Outraged at A-Rod? Take a look in the mirror, friend

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Every time something like the A-Rod mess goes down there is a parade of outrage. From fans, from columnists, from talk radio hosts. You know what I’m talking about. Here’s a great, nearly-incoherent example from Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com. You’re going to have to bring your A-game if you want to out-outrage Miller. He calls A-Rod sub-human. For starters. Unless he’s merely putting on faux outrage for the page views, Miller is truly upset here and that anger is coming from someplace deep down inside. For what it’s worth, he has never struck me as someone who fakes things for page views.

I used to sit back for hours and mock this kind of sentiment but I’m not all that inclined to do that as much as I used to. Instead I’m more interested in trying to understand it. Because really, I have a tremendously difficult time understanding where such ire and vitriol at some nearly total stranger of an athlete comes from.

Here’s where I am right now: It’s not a matter of new school vs. old school. It’s not a matter of smart vs. not-so-smart. It’s simply a matter of there being two kinds of sports fans: those who hold players to a higher moral standard than people in general, and those who don’t. That’s it.

If you think of ballplayers as heroes or examples or believe that they are somehow obligated to be better than every other schlub on the planet — or if you were taught to think that as a child and still hold on to some of that whether you realize it or not — you’re outraged. If, on the other hand, you didn’t — if you saw them from even the youngest age as just people who are good at something weird and interesting and immensely entertaining — you can’t be outraged. Outrage makes no sense.

I certainly fall in that latter camp. I liked sports just as much as the next kid growing up and certainly love baseball now, but never in my life did I think of athletes as heroes or role models. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t handed baseball by my father or some other person I did look up to. It was introduced to me in a couple of places and I grabbed hold, but sports were not and are not any part of the lingua franca of my relationship with my parents or elders. At least not in such a way where anyone whose opinion I valued ever said to me, in effect, “look at that star athlete, my what a fine example he is.” In turn, to the extent my kids have gotten into sports I’ve never said such things to them, either literally or implicitly via the way I talk about or interact with athletes.

I realize I may be in the minority in this respect. Very recently I had a fairly spirited dispute with another baseball writer about these issues and — after we threw barbs at each other for a bit — we dug into the matter more. It seems he comes at things from a slightly different place. He has children who are really getting into baseball now. They have thrown themselves into it with abandon, to the point where they do get legitimately upset  when things go bad for players they like and uplifted when things go well. It’s probably a fantastic ride for them and I would guess that my counterpart’s bonding over sports with his children is on a totally different level than mine is. But, at the same time, it does require some veneration of the athlete to make it work, doesn’t it? And, in turn, if the athlete does not live up to the ideal, it almost necessitates some negative emotional response. The sort of which we see in these outraged sentiments from fans, the media, whoever. I’ve seen if from my counterpart recently, and it almost certainly has to come from some sense that these ballplayers are disappointing him or his children or both.

For my part, I can’t muster any of that. I don’t think A-Rod is subhuman simply because he lied and cheated. Indeed, that makes me think of him as quite human indeed, as human beings tend to act like that an awful lot. He’s only subhuman if you thought of him as something greater before.  Likewise, I can’t muster what is, in effect, “think of the children” rhetoric because neither me as a child nor my children now see these athletes as anyone special that need give us special consideration.  We love what they do when they are performing, but we don’t think of them as anyone who owes us special moral or ethical duties. That’s what parents and teachers and honest-to-goodness role models are for. Athletes are no different than actors or astronauts in this regard. People who do amazing things but whom we shouldn’t expect to be better people merely because of their station.

