Thursday, October 3, 2013

2 comments Tim Keown Was Intrigued by the Fight Between a Latino and American Baseball Player

We have seen Tim Keown comment before on Hispanics coming into the United States and taking the jobs of American baseball players. After the near-brawl between the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers, Tim Keown has decided to try his best to learn something from this incident. One may say, "All we can learn is that pitchers don't like to be shown up when a player hits a home run off him, but if a pitcher doesn't want to be shown up don't previously have hit the batter and then try not to give up a home run to that same batter." Tim Keown thinks there is more we can learn from this incident than just that.  We can learn Americans players control their emotions and Latino players do not. It's true that we can learn that, but we can also learn about ourselves, dammit. 

Great theater should never be discouraged. For that reason, there's no need for the actions of Carlos Gomez and Brian McCann to send you to the nearest fainting couch, muttering about what to tell the children.

My brief summary on this "theater."

1. Paul Maholm had hit Gomez earlier in the year so it's natural for Gomez to strut a bit after he hits a home run off Maholm.

2. Brian McCann was out of line (well, actually in the line) and should have just ignored Gomez as he crossed the plate rather than confront him on the basepaths. Shake your head, say "check the standings" or do something like that. Don't try to start a fight in the basepaths and then never really apologize for it.

3. Why is it three times in the past months teams that have shown up the Braves? Is it because teams know they can get the Braves un-focused, are the Braves assholes, or are they as a team just really, really sensitive?

4. There's no way this brawl should have happened because the Braves players should have been smarter to avoid any suspensions that could have resulted from the brawl. They needed to focus on the postseason, not jawing with a player from a non-playoff team.

5. No one is fainting or worried about what to tell the children. The Braves struggled going into that game and should be more worried about hitting the ball better and NOT giving up home runs, as opposed to an opponent's reaction upon hitting a home run off a Braves pitcher.

6. Freddie Freeman should not have been ejected. 

Gomez and the Braves turned a game nobody cared about into something thought-provoking and hilarious. A rare feat. So thanks, guys.

Ah yes, many sportswriters prefer drama to the actual sporting contest.

There are so many layers and sublayers here. There's the whole idea of whether Paul Maholm, following the tradition of many before him, has at times decided that hitting Gomez with a fastball is a better approach than trying to get him out.

Well, it seems Maholm has trouble getting Gomez out this season at least. So maybe he should just not suck and find a way to get Gomez out and avoid all of this trouble.

There's Gomez and his General Sherman trip around the bases 

A Civil War reference. Only 150 years too late.

With one swing of the bat and one nearly complete home run trot, Gomez ignited a series of events that raised a ton of questions while answering few.

I really think Tim Keown may be making this brawl out to mean a lot more than it really does. The batter hit a home run, stared at it, and then talked shit to the opposing players as he rounded the bases. The opposing players talked shit back as the player rounded the bases and then the opposing catcher got really angry and confronted the batter in the basepaths on the way to home plate. I'm not sure "a ton" of questions were raised. It seems pretty much like a simple brawl in baseball and thank goodness no one got hurt.

Gomez believes Maholm drilled him intentionally two months ago, and this was his payback. "You hit me. I hit you," were apparently the words that rocked the Braves' world. Is that a worse offense than intentionally hitting someone? 

No. There's no "worse" or "better" offense in this situation. There is no ranking of whether a hitting a batter is worse than strutting after you hit a home run off the pitcher who hit you. If the batter wasn't hit intentionally then the batter is being oversensitive. If the opposing team doesn't want to give up a home run to the batter and watch him strut, don't give up a home run to the batter. I think Tim Keown may be trying to make too much of this incident.

(I keep reading and hearing about Gomez's home run "celebration," but what I saw was not a celebration, not with all that anger attached. It was a spiteful display, equal parts vengeful and belittling. Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed all parts of it, but I didn't detect any joy.)

I think there was joy in being spiteful, vengeful and able to belittle the Braves for hitting him a few months ago and then being able to hit a home run.

The greedy among us keep coming back to one specific question: What will McCann do for his next act?

How about have a great postseason and help the Braves win a playoff series rather than play the part of "Sheriff Over Baseball's Unwritten Rules"?

After confronting Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez at home plate less than three weeks ago to discuss transgressions real or imagined after a home run,

Fernandez just happened to be pitching well against the Braves that night and then hit a home run. Notice a trend here? A team plays well against the Braves and McCann (and company) get pissy and start trying to be the unwritten rules police. Maybe they are just bad sports and can't enjoy the idea they are getting beaten, so they get pissy when an opposing player shows any type of joy at having hit a home run.

he upped the ante by walking down the third-base line to stop Gomez before he could feel the satisfaction of his shoe hitting the plate.

If there was ever a time to bring up that the Braves are in the playoffs and the Brewers are not, this may be it. Don't become a human barricade in order to try and be the sheriff who judges which actions are appropriate and which are not.

Is there a chance McCann is working on a higher plane? Knowing his team has been struggling -- and perhaps discounted as a legitimate World Series contender as the postseason approaches -- is his judge-and-jury act a calculated effort to send a message to his team and any future opponents?

There is also a good chance the only message McCann is sending is that the Braves are more concerned with what the opposing team is doing as opposed to being worried about whether the Braves are hitting the baseball and playing well enough to win a playoff series or two or three. It shows me the priorities of the team could very well be in the wrong place.

If his motivation was to motivate, the Braves' response -- two hits and zero runs off Kyle Lohse in their nine offensive innings after the incident -- should have him considering other approaches.

