Craig Calcaterra

Lackey yawn

The Cardinals are boring


Hey, I’m not slamming them. That’s a direct quote from their general manager in this Bob Nightengale column:

The St. Louis Cardinals are the team the tabloids and shock-jock shows love to hate. You looking for a juicy quote? Maybe stir up a little controversy? Sorry, wrong camp . . . “We are boring,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak says.

. . . They are dull, dreary and monotonous. All they know how to do is win.

Adam Wainwright agrees they’re boring too. Says so right in the column.

Know what, though? I bet they’re not as boring as they let on. No one can be that boring, actually. What I think is really happening is that a reporter came into the clubhouse with the same sort of angle a lot of reporters have had on the Cardinals over the past several years — class acts, “they just go about their business,” etc. — and the team is smart enough not to push back against it. Partially because it’s flattering. Mostly because what the hell do most ballplayers care what the media narrative is? If the media and a segment of their fan base like to portray them as “aw shucks” Johnny Lunchbuckets, who are they to stop it? There are guys on other teams who would KILL for that kind of free pass from the media. Heck, A-Rod has had to engage in a year-long full court press just to be compared to deadly cancer as opposed to a literal murderer.

But it is important to realize that, whatever its source and no matter what amount of truth there is to the “the Cardinals are just a bunch of boring guys who just want to win” narrative, it is, in fact, just a narrative. A narrative that is different than that which gets applied to a lot of other teams, but one which works the same way as all narratives work: post hoc, and determined by the won-loss total. All narratives work backwards from winning or losing.

I figure the Cardinals will win a lot this year, and that a take like Nightengale has here will be seen as prescient (or a repeat from the last several years). But if they lose 90 somehow, what then? Maybe they didn’t have enough fire! It’s the reverse of that which applies to a team which wins with colorful characters. Win 95 and they’re lovable idiots. Lose 95 and they’re distractions. It’s not a long drive from Cowboying Up to Chicken and Beer. All that matters is the win total.

Talent determines who wins, mostly. That other stuff is just the vanilla sprinkles around the edges. Even if that other stuff takes on outsize significance in interviews and columns after the winning or losing is done. It’s understandable. We human beings have a few million years of evolution under our belts, and a big part of that evolution is attributable to understanding the world via stories and narratives which allow us to communicate things effectively via shorthand. It’s way easier to tell the next generation where the bison are or when the river will flood as a result of that shorthand than it is to start from scratch each generation.

Sports are no different. We tell stories about how they work because it’s easier than figuring out how applied athletic talent works in purely concrete terms. Especially to people who don’t much like math. Plus, we like to give meaning to the bison and the floods and the winning because it makes us feel less insignificant in the world. The river god flooded the valley because he loves us and wants our crops to grow. The baseball team won the game because its players are good and virtuous.

Which brings us back to the Cardinals. Yes, they win a lot of games. And yes they’ve done so while carrying themselves professionally and while mostly being good, boring boys. But make no mistake: they’ve done it mostly because they’ve had a lot of damn good baseball players, not because of their culture. I mean, Adam Wainwright could shave his head, put on crazy makeup and give interviews like he was Hawk from the Road Warriors and he’d still mow down the opposition most nights.

Why? Because he’s a good ballplayer. and that’s what matters most.


The Josh Hamilton decision could come as early as next week

Josh Hamilton

Ken Rosenthal of Fox reports that Major League Baseball’s decision on a punishment for Josh Hamilton could come as early as next week.

As our previous posts on the matter have noted, Major League Baseball seems to want a suspension somwhere between 25 games and a full season. Rosenthal notes thatthe union is arguing for a short suspension paired with rehab, during which Hamilton would be paid during his first 30 days. It’s unclear what the union would advocate for if, after the 30 days, it was determined that Hamilton needed further treatment.

The wait now: the retention of an arbitrator to break the league-union deadlock, which Rosenthal notes should not take long, thus leading to a decision next week.

Our previous Hamilton commentary:


UPDATE: Phil Coke to sign a minor league deal with the Cubs

phil coke getty

UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal says that Coke is going to the Chicago Cubs on a minor league deal.

9:12 AMSportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that free agent lefty Phil Coke is expected to sign tomorrow. Coke has been connected to the Rangers, Royals, and Blue Jays of late.

Coke posted a 3.88 ERA and 41/20 K/BB ratio in 58 innings with the Tigers in 2014, but has been shaky when doing anything other than pitching to lefties. And, due to either insanity or necessity, the Tigers have used him a bit more than they probably should’ve. But assuming he’s not exposed to too many righties, he should be a useful arm for someone.


That facts of Josh Hamilton’s case should not be a matter of public record

josh hamilton getty

If you missed it last night, Major League Baseball is reported to be considering a suspension of Josh Hamilton, possibly as long as a year. My take on how such a penalty would be a horrible and damn nigh obscene idea can be read here.

But one thing I left out of last night’s post was a question: how and why in the hell are the deliberations of the panel considering Josh Hamilton’s fate being released to reporters?

Go read the original report from Bill Shaikin and Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Note just how much detail about the panel’s deliberations are there. We have the makeup of the panel, the content of their deliberations, the status of their deliberations and their plans to move forward. All of which come from “a person familiar with the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is not supposed to be discussed publicly.”

This, combined with stories last week about the substances which Hamilton was using during his relapse, shows that Major League Baseball has no compunction whatsoever about making Hamilton’s relapse — a tragic and very personal part of an addict’s life which, from what can be told at the moment, is having impacts on his family as well — newspaper fodder. That they’re releasing this information is unconscionable. And that’s before you remember that, per the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement, all of this stuff is supposed to be confidential.

But of course leaks in drug cases are nothing new. You’ll recall that late union director Michael Weiner slammed the leaks in the Biogenesis case two years ago. He said at the time:

“The leaking of confidential information to members of the media interferes with the thoroughness and credibility of the Biogenesis investigation.  These repeated leaks threaten to harm the integrity of the Joint Drug Agreement and call into question the required level of confidentiality needed to operate a successful prevention program. It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged the results of the investigation based on unsubstantiated leaks that are a clear violation of the Joint Drug Agreement.”

But here we are again.

The entire universe of people who should be privy to information about Josh Hamilton’s relapse and potential punishment is quite small. On baseball’s side: Rob Manfred. His close aides. The panel in question, which is said to have four people on it. A random lawyer or two. On Hamilton’s side: him, his lawyer, Tony Clark and a very small universe of union officials.

How Major League Baseball can’t keep a lid on this, especially given that they’re reportedly still in the middle of it all, is pretty pathetic. And does absolutely nothing to help a drug addict in crisis or to give comfort to any future player with drug problems who want to stay out of the shadows and come into the light.

It’s like the New York Post isn’t even trying anymore

Alex Rodriguez

While I am opposed to A-Rod bashing, I do love a delicious tabloid cover once in a while. I mean, say what you want about the Post and the Daily News, but “Headless Body In Topless Bar!” is pretty much the height of journalism. And while, sure, it’ll be hard to ever top that one, even your run-of-the-mill daily puns from these rags can induce a chuckle. At times I think the covers are the only things redeeming them.

Which makes today’s New York Post so depressing. No effort at all. No effort to be funny or clever or anything. It’s the most mailed in Post I can recall seeing:



I guess it’s spring training for the tabloids too.