Skip to content

Scenes from Spring Training: Beer, Voros McCracken and almost getting my butt kicked over a misunderstanding

Mar 3, 2011, 5:40 AM EDT

George and Dragon

I had an interesting evening. Went out for beers with my friend Connor Doyle who, long ago, was one half of a good (mostly) sports blog called Two Guys who, like, never agree. It’s defunct now, but back in 2007 and 2008 he and I were occupying the same general Blogspot world.  Also joining us: Voros McCracken, sabermetrician extraordinaire.

For those who don’t know, Voros is the man who originated the idea of defense-independent pitching statistics, or DIPS as they came to be known.  Jeff Passan wrote his story out back in January. I wasn’t interested in getting more of his story. I was merely interested in hoisting the moist with him and Connor last night, which we did in spades at a pleasant British pub.

And, surprisingly, there wasn’t much baseball discussed. We talked way more about soccer, which is a particular passion of Voros’ and Connor’s. I’ve tried in fits and starts to become at least moderately conversant with soccer over the years, mostly because I’ve identified it as an excellent way to spend the winter when there’s no baseball about.  It’s never clicked for me, however.

I get the impression that if I hung out with Voros and Connor more that something would click.  In a couple short hours a handful of misconceptions I’ve harbored about the game were cast aside and, I think anyway, I got at least a tiny glimpse into what makes it so damn intriguing for several billion people the world over.  Or maybe it was just the Guinness talking. Hard to say, but I did enjoy myself and I’m inclined to give soccer another chance because of it.

Sadly, though, there was one brief moment when things turned sour.  The three of us were talking about basketball and the subject of the Carmelo Anthony trade came up. We were all criticizing a particular take that a particular sports writer had on the trade, and the basis for our criticism of it was that the writer’s take seemed to come from a rather racist — or at the very least, paternalistic — perspective. Kind of a “how dare Anthony not remain loyal to his team” kind of thing of which none of us particularly approved.

In discussing this I — sarcastically, with a literal eye-roll — ripped the piece by taking on the voice of the author and saying “of course not, because he’s black” or words to that effect, with the intent of condemning what I took to be the writer’s casual racism.

Seems, however, that the black man the next table over had only half-heard our conversation and assumed that we were genuinely ripping that uppity Carmelo Anthony for demanding a trade. Or for having the gall to be black. I’m still not sure what we were presumed to be saying, actually. All I know is that the guy from the next table over was right pissed off for all the wrong reasons.

After his white friend came to our table and told us that we were pathetic, he himself came by and told us that were it not for the fact that kicking our butts would cause him more trouble than it’s worth, he’d totally kick our butts.  We tried to explain that he misunderstood us, but he wasn’t much interested in that and then moved on.

I was happy that he moved on, but it’s not like I didn’t have a plan if he hadn’t. Indeed, if things got chippy, I would have been behind Voros the whole time. Like, literally behind Voros, hoping to avoid getting my face mashed in until someone got a cop on the scene to rescue my blogger behind. Thankfully it didn’t come to that. Could have been bad news for Voros. I don’t think he’s had a lot of practice as a human shield and he might have gotten injured as he unwittingly protected me. I would have felt bad for him.

Oh well. Sarcasm doesn’t always come through on the internet. I figured it came through better in bar conversations, but I guess that’s not a universal rule either.  All I know is that if more people actually listened to one another instead of merely defaulting to the safety of their preconceptions, people would get along a lot better than they do.  I suppose that’s expecting too damn much of people, however.

But Voros was a cool guy, especially given how poised he was to protect me from the blows that rained down upon me, whether he realized it or not.

One more day of baseball here in Arizona to help cleanse the palette. The Mariners and the White Sox, babies, live from Camelback Ranch in beautiful Glendale, Arizona later today. I’ll try not to get my butt kicked while I’m there.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Mar 3, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    Kind of reminds me of this-

    • yankeesfanlen - Mar 3, 2011 at 7:44 AM

      Well, that didn’t work, obviously, just try “The sheriff tends bar” on You Tube.

      • bigharold - Mar 3, 2011 at 9:23 AM

        Actually that linked worked fine. Except the part where I had to change my shirt because I laughed so hard I spilled coffee all over it.

        That was funny, ..

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 3, 2011 at 8:12 AM

    Well, they say when people assume something, they make an ass out of U and Me. Those two idiots at the other table assumed that you were a racist because you actually had the audacity to utter the words “black guy” during a conversation. What they did was make a asses out of themselves. My friends and I probably would have told those dudes to sit down, shut up and mind their own frigging business, which of course would have turned into a brawl that I would have regretted the next day. Kudos to you for taking the high road not getting into a fight.

    • Gobias Industries - Mar 3, 2011 at 8:51 AM

      Gadzooks, a “sit down,” a “shut up, a “mind your own beeswax,” AND a brawl?! Man, I wish my internet persona was that badass.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 3, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        Maybe in a town out West, it is normal for some random stranger from another table to walk up to a table of three dudes drinking beers and tell them they are “pathetic” as is what Craig said happened here. In Philly, however, if I am having drinks and a PRIVATE conversation with some friends, and somebody walks up to our table and calls us “pathetic”, that somebody is going to get punched by somebody at my table. That’s just a fact. Not that it is the right way to deal with it, of course, but that’s just the way it is where I am from. That’s why I commended Craig on the self-control he and his friends showed by not telling the guy to go to hell. You can call it “internet bravado” or whatever you want. But I would advise you that when you are at a bar, and you overhear something being discussed at another table and you don’t like what you heard, ignore it. If you go up to the table and call them “pathetic” you are more than likely going to get into a fight.

