Why do people bother to hate professional athletes?

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Got a comment from longtime reader DelawarePhilliesFan in the Carlos Gomez video thread this morning:

There is this interesting streak in Craig….it seems to me to be part contrarian, part defense lawyer, part some sort of big brother protectorate….probably some other things too. As soon as people don’t like a player, he has falls in LOVE with that player and goes on these defense missions.

There is some truth to that, of course. I do tend to be drawn to underdogs or hated figures and I do like to mount unpopular arguments. Just part of how I roll.

However, I think there is a much more interesting question about all of this than why I defend unpopular or hated players like Carlos Gomez: Why, on Earth, do players like Carlos Gomez inspire hatred in the first place?

I get it when an athlete is truly an awful person. Like, in real life. If they’re a criminal or if they’r violent or whatever, obviously, people hating them is understandable.  But I am generally baffled at the vast majority of athletes who get placed in the villain role. It’s sports. And while, yes, sports can inspire emotion, I don’t get people who allow it to inspire negative emotion. Or, at the very least, people who hold on to that negative emotion long enough to form character judgments about athletes and to continue beating some drum against them.

Sports are great, but they pale in importance to stuff in real life. And if aspects of them are so unpleasant that they inspire you to hatred or even sustained disapproval — if an athlete angers you to the point where you feel the need to go on about it and let it color your opinions of the game — why on Earth don’t you disengage? Who wants to hate things they don’t have to?

UPDATE: A reader just sent me a link that I think goes a long way to explain all of this.

UPDATE II: This wonderful piece by John Thorn explains a lot of it too. This stuff just fascinates me.

Dan Straily suspended five games, Don Mattingly one for throwing at Buster Posey

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Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins pitcher Dan Straily has been suspended five games and Don Mattingly one game for throwing intentionally at Giants catcher Buster Posey on Tuesday in San Francisco. Straily plans to appeal his suspension, so he will be allowed to take his normal turn through the rotation until that matter is settled.

Everything started on Monday, when the Marlins rallied in the ninth inning against closer Hunter Strickland. That included a game-tying single from Lewis Brinson, who pumped his fist and yelled in celebration. Strickland took exception, jawing at Brinson who was on third base when the right-hander was taken out of the game. Strickland went into the clubhouse and punched a door, breaking his hand.

The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a fastball, which prompted warnings for both teams. Mattingly came out to argue with the umpires about the fairness of issuing warnings right then and there. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly apparently said, “You’re next” to Posey, who was standing around home plate. The next inning, Straily hit Posey on the arm with a fastball, which led to immediate ejections for both him and Mattingly.

Neither Rodriguez nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy were reprimanded, which is ludicrous because it was plainly obvious Rodriguez was throwing at Brinson. But neither team had been issued warnings. Essentially, Major League Baseball is giving free reign for teams to get their revenge pitches in. Furthermore, Straily’s five-game suspension is hardly a deterrent for throwing at a hitter. The Marlins could simply give Straily an extra day of rest and it’s like he was never suspended at all.

Beanball wars are bad for baseball. It puts players at risk for obvious reasons. When players have to miss time due to avoidable injury, self-inflicted (in the case of Strickland) or not (if, for example, Posey had a hand or wrist broken from Straily’s pitch), the game suffers because it becomes an inferior product. That’s, of course, second behind the simple fact that throwing at a player is a tremendously childish way to handle a disagreement. When aimed intentionally at another human being, a baseball is a weapon. That’s especially true when it’s in the hands of someone who has been trained to throw anywhere from 90 to 100 MPH.

Commisioner Rob Manfred has spent a lot of time trying to make the game of baseball more appealing, such adding pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. He should spend some time addressing the throwing-at-batters problem.