29 May 2012, by Ted
The title of our most recent post was Hello, Goodbye. We talked about old favorites like Lance Berkman threatening to leave the game and new favorites like Bryce Harper entering the fray.
We didn't realize it at the time, but there was something prescient about that conversation. Or maybe it was in our heads to begin with and it ended up on the proverbial page because it had to come out somehow. You see, both of us, for our own reasons, need to take a step back from Pitchers & Poets. To say goodbye for a while, and direct our attentions elsewhere. To watch baseball through a different lens.
So we're taking an indefinite sabbatical from the blog.
This is a melancholy decision. Pitchers & Poets has exceeded our wildest expectations in every way. We've become great friends, and made a bushel more. We've read great stuff and met brilliant people. We've engaged in the great broiling Conversation that is life as a human being. P&P was the ocean-going vessel that connected our islands with your islands, and at full sail she was a pleasure to helm. She hasn't been at full sail for a while, though.
So as we haul in our sails (is that right? We are hardly Westish Harpooners when it comes to nautical metaphors) on this project, we want to reiterate how important this blog has been for us. And more than that, we want to wholeheartedly thank all of you for reading and commenting, for telling your stories, for hearing out our often unwieldy ideas and for sharing your own. Thank you to all of our contributors, who wrote for no other reason than to join the conversation, thank you to the vibrant community of baseball bloggers who do such great work themselves and who pushed us to be smarter and funnier and generally better. Thank you to baseball, and especially first basemen of the 1990s, for being awesome.
A specific thank you to Patrick Dubuque, who has lent his stellar work to the blog even as our own has flagged. He's as grok as grok gets. And he's going places (NotGraphs, specifically), and until then he's on Twitter @euqubud
In the meantime, the blog will stay up, and hopefully one day we'll get the Rogue's Baseball Index back up too. We'll keep adding the weirdest baseball pictures that we can find to our Tumblr, we'll be on Twitter, Eric will be at The Classical, etc.
Ted & Eric
23 May 2012, by Eric
Eric:When our friendship was but a timid internet seedling, you wrote a blog called Waiting for Berkman. While the site wasn't necessarily about the Big Puma, it wasn't necessarily not about the Big