Rice Is Rolling Over in His Grave

Dedicated to Mocking Bad Sports Writing

An Existential Dilemma

Posted by biggusrickus on May 13, 2010

I created this little (updated) blog in the mold of the late, great Fire Joe Morgan, because I thought college football writing deserved to be mocked and they were too baseball-centric. So here’s the problem. I read a thing today that deserves the FJM treatment, but it’s about baseball, which is not my thing. So herein is the breaking point from my stated mission of “mocking bad college football writing” to more general sports journalism criticism. But really, when you write a shitpile like this, what else am I to do? I could not post to a snarky blog about it you say? Well I say, we gonna do the do. Brace yourself for a trip back to antiquity when Poseidon threw Oddyseus off course for beaning Hector and Zeus Prometheus gave man fire so they could play night games.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Baseball

No, this is not by Judy Blume but by some guy named Matthew Futterman. So, the headline’s the set, and here’s spike of a subhead:

Braden’s Perfect Game Bolsters Argument of the Believers

You wanna write about sports in the Wall Street Journal? Use some hindsight to make up shit about baseball being influenced by a hand of god or some such nonsense. 

In the debate over whether there are baseball Gods, score one for the believers.

Is there debate about this? Why the fuck is there debate? There are obviously a pantheon of baseball Gods who play with their mortal subjects as they see fit. Sometimes they make middling starters throw perfect games. Sometimes they make Dwight Gooden snort so much coke his nose falls off, but have no doubt that they are there, all around us at all times. Sometimes, when you’re pitching a no-hitter on acid, you can see them, and they are glorious.

On Sunday, an unheralded Oakland A’s pitcher named Dallas Braden threw Major League Baseball’s 19th perfect game. The accomplishment was extraordinary by any standard, but even more so for a lightly heralded pitcher who wasn’t chosen until the 24th round of the 2004 amateur draft. But when you consider the circumstances, it’s almost otherworldly.

Well, it was the 19th time it has ever happened, so it goes without saying that it was extraordinary. And while most of the guys who have done it were good to great pitchers, there’s also this guy, this guy, and this guy (who did it in a fucking World Series, crazily enough). So that’s 4 out of 19 from average or slightly below average major league pitchers. So it is not “even more extraordinary” that an “unheralded guy” did it. It is the exact same amount of extra ordinary-ness. And it is certainly not fucking otherworldly, no matter how much human interest fluff you try to tie to it. And also because there are no such things as baseball gods.

Late last month, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, one of the best but most-controversial players in the game, disrepected Mr. Braden by trotting across his pitching mound and then belittled him after the Oakland pitcher had the audacity to complain about the breach of etiquette. After the game, Mr. Rodriguez described the confrontation as “pretty funny” and Mr. Braden as “a guy that has a handful of wins in his career.”

Okay, maybe Cont-Rod (short for Controversy Rodriguez) is a kind of weird dick. I’m undecided on the whole mound controversy. It seems a little silly for a pitcher to get all pissy about it, but maybe it’s part of the dumb unwritten code of baseball. Whatever. This incident, however, has nothing to do with gods influencing baseball outcomes, because, as previously stated, that is made-up nonsense.

Flash forward to Mother’s Day, when Mr. Braden, who lost his own mother to melanoma while he was in high school, took the mound against Tampa Bay, the team with the best record in the American League, and without overpowering stuff (he had a mere six strikeouts) managed to retire all 27 batters he faced.

Whoa, let’s not just flash forward to Mother’s Day. At the conclusion of the start against New York where he was supposedly disrespected by A-Rod, thus getting the gods on his side because they hate A-Rod, he was 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA. His next two starts, both losses, saw him post a combined line of 11 IP, 18 Hits, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. Where were your gods then Mr. Futterman/Braden?

As for the mom’s death/doing something so amazing on Mother’s Day angle, it’s kind of cute that such a thing happened. It is not a sign of divine intervention. I also like to think that somewhere, someone whose mom died when he was a teenager, went 0-5 with 4 Ks on Mother’s Day. After the game he was called into the manager’s office and informed he was being sent down to AAA to work on his mechanics, and he got home to find his wife had moved out and, like, killed his dog because he barked at squirrels, and it drove her crazy. If someone would write  a story about how shitty that guy’s day was I might not be so annoyed with the Mother’s Day-Braden angle.

