“It’s boring. It is. Baseball is boring.”

121 Comments

Brandon Phillips, in this story by Greg Couch over at Vice about the boring, no-bat-flipping, no-celebrating, play-the-game-the-right-way culture of baseball in the United States, said this:

“But here, there are too many rules in baseball. They take the fun out of baseball. In fact, I feel like that’s why a lot of African-American kids don’t play baseball. It’s boring. It is. Baseball is boring.”

Couch goes on to argue that, because of baseball being boring in this way, kids are staying away. I think Couch goes a bit too far into “Baseball is Dying, You Guys” territory with it — there are other reasons why kids, especially minorities, are not playing as much baseball as they used to — but I think he captures the whole culture-of-baseball thing pretty accurately and the article is worth your time.

That culture is a subject we’ve talked about many, many times here at HBT. The clash between flamboyant and non-flamboyant styles of play. Which, not always, but usually, is a clash between Latino players and non-Latinos who created and still foster that play-the-game-the-right-way culture.

It’s well-entrenched culture. American baseball’s unwritten rules of deportment developed years ago in a game that was then dominated by U.S. born players. Mostly white U.S. born players. Given that Latino players now constitute 30% of the baseball population and given that that number is only going up, clashes about deportment have increased and, as you see in any cultural clash, there has been a retrenchment and reinforcement of the old ways in the face of that challenge. Indeed, if anything, baseball has gotten more conservative along these lines in recent years as more and more players with less experience with and reverence for the old ways have moved to the fore. There was nowhere near as much “play the game the right way” chatter 20 years ago as there is now.

Baseball can and should have to adjust and make room for new and different styles. And it will, eventually. But it’s not just a matter of people learning to stop worrying and love the bat flip. Because there are structural forces at play. A structure that makes baseball a lot more like a corporation than a form of entertainment. And like cultural changes in corporate American, cultural changes will come to baseball more slowly than they come to other segments of society.

Baseball has a much taller ladder for its participants to climb than that which exists in football, basketball other sports and other forms of entertainment. Many more players wash out between the time they’re drafted and the time they’re in position to make their professional mark. All but the biggest stars toil in relative obscurity in the minors, dependent upon “corporate,” more or less, to advance them just like employees advance in an office.

Sure, talent is the most important thing, but there are political considerations at play too. Talk to any career minor leaguer and they’ll tell you a story about a guy who was really no better than him who got the call while he stayed back. Often times the talent and performance of two guys — say a couple of relievers — is pretty darn equal, and other considerations determine who moves up and who doesn’t. If someone was a higher draft pick they have an advantage because some scout or evaluator who recommended the kid be drafted puts in a good word. Considerations about “makeup” go into it, and that can be pretty subjective. Yes, baseball is more conducive to objective analysis than some random white collar jobs are, but baseball is not a 100% meritocracy, just like your office isn’t a 100% meritocracy.

In situations like that, sticking out or being seen as eccentric can be a bad thing. That’s especially true when the people who hold your career in their hands are disproportionately older, whiter and more conservative than you, which describes baseball’s decision making structure pretty well. Unless you’re a superstar, you’re way better off keeping your head down, following their rules and conforming to their culture if you want to advance. After 5-6 years of that, you’ve either (a) adopted that culture as your own; (b) washed out; or (c) been good enough to advance despite not conforming.

If (c) describes you, you may have had to be a lot better to overcome it all. And you’re likely surrounded by three (a)-types for every one like you. You’re in a world the reflects the dominant culture. And you end up getting yelled at or thrown at by players who don’t like the cut of your jib.

Like I said above, it won’t always be like that, I don’t think. Hopefully, the ranks of scouts, coaches, managers and executives will start to look a lot more like the player ranks today (i.e. more Latino players) and the culture as taught to players coming up through the system will relax a bit. And maybe then players will react to bat flips and celebrations more in the way Brandon Phillips and Emilio Bonafacio, who was also quoted in the Vice article, do: with amusement and the feeling that it’s all in good fun.

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
3 Comments

NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.