Baseball players are social misfits

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Former big leaguer Brent Mayne has a new post up over at his blog and, like most of the stuff he writes, it’s pretty fantastic.

The subject: how baseball players are shielded from normal social interaction and how that turns them into social misfits. Not in the way we typically hear about athletes being coddled and told they’re special thereby giving them ego problems. No, Mayne’s point is far more mundane: ballplayers don’t deal with airports and reservations and conversations with people and stuff and it makes them, well, weird and insulated. He says it in much more plain and useful terms than I just did, though, so by all means go read it.

Mayne’s observations dovetail in with one of my pet social/political concerns, and that’s social equality. Not financial equality, mind you. I believe people should be rewarded for their talents and efforts. For as much of a commie as I may seem at times, I have no problem with personal wealth for the sake of personal wealth. Indeed, I’d like a great deal of it for myself, please.

But I am a bit distressed at the way that wealth — and not just wealth, but technology too, the access of which can be dependent on wealth — has, quite recently, really, served to cut off people from what I’ll call “the public square” for lack of a better term. Don’t want to wait on line with people anymore? Pay a little extra to get VIP service. Don’t want to deal with the masses in the stands at the ballpark? Spring for club level seats. Don’t want to head to the department store? Hire a personal shopper.

These (and a bunch of other examples) are all matters of convenience or luxury which are understandably desirable. And I’m not suggesting that we try to put a stop to them because they’re just part of the market functioning, and I’m a fan of the market more or less.

I just worry that we’re losing something as a society by not having to wait on line next to one another or assemble in the same social spaces as much as we used to. That, like Mayne and other ballplayers, the ability to eschew interaction with the general public, however understandable, desirable and inevitable it may be, is causing us all to become social misfits to some degree.

I mean, if you never stand next to strangers in close quarters, what’s forcing you to cover your mouth with your handkerchief when you sneeze? Metaphorically speaking, I mean.

And yes, working by myself from my own home for the past several months has had much to do with thoughts like these staying close to the surface. I hate offices. Never liked working in one. But when I go out in public lately, I sometimes feel like I have three heads and that I can’t put two sentences together with people in conversation.

Anyone else feel this way or am I just off in Crazy Craig Land here?

Christian Yelich on Manny Machado: “it was a dirty play by a dirty player”

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As we wrote during last night’s game, the Brewers and Dodgers benches cleared after Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar and Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado exchanged words at first base. The exchange came after Machado dragged his left leg, slamming it into Aguilar’s leg as he crossed the bag (video of the play appears at the bottom of this article). During postgame interviews in the wee hours this morning, a couple of Brewers players took issue with Machado.

Outfielder Christian Yelich did not mince words, saying the play at first was “a dirty play by a dirty player.” When he was done answering questions, he said of Machado, “F**k that motherf***er.”

His comments in full, not including the expletive, which was noted by several assembled reporters:

You all could see how that unfolded. Everyone has their own opinion. He is a player that has a history with those types of incidents. One time is an accident. Repeated over and over again. It’s a dirty play. It’s a dirty play by a dirty player. I have a lot of respect for him as a player but you can’t respect someone who plays the game like that. it was a tough-fought baseball game. It has no place in our game. We’ve all grounded out. Run through the bag like you’ve been doing your whole life like everybody else does. If it’s an accident it’s an accident. On the replay to us, it clearly looks like you clearly go out of your way to step on someone. It just has no place in our game. It’s unacceptable. I don’t know what his problem is honestly. I’ve played against him for a long time. It has no place in the game.

Travis Shaw had his opinion too:

“Dirty play. You saw the replay. He can say all he wants that he didn’t do it, but it’s pretty obvious he meant to do it. He’s shown it multiple times throughout his career. I mean, it’s just a dirty play. A kick to his leg right there. It was not by mistake.”

Brewers manager Craig Counsell was also asked about Machado and whether he thought the play was dirty. Counsell declined to say so explicitly, but he clearly signaled that he agreed with his players, all while taking a pretty sharp swipe at Machado in his own way. At least when you remember that’s that, in baseball, the usual defense to playing “dirty” is that the guy involved is actually just “playing hard”:

Q. Two things: How did you see the play with Machado at first base? And given that, combined with the slides, do you think he’s going to beyond the grounds of playing hard?

Counsell: I don’t know. I guess they got tangled up at first base. I don’t think he’s playing all that hard.

So yes, I’d say that’s Counsell implying strongly that he thinks the play was dirty while simultaneously taking a swipe at Machado for being lazy. Which, let’s be honest, is also a fair charge given recent events.

For his part, Machado — who did apologize to Aquilar later in the game — said, “I play baseball, I try to go out there and win for my team. If that’s their comments, that’s their comments, I can’t do nothing about that.” Which, should be noted, is not a denial.

As we’ve noted, this was not the first incident involving Machado on the base paths in this series. In Game 3 Machado twice attempted to interfere with Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia at the second base bag, getting called for interference on the second one. Anyone watching the play with Aguilar could see that Machado was trying to interfere with him too.

It may be worth noting at this point that, four years ago, Machado was suspended for five games for throwing a bat at a guy.

The Dodgers are no doubt happy with their victory, but there are likely a lot of players around the game — including, I would imagine, players on his own team — who are not too happy with what Machado has shown this series.

UPDATE: Even Dodgers luminary Orel Hershisher called out Machado’s play as dirty on the Dodgers’ very own TV network.