally reasonable criticism on the merits, to be sure, but one which consistently, and quite curiously, only comes out when it is the rival in question. Indeed, with so many sports fans — and again, I include the sharp ones in this — where they come down on a given issue or controversy on any given day can be pretty damn reliably predicted by who they happen to root for.

In this way sports discourse is surprisingly like a lot of political discourse. A given voter, commentator or politician may be 100% capable of hashing out a given point of policy and, given the heterogeneity of the population, they could reasonably come down in any number of places. But nope: if you know their party affiliation, you know where they’ll come down before they even speak. The tail wags the dog.

Indeed, there’s a strange overlap or mirror-imaging when it comes to sports and politics.  A strange bizarro world in which fans of sports teams imbue their rooting interests with righteousness and opponents with wickedness while supporters of a given political party talk of their affiliation as their “team.” As if something clearly irrational like sports fandom must be explained as if it were chosen on clear and objective merits. And where the support of political positions — most of which should be able to be explained in objective pro-and-con policy terms — is really often determined by an irrational brand loyalty to their chosen party. Fans offer virtual position papers on sports, politicos wave pennants and pride themselves on being diehard supporters of their little granfalloon.

Maybe it’s always been this way and, like a lot of things, it’s only apparent now because of how easy it is to interact with people online. But it’s pretty damn crazy when you consider it all. When you realize that a HUGE portion of sports commentary is, practically speaking, no different than kids yelling “my old man can beat up your old man” at each other on the playground, even if we try to dress it up as something greater.

But, no, seriously: we hate your team. A lot.

Is it a problem that the Cardinals are going to wear a patch in memory of Oscar Taveras?

oscar taveras getty

Last month we learned that the Cardinals will wear a patch with Oscar Taveras’ number on it. Taveras, of course, was killed when he crashed a car he was driving in the Dominican Republic in October. Also killed was his 18-year-old girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo. Taveras was drunk at the time of the crash, well above the legal limit.

As Paul Lukas of ESPN notes, the circumstances of Taveras and Arvelo’s death are such that the Cardinals’ wearing the patch is creating some controversy. Which is understandable. After all, if Taveras had lived, he’d have been prosecuted for vehicular homicide. His acts killed himself and an innocent passenger. As Lukas puts it:

This discussion raises a number of interesting questions. Should a person’s character have any bearing on whether he’s memorialized with a patch? Does the fact that Taveras was only 22 at the time of his death make a difference in this case? Is a memorial patch an endorsement of a person’s entire life or a gesture of mourning?

Fair questions. Baseball — and the Cardinals in particular — have a checkered history with drunk driving. Players have died. Players have killed or injured others. Some, like Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, died as a result of his own drunk driving. Others, like Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, were innocent victims. One-time Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was once arrested for drunk driving. It’s always been a problem around the game, largely ignored until quite recently.

But, despite that, I’m having a hard time taking issue with the Cardinals wearing a Taveras patch. It’d be one thing if the Cardinals went crazy here, retiring his number, proclaiming days in his honor and otherwise attempting to whitewash what happened to Edilia Arvelo and Taveras, but nothing they have done since his death suggests anything like that. Their public statements have not been such that they condone or deny Taveres’ actions or that they are seeking to minimize the danger of drunk driving or the tragedy that it causes. In light of that, to claim that a small patch honoring Taveras’ memory is the same as endorsing or excusing his actions is a bit too much in my view.

Ultimately, the Cardinals as a team lost someone they knew and loved. They knew him and loved him even if the circumstances which led to his death and the death of another were borne of his own irresponsibility. Those circumstances don’t make them love and miss him any less or make their loss any less painful. Given the relative modesty of this gesture, it seems presumptuous to me for people to tell Cardinals players that the manner of their mourning is somehow wrong.


What’s inside the Red Sox’ Truck Day truck?

Bandit Truck

My failure to understand the significance of “Truck Day” goes back many years. I have long since officially surrendered my arguments about it, as I have come to learn that it matters to people. Indeed, as I age I will admit that symbolism matters to me more too, so good for everyone who gets a warm feeling when a couple of trucks packed with baseball equipment leave the cold north for Florida and Arizona.

There’s still one thing I don’t understand about it though. Go to the Boston Globe’s infographic of what the Red Sox take along with them on Truck Day. I’ll wait.

Question: why are they taking 20,400 baseballs with them? The Red Sox are, as far as baseball teams go, a fairly significant operation. I am willing to bet that when they need baseballs, they don’t send an intern down to Modell’s to buy a few crates of them at retail. I assume that Rawlings sends them to them. I also assume that if, on the shipping address, they put “Jet Blue Park, Ft. Myers, Florida” instead of “Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts” that the 20,400 balls would be shipped down to spring training, saving the Red Sox the truck space and the gas and the hassle involved with shipping them themselves.

Maybe I’m missing something — I have a couple of emails out to people who work for teams in an effort to answer this question — but at the moment I honestly can’t think of why clubs schlep their baseballs a thousand miles on their own dime.