And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

59 Comments

Cardinals 9, Pirates 2: And the sweep. Four losses in a row overall for Pittsburgh which is back in wild card territory, looking up at the Cards, still stuck on 81 wins.  Michael Wacha pitched seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits, and drove in two runs to boot. He hasn’t allowed a run in 19 and two-thirds consecutive innings.

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: Just your standard walkoff wild pitch after the best closer in history blew a save. Is it rude of me to note that he’s blown a lot of saves for him lately and that, just maybe, the “never retire, you’re invincible, Mo!” stuff is probably a bit overstated.  Moving on … nice for the Yankees to salvage one. It was pretty dreary for them, I presume, losing three straight games in which they scored eight or nine runs.  To lose a lower scoring one too woulda been hard to take. As it was they didn’t lose too much ground to the Rays this weekend. Problem was, they got passed up by Baltimore and Cleveland.

Royals 5, Tigers 2: Eric Hosmer had three hits including a three-run homer and Bruce Chen baffled the Tigers. And, by extension, continued to baffle all of us. The guy has pitched in 15 major league seasons. If you lined up every pitcher in the big leagues in 1999 or 2000 or so and said “which of these guys is gonna pitch in 15 major league seasons,” I’m guessing Chen would not have been on many folks’ list.

Reds 3, Dodgers 2: Clayton Kershaw and Homer Bailey were pretty close to even for seven innings but then the Reds got to Ronald Bellisario in the ninth, with Zack Cozart singling and Ryan Hanigan doubling him in.

Phillies 3, Braves 2: Nice day for Evan Gattis — he hit two homers including an absolute moon shot — but that’s all the Braves could do against Cole Hamels. Literally, those were the only two hits he gave up in eight innings. Meanwhile Darin Ruf broke the tie with an eighth inning homer of his own after driving in a run earlier.That’s four straight losses for Atlanta. Guess that’ll put the kibosh on any of that “maybe they peaked too soon” talk.

Athletics 7, Astros 2: A seven-run third gives Bartolo all the run support he needed, as he held the Astros to one run in six. It was big Bartolo’s first win since July 26.

Rangers 4, Angels 3: Texas avoids a sweep and stays one and a half back of the A’s. Alex Rios homered in the first and drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh inning double.

Brewers 3, Cubs 1: Yovani Gallardo with another nice start. He’s strung a few of those in a row since coming off the DL last month. Too bad he couldn’t have done this in June and July and gotten Doug Melvin some prospects in a deal.

Padres 5, Rockies 2: Three game sweep for the Padres, all three games with late-inning runs. Here Nick Hundley cleared the based with a double in the Pads’ four-run seventh.

White Sox 4, Orioles 2: The Pale Hose end a nine-game losing streak. Game ended with a nice deke on baserunner Chris Dickerson too. He was trying to steal second when Brian Roberts fouled out. Alexi Ramirez made Dickerson think the ball was on the ground in play so Dickerson made no effort to turn around and head back to first. Double play and ballgame.

Mets 2, Indians 1: Only one run on three hits in five and two thirds innings for Daisuke Matsuzaka, and that run was an inherited run that Vic Black allowed in when he plunked a guy with the bases loaded. Not too shabby for him, and probably satisfying too given that it came against the team that kept him in the minors all year and then cut bait.

Nationals 6, Marlins 4: A hot mess of a day for Stephen Strasburg — he balked in two runs, hit a guy and threw a wild pitch — but he also struck out seven and got his first win in close to a month. Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond each had three hits and drove in two.

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 2: Angel Pagan singled home the winning run in the bottom of the 11th. Madison Bumgarner tossed six shutout innings but was denied a win yet again. Run support is not always an abundant commodity in San Francisco.

Rays 4, Mariners 1: The Rays rally for all four of their runs in the eighth and ninth and, thanks to losses by the Tribe, Orioles and Yankees, up their lead in the wild card race. Still, this road trip started with a four-game lead, now it’s two. And given how badly they’ve played lately, they’re lucky it’s two.

Blue Jays 2, Twins 0: Blue Jays sweep the Twins in the series that was neck-and-neck with the Brewers-Cubs for the “who friggin’ cares?” series of the weekend. At least Brewers-Cubs is a division and geographic rivalry, so I think this one takes the crown.

Sports teams do not “heal” cities or nations

Associated Press
3 Comments

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.