Max Scherzer pitched against the Mets yesterday. He was very good. He allowed zero earned runs. He struck out eight guys. His offense, however, was virtually helpless against Bartolo Colon and his defense was poor. As a result, an ill-timed walk (which came as a the result of a questionable ball two call) and maybe the only sharply-hit ball of the day by a Mets hitter led to a couple of runs. Scherzer took the loss even though he was effective and, at times, dominant. That happens in baseball.
But Thom Loverro of the Washington Times either does not understand or does not care that, on occasion, the outcome of a game can largely be out of the starting pitcher’s hands. After acknowledging that there was bad defense and that the Nats’ bats were silent, he says:
But the difference maker in a game like this is supposed to be Scherzer. That’s what great pitching does — erases miscues and not allow the big hit when they need it . . . Great pitching is supposed to overcome all. The guy on the mound with the ball still has control of the game . . . Max Scherzer pitched well. And he will likely be in control and dominate on the mound as part of this great Washington Nationals pitching staff.
But on Monday, Bartolo Colon pitched better. That can’t happen.
May as well just give up on the season now. And, perhaps, explore legal remedies against Scherzer for theft as a result of that big contract he signed.
Seriously, though, I know that many of you will say that Thom Loverro is not worth paying attention to. That it’s not even worth anyone’s time. Maybe not, in and of itself. But as a new season dawns, I feel it is necessary to note that, while any given column may be dumb, it and others like it are what form the basis of sports discourse. Loverro and many of his columny counterparts double as talk radio hosts. This kind of dumbness feeds that chatter. That chatter, eventually, starts to seep into even the less-dumb columns and takes from the local sporting scene (e.g. references in stories and interviews to “some people are saying . . .” etc.) It’s not a perfect echo chamber of course, but it is an echo chamber. Eventually, a non-trivial number of fans buy this garbage. Which makes even talking about sports with people in bars and at work a monstrous pain.
A big reason I criticize stuff like this is because I simply won’t surrender to the notion that sports are so unimportant that there’s no harm in sports journalism being bad. Bull. We’ve all seen great sports journalism. We know how edifying and enjoyable it can be. We know how, at times, it can even enhance our enjoyment of the game itself by its very existence. Not everything has to read like Roger Angell, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t at least aim higher.
But I also criticize such things because I hate that so much conversation about sports is dumb and that, as noted above, so many of the conversations we have about sports become monstrous pains. I’d love to sit down in a bar in Washington and have someone say “Scherzer pitched well, but the defense stunk and stuff happens, ya know?” Then move on to other, less-dumb things. We should all want that.
Every other part of media is subject to media criticism, often by dedicated media critics, which everyone accepts. Sports journalism should not be singularly immune. And for that reason, I will continue to point out and critique stuff like this when I see it.