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Tomorrow’s World Series narratives today

Oct 24, 2012, 10:06 AM EDT

XKCD

We’ve talked a lot about narrative lately, but that’s all pregame to the crowning jewel of narrative season: the World Series.

The big narrative: that whoever wins four out of seven games is and always was special and uniquely destined for this. There will be lots of post-facto story-telling after each victory and especially after the series is over. Folks looking back at seemingly random and inconsequential event X from earlier in the season which, now that we see how history unfolded, clearly meant that history was going to unfold just so.

But that’s easy. The narratives that are more fun are the individual ones. The “Kevin Millar kept the team loose” and “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit” kinds of things.  Had the Steelers and Red Sox lost in 2004 and 2006, respectively, those tales would have dried up pretty fast. Or changed to “Kevin Millar and his idiots didn’t take things seriously” and “Jerome Bettis had too many social obligations in Detroit” kinds of things.  Winning and losing changes the story.

Let’s see if we can get ahead of the game here, shall we?  Some off-the-top-of-my head narratives coming to a broadcast or next-day column near you:

  • Barry Zito: Everyone’s looking for a redemption story, and as the improbable Game 1 starter [all together now] two years after he was left off the playoff roster, Zito is the most likely candidate. Good luck to those of you who can find the personal hardship angle for a guy who still has another year left on his $126 million contract, has had to endure living in the most beautiful city in America for the last 13 years and somehow soldiers through the day married to a gorgeous woman.
  • Justin Verlander: Because we’re finally acknowledging that Miguel Cabrera has a World Series ring, I presume Verlander will be the focus of the “he needs a ring to cement his legacy” thing. If he throws a no-hitter tonight but the Tigers lose in six, you see, he isn’t a good pitcher. If he gets beat up in two World Series starts but the Tigers still manage to win, he’s achieved his crowning glory.
  • BONUS LEGACY: Jim Leyland will likely get the Miguel Cabrera treatment from someone. You know, with folks forgetting that he also has a World Series ring thanks to his time in Florida. I bet we can’t go the next week without someone saying that winning this year would validate him somehow.
  • Miguel Cabrera/Buster Posey: As the MVPs presumptive, they will no doubt have every at bat analyzed more closely than others. As they should, of course. But do be on the lookout for Tim McCarver reminding us, in the event one of them struggles, that the MVP ballots were submitted prior to the beginning of the postseason and that none of this takes away from their worthiness for the award.
  • Phil Coke/Hunter Pence: We love both of you, but sorry guys, there can only be one clown prince/crazy guy/oddball per World Series, which means that whichever of you finds yourself on the winning team should be prepared for an offseason full of feature stories. Well, more feature stories, as each of you have already received that treatment already this postseason. The loser, though, will disappear from view.
  • BONUS QUIRKINESS: Though he has contributed zero to the Giants 2013 season, Brian Wilson has a Lifetime Pass in the quirky narrative, so be ready for the myriad shots of him doing zany, zany things in the dugout during Giants rallies.
  • Delmon Young: Postseason God: Delmon Young is a not good player who has had a few big hits in the past couple of postseasons. I figure that we will soon learn that this is a talent of his and that is somehow makes him less of a miserable person who can’t play baseball very well.  In non-narrative news, I also wonder if a couple of big World Series hits won’t land him a way-too-good-for-him contract next season.
  • Detroit Ruin Porn: Did you know that every Detroit sports team since 1968 has carried the forlorn hopes and shattered dreams of a blighted city on its shoulders and that, if they win, everything will be OK in the Motor City once again, at least for a little while?  It’s true! Enjoy your sidebars and photo slideshows of burnt out buildings and abandoned neighborhoods. Bonus points if the reporter takes on the hushed and portentous tones of some someone visiting blighted sub-Saharan Africa or whatever.

That’s all I got for now. I’m sure some more of these will pop up. Because if there’s one thing we in the media love doing is to apply storylines and to assign personal and moral worth to the outcome of sporting events.

  1. nategearhart - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    That Delmon Young bit is delicious.

    • okwhitefalcon - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      Don’t “narrative” me bro.

  2. sdelmonte - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Managerial Genius/Managerial Stupidity – yeah, we see this all the time. But in Leyland we get a Crusty Old Coot, and in Bochy we get a Grizzled Warrior. Both are a lot more interesting to listen to than, say, Joe Girardi. And during the next week, one will be revealed as the greatest handler of bullpens/comebacks/starters/late game defensive replacements since Connie Mack, and the other will be seen as a fraud.

    And as a bonus, since Leyland is Getting Old, there will be speculation about his retirement (right on the heels of LaRussa leaving on top last year).