Granted, it wasn’t Steve Bartman running over a billy goat on Lake Shore Drive before the Chicago Cubs clinch their first World Series win since 1908,

Still with the Steve Bartman references people? Jesus, let it go. Also, does this non-event mean that the gods, in allowing Bartman to arrive at the game, were punishing the Cubs for, like, hubris or something?

but it does add heft to an old theological question that’s been kicked around over many a pint of grog: Is there a God that watches over baseball?

Now we’re getting monotheistic in our baseball theology? The answer to the question is no, there is not a God watching over baseball. That is juvenile nonsense, and why the fuck are we drinking grog?

Whatever the case, there have been many instances in baseball’s Eden-like ballpark cathedrals where things happen that seem to defy all terrestrial explanations. Here are a few such moments:

“Eden-like.” Paradise with everything provided by God does not include $7 hot dogs.

And here are some “things (that) happen that seem to defy all terrestrial explanations:”

Mike Piazza’s home run.

Mike Piazza hit a homerun in the eighth to beat the Braves in the Mets’ first game back at Shea after 9/11. This is truly amazing because Piazza only hit 35 other home runs that year, and retired with a measly 427 for his career. Obviously, gods or a God were involved.

2004 American League Championship Series, Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Okay, I’ll include his reasoning for this one, because it is fucking crazy.

In a series where the Yankees blew a commanding 3-0 lead to lose four straight, it’s easy to overlook the divine characteristics of Tony Clark’s ground-rule double in the ninth inning of Game 5.

But in the top of the ninth, Mr. Clark of the Yankees screeched a line drive into right field with two outs and teammate Ruben Sierra on first. The ball took a hop off the Fenway Park ground and bounced into the right-field stands.

Had the ball stayed in play, Mr. Sierra surely would have scored the Yankees’ fifth run, giving Yankees closer Mariano Rivera a chance to close out the series. Instead, Mr. Sierra was stranded at third when Miguel Cairo popped out in foul territory. The long-suffering Red Sox won the game 5-4 in 14 innings—and we don’t have to remind Yankees fans what happened next.

Think about all the other events that had to come together for the Red Sox to come back and win that series. Even just in that game. They had to shut out an incredibly good Yankees lineup for five more innings. They had just had to plate two in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game, which included a second straight blown save by Rivera (though in fairness, blaming him for giving up a sac fly in a one-run game when he comes in with runners on the corners is unfair). Which brings me to: in the previous fucking game, they’d had to score a run off Mariano Rivera to tie the game that they won in 12 innings. What was I talking about again? Oh, a God or some number of gods in conjunction causing a ball to bounce over a fence. Think about how crazy that is. I SAID THINK ABOUT IT!

The Home Run King Gets No World Series Ring

Bonds struck out one inning and the Giants eventually blew a lead and lost 6-5 in game 6 of the ’02 World Series. They went on to lose game seven. Two words merged to form one: otherworldly.

Update: I checked the box score for the game. You know what else Bonds did? He went 1-2 with 2 BB (one intentional because nobody sane pitched to Bonds unless the bases were empty at that point in his career) and solo HR. He also made an error that led to an unearned run, so, I don’t know, gods teasing him and making him fail? Probably.

Hank Greenberg against the Master Race

Oh yeah, some more crazy:

Before Jessie Owens faced down Adolf Hitler, Hank Greenberg and the Detroit Tigers took their shot.

See, Hank Greenberg’s a Jew, in case his stereotypical Jewish name didn’t clue you in. Hitler: not so much a fan of Jews. So, fine. That a Jew did something good at a time when Hitler was running Germany is neat, but in what fucking way is that analogous to winning a fucking gold medal in the German capital, embarrassing Hitler and all that? Explain yourself!

In 1935, as Hitler was rising to power in Europe, a sturdy Jewish first baseman was belting 36 home runs and knocking in 170 on his way to his first MVP award.

Had he played for a hapless franchise, Mr. Greenberg’s exploits might not have gained the spotlight. But fate placed him on a team with the likes of Charlie Gehringer, Mickey Cochrane and Schoolboy Rowe that won that year’s World Series, turning Mr. Greenberg into a folk hero.

And Hitler watched all of this while gnashing his teeth because Hitler was way into baseball. (Was Hitler into baseball? Anyone?) Greenberg went on to win another one in 1940, but this troubled Hitler less as he was overrunning Europe and really didn’t get to the follow the season very much at all.

Oh, that’s how it ended. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty convinced now that gods are intervening in baseball games, and it’s time we hunted them down and put a stop to it. What do we want?! Free will!! When do we want it?! Now, but how do you kill a god?! Hmm.


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