Chin Music’14: Batty for Balls & Strikes

28 Oct

Forest for the Trees

In an age of monopoly where one brand or theme will hog the shelf, baseball too has its fair share of conforming, domineering trends.

On the diamond, it’s been performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), drag-pants, walk-off bunny-hop hysteria, maple bats (& their attendant shards), sugar-water baths, shave-cream pie-in-the-face and hair, lots & lots o’ hair.

Cue the Cowsills, please:

Let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas in my hair
A home for the fleas
A hive for the buzzin’ bees
A nest for birds
There ain’t no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my…
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair…,
I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied (“Hair (‘69)”)!”

In the marketing & media biz it’s the billion-dollar fantasy fad, its kissing cousin in the promotion department, sabermetrics, and the ever-present ranking that stock the shelf.

On TV, the new wave in producer-think has given viewers such innovations in coverage as graphic sound-effects (“Bam! Wham! Sock! Zap! Ka-pow!) and the always scintillating in-game dugout interview (Zzzzz). “Holy perfect pitch, Batman!”

And when it comes to the talking heads, the bias is downright batty.

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Color-commentators and in-studio analysts will whittle a whole 9-inning contest down to one topic: balls & strikes. Aaron Boone and Orel Hershiser must talk about it in their sleep. ‘Uh, what, what’s that honey, a slider low & outside is his money pitch? Oy vey!’

Typifying of the trend was the Baseball Tonight segment on Sportscenter (ESPN) following Giants G2 win over host Royals (7-2).

Karl Ravech presided over a panel of experts that included Kurt Schilling, Barry Larkin & John Kruk, all of whom spent 10 minutes talking of nothing else but pitch selection, as if it were the ‘be all and end all’ of baseball. It ain’t.

But the batty breakdowns are just one more de-humanizing trend that mistakenly proclaims sport to be entirely quantifiable with numbers, category or ranking.

Unless there’s fantasy tie-in, saber-think considers it boring, trite and unprofitable.

Sport technicians couldn’t have gotten away with this 50, hell, 10 years ago. The adults would not’ve stood for it. They’d have demanded more, in substance and humanity.

With the NFL cruising along, poised to knock Jesus off his long-held perch atop the Sunday ranking (AM game), its biggest rival in the sporting biz in baseball has hard enough time getting and keeping viewers glued to the tube and is ill-advised to bore the begeebers out of fans in a simple kow-tow to some intangible trend in quantus.

“More feeling,” producers.

Joe Maddon Sweepstakes

It came as no shock, but the timing was a bit surprising, when noted Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to opt-out of his contract w/Tampa Bay on Friday, a team he’d guided for 9 seasons, including a pennant-winner in ‘08.

The reason? Take your pick:

1) Money, or lack of it, from an ownership (Sternberg) who was unwilling to pay for either players or proven leadership (Mgr), but now wants to move that to Montreal;

2) A dispassionate fan-base who got more worked-up over Jeter than their own Rays;

3) Craves a bigger market w/bigger spotlight and more plentiful opportunities.

Rays’ President Matt Silverman: “We’re turning the page (ESPN 10-24).” Guess so.

Marc Topkin of TBT (ESPN 10-24) believes Gabe Kapler, a former Rays player, is on a short-list, and that the Rays may consult with players on their choice. The players? Huh. Asking the students who they want for a teacher. A club going nowhere fast.

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Maddon’s agent Alan Nero has stated Joe is “prepared to take a year off,” unless “the situation is right (“Joe” / TSD (Pioneer Press) / 10-25 / M.Birch). Ballsy.

Joe’s a popular guy, outside the Boston and New York areas. But even there, that disdain is accompanied by an overall respect for the man’s managerial talents, just as long as he’s not in the opposite dugout from their beloved Bombers & Beaneaters.

If he does sit for a spell, the opportunities will grow.

Dodgers

Only a man who’d managed a Yankees’ dynasty (Torre) might see LAD as anything less than baseball heaven. Donny “Baseball” is set in blue, at least for 2015, so says GBM. If Dodgers don’t look playoff primed post Home Run Derby & Family Fun Extravaganza (all star week), the non-negotiation negotiations may start in earnest with JM.

Cubs

Some folks idea of a good laugh, but Cubbies have won more games (10,551) than any other ball-club, excepting the Giants (10,780), and fielded what’s arguably the greatest team in history (1906 – 10). So there‘s that.

Beyond their glory and status as America’s most beloved sports team, owner Ricketts and GM Epstein are set to spend serious specie on the man who can do for Northsiders what Moses did for the Israelites. BoSox rebirth was grand, but this’d be a national celebration.

Current Cubs’ skipper Rick Renteria receives good marks for his performance since signing a 3-year deal in 2013. Maddon might like the challenge, and the payoff.

Mets

As it stands today, Terry Collins will be managing the final year of his contract in 2015 with the Mets holding an option for 2016. Anywhere Maddon would land will be a challenge to build a winner, but New York is New York.

Small market clubs

Not a likely destination for one of Maddon’s reputation and asking price (reported to be $5M), but don’t rule ’em out as Joe might just favor being ‘big fish in a small pond,’ and the tempered expectations that wade in the water. If the money’s right, small may win.

California Dreamin’

Though Royals are regal opponents, Giants are “one small step (win)” away from certain baseball dynasty, but “one giant leap” from ever becoming California’s favorite club.

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As the Cowboys will always be America‘s Team, so too the Dodgers will forever hold a special place in hearts of most Californians. Title droughts won’t change the sentiments, not as long as these two franchises remain true to their missions to field competitive ball clubs and honor their storied pasts in uniform & logo. Nike don’t know style.

The Giants do have one, outside chance to win over hearts & minds of Californians.

If San Francisco can string together multiple, championship campaigns, relatively close in time, and the Dodgers continue to come up short, they might win over the Golden State.

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Their Oakland rivals across the bay were on the verge (Swingin’ As (‘72 – 74) & Brothers Bash (‘88 – 90)), but couldn’t keep the good times rolling, not with the financial frugality of Moneyball running the operation.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: Batman – Girl, 8.24.67, ABC, wc.cca; english bats, 1875, wc.cca, PSM; J.Maddon, wc.cca, 4.14.14, K.Allison; Hollywood, 8.3.07, Sorn, wc.cca; GoldenGate, wc.cca, R.Niewiroski, 1.1.07
Posted: 10-28-14 @ 2:16pm EST

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