Thinking a ballplayer is hot does not make someone less of a fan

51 Comments

Stacey May Fowles of Vice has a good and, unfortunately, necessary column up today. She calls it a “manifesto,” but most manifestos aren’t as calm and reasonable as this one is. Nor is the point of most manifestos so painfully obvious, even if it’s almost uniformly ignored.

The point: just because a woman thinks a ballplayer is good looking doesn’t make her somehow less of a fan. Nor does it mean that they should be dismissed by so-called “real fans.”

And they are so often dismissed as such. Shallow. Superficial. “Cleat chasers,” maybe. Which, sure, some women in the world may well be. But I’ve observed in baseball fandom that many, many men, especially when there are no women around, find it impossible to accept that women can be serious baseball fans. And, if they encounter women fans, so many, many men assume that they’re only in it for the beefcake. At the same time women, Fowles observes, so often feel the need to make it ABUNDANTLY clear to the point of absurdity that, nope, they’re not checking out some ballplayer’s tush, no, never. And that need, she correctly argues, is aimed at conforming to men’s expectations of how fans are supposed to behave.

But the fact is ballplayers are hot. At least most of them. They’re crazy-in-shape athletic men between the ages of 20 and 40 who do stuff a tiny percentage of the planet can do. You’d have to be crazy to think there weren’t hundreds of hotties in such a sample. Appreciating that does not disqualify anyone as a serious fan, and the idea that it does or should is ridiculous.

So, my heterosexual male friends: go read Fowles’ column. Then, the next time you’re at a game, take a look at Bryce Harper or Giancarlo Stanton or someone and ask yourself how many sets of mental gymnastics you’d have to execute to claim they WEREN’T amazing looking, objectively speaking. Then ask yourself whether that realization makes you any less of a fan. And further ask yourself why we’d think that realization on the part of someone who is actually of the opposite sex or orientation wouldn’t think that too.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

Getty Images
10 Comments

Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.