Craig Calcaterra

Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees

Ex-MLBer Russell Branyan arrested for breaking into his ex-wife’s house


Via Deadspin we learn that ex-MLB player Russell Branyan was arrested recently for breaking into his ex-wife’s house in Tennessee while she was sleeping. He stole a number of items from the house and turned the thermostat way down to make it super cold in the house.

While the thermostat part sounds rather prankish, this whole episode is pretty disturbing, especially in light of the fact that in 2008, while he was still married to her, he was arrested on domestic violence for striking her in the face and cutting her lip. Aggressions, major or minor, can escalate quickly in a domestic situation, and that’s even if you ignore the fact that he broke in to her house.

Branyan has been out of baseball for a couple of years now. It sounds like he needs to be removed from his current environment in some way or another as well.


Apparently “real fans” are supposed to shut up and be quiet

Braves Fan

My Braves post this morning struck a nerve, it seems. The nerve belongs to an emailer who apparently believes that sports fandom is an “either you’re with us or against us” proposition and that it’s somehow illegitimate to be unhappy when your team sucks and the people who run it don’t seem to care.

He writes:

The real reason you hate rebuilding is that you were never a real Braves fan in the first place.  You’re a you fan, a navel-gazer, a carpet-bagger and a front-runner.  The Braves don’t care about front-runners, nor should they.

Real fans can embrace a rebuild because they’re rooting for the same team that they’ve always rooted for.  A real fan can accept a few years of pain in the name of a solid rebuild.  Given that you don’t really follow the team or spend any significant money on your fandom – why should any Braves fan or any member of the team care what you think at all?  You’re a nu-fan, expressing nu-fan whines.  There’s a place for such expression on the internet and that place is at G.E. on the blog of a network that doesn’t even cover baseball.  Talk about a fart in a dust-storm.

I have no idea who this person is or how old they are, but I’ll observe that I’ve been a Braves fan since the mid-1980s and, unless “nu fan” has some counterintuitive definition, I’m not exactly that. There’s a decent chance, in fact, I’ve been rooting for the Braves longer than my correspondent has been alive.

Not that any of that matters, as how long or how deeply anyone has been a fan is beside the point. Indeed, the very idea that fans are subject to some sort of test of their loyalty or depth of their fandom before they are able to have opinions about the team they root for is one of the lamest, most retrograde notions in sports fandom today. It’s record store hipster elitism imported to sports, purporting to judge who is and who isn’t entitled to be entertained or to voice their opinion.

It’s also the sort of sentiment which institutions, be they sports teams, governments or companies of any kind, count on in order to not be accountable to their fans, citizens or customers. An implicit “you don’t get it” to defend bad behavior, followed up with the enlistment of the super devoted to “correct” the putatively less invested and to get them to accept the institution’s lines. If you criticize our leader, you’re not really loyal. If you don’t like the new product, you’re not one of their preferred customers.  If you don’t agree with the team’s rebuild, you’re not really a true fan. Please. Loyalty tests will only tell you who the first ones will be to drink the Kool-Aid and who the last ones will be to realize they’re dead.

I’m not sure when trusting the plan of a baseball team’s front office, regardless of how it’s carried out or communicated, became a test of one’s devotion to a team. I know it had to be before Dayton Moore famously told Royals fans to “trust the process,” because that was roundly mocked and, eventually, the Royals realized that the proof was in the pudding, not in the words. Maybe it’s from the early “Moneyball” era when A’s fans didn’t have much reason for baseball hope but did see a smart front office doing unconventional things. Worth noting, however, that as far as I can recall Billy Beane never scoffed at fans the way Coppolella did with his interview. Whatever the case, that kind of fandom is weird to me and seems rather unpleasant. I’d rather have fun with the dilettantes in pink hats watching a fun team than sit in misery while swearing loyalty oaths and professing faith in the men in charge.

All I know is this: winning will always be what fans want more than anything else and they should not be ashamed to want it. If that’s not possible, fans should not be ashamed of at least wanting an entertaining product and should not be shamed if they lose interest in a boring, losing team, however temporarily. Rebuilding is something all fans will accept if they are convinced that it is necessary and if it’s carried out in a competent manner. And no matter what the team is doing — winning, losing or rebuilding — fans will bristle if the club condescends to them or acts as if their feelings about the team don’t matter. The Astros may be an instructive example here. They made no bones about the fact that the organization was in chaos and there was no reasonable disagreement with that notion. They were up front that they had to tear it all down. They were up front that the process was going to be painful. And, as the pain endured for several seasons, they didn’t lash out at fans for their lack of patience and loyalty. Fans left when it wasn’t very fun. They came back when it was. No one died.

As I said this morning, the Braves are doing an OK job with this. They never have made a convincing case that the rebuild was the only course of action possible, and to the extent it is the only course of action it’s because of the unreasonable constraints the team’s ownership has put on its baseball operations folks. But, of course, that ship has sailed. They’re doing an OK job on the baseball side of things in terms of the trades they’re making and the talent they’re stockpiling. They’re being pretty damn dismissive, however, of fan sentiment with all of this, and as the pain wears on, they need to do a better job of appreciating their fans.

Even the nu fans, whatever the hell that is.

Cy Young Awards tonight: Are there any wrong choices?

Jake Arrieta

The Cy Young Award winners will be announced tonight. Like most of the other awards this year it’s really hard for the voters to make a bad choice.

Of the six finalists — Jake ArrietaZack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the NL, Sonny GrayDallas Keuchel and David Price in the AL — only Gray feels like a guy who would be a surprise winner if his name were announced. Otherwise it’s all crazy-even, to the point where it’s hard to even muster some phony outrage, let along legit outrage. Kind of takes all of the fun out of an awards announcement to be honest.

Price went 18-5 and led the AL with a 2.45 ERA. Keuchel led the league in wins with 20 and posted a 2.48 ERA. Gray went 14-7 and posted the league’s third-best ERA at 2.73. Keuchel pitched a few more innings, had slight edges in some rate statrs and, as part of the great story that was the Houston Astros this year, probably has an edge.

You can’t go wrong in the NL either. Arrieta paired wins with a crazy-low ERA. Greinke had an even lower one, led the league in WHIP and had the league’s best winning percentage with a 19-3 record. Kershaw, after a mildly rocky start, turned it on in a major way after that, striking out over 300 batters. In any given year a guy with any of those basic resumes would be a Cy Young favorite. This year we have three top choices. If I had to guess I’d say that Arrieta’s dominant second half gives him the slight edge, but again, it’s a tossup.

Maybe next year we’ll have the chance of a truly bad choice. That would be far more interesting.