Baseball players are, generally, “sticking to sports”

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Jayson Stark has an interesting article up over at ESPN talking about how baseball players are not talking about politics these days. The upshot: while people in general seem somewhat consumed with politics lately and while basketball players and coaches have not hesitated to talk about the unique and extraordinarily interesting state of U.S. affairs, baseball players are, well, sticking to baseball:

Welcome to baseball in 2017, a year like no other in our nation. In the NBA, coaches and stars take regular aim at the policies of the new president of the United States, from the executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries to plans for building a massive wall along the Mexican border. But in Major League Baseball — where locker rooms feature a multicultural melting pot of athletes, many of whom could be directly or indirectly affected by those policies — what you hear (or don’t hear) is the careful sound of political silence.

Stark notes a couple of exceptions — Sean Doolittle of the Athletics is one — and talks to a lot of people around the game and speculates why most do not. And like I said, it’s interesting. But I don’t think it’s a huge mystery, either.

All athletes, entertainers and anyone else who relies on the public for their well-being have an incentive not to aggravate their audience. As Michael Jordan once famously said, Republicans buy sneakers too, so why would anyone want to go out of their way to alienate them? Yet, as Stark notes, many in the NBA — and in Hollywood and other public-facing businesses — have been outspoken about politics in recent months. I suspect it’s because things are so crazy right now that the usual incentives to keep one’s head down are simply not strong enough.

In baseball, however, there is a difference: the code of the clubhouse and clubhouse cohesion. Separate and apart from what fans might think, baseball players are far more preoccupied with not rocking the boat internally. Of making themselves the center of attention or of putting their teammates in a position where they’ll be asked hard questions. While this dynamic exists in all sports to some degree, I don’t think it’s unfair to say it’s exponentially more prevalent in baseball. They’re in that clubhouse far more often than NBA players are in their locker room and the basic culture of the game strongly encourages a certain sort of conformity. Not a conformity of ideas, mind you — guys think all manner of different things — but conformity of decorum. A ballplayer in 2017 simply has no strong incentive to take a singular stand and many incentives not to.

You may think, given that I tend to be politically outspoken around here and on social media, that I have a problem with this. I don’t, really. People all operate within systems and communities and I’d never suggest that a ballplayer speak up about something simply for the sake of speaking up about it. They have their business and futures and family to take care of and no one is in any position to judge them for taking the course they choose to take.

But it does not mean, of course, that we should not pay attention when a player does decide to speak up, no matter the manner in which he does. Indeed, given all of the forces which caution baseball players from speaking out, when one does it is truly notable. It probably means he feels extraordinarily strongly about the matter on which he speaks. It means that we should probably listen to them and ask why they have been compelled to take the step they did and what it is, exactly, they’re trying to say. Whether we agree with the sentiment or not.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.