Checking in with this morning’s Red Sox hyperbole

14 Comments

I know a lot of Red Sox fans in that way you know people on the Internet. Twitter and message boards and stuff. Most of them are understandably bummed about the team’s start, but almost none of them are wallowing or anything. The consensus is “this is straight shite, but they’ll turn it around.”  It’s a sensible view. The “panic” people refer to at times like these is really media panic. Talk radio and columnists and stuff. And I don’t think they’re really panicking per se, as opposed to just trying to outdo themselves in characterizing how bad things are.

I don’t listen to Boston talk radio, sadly, and my guess is that’s where the best stuff will be today. Hosts trying to top one another in framing the apocalyptic nature of it all while their producers try to find the looniest loon they can find on the phone lines to put on the air.  I mean, if your wish is to get on the radio today, call in to the sports squawk station and say that you think Terry Francona should be fired. You’ll get your air time.

The columnists are doing their part too, even if they’re not quite as nutty. Here are the two best I’ve seen so far. First, Steve Buckley at the Herald, who is proposing — maybe seriously? maybe not? — that the Sox should cancel all the pregame pomp and circumstance today. No flyover, no introductions, no ceremonial first pitch. Just baseball, because we’re all too depressed to do anything else. Or something.  His best line:

The 2011 Red Sox are starting to look like the 1988 Dukakis for President campaign. As in, high hopes followed rather quickly by a disastrous tumble. (Picture Sox GM Theo Epstein riding in the little tank.)

Mr. Buckley: I followed the 1988 presidential election. I knew the 1988 presidential election. In a way, it became a friend of mine. Mr. Buckley, this team is no Michael Dukakis.

Now, over to Dan Shaughnessy, who quite frankly disappointed me with his failure to truly go after it. Most of it is sensible if a bit obvious. I liked this one though:

Any way you look at it, the Sox haven’t been the same since John Henry bought Liverpool FC

I can’t decide if that’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to something that really doesn’t matter but people chatter about anyway or if Shaughnessy is really going with the notion that John Henry’s buy-in to English soccer represents some kind of distraction that has competitive implications for the 2011 Red Sox.  If it’s the former, that’s kind of funny. If the latter: dude, they bought Liverpool in, like, October. I’m going to go out on a limb and say nothing good or bad has trickled down since then.

Ah well. Maybe the columnists will bring their really top-grade stuff on Sunday if the Sox drop the first two of the Yankees series.  Until then … Panic.

Hunter Strickland says he doesn’t have an anger problem

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
4 Comments

Giants closer Hunter Strickland struggled in the ninth inning Monday against the Marlins, surrendering three runs en route to a 5-4 loss. Strickland took issue with Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, who tied the game with a single and celebrated as he rounded first base. When Strickland was yanked from the game, Brinson was on third base, so Strickland had some parting words on his way to the dugout. Then, in the clubhouse, Strickland punched a door in anger, breaking his pitching hand. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result.

Strickland posted to his Instagram on Tuesday, taking responsibility for his actions. He wrote, “To my family, my teammates, my coaches, this organization, and our fan base, I am truly sorry that one split second, stupid decision has caused so much harm and now set me back from being out there with my team to pursue our goal.”

Speaking to the media for the first time since breaking his hand, Strickland said (via Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports), “I don’t think I have an anger problem, but sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me.”

Well, if that emotion is anger, and you let it get the best of you, then you have an anger problem. This isn’t an isolated incident.

In the 2014 NLDS against the Nationals, Bryce Harper had Strickland’s number. In Game 1, Harper hit a solo home run ioff of Strickland, putting the Nationals on the board trailing 3-1. Strickland gave up another home run to Harper in Game 4 which tied the game at 2-2. Though the distance made it a no-doubt home run, the ball went down the right field line, so Harper was watching the ball in the air and didn’t immediately run the bases, which irked Strickland. The Giants still went on to win the game and advance to the NLCS, but Strickland carried the grudge with him into the 2017 season. The 2017 season! It just so happened that Strickland never faced Harper at all in the 2015-16 seasons, which makes sense because the two clubs only meet for two series per season and Strickland only pitches one inning per game if he gets into one.

The Nationals and Giants met in San Francisco at the end of May last year. In the first game of the series, Strickland entered with the Giants trailing 2-0 in the eighth inning. He got two quick outs, bringing up Harper for their first meeting since Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS. With his first pitch, Strickland nailed harper on the hip with a 98 MPH fastball. Harper didn’t like it, so he charged the mound and the two threw punches at each other as the benches and bullpens spilled onto the field.

In the 2014 World Series, Strickland had a beef with Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Strickland gave up a double to Perez, then a two-run home run to Omar Infante. As Perez crossed home plate, Strickland started yelling at Perez. He appeared to yell, “Get in the dugout, boy.” The term “boy” carries a racist connotation when used by white people towards men of color. It’s unclear why Strickland was upset with Perez, but Perez said Strickland started jawing at him when he was on second base after hitting his double.

So here’s what we know about Strickland:

  • He gets angry when players look at their home run balls in the air, even if that player is unsure if it will stay fair
  • He gets angry if you get a double off of him in an important game
  • He gets angry when players pump their fists and yell in celebration after getting a big hit in the regular season
  • He gets angry a lot
  • He sometimes gets violent when he’s angry

Short of hitters not showing any emotion at all and not getting hits off of him, it’s not clear what kind of behavior satisfies Strickland and won’t make him angry. So, essentially, anything a batter does could potentially set Strickland off. I’d call that an anger problem. If this weren’t in the context of sports, Strickland’s behavior would be problematic.

Strickland’s behavior doesn’t come off as particularly unique because he’s far from the only player to injure himself punching something in anger. He’s far from the only player to get ticked off when batters get a hit off him and celebrate. This anger is part of baseball culture, part of sports culture at large, and embedded in masculinity — what it means to be a man. We teach men, particularly athletes, to repress a wide range of emotions. As a result, many men resort first to anger — one of the few emotions we allow men to express openly — when dealing with any type of adversity.

If Strickland were a well-adjusted person with high emotional intelligence, he would realize that throwing a baseball close to 100 at someone with the intent to injure them is not a good way to resolve a conflict. Strickland could have gone to the Marlins’ clubhouse after the game and had a level-headed chat with Brinson, saying, “I felt embarrassed and emasculated when you got a hit off of me and celebrated the way you did. Perhaps in the future, you could tone it down.” But we don’t teach men and allow them to discuss and express their emotions in healthy ways, so Strickland lashes out at Harper and Perez and Brinson instead.