Does that mean that I don’t have opinions when an athlete falls short of some ideal? Of course not. It’s simply a matter of proportion. I can say, quite comfortably, when one of them does something bad that they have behaved poorly. Lied. Cheated. Broken the law. What have you. But I’m no more likely to get sent into an emotional tizzy over it than I am if I learned that some actor got busted for drugs or some singer slept around. I don’t approve, but I also let it go pretty quickly. I have my own moral and ethical life to worry about and that’s hard enough. Please just act/sing/play for my enjoyment, entertainer. I may critique your performance if you do it poorly, but the act is all I require of you personally. It’s different if one’s directly affected by the poor behavior in question — other players and teammates have a right to be truly angry if their personal trust or their livelihood was jeopardized by the A-Rods of the world — but I’ve not been harmed by them unless I let them harm me by giving them too much trust to begin with.

You may say that this is a sad viewpoint. That I’m a cynic. Some sort of disappointed, disaffected or jilted former idealist. I assure you I’m not. The thought of treating athletes as special people worthy and deserving of my trust and thus capable of breaking it has simply never been part of my life and never will be. Others, like Scott Miller and my correspondent of a couple of days ago come at it differently. Good for them, good for me.

With this framework in mind you can probably divide up all of the people who offer opinions on this stuff into those two camps pretty easily, actually. I can’t think of any other differences in understanding that better account for it.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

White Sox 8, Red Sox 7: Sox win! Chicago led by three in the seventh, blew that by the bottom of the eighth, but José Abreu hit a two-run jack in the top of the ninth to bring the White Sox back. The foundation of the win was the White Sox pouncing on Chris Sale for five runs in the first three innings. He struck out ten and only walked one, but when he wasn’t missing bats he wasn’t missing bats. Sale is still one of the best pitchers in the game but he hasn’t won at home in almost a year. “For some reason, I suck here,” he said after the game. Relatable. To any number of situations in basically of our lives.

Yankees 8, Blue Jays 7: The Jays jumped out to a 5-0 lead but there really isn’t any safe lead against the Yankees this year. Didi Gregorius homered in the second, Aaron Judge singled in a couple in the second as well and D.J. LeMahieu hit a two-run homer to tie things up at five in the fourth. It was tied up at seven by the bottom of the ninth and Gleyber Torres hit a walkoff single to win it for the Bombers. Lourdes Gurriel Jr hit two homers and a double in a losing cause.

The Yankees and Red Sox now head off to London. Blimey, cor, wot’s all this, then, etc.

Indians 5, Royals 3: Trevor Bauer finally had a great day after a couple of months of struggling, striking out 12 while allowing one run into the seventh. He didn’t even allow a hit until the fifth. Jake Bauers and Tyler Naquin homered in support. Francisco Lindor was 3-for-4 and Jason KipnisOscar Mercado and Jordan Luplow each drove in a run. Hunter Dozier hit a ninth inning grand slam on Tuesday. He struck out four times in four at bats here. Baseball is just the worst, you guys, right?

Padres 10, Orioles 5: Franmil Reyes hit two homers. The Padres hit five in all, with Eric Hosmer, Greg Garcia, and Hunter Renfroe going deep as well. This was the tenth time this year the Orioles have allowed five homers in a game. They’ve now allowed 165 homers on the year in 80 games. The 1970 Orioles allowed 125 all year long. Just sayin’.

Diamondbacks 8, Dodgers 2: Arizona was facing off against Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin, who was making his big league debut and jumped out to a 4-0 lead, so, yeah. A three-run homer from Eduardo Escobar paced things in the first and the Snakes would never trail. Jarrod Dyson had three hits, knocked in a run and stole two bases. Russell Martin pitched in this one. Tossed a scoreless eighth, actually, and struck a dude out.

Rockies 6, Giants 3: The Giants jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first but David Dahl hit a grand slam in the third and drove in five in all. Man of the match, right? Is that a thing we have in baseball? We should have that.

Rangers 4, Tigers 1: Mike Minor tossed a complete game allowing on run on five hits and needed only 108 pitches to do the job. Homers from Willie Calhoun, Danny Santana and Jeff Mathis backed him up. The game only took two hours and nineteen minutes. I’d say the Tigers had a plane to catch or something but they’re just playing the Rangers again today. Maybe they all had early reservations at Sammy Sofferin’s Wonder Bar and Indian Room. I hear that Latin troupe extraordinaire, the La Playa Dancers, led by the exotically beautiful Grace Conrad often play on Wednesday nights. Get there early, get a seat by the stage, fill up on Shrimp a la Powhatan and you’re living, buddy.

