And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 11, Reds 4: I’ll take “Improbable scores for an extra-inning game for $200, Alex.” It was already 7-4 in the top of the 10th when Matt Holliday came to the plate but he hit a grand slam off Curtis Partch to truly ice the game. J.J. Hoover was charged with six of the seven runs scored by St. Louis that inning. I wonder if anyone in Cincinnati can think of clever and/or crude ways to describe Hoover’s performance in this one that incorporate his name somehow.

Rangers 6, Blue Jays 4: The Rangers avoid a sweep and move back into first place by a half game. Homers from Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy.

Tigers 4, Indians 1: Jose Alvarez makes his MLB debut in a spot start, allows one run in six innings, gets the W and is sent back down. Such is life when you play for a veteran-laden, first place team. Don Kelly hit a three-run homer to break the 1-1 tie in the sixth.

Marlins 8, Mets 4: The Marlins have 18 wins. Eight of them have come against the Mets. The Mets made news after this one by sending down a few players and calling up a few in their place. Thing is, there are still a bunch of minor leaguers in talent and essence on this club.

Nationals 7, Twins 0; Nationals 5, Twins 4: Jordan Zimmermann tossed seven two-hit shutout innings in game one while Anthony Rendon doubled in two and singled in ones. In the nightcap it was the bullpen that did the heavy lifting as Nathan Karns didn’t have much but the pen held the Twins scoreless for the final six innings.

Red Sox 10, Angels 5: Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit two homers. David Ortiz hit a three-run job. The Sox took two of three, have won six of eight overall and are sitting on top of the AL East by a game and a half.

Brewers 9, Phillies 1: Kyle Lohse was strong and got his first win in eight starts and the Brewers take three of four. But Ryan Braun came out of the game as his thumb continues to bother him, and he’s probably gonna hit the DL soon.

Orioles 10, Rays 7:  Baltimore: unimpressed by Matt Moore. The racked up nine runs on 12 hits off him, with J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Alexi Casilla and Nick Markakis each driving in two. Oh, check out this play by Casilla. That’s some Neo-from-Matrix crap right there.

White Sox 4, Athletics 2: Alex Rios and Tyler Flowers homered as the Sox earn a split against one of the hottest teams around. Sure, it comes after a stretch that put them in last place and gave new meaning to the word “punchless” but it’s at least something.

Cubs 4, Pirates 1: Cody Ransom hit a three-run homer. Which I heard on the radio while riding in a cab in Chicago. Which was kind of cool. I had a pretty sweet weekend up there. I’ll offer a couple of mini ballpark reviews of both Wrigley and U.S. Cellular, each of which I hit on Friday, later today.

Braves 8, Dodgers 1: Two homers for Dan Uggla. Homers have basically been his whole season. He’s on pace for 33 this year. He’s on pace for butt in basically every other offensive category. Yasiel Puig went 3 for 5. He’s 13 for 28 to start his career.

Royals 2, Astros 0: Look at Kansas City, winners of five straight. Sure, those wins came against Houston and Minnesota, but they still count. Luis Mendoza and Lucas Harrell had quite the duel going here, each tossing seven shutout innings. Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer each singled in runs in the eighth.

Rockies 8, Padres 7: The Rockies were down 7-4 entering the bottom of the ninth before rallying off Luke Gregerson.  Dexter Fowler scored the tying run that frame and drove in the winning run in the tenth. Carlos Gonzalez was the man, though, making two fantastic catches and driving in two on a ninth inning double.

Yankees 2, Mariners 1: Story of Felix Hernandez’s life: one runner over seven innings but a no decision because his team’s bats couldn’t do anything. David Phelps held them at bay and then Chris Stewart drove in the go-ahead run on with a ninth inning single.

Giants 6, Diamondbacks 2: Chad Gaudin threw up during the third and sixth innings but only coughed up two runs in the fourth against the Dbacks. Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers probably yelled at their team for not being truly gritty compared to Gaudin after this one.

Sports teams do not “heal” cities or nations

Associated Press
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a story today in which he talks to Cleon Jones, Ken Harrelson, Art Shamsky and others from the 1969 Mets about their Amazin’ World Series title run. The story is tied to the upcoming commemorations of the 50th anniversary of that phenomenally unexpected and improbable season.

And that’s fine as far as it goes, but as so often is the case with nostalgic remembrances, it goes too far:

They will gather together in New York later in June, rehashing stories from 50 years ago, reminiscing about the year they turned the baseball world upside down, becoming perhaps the most beloved team in history.

The 1969 Mets.

The team that helped revitalize a city in ruins and heal a nation in turmoil, showing the world you can turn the inconceivable to the improbable to the possible to the incredible, in a way only sports can possibly do.

Now would be a good time to remember that the city the Mets allegedly revitalized found itself on the brink of bankruptcy in the early-to-mid-70s and experienced urban decay and spiking crime rates for the next 20+ years. It would also be a good time to remember that the nation the Mets allegedly healed witnessed the Kent State shootings a few months later, among other bits of strife for the next, oh, 50 years and counting.

Yes, I am being flip and superficial here, but I do so simply to illustrate how flip and superficial “[Sports Team] healed [City/Nation]” narratives invariably are.

We see these sorts of things whenever a team from a down-on-its-luck place has a title run. Detroit. Cleveland. New Orleans. The idea is generally a broad-brush paint job in which the source of strife — poverty, crime, economic strife, natural disaster, terrorism, etc. —  is detailed with the local sports team’s subsequent title run cast as a spiritual balm. The words “heal” and “uplift” are pretty common in these stories. Back in 2002 I wrote about a classic of the genre, a documentary about the 1968 Detroit Tigers, who allegedly healed Detroit following he 1967 riots. Anyone familiar with Detroit from 1968-on may understand that the claims of healing asserted therein were . . . somewhat overstated.

Whatever the details, most of these narratives have the same sorts of flaws. At best they overstate the significance of sports in society, presuming that happiness among ticket-buying sports fans — who are usually better off than your average city resident who may be the one in need of healing — means broad-based happiness among the populace. More commonly they simply ignore the actual city or society beyond anything but its most superficial markers. The pattern:

  • Montage of the strife in whatever its form (bonus if it’s from the 1960s and you can re-use some existing “turbulent 60s” b-roll;
  • A chronicling of the sports team’s run; and
  • A declaration that everything was better after that.

It’s not even a matter of correlation and causation being confused. There’s very rarely ever any evidence presented that the sports made the underlying problems any better. All one usually gets from these things is a sense that, at least to the sports commentator/documentarian telling the story and to the people who closely followed the sports team, things were good. Unless, of course, I missed the part about how LeBron James solved Cleveland’s declining population problems and how the 2010 New Orleans Saints solved the ongoing mental, economic and medical trauma of those displaced by Katrina.

Which is not to say that sports mean nothing in this context. Sports success can certainly make a lot of people happy, even people hit hard by adversity, temporarily speaking. People only tangentially-connected to the strife in question may, also, decide that a sporting event “healed” a city. For example, if something bad happened in your city but didn’t affect you directly, you may believe that the trophy-hoisting put a nice bookend on the trauma that was more directly felt by others. And, of course, individuals directly connected with the sporting events in question, like Cleon Jones in the Mets piece, can experience a more lasting change in their lives as a result of this sort of success that they might see as general uplift.

That’s not the same thing as healing, though. Because while you or I can close that chapter on it all when the game is over, survivors of traumatic events and victims of systematic oppression or chronic strife cannot and do not do so that easily. There were people still hurting in Detroit after 1968, in New York (and the nation) after 1969, in New Orleans after the Saints won the Super Bowl, and in Cleveland after the Cavs won their title. The very best that can be said of sports triumph amid civic adversity is that it’s a pleasant, albeit temporary distraction. But not everyone had the luxury of enjoying that temporary distraction and a distraction is not the same thing as a cure.

Why do sports writers and commentators do this? I suppose it’s a function of people believing that the world in which they operate is, well, the world. The entertainment writer sees everything as a Hollywood story, the political writer sees everything as a Washington story and the sports writer sees everything as a sports story. It’s an understandable loss of perspective and we all fall prey to it sometimes.

It’d be better, though, if we spent more time appreciating that our perspective on the world is not the only one. I won’t speak for the entertainment or political people, and I won’t speak for the way in which any other person may prioritize the world as they observe it. But in my world — sports — I think it’d be better if we did not ascribe outsized significance to the beat we cover. Doing so asks far more of sports than sports is capable of delivering and erases the ongoing pain and suffering of people for whom sports is no sort of cure.