Baseball is being ruined by the “cult of individualism,” says some guy

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I get accused — not wrongly — of over thinking things from time to time. Well I got nothin’ on David Sirota, who writes in Salon today about how our society’s veneration of the individual over the collective is ruining baseball.

The basis of his argument: a study which shows that teams who spend big money on individual players as opposed to spreading payroll out more equitably do better financially, even as they do more poorly in the won-loss column.

The observation leads to this kind of thing, which could lead to one of those Andrew Sullivan-style “Poseur Awards” were I so inclined to bestow them on people:

… considering the history, it’s hardly a surprise that the worship of the individual is so powerfully reflected in sports in general — even in those sports that are structured against the individual. That’s because while political forces like Reaganism and Tea Party-ism have certainly helped intensify hyper-individualism, nothing has been more powerful in selling that ethos than professional athletics.

Note: unless you’re quoting Walter’s take about nihilists from “The Big Lebowski,” anyone who uses the term “ethos” in general writing needs to loosen up a bit.

That aside, anyone who has taken a decent Western Civ course in the past 25 years or so knows that our society’s focus on the individual at the expense of the collective is something that began — or, rather, re-emerged — in the Renaissance, not some time in the 1980s when you decided you didn’t much care for the culture anymore. At least among elites, which is what superstar athletes are.

So what I’m saying is that this is not news, let alone troubling news.  The individual has been a major draw in baseball since basically the beginning of baseball. Just ask Babe Ruth. Or any other big name player who was given a contract to show up on some barnstorming tour at one time or another. Wait, you can’t ask them because they’re all long dead.

In other news, yes, there are lengths to how much over analysis I can stand. And with this, I think we’ve reached it.

Four teams are in on Mike Moustakas

Mike Moustakas
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Free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas is drawing interest from at least four clubs, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Friday. The Brewers are the presumed frontrunners to land the infielder, but Heyman adds that the Angels may take the inside edge as Moustakas hails from the San Fernando Valley and has invested in charity efforts in California over the last year. The Phillies and Padres, on the other hand, have been involved to a lesser degree as they’re both thought to be in hot pursuit of fellow free agent third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, though their interest in the veteran Moustakas could ramp right back up should they lose out on Machado in the weeks to come.

Moustakas, 30, declined a $15 million mutual option with the Brewers at the end of the 2018 season, and like many others left on the market, has yet to find a landing spot in advance of spring training. While he’s several years removed from his last All-Star performance, he ran a decent campaign with the Royals and Brewers last year, slashing a combined .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs, a .774 OPS, and 2.4 fWAR across 635 plate appearances.

He certainly appears to be a fit in Anaheim, where he could supplant Zack Cozart at the hot corner and balance out the Angels’ right-heavy lineup alongside Kole Calhoun, Justin Bour, and Tommy La Stella. Even if the Angels have serious interest in the third baseman, however, they’re likely to wait and see what kind of contract Machado (and the as-yet unsigned Bryce Harper) fetches before extending any serious offers of their own. They’re far from the only club to use the four-time All-Star as a litmus test this offseason, which has only fueled a growing unrest among MLB players who believe that more serious action — such as a midseason walk-out or a league-wide strike — will need to be taken over the next few months.