Aug 6, 2013, 7:27 AM EDT
Every time something like the A-Rod mess goes down there is a parade of outrage. From fans, from columnists, from talk radio hosts. You know what I’m talking about. Here’s a great, nearly-incoherent example from Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com. You’re going to have to bring your A-game if you want to out-outrage Miller. He calls A-Rod sub-human. For starters. Unless he’s merely putting on faux outrage for the page views, Miller is truly upset here and that anger is coming from someplace deep down inside. For what it’s worth, he has never struck me as someone who fakes things for page views.
I used to sit back for hours and mock this kind of sentiment but I’m not all that inclined to do that as much as I used to. Instead I’m more interested in trying to understand it. Because really, I have a tremendously difficult time understanding where such ire and vitriol at some nearly total stranger of an athlete comes from.
Here’s where I am right now: It’s not a matter of new school vs. old school. It’s not a matter of smart vs. not-so-smart. It’s simply a matter of there being two kinds of sports fans: those who hold players to a higher moral standard than people in general, and those who don’t. That’s it.
If you think of ballplayers as heroes or examples or believe that they are somehow obligated to be better than every other schlub on the planet — or if you were taught to think that as a child and still hold on to some of that whether you realize it or not — you’re outraged. If, on the other hand, you didn’t — if you saw them from even the youngest age as just people who are good at something weird and interesting and immensely entertaining — you can’t be outraged. Outrage makes no sense.
I certainly fall in that latter camp. I liked sports just as much as the next kid growing up and certainly love baseball now, but never in my life did I think of athletes as heroes or role models. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t handed baseball by my father or some other person I did look up to. It was introduced to me in a couple of places and I grabbed hold, but sports were not and are not any part of the lingua franca of my relationship with my parents or elders. At least not in such a way where anyone whose opinion I valued ever said to me, in effect, “look at that star athlete, my what a fine example he is.” In turn, to the extent my kids have gotten into sports I’ve never said such things to them, either literally or implicitly via the way I talk about or interact with athletes.
I realize I may be in the minority in this respect. Very recently I had a fairly spirited dispute with another baseball writer about these issues and — after we threw barbs at each other for a bit — we dug into the matter more. It seems he comes at things from a slightly different place. He has children who are really getting into baseball now. They have thrown themselves into it with abandon, to the point where they do get legitimately upset when things go bad for players they like and uplifted when things go well. It’s probably a fantastic ride for them and I would guess that my counterpart’s bonding over sports with his children is on a totally different level than mine is. But, at the same time, it does require some veneration of the athlete to make it work, doesn’t it? And, in turn, if the athlete does not live up to the ideal, it almost necessitates some negative emotional response. The sort of which we see in these outraged sentiments from fans, the media, whoever. I’ve seen if from my counterpart recently, and it almost certainly has to come from some sense that these ballplayers are disappointing him or his children or both.
For my part, I can’t muster any of that. I don’t think A-Rod is subhuman simply because he lied and cheated. Indeed, that makes me think of him as quite human indeed, as human beings tend to act like that an awful lot. He’s only subhuman if you thought of him as something greater before. Likewise, I can’t muster what is, in effect, “think of the children” rhetoric because neither me as a child nor my children now see these athletes as anyone special that need give us special consideration. We love what they do when they are performing, but we don’t think of them as anyone who owes us special moral or ethical duties. That’s what parents and teachers and honest-to-goodness role models are for. Athletes are no different than actors or astronauts in this regard. People who do amazing things but whom we shouldn’t expect to be better people merely because of their station.
Does that mean that I don’t have opinions when an athlete falls short of some ideal? Of course not. It’s simply a matter of proportion. I can say, quite comfortably, when one of them does something bad that they have behaved poorly. Lied. Cheated. Broken the law. What have you. But I’m no more likely to get sent into an emotional tizzy over it than I am if I learned that some actor got busted for drugs or some singer slept around. I don’t approve, but I also let it go pretty quickly. I have my own moral and ethical life to worry about and that’s hard enough. Please just act/sing/play for my enjoyment, entertainer. I may critique your performance if you do it poorly, but the act is all I require of you personally. It’s different if one’s directly affected by the poor behavior in question — other players and teammates have a right to be truly angry if their personal trust or their livelihood was jeopardized by the A-Rods of the world — but I’ve not been harmed by them unless I let them harm me by giving them too much trust to begin with.
You may say that this is a sad viewpoint. That I’m a cynic. Some sort of disappointed, disaffected or jilted former idealist. I assure you I’m not. The thought of treating athletes as special people worthy and deserving of my trust and thus capable of breaking it has simply never been part of my life and never will be. Others, like Scott Miller and my correspondent of a couple of days ago come at it differently. Good for them, good for me.
With this framework in mind you can probably divide up all of the people who offer opinions on this stuff into those two camps pretty easily, actually. I can’t think of any other differences in understanding that better account for it.