  3. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Mar 3, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    It is this ever changing world it is nice to see that some things remain constant. Sportswriters getting liquored up in a bar and getting into fights is almost a cliche. But, Craig a word of warning, the right to carry concealed weapons in AZ is very broad. You and your buddies are lucky that someone didn’t try to execute their second amendment right and shut up a cracker from Atlanta.

    • The Baseball Idiot - Mar 3, 2011 at 11:10 AM

      It’s a felony in Arizona to take a weapon into any place that serves alcohol. Also, not everyone who carries a gun is going to pull it and start shooting people over an argument in a bar.

      Some men still have enough honor to fight with their fists.

      • PanchoHerreraFanClub - Mar 3, 2011 at 1:30 PM

        And the losers of honorable fist fights often bring out the old equalizer to settle the score.

        Sorry, to bring is up, but it is also a felony in AZ to open fire in shopping center parking. Shockingly, some people don’t obey the law even in AZ.

      • goldstar4robotboy - Mar 3, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        It is LEGAL to carry firearms into Arizona bars: (Note the link is from MSNBC – synergy!)
        That’s the default setting, but bars can decide if they will allow pistol-packin’ patrons.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 3, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    In a couple short hours a handful of misconceptions I’ve harbored about the game were cast aside and, I think anyway, I got at least a tiny glimpse into what makes it so damn intriguing for several billion people the world over.

    Obviously this isn’t the place, but would love reading about this. Maybe a future article on your personal blog?

  5. stevejeltzjehricurl - Mar 3, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    Next time, Craig, send out a call for your Hardball Talk minions. They’re guaranteed to scare anyone, including Jeff Pearlman.

    Oh, as for soccer… there’s about 3 million things that are more interesting to keep me distracted when there’s no baseball in wintertime. For example… basketball… football… hockey… drinking… shoveling snow… the list of errands my wife wanted me to complete… watching old reruns of Hogan’s Heroes… reading the Federal Register…. you get the idea.

    • BC - Mar 3, 2011 at 10:20 AM

      In the winter I usually fall back on Ketel One, college basketball, Storm Stories and whatever is on AMC. Until at least mid-February when NASCAR starts up.

  6. guileless22 - Mar 3, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    Craig, you should check out a book called Bloody Confused by Chuck Culpepper. I also started following soccer as a way to pass time until baseball started.

  7. bigharold - Mar 3, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    “Or maybe it was just the Guinness talking.”

    Manny a night been disasterized because of that very same thing.

  8. Jonny 5 - Mar 3, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Well, all I have to say is you got a little of your own medicine here Craig. Assuming “it’s racism” in the article, got you on the other side of the pointing finger now didn’t it?

    • tomemos - Mar 3, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      Nothing in Craig’s story suggests that he was “assuming” anything, and nothing in it suggests that he was wrong either. He was classy enough not to name the writer, so we just can’t know, but Craig’s usually savvy about this stuff so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

      • Jonny 5 - Mar 3, 2011 at 11:26 AM

        Hey, not knowing it was racist as Craig clearly states, “the writer’s take seemed to come from a rather racist — or at the very least, paternalistic — perspective.”

        Means he also assumed the man was writing in a racist tone. Just like the “gentleman” who got all up in his grill for assuming Craig was talking in a racist tone. It’s the same thing. Except Craig never threatened anyone as for as we know. And an interesting dose of Karma imo.

      • tomemos - Mar 3, 2011 at 2:03 PM

        “Seemed” is to “assumed” as “estimated” is to “guessed.”

    • mrfloydpink - Mar 3, 2011 at 8:16 PM

      Jonny, are you and chrisny3 the same person? Sure seems that way.

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 4, 2011 at 1:00 PM

        Hell no. Jonny here is an unabashed, unapologetic Phightins Phan, whereas chrisny3 sounds a mite like one of the Wilpons.

  9. apbaguy - Mar 3, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    Aaron implied last night that bail was a part of your evening, but we see that you avoided that. Since you are still a free man, if you do get Fox Soccer channel, try watching some games. If not, ESPN’s broadcasts of the Champions League have been very good, especially Arsenal’s heroic triumph over Barcelona earlier this year. Unfortunately, the Gunners have to travel to the Nou Camp for the return leg, minus Van Persie and Walcott, and possibly Fabregas. That could result in ugliness. Anyway, start with the English Premier League, lots of speed on the pitch and all the diva-tude you’d expect in young guys making $ 10M per year.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 3, 2011 at 4:05 PM

      Soccer is my second favorite spectator sport—but then again, I was never good enough at any one particular sport to successfully participate. But I loves me some futbol.

      • apbaguy - Mar 3, 2011 at 7:11 PM

        The best part for me is that my girlfriend is totally into Chelsea. So we have a nice in-house rivalry. But like you, it’s definitely my second favorite sport, in part because of the time of year that they play, but also because of the skill level of the top players. I’m always seeing something that amazes me.
        And next time one of the commenters knocks one (or all) of you Philly fans, you can always point out that no matter how bad some clown thinks you might be ( I lived in the mid Atlantic and saw some games at the old stadium, so I know you guys are passionate), you’re all saints compared to English soccer hooligans, er, fans.

  10. stairwayto7 - Mar 3, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    Were you in a strip club?

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Stanton (2399)
  2. B. Crawford (2313)
  3. Y. Puig (2291)
  4. G. Springer (2064)
  5. D. Wright (2010)
  1. J. Hamilton (1998)
  2. J. Fernandez (1980)
  3. D. Span (1915)
  4. H. Ramirez (1885)
  5. C. Correa (1851)