By the way, two games later Chris Johnson threw his helmet in the dugout and got into a brief argument with Terry Pendleton. Perhaps the Braves have frustration stemming from the fact they haven't played well over the past month or maybe the entire team needs anger management. Either way, McCann probably was not working on a higher plane and was simply reflecting the hot head attitude the rest of the team tends to show every time they get their panties in a wad at the "disrespect" an opposing player is showing a not-quite-coincidence usually this perceived disrespect is being shown while the opposing team is beating the Braves. 

The responsible reaction is to state the obvious: Everybody was wrong -- Gomez, Freeman, Gomez, McCann, Gomez.

Considering this really wasn't that notable of an incident, then let's just say every party was wrong. Gomez should quit strutting and the Braves need to worry about things other than how respected they feel while protecting unwritten baseball rules.

At the risk of falling face-first into rhetorical quicksand -- I imagine it looks like Alpha-Bits, only thicker and smellier -- what about the cultural aspects of this? (Wait, is that an elephant in the room?)

Good point. Jose Fernandez is Hispanic, Carlos Gomez is Hispanic. The Braves just hate players with Hispanic names. Don't tell Fredi Gonzalez though.

It's a little frightening that Tim Keown is going to look at the cultural aspects of this situation, especially considering he wrote the article I linked in the beginning of this post about how Latin American players are taking the jobs of hard-working American baseball players. I'm not sure I trust Tim to anchor a conversation such as this one. 

White players seem to have a death grip on The Code, while Latin players seem more comfortable with their emotions.

Asian players have no emotions and black players are all super-athletic and don't have to work as hard. Is there a stereotype that I missed?

To an extent, Tim Keown is a little bit correct and this is one of the ramifications of baseball being such a worldly game. Different cultures don't all act the same way. The cultural aspects of this seem to be that Latin players don't like to get hit with a baseball, just like white players don't like to get hit with a baseball.

The majority of American-born players were raised in a hypervigilant and ultrasensitive baseball environment. From Little League on up, the emphasis is on keeping emotions hermetically sealed. Do your job, keep quiet about it and by all means take offense when someone strays from your ethos.

If American-born players are raised to keep their emotions sealed then how does that explain American-born players taking offense when someone strays from their ethos? Doesn't this mean American-born players are raised to not show up someone else, but to use their own judgment when they think they are being disrespected and therefore this allows others to choose when that American-born player loses control of his emotions? In that way of looking at it, perhaps the American-born players aren't taught to keep their emotions heremetically sealed. After all, getting pissy and standing in the baseline when you feel you have been disrespected isn't exactly keeping your emotions in check.

Latin players come from a different environment, with fewer hang-ups and perhaps without the same focus on narrow, ill-defined rules.

So you mean the unwritten rules that aren't really rules and only certain players pay attention to these rules as a set of guidelines on the appropriate type of behavior aren't universal? Brian McCann would like to stand in the baseline and refuse to allow you to pass in order to discuss this more fully. 

One side preaches the humility necessary to achieve success in a sport that is all about failure. The other sees a sport that is so fraught with failure and frustration that grand achievements should sometimes be honored accordingly.

It's the grand struggle between acting like you have been there and getting excited over your personal achievements. Of course, the media picks and chooses when they like their Latino athletes to celebrate grand achievements. Yasiel Puig is an asshole for staring at his home runs, but it was just so cute to watch Sammy Sosa run out to right field with a flag in his hand at the start of a game or do a little hop and happy stroll around the bases when he hit a home run. Of course then you have Mariano Rivera who was very business-like in how he did his job and Jonathan Papelbon who sometimes acts like he cured cancer after getting a save.

If everyone approached the game like McCann -- in other words, if everyone always abided by the Big League Code of Honor -- baseball would lose something. And if every home run trot became an exercise in angry self-aggrandizement, the game would be anarchy.

I really think Tim Keown is blowing this game out of proportion into something it is not. Also, the annoying part about Brian McCann's actions is that it is clear he expects everyone to always abide by his honor code. It's one violation of the fake honor code that caused him to stand in the baseline and then get in Carlos Gomez's face. McCann seems to expect everyone to abide by the so-called "Big League Code of Honor." 

It's clear Gomez chose the wrong time and place to deliver his message of personal redemption. Within the rigid constructs of the game, he was wrong and admitted as much. 

I'm not sure Brian McCann ever said he was wrong to stand in the baseline and not allow Carlos Gomez to pass. I think that's wrong, that McCann acts like a jerk and then isn't sorry when it is clear that he was in some way in the wrong to block the baseline. Holding up unwritten rules you perceive to be violated is fine, but starting a brawl when your team is a week away from starting the playoffs is not fine.

And amid the moral, cultural and procedural questions raised by this random confluence of events, one stands alone: Who among us is not disappointed the Brewers and Braves don't play again right away?

Not me, because that would mean the Braves weren't in the playoffs and were still playing regular season games. I much prefer watching them play postseason games. Of course, I just hope no opposing player does anything to piss off Brian McCann or else he will risk a suspension to enforce unwritten rules that aren't his responsibility to enforce. 


jacktotherack said...

One side preaches the humility necessary to achieve success in a sport that is all about failure. The other sees a sport that is so fraught with failure and frustration that grand achievements should sometimes be honored accordingly.

I hope Keown was laughing as he typed that. That's one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, I'm guessing he had a very serious look on his face as he wrote it, like he was just telling us how it is.