    • cur68 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      I just want one of them to manage rings around the other & someone to point it out to me in real time so I’ll know when I see it for next time. Frankly all I see are to older guys standing around, cheering, making the occasional decision which may or may not work out at a totally random level, and patting a lot of ass.

    • shoptaw70 - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      Plus the fact that (IIRC) only Sparky Anderson and Tony La Russa have won World Series in both leagues, so if Leyland can pull that off, he could retire in elite company, etc.

      • historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        At the end I want a tug-on-your-heartstrings montage featuring a split screen of Sparky & Leyland.

  3. Hunter Pence's Eyes - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    I got your quirkiness right here baby. Coke ain’t got nothin’ on my beady awesomeness.

    • kiwicricket - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      Coke might actually have something to do with your beady awesomeness.

      • nolanwiffle - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:40 AM

        She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…….

  4. historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    On the bonus quirkiness: that also is a match-up. Valverde v. Wilson. There’s a choice for you. If Valverde closes with a glorious save, we will be watching replays of some serious clown antics for-ever!

  5. zzalapski - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    BONUS DETROIT RUIN PORN: Said segment will be accompanied by recent clips of the Lions and Pistons striving to climb back into relevance, while somehow ignoring the fact that Bryce Harper wasn’t born yet the last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs.

    • classicfootballplease - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      doesnt everyone make the playoffs in hockey?

      • nbjays - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        Everyone but the Leafs…

      • classicfootballplease - Oct 26, 2012 at 8:50 AM

        This guy gets it —->nbjays

  6. indaburg - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    Don’t forget the “Narrative to be Named Later.” You know, the one guy whose name none of us know today because of a lifetime of mediocrity who will become an unlikely hero.

    • historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:27 AM

      Which will inevitably lead to a rush of know-it-alls who condescend that they knew TBD would break out like this at any time.

      • paperlions - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:16 PM

        I know who it’ll be….but I’m not naming names. :-)

      • historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        Paper, if you don’t gloat afterwards then I will be utterly and totally disappointed.

  7. 4d3fect - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Where’s the narrative on grit? Isn’t every WS required to have one?

    • natstowngreg - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      If the Giants win, there will be one. Especially if they come from behind to win, as they did in the NLDS and NLCS.

  8. 14thinningstretch - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    If Zito has a crappy start in Game One but gets good run support – say he gives up like 4 ER in 5 innings but still wins 7-5 – expect the word “gutsy” to show up in every single story about the game. Actually, this is probably true for any pitcher in any game in the World Series.

    • kiwicricket - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:23 AM

      Pitched to the score.
      Regards,

      Jack Morris.

  9. polegojim - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    One Narrative I want to see is about Fielder coming on strong against Giant pitching.

    Finishing the last 10 reg season games at .412… he’s suffered an incredible ‘power outage’ at .216 in playoffs.

    C’MON man, turn that funky frog into a Hitting Price.

    • protius - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:37 PM

      Uh………..loser. It’s Prince, Hitting Prince.

    • cur68 - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      Not a bad narrative, as these things go. Wanna bet that McBuck steals your “Hitting Prince” line? The 2-headed beast that is Buck/McCarver couldn’t possibly resist such a fecund handle. They no longer have Carpenter’s Rib to throw out there every damn broadcast.

      • polegojim - Oct 24, 2012 at 7:44 PM

        Cur… yeah, you’re probably right…

        The guy is due in these playoffs… and hope SanFran is his ‘coming out’ party.

  10. professormaddog31 - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    I am waiting for the sure-to-come narrative of Prince finally slaying the demons of being Cecil’s son. You know, proving himself, being his own man. Blah blah blah. :)

  11. historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    But, if the Tigers win, I would very much enjoy a narrative on procrastination and/or rationality. Save your effort, kids, until it matters.

    • professormaddog31 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      Oh heck no, it will get the “no one gave us a chance” spin. “We believed in ourselves, we powered through, grit & determination and Never Say Die!”

      • historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:07 AM

        Oh, I know it will, but I would enjoy the other (which NEVER gets written — except in Olympic time trials).

  12. alexo0 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    You made good points with Verlander, though I don’t feel he’ll get a free pass is he pitches poorly but the Tigers still win. If anything, that would enforce the narrative coming into this postseason, that Verlander has not been successful in the playoffs.

  13. kiwicricket - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    Well I’m not half-assing this.
    I will endeavor to speak, post and email exactly how Tim McCarver would behave whilst on camera….during the entirety of the World Series…..of which is a Best of Seven series….between the Detroit Tigers….and the San Francisco Giants.

    • historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:08 AM

      You forgot to mention how he thinks every player is future HOF quality.

      • paperlions - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:29 PM

        Not only that….but every player will be the best in the league at something. “Did you see how Scutaro turned that double play? He’s the best in the league at taking a chest high throw from a left-handed pitcher and making a strong throw to first early in the game on the road with no outs and a right handed batter running.”

      • kevinbnyc - Oct 24, 2012 at 2:11 PM

        To be fair…Scutaro is the best at doing that.

    • professormaddog31 - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:14 PM

      In that case, someone desperately needs to fill the Joe Buck role of pointless droning and wishing he was 1/1000th as good a broadcaster as his dad.

      I would offer my services, but I would just say “Um..” a lot. Public speaking is not my forte.

  14. alexo0 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    Jayson Stark wrote an article on Hunter Pence’s broken bat hit, with half the quotes in it coming from Brian Wilson. I’m sick of him already.

    • zzalapski - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      Took you this long to be sick of Jayson Stark? His writing was one of the reasons I stopped frequenting ESPN.com years ago.

  15. classicfootballplease - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Sick of Brian Wilson. Injured players should be seen, not heard. It is not like he threw his arm out in the last series, he barely contributed to his team this year. Zip it, pony boy.

  16. blacksables - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Don’t forget the over/under on the amount of people killed during the riots if the Tigers win.

  17. kiwicricket - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Brian Wilson was the closer for the Giants, before suffering an elbow injury which required Tommy John surgery. This took place very early on in the season, so he will not be available to pitch during the series.
    His thick black beard and quirky personality makes him a favorite in San Francisco, but the majority of people find being exposed to flatulence in elevators more appealing than watching or listening to Brian.

    Tim.

  18. Marty - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    There’s the “fat men can play this sport” narrative too.

    • Marty - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      I immediately realized that fat men play every professional American sport except basketball. There is no narrative here, unless Sandoval gets a single.

  19. sophiethegreatdane - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    Let people have their narratives. They are, after all, what 95% of folks will be using as their primary decision-making tools for voting for the leader of the free world.

    From what I can tell, it’s pretty much the tree-hugging America-hating liberals against the crazy conspiracy-theory birthers wearing American flag underwear, right?

    • sophiethegreatdane - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:25 PM

      I apologize, I couldn’t resist. Thumbs down for me.

    • Marty - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      the tree-hugging America-hating liberals against the crazy conspiracy-theory birthers wearing American flag underwea…That was the 2010 narrative.

      This year it’s the Mini Cooper Liberal vs The Chevy Silverado Blue Dog.

    • kiwicricket - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      ‘leader of the free world’ ???
      /Vomits

      • historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:34 PM

        Somebody needs to rewatch Independence Day…

      • cur68 - Oct 24, 2012 at 5:19 PM

        I’m sure he saw the Kiwi version of it. In THAT version a plucky kiwi with his sidekick/gardner and 2 friends join forces with some magic people to fight off hordes of savage out-of-this-world beasts and giants spiders while being dogged by a mutant ageless former kiwi. All in an effort to rid Middle Earthe their world of the The One Ring Evil Invaders and establish Kiwi Independence. It was very popular. I’m shocked you missed it.

      • historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 7:39 PM

        I do believe it was a couple of Americans who freed the kiwis. See, how it works in America is that if it’s not about us, we just recast it. (Note: WORLD Series)

  20. scotttheskeptic - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Uh, Craig, the Steelers and Red Sox did not win in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Actually quite the opposite.

    • bankboy2012 - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:35 PM

      Forget it, he’s rolling.

  21. mkhill12 - Oct 24, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Hey, Craig….stop talking about narratives so much. It’s annoying. Kthanksyourethebest.

  22. mazblast - Oct 24, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    “Because if there’s one thing we in the media love doing is to apply storylines and to assign personal and moral worth to the outcome of sporting events.”

    Which is why I enjoy watching the games with the sound off. If I have a question about a play, I can always turn the sound on to (I hope) get an explanation; otherwise, my heart and blood pressure are both better off not listening to the dolts who masquerade as television announcers.

    I used to have the TV on with the radio broadcast for my local team, but the “analyst” on the latter is such an idiot that I feel homicidal if I listen to him for more than an inning. Among his gems this year was, “When you’re standing still, you have no momentum”.

  23. raysfan1 - Oct 24, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    If Giants win expect Melky is useless stories, possibly combined with “he doesn’t deserve a ring.” If they lose, expect stories blaming him for it. He’s earned himself a no-win proposition.

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