Nick Swisher is in The Best Shape of His Life

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This has to be the last one of these, right? Games are being played. Pitchers are going more than two innings. Clearly we’re past the point where feature articles are being written about ballplayers rededicating themselves and all of that, right?

Oh well, for now at least, here’s the last one: Nick Swisher:

Yet few think of Swisher in that company, and he knows he’s running out of time to change outside perceptions. After a generally down year in 2011, he rededicated himself to his offseason workouts. He showed up ripped, and said he’s quicker, stronger, and faster than ever before—something manager Joe Girardi couldn’t help but notice.

“He’s all three of those—quicker, stronger, and faster. I think he gets around the bases better, I watch him in the outfield, I watched him play first base the other day—he’s swung the bat well,” Girardi said.

That “outside perceptions” stuff is about how, despite being a pretty darn productive player overall, people tend to think of him as more of a goofball than as a solid, dedicated ballplayer.

Gee, if only people stopped making such unwarranted assumptions.

Alex Bregman shows how easy it is to manufacture “controversy” in baseball

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In most sports it takes legitimate trash talk to create off-day “controversy.” In baseball, it takes the weakest sauce. We saw how weak that sauce was yesterday.

Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros are going to face off against Nate Eovaldi and the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS tonight. It’s worth noting that earlier this season, they hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off of Eovaldi when he was pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Yesterday, in an act which was likely somewhat inspired by self-motivation, somewhat inspired by getting in Eovaldi’s head and somewhat inspired by a simple interest in having fun, Bregman took the video of those back-to-back-to-back homers off of Eovaldi and posted it to his Instagram:

Of course, since this is baseball, where even farting off-key can be construed as “showing up” the opposition or somehow disrespecting the game, it became a thing. Or at least people tried to make it become a thing.

Indeed, it took them a bit to find someone who would help them make it a thing, because Eovaldi himself didn’t care about it a bit, nor did Astros manager A.J. Hinch or Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Eventually, however, they hit pay dirt. Here’s Sox infielder Steve Pearce talking to WEEI.com:

“Wow. I don’t know why he would do that. We do our talking on the field. If he wants to run his mouth now we’ll see who is talking at the end of the series.”

My guess is that almost no one on the planet, Steve Pearce included, would care about this in a vacuum or if they allowed themselves to think through it for more than a second. Baseball culture, though — and let’s be clear about it, baseball media culture — has conditioned most of its players and participants to think that stuff like this is supposed to be controversial, so it actually takes effort not to start dancing to this kind of tune on auto-pilot.

Kudos to Hinch, Cora and Eolvaldi for exerting that effort and not dancing to it. To the press that automatically sought out comment on this and Pearce who dutifully gave it: hey, I get it. It’s hard to resist one’s conditioning. Maybe you’ll be able to resist it next time.