Phillies 5, Mets 4: Jason Vargas pitched great, giving up only one run to the Phillies for the first six innings, but he ran into trouble in the seventh. That’s when he gave up a second run and left, having struck out ten. Seth Lugo came on in relief and gave up a two more runs, and bing-bang-boom, tied at four, which is how it’d end in regulation. Stephen Nogosek came on to handle the 10th inning but couldn’t record an out, giving up a walk, a single and then a walkoff double to Jay Bruce to end the game. If you wanna feel bad for Vargas for having such a great start blown by his pen, know that a few days later he’s still trying to justify threatening a reporter with violence. Here’s what he said after last night’s game:

“I don’t think all the information is really out there. I don’t think this is a time to get into that. But I think that anybody that knows me, anybody that has played with me, there’s never been a situation like that. So to think it happened out of the blue, it’s foolish . . . “It’s over. Our organization made a statement. We put an end to it. But I think it’s pretty obvious all the info isn’t out there.”

Whatever, my man.

The Mets have lost four in a row. Philly’s seven-game losing streak is now way back in the rear-view mirror, with three straight wins over the Mets.

Angels 5, Reds 1: Yasiel Puig and Justin Bour exchanged solo sots to make it a 1-1 game until the eighth inning. The the Halos scored one more before Bour homered again, this time a three-run blast to give him a four-RBI night and to give the Angels a win. Bour has four homers in five games since being recalled from Salt Lake. You might say he’s really enjoyed the spotlight since being recalled:

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Nationals 7, Marlins 5: It was close until the sixth when Matt Adams hit a three-run blast to make it 4-1. The Nats added three more in the ninth, with runs coming on a wild pitch, a passed ball and a sac fly. They all count. And two of those runs were needed as the Marlins made it interesting with a four-run ninth inning rally of their own, with Bryan Holaday singling in a run and Curtis Granderson tripling with the bases loaded. The old man is still an artist with a Thompson.

Athletics 2, Cardinals 0: Daniel Mengden and his old-timey delivery stymied the Cards for six innings and three relievers finished the five-hit shutout. Beau Taylor and Matt Chapman went deep for Oakland. St. Louis has been shut out six times this season. Three of them have come in the last 14 games.

Mariners 4, Brewers 2: J.P. Crawford drove in three of the M’s four runs and scored the fourth, notching two RBI doubles and an RBI triple. Wade LeBlanc allowed two runs after coming in following an opener and the opener and two other relievers shut Milwaukee out. That’s three straight wins for Seattle.

Braves 5, Cubs 3: Atlanta took a 4-0 lead off of Yu Darvish early thanks to a wild pitch, a Brian McCann solo shot and a Nick Markakis three-run homer. Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant homered for Chicago and they’d add a third run on a Jason Heyward ground out, but otherwise Dallas Keuchel was solid — more solid before a 48 minute rain delay in the fourth than he was upon resuming the game after — and picked up his first win of 2019.

Pirates 14, Astros 2: It was 8-2 heading into the ninth when A.J. Hinch sent first baseman Tyler White to the mound. Sometimes those position players pitching do an OK job mopping up. White did not, allowing six runs on four hits — two of ’em dingers — while walking four. Every team has eleventeen relief pitchers but they’re all drag racers instead of horses and so none of ’em can go more than an inning, leading to silliness like this. Great game we got going right now, eh? Anyway, Josh Bell, Jung-Ho Kang, José Osuna and Kevin Newman homered and Corey Dickerson had four hits and three RBI. 

Twins 6, Rays 4: Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 lead, had blown it by the seventh to trail 4-3 but then Nelson Cruz hit a go-ahead, three-run, two-out double in the seventh to give the Twins the win. The Rays have lost seven of nine.