Posnanski: baseball is trapped by its own history

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Joe Posnanski argues for Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game. You may agree with that or you may disagree, but it’s hard to disagree with Joe’s diagnosis of a problem baseball has which leads to “arguments” like Puig or no Puig:

. . . this is the history that still traps baseball. Should the season really be 162 games long? Probably not. But it’s tradition. Should we still be judging starting pitchers by “wins” when they average – AVERAGE – fewer than six innings per start? Probably not. But it’s tradition. Heck, even the smallest and most obvious changes – like finally outlawing the ridiculous fake to third throw to first play – rattles the cages of the game.

And so the All-Star Game – which used to matter when America was a different place – clings to the traditions of another time.

Baseball’s small-c conservatism is often an asset. The game is skeptical of change and slow to adopt it.  This is good inasmuch as it keeps baseball, most of the time anyway, from lurching from one fad to the next, changing or losing that which draws so many people to it in the first place.

But there’s a difference between skepticism of change and a reflexive, reactionary abhorrence of the new. I feel like a lot of the people who don’t want to see a guy like Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game are operating like that. Not necessarily because they don’t like Puig — indeed, I’ve not heard anyone couch their opposition to Puig as some “I don’t like him” thing. Rather, it’s a reaction to the All-Star Game truly being an exhibition and spectacle. It has long been this, yes, but people have always treated it like it mattered more and this Puig resistance is a hangover of that.

Once you let go of the idea that the game truly matters — something which would be aided by Major League Baseball getting rid of the home field advantage in the World Series aspect of it — then there is no real basis for resisting Puig. Or Bryce Harper last year. Or any other player who makes a splash in the future.

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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