Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

Noah Syndergaard hates the home run sculpture in Miami


When the Marlins introduced the home run sculpture in their new ballpark back in 2012 there was great consternation. Most people thought it was garish and ugly. Some Marlins players even wondered if it was going to interfere with their sight lines and harm the team competitively. That was silly, of course. Only Jeff Loria has harmed the team competitively in any meaningful way since then. The sculpture has been a benign amusement.

Still, most people don’t much care for it. Add Mets starter Noah Syndergaard to the list. He tweeted this yesterday as the Mets left Miami at the end of their series against the Marlins:

I realize Syndergaard is in the strong majority as far as is opinion about that thing goes, but I kind of like it. I don’t want a replica of it for my mantle or desk and, if I ever build a ballpark myself, I won’t install one. But there’s something to be said for being a bit out there design-wise. I feel that way about the entire park in Miami, which many have criticized for its bright colors and modern design.

Baseball is insanely conservative, aesthetically speaking. This is not necessarily bad. Baseball’s conservatism has led to a lot of tasteful things like the Dodgers, Yankees and Tigers looking fantastic, day-in, day-out, with venerable uniform styles. It also led to some good back-to-basics ballpark design in the early 90s which pushed back against utilitarian buildings which made watching games kind of miserable. I tend to lean in favor of innovation and new stuff, but not everything new is good. Conservatism can rein-in the worst excesses of the visionaries.

But it’s a balance which can be tipped too far in either direction, I think, and in a lot of ways it has been tipped a bit too far in recent decades. Conservatism in uniform design has led to some bland choices. It also led to some comically self-conscious retro-designs in ballparks which don’t make a lot of sense historically speaking. Places like Marlins Park, Target Field and Nats park have started to work against that, thankfully.

The Marlins sculpture may not be everyone’s taste, but at least it’s trying something. It’s bold. The same goes for the Diamondbacks new uniforms which I don’t much care for at all but for which you still have to give them some points for creativity. Maybe they’re a miss, but maybe someone will take their cue, get creative and come up with a hit.

In the meantime, if some corneas get burnt, eh, that’s the price of progress.

Daily News columnist slams Derek Jeter for not being Muhammad Ali

Associated Press

The news cycle today basically mandates that, in addition to the actual news, we have reactions, reactions to the reactions and then hot takes sprinkled all over. It is, as they say, what it is. Some of those takes are less reasonable than others, however, and I think we’ve found the new leader for silliness in the takes/countertakes following the death of Muhammad Ali.

The take: slamming Derek Jeter for not being Ali. Really. That comes from Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News, who uses Jeter’s remembrance of Ali from the Player’s Tribune as a basis for taking Jeter down a few pegs:

Jeter made a career of never choosing to truly impact the world. Yet there he was on Saturday, praising Ali for teaching him just that . . . Never had such eloquent words of Jeter’s PR flaks rung quite this hollow, the most inauthentic athlete of our time celebrating the most genuine . . . [Jeter] made a career out of not speaking his mind, unless Gatorade or Rawlings or the Steiner Sports memorabilia machine were paying him to speak on their behalf.

At the outset, I hope we can agree that the slamming of Jeter for chasing endorsements is pretty chuckle-worthy. At the very least it reveals that Samuel is too young to remember Ali doing commercials for roach spray and hash browns and stuff. Or making some coin for being a guest referee at Wrestlemania. Indeed, if you’re under 40 you probably saw Ali doing these things before you ever saw footage of him from the Rumble in the Jungle or the Thrilla in Manila. Which isn’t to slam either Ali or Jeter for doing commercials. Get paid if you want and need to, endorse whatever your conscience abides.

The larger issue is Samuel fundamentally misunderstanding Muhammad Ali. There’s a great article over at Fox today by Ali biographer David Kindred. In it Kindred recalls a quote Ali gave in 1964, right after he won the title for the first time and, more significantly, right after he went public with his relationship with The Nation of Islam, changing his name to Cassius X and, later, Muhammad Ali. The press was roasting him. Ali’s response:

Finally, exasperated by the reporters’ insistence that something was wrong, Clay said, “I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be who I want.”

Ali most definitely spoke out for what he believed in and most definitely took political and social stands. Obviously, Derek Jeter has not. Samuel rakes him over the coals for it. But Jeter has his reasons and they are his own. Maybe they’re reasons Samuel, you or I might not find noble or inspirational. Maybe it’s to protect his image or his ad dollars. Maybe it’s because Jeter doesn’t feel comfortable entering that arena for reasons totally separate from that. It doesn’t really matter. Derek Jeter does not have to be what the New York Freakin’ Daily News wants him to be. Or what you or I want him to be. He is free to be who he wants to be. Every athlete and celebrity is, just as every private person is. Despite the fact that we expect so much of athletes and celebrities.

I don’t expect the Daily News to appreciate that, as it thrives on heroes/villains narratives. But maybe for one second someone over at that joint can appreciate the inherent ridiculousness of a column which uses the passing of a man who was literally called “The Greatest,” and universally praised as such in order to say “that guy over there? He wasn’t so great.”


Video: David Ortiz: The Piñata Slayer


We try to be judicious in posting videos of commercials because, hey, they ain’t paying us to run them. But ever since there have been commercials there have been commercials whose entertainment value outstrips their commercial value and those are worth our appreciation.

Which is to say that, though I’m not more likely to fly JetBlue today than I was yesterday after seeing this David Ortiz commercial, I am DEFINITELY happy to watch Ortiz ruin kids’ parties over and over again. Note: the most underrated part of this thing is when he steals the cupcake. Big Papi don’t care.