Mar 10, 2014, 10:41 PM EDT
George A. King III of the New York Post heard last month that the Yankees might look to deal a catcher before they head back north for Opening Day. That catcher could be Francisco Cervelli. According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, the 28-year-old Cervelli is drawing “lots of trade interest” from front offices around…
Mar 10, 2014, 9:35 PM EDT
The Orioles signed Manny Machado to a one-year, $519,000 contract renewal on Monday — standard operating procedure for a pre-arbitration player. The salary is $19,000 more than the major league minimum and Machado also gets a $100,000 bonus for winning the 2013 Platinum Glove Award in the American League. But he is not celebrating. According…
Mar 10, 2014, 8:28 PM EDT
Good news out of Dodgers camp Monday from MLB.com beat reporter Ken Gurnick … Greinke threw a bullpen session Monday and apparently felt no discomfort in his right calf muscle. He then went through some fielding drills and could pitch in an exhibition game this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday, although club officials are…
Mar 10, 2014, 7:14 PM EDT
White Sox manager Robin Ventura confirmed what everyone had already assumed Wednesday, naming ace lefty Chris Sale the club’s Opening Day starter according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Sale, the obvious choice for Ventura, boasts a spectacular 2.97 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 9.5 K/9 in 500 2/3 career major league innings. He tossed…
Mar 10, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
Cole Hamels arrived at the Phillies’ spring training complex last month with tendinitis in his left shoulder and then suffered a setback last Friday. He’s hoping this week will finally bring some amount of progress. CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports that Hamels is scheduled to toss a bullpen session Wednesday in camp. The ace left-hander had…
Mar 10, 2014, 5:32 PM EDT
No battle plan survives contact with the enemy, and with the Braves’ plans quickly becoming inoperative, they may be jumping in to the Ervin Santana uncertainty. Dave O’Brien of the AJC reports: Initially I didn’t think there was anything to the idea of the Braves pursuing him, but now with Beachy having more issues (he left today’s…
Mar 10, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
You can buy an official MLB baseball for, like, $15 max. Or you can let your kid go flying down a hill in is wagon while you go chase a home run ball in a meaningless spring training game: Either way, really.
Mar 10, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT
The Braves looked great on paper heading into spring training. Too bad they don’t play baseball on paper. They play it on grass and dirt, and since they started doing that Atlanta has had two pitchers leave games early due to injury. Kris Medlen left a game yesterday due to a forearm strain. He’s having…
Mar 10, 2014, 1:32 PM EDT
Barry Bonds showed up at San Francisco Giant camp in Scottsdale today, where he will begin a week as a coach/instructor. As I type this, he’s sitting with Bruce Bochy for a press conference. Barry Bonds back in a Giants uniform. pic.twitter.com/x4AJ0ZhJmt — Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) March 10, 2014 Having a guy who is among…
Mar 10, 2014, 12:18 PM EDT
Initial reports of Aledmys Diaz‘s deal with the Cardinals suggested he’d be getting at least $20 million over four seasons, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch now writes that the Cuban shortstop is getting significantly less upfront money. According to Goold it’s a four-year, $8 million deal, which is essentially utility infielder…
Mar 10, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT
The Fresno Grizzlies are going to wear an alternate/promotional jersey this year. They’re Awesome! Righteous! Bossa Nova! Um, Chevy Nova? No, they’re excellent! .@MattOtstot has the details on our #TMNT jerseys. Only place to get the scoop is tomorrow on @KSEE24 Sunrise. pic.twitter.com/QBZQl9zQD1 — Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) March 10, 2014 No, they’re not dignified or anything, but you can’t…
Mar 10, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Among the numerous Ervin Santana rumors swirling right now is that the Orioles remain in the mix to sign the free agent right-hander. Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com asked Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette about that specific rumor and his response was an interesting one: I really don’t know what’s real and…
Mar 10, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Sergio Romo has been one of the best relievers in baseball for six seasons now, posting a 2.27 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings for his career, but he’s gotten knocked around this spring while allowing 12 runs in three innings. That includes retiring zero of the five batters he faced in his last…
Mar 10, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
Brandon Phillips‘ interview with MLB.com was noted mostly for his “how the [expletive] am I declining” comment, but John Fay of Cincinnati.com notes that Phillips is either lying or deluded about something else too: the source of his beef with local reporters. Phillips is not talking to the four daily beat guys who cover the…
Mar 10, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT
Matt Ehalt reports that Ike Davis now has a walking boot on his right leg. Davis has been sidelined with right calf tightness for a week. Walking boots tend not to suggest that the matter is improving. Between Davis’ calf and Lucas Duda’s hamstring barking, it would seem that the frontrunner for the Mets’ first base…
Mar 10, 2014, 8:52 AM EDT
David Laurila of FanGraphs has a fascinating interview with a former pitcher — now retired — about his PED use. It’s not clear whether this guy was a major leaguer, but his comments about PED use — extremely detailed comments about what they did for him and how they made him feel — refer to his…
Mar 10, 2014, 6:50 AM EDT
This is so weird. No one is supposed to take pictures or video in the clubhouse, yet here we have video of Juan Uribe at his locker. Seems odd. Oh, hello Hanley.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted earlier that Ichiro Suzuki appears to be the odd man out in the Yankees’ outfield and adds that the Phillies could use outfield help. The Yankees, of course, will have recent free agent additions Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran in center and right, respectively, and Brett Gardner in left. Alfonso Soriano…
Mar 9, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
The Diamondbacks took Trevor Bauer in the first round, third overall, in the 2011 draft. They sent him to the Indians in a three-team trade in December 2012. Manager Terry Francona sees why, even after Bauer has had back-to-back mediocre showings in limited Major League action, the D-Backs took him so early. Bauer has made…
Mar 9, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
In today’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo writes that the Twins have interest in White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza. 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reported on Friday that some in the Twins’ front office are fans of De Aza’s. The White Sox will use De Aza as a utility outfielder with Dayan Viciedo…
- Manny Machado calls $519K salary for 2014 “disappointing” 15
- Kris Medlen leaves game with right forearm strain 18
- Cardinals sign Cuban middle infielder Aledmys Diaz to a four-year major league contract 60
- Cardinals and Matt Carpenter agree to a six-year, $52 million extension 12
- Jet Blue Park is absolutely incredible 59