Craig Calcaterra

Biceps

Does being in The Best Shape of Your Life portend a good season?

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We keep track of the Best Shape of His Life stuff around these parts. It’s our belief, though, that BSOHL is mostly an exercise in spin and optimism. In the past we’ve made some comparisons of pre-and-post BSOHL seasons from given players and could find no real correlation between the claim and improved results, but we’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t look at the matter too rigorously.

Ben Lindbergh of Grantland looked it, however, and he found something interesting. Something that, while not life-altering or anything, is at least somewhat meaningful with respect to the BSOHL All-Stars.

I won’t give away his conclusions — you have to go read his article for that — but I do think it demands at least some bit of a change in the way those of us on the BSOHL beat deal with these things in the future. Perhaps differentiating between those who are obviously spinning coming off a bad year vs. those who just, screw it, decided to bulk up.

I get to see Will Ferrell play center field today and that’s OK

Will Ferrell
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TEMPE, Ariz. — There’s not a lot going on here at Tempe Diablo Stadium right now, so let’s talk about cultural garbage, shall we?

Yesterday when it was announced that Will Ferrell was going to do the play all nine positions thing, my first impulse was to engage in some mild grumping. I hate that that was my first impulse.

That sort of grumping is an impulse a lot of us have about anything related to celebrities, P.R. stunts and, especially, anything that is perceived to be less-than-totally-cool. My post earlier today about Guy Fieri was in that vein. Most of my Rush comments are goofing around and trying to bait Rush fans, but yes, there is at least a small element of this sort of grumping with that too. Will Ferrell is no longer considered totally cool, see — he probably already reached his high point a while back — so our impulse is to register some sort of mild annoyance with it, be it an eyeroll or an actual complaint. We do it with music and movies and any bit of pop culture that has either gotten too popular or has become somewhat passé.

I think it’s a particularly strong impulse among people my age and older. People who grew up with a somewhat less-fragmented and thus somewhat more polarizing cultural scene. A lot of us felt it socially necessary to choose sides, culturally speaking, be it with cliques or music or what have you. To mock or deride that which we don’t care for. To engage in the same sort of judgmental game we did in 1992 if people were still listening to Warrant instead of Nirvana or 1978 if someone preferred Grand Funk to The Clash. You were with the cool kids and the cool things or you weren’t. Talk to any group of people between 40 and 50 and you can identify this pattern, even today.

I hate that. I hate that such impulses remain so strong among certain people, myself included. Not the impulse to like or dislike something — we all have our tastes and preferences — but the impulse to take things one step further and cast our preferences as some objectively culturally superior choice. To be really frickin’ culturally judgmental.

For a couple of reasons having to do with life and career changes, in the past few years my base of friends and acquaintances has become much younger. I tend to interact with more millennials than Gen-Xers like myself. And, thanks to being on the Internet all day, people even younger than that. These people are different. I mean, yes, there is still cultural garbage and the whole dance in which people signal to one’s tribe, but it’s far less pronounced with people 30 and younger than I’ve observed among people my own age. It’s not as unusual to find people who like bubblegum pop and indie rock. Young adult lit and stuff short-listed for the Booker Prize. Big dumb action movies and Oscar bait.

Most significantly, there is not as much of a social need for these people to apologize for their tastes or to explain away their enjoyment of that which is perceived to be less-than-high culture. There is always a need for people my age to do that, it seems. To say we don’t love Bruce Springsteen, but we love the “Nebraska” album. To say we hate country music, but Johnny Cash is cool. To very consciously and conspicuously label our pleasures either guilty or legitimate, rather than merely acknowledge and own our pleasures. And to make damn sure that people know, deep down, we’re cool.

I sometimes think I’m too old to shake this bad habit of cultural snobbery. It’s so deeply ingrained. But when I do manage to shake it and to simply enjoy fun things which are supposed to be nothing more than fun and goofy things which are supposed to be nothing more than goofy, it’s liberating. To appreciate a kickass pop hook, even if it comes from a 20-year-old pop starlet. To laugh at the oldest fart joke around. To appreciate a bit of mass culture for what it is, rather than to either mock it or appreciate it only on some arch, ironic level.

Which brings us back to Will Ferrell and the backlash I have seen to his baseball stunt, however mild it may be. I don’t think it’s about the fact that baseball’s integrity is being messed with. I mean, Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks have taken spring training hacks before, and lord knows that these games don’t matter all that much. I think it’s more about it being Will Ferrell and most people believing that Will Ferrell’s last truly good comedy movie was several years ago and that he’s past his sell-date with this sort of thing. I have a sneaking suspicion that if some younger, hotter comedian was doing this, not as many people would be grumbling. Or, alternatively, that if someone with greater cool kid credentials who approached this with a greater sense of irony was doing it, it’d be cheered on loudly. If Bill Murray were doing it everyone would love it, right?

Anyway, I’ll stop with my little cultural rant now. I don’t want to oversell it. I still love certain things and hate other things and I always will. And I’m still going to go for easy jokes because that’s sort of what I do. But I’m trying hard to not be that humorless guy from 1992 who hadn’t merely moved beyond Warrant and liked new things, but actively groaned at and judged people who didn’t make the same choices. To try to open myself up to new things, even if they aren’t things normally in my wheelhouse.

And I’m going to watch Will Ferrell play center field here at Tempe Diablo Stadium later and laugh at if it’s funny and smile at it either way.

Joe Maddon doesn’t want his players to “pimp” home runs

Joe Maddon
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Joe Maddon said yesterday that he does not want his Cubs hitters to “pimp” home runs. To stand and admire their shots, gesticulate and emote and all of that:

“It’s act like you’ve done it before and you can do it again,” he said. “The touchdown celebration, all that stuff, pounding your chest after dunking a basketball, all this stuff that’s become part of today’s generation of athletes – whether you agree with it being right or wrong doesn’t matter. I would just prefer that our guys would act like they’ve done it before and that they’re going to do it again.”

I don’t mind a little celebration from time to time as long as it’s not aimed at the other team in a taunting manner. But really, this is a fair stance to have. Especially when you have a young team like Maddon has now.

But it’s probably worth noting that it’s not always the stance that Maddon has had. Remember two years ago when Yunel Escobar was in a little dustup with the Blue Jays after he hit a home run and made a “safe” sign as he crossed home plate. After first voicing his displeasure at Escobar, Maddon reversed himself the next day:

“Some people point to the sky, he shows a safe sign. For me I love the way he is. I want him to remain the way he is. He did nothing wrong. … People that want to say that he did, that’s a fabrication on somebody’s part based on your own personal judgments, period … I’m never going to attempt to subtract from his celebratory manner.”

Also worth noting that Maddon had a closer back in those days who fired invisible arrows into the sky after each save.

My guess: Maddon doesn’t really care for the celebration stuff but, with Tampa Bay, had to be more diplomatic about it because the players who celebrated were veterans and you can’t really win by getting into battles with veterans. Now that he has a younger team, including a lot of young hitters with very little experience, he can be a bit more forward about voicing his displeasure with that stuff.

But really, man: a little flexing never hurt anyone. It can be kind of fun.

Mets’ Josh Edgin weighing Tommy John surgery

mets logo
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Josh Edgin, who was supposed to be the Mets’ top lefty out of the pen, had an MRI on his elbow the other day. The news could be worse, but it’s still pretty bad: his ligament is not torn, but it is “stretched out” and is considered compromised. The choice now: rehab vs. surgery, which Edgin will decide on in the coming days.

With Edgin out — and you have to figure that he’s out a good while, even if he doesn’t have surgery — the Mets’ bullpen is looking pretty thin, especially from the left side. Almost makes a fella think that they could’ve spent a few million bucks and brought in some more pitchers this past winter.

 

Maybe if everyone ignores A-Rod’s homer it didn’t happen?

Alex Rodriguez
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Normally a spring training home run would be worth a bucket of warm spit, but when it’s hit by a guy who merely showing up, taking ground balls and hitting singles has literally been front page news this spring, it is a bit odd for it not to go commented upon.

Yet, as the Daily News notes, it went uncommented upon by the Yankees own Twitter feed. No mention of Alex Rodriguez’s home run at all during the game yesterday, and afterward it went with this:

As the Daily News notes, the Yankees’ Twitter feed is not run by a team employee — which, seriously Yankees? Join this century — but rather, an MLBAM person. Who, somehow, wasn’t aware that half of baseball Twitter was talking about A-Rod’s home run yesterday afternoon.

The story says that “the issue” — though it does not say what “the issue specifically was” — was being addressed and would be “rectified going forward.”