Stop thinking of everything in binary terms

Associated Press

A lot of the replies in response to the Ichiro-Pete Rose thing from this morning are saying things like this, taken from a comment to that post:

“why in the hell should anyone — let alone Rose — pretend that Ichiro is breaking Rose’s record?”

Which would be a decent comment if anyone at all was pretending that Ichiro was actually breaking Pete Rose’s record. No one that I’ve seen is honestly suggesting that he is. He’s matching the same number of hits but no one is forgetting to note that over 1,200 of them came in Japan, no one says the Japan hits count toward an actual MLB record and no one is claiming that the level of play in Japan was or is as high as it is in the United States. People are merely saying “hey, that’s great” or “wow, that’s a lot of hits” and “boy, that is quite an accomplishment.” Which it is, regardless of whether or not it goes in the record book.

This sort of sentiment is just the latest example of hyper-binary thinking that has crept into the discourse in recent years. Sports discourse and general discourse. There are either winners or losers. Right or wrong. Hall of Famers or nobodies. Good people and bad people. Record holders and those who fall short. It’s a nice handy way to say something pithy and to start arguments that lead to more engagement, pageviews and followers, but it’s a pretty crappy way to describe the world and its inhabitants, in sports or in life.

In baseball I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past and, on occasion, still traffic in it. I’m really trying to cut it out, but it’s not easy. What’s the first question we ask when a player retires? It’s “is he a Hall of Famer?” Which is a question a lot of people want answered so we ask it and try to answer it, but we’ve come to do it so much that we all but ignore the good parts of careers that are not quite to Hall of Fame level. We’re asking a binary “yes/no” question and relegating all the “nos” to a big pile of negative. Or else we create a secondary binary about who is the worst Hall of Fame “snub.” We rarely talk about guys who had nice careers, could’ve made the Hall of Fame but, hey, we can see why they didn’t and that’s all OK.

The same goes when questions of character or behavior come up. Someone is good or someone is bad. A hero or a villain. Think of Barry Bonds or A-Rod in baseball. To some they’re nothing but evil because of some of their missteps and flaws. To others — and again, I and some of my friends have been guilty of this — their flaws are overlooked because we like their game and because we really like to go off on people who attack them. I still lean the way I do because I feel like it’s better to err on the side of NOT judging someone’s character if we do not know them personally than going in and judging. But maybe it’s possible to say that (a) a given player’s game was fantastic; (b) they should not be attacked as evil but; (c) um, yeah, they were not necessarily great people in certain respects and sometimes were downright bad. Good people do bad things sometimes. Bad people do good things sometimes, right? It’s not all black and white.

The Ichiro stuff is obviously way less heavy than that, but our impulse to go binary with it is part of the same pattern. Pete Rose will still have the MLB hit record even if we note that what Ichiro did was amazing. Even if we go so far as to count all of Ichiro’s hits up and put them in a big pile, informally speaking. To praise one is not to detract from the other. At least as far as baseball accomplishments are concerned.

It probably doesn’t make for good arguing on the internet to say that most things aren’t binary propositions. Indeed, if sports networks took that idea to heart 75% of their non-game programming would be cancelled immediately. But it does have the benefit of actually reflecting the real world, and that’s probably something people in the media business should at least consider doing once in a while.

McCutchen’s sacrifice fly lifts Pirates to 5-4 win, extends Athletics’ road losing streak to 15

Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH – Andrew McCutchen’s tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning lifted Pittsburgh to a 5-4 victory over Oakland on Monday night, extending the Pirates’ win streak to six games and sending the Athletics to their record-tying 15th consecutive road loss.

The 15 straight defeats away from home matches the Athletics’ record since they moved from Kansas City in 1968. Oakland set that mark in 1986.

The major league-worst Athletics (12-50) have lost five games in a row overall. They are on pace to finish the season exactly 100 games under .500 at 31-131.

“It’s tough,” Athletics manager Mark Kotsay said. “Tonight’s game, we didn’t play well enough to win the game. I don’t want to say we gave the game away but there were a lot of instances where we had a chance to capitalize on opportunities and didn’t do it.”

McCutchen also singled and drew three walks to go with two RBIs. The 2013 NL MVP now has 1,998 career hits.

With the score tied at 4, Ji Hwan Bae led off the decisive eighth inning with a single off Sam Moll (0-3) and advanced to third on Austin Hedges’ one-out single. McCutchen’s sac fly plated Bae.

“I was just trying to get the job done. I understand the situation there,” McCutchen said. “We just need to get the run. I was trying to bear down against a hard thrower and trying to get that run in as much as I can, and I was able to do it and have a good at-bat.”

Angel Perdomo (1-0) retired both hitters he faced. and Colin Holdeman pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his first career save. It was an eventful inning for Holderman as the first three batters reached base, but he struck out Carlos Perez with runners on the corners to end it.

“I began my career as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues but ever since I was switched to relief, this has been the goal, to get a save in the big leagues,” Holderman said.

Pittsburgh starter Johan Oviedo gave up three runs and four hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Oakland left-hander JP Sears did not allow a hit until Mark Mathias’ leadoff single in the fifth but was unable to make it through the inning. Sears was charged with one run in 4 2/3 innings while allowing two hits, walking five and striking out six.

Sears has not allowed more than two runs in five consecutive starts. His nine no-decisions are the most in the major leagues.

Ryan Noda and Brent Rooker had two hits each for the Athletics.

The Athletics tied the score at 4-4 in the eighth inning on pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz’s run-scoring double. Oakland left the bases loaded, though, when Nick Allen hit an inning-ending flyout.

Consecutive bases-loaded walks keyed a three-run sixth inning that put the Pirates 4-3. McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds each worked bases on balls off Shintaro Fujinami to tie the score at 3-all and pinch-hitter Jack Suwinski followed with a sacrifice fly.

The Athletics opened the scoring in the first inning when rookie Esteury Ruiz reached on catcher’s interference, stole his MLB-leading 30th base of the season and scored on Noda’s single. Seth Brown doubled in a run in the third and came home on Perez’s sacrifice fly to push Oakland’s lead to 3-0.

Connor Joe hit an RBI double for the Pirates in the fifth.

The Pirates drew 10 walks, their most in a game in nearly two years.

“We had a bunch of opportunities that we didn’t capitalize (on), but the thing I think I was most proud of is we got down and we didn’t rush to get back,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “We were still patient.”


Athletics: LHP Kirby Snead (strained shoulder) is expected to pitch in the Arizona Complex League on Tuesday, which will be his first game action since spring training. … RHP Freddy Tarnok (strained shoulder) will throw a bullpen on Tuesday.


Pirates catching prospect Henry Davis was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis from Double-A Altoona. In 41 games at Double-A this season, the 23-year-old hit .284 with 10 home runs and seven stolen bases.

“He was performing offensively at a level where we felt like he was more than ready to meet the challenges,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “He improved as an offensive player even since spring training, focusing on the things we were challenging him on. Defensively, he’s made strides too.”

Davis was the first overall selection in the 2021 amateur draft from the University of Louisville.


Athletics RHP James Kaprielian (0-6, 8.12 ERA) will make his first start in June after taking the loss in all four starts in May and face RHP Mitch Keller (7-1, 3.25). Keller has eight or more strikeouts in seven consecutive starts, the longest streak by a Pirates pitcher in the modern era (since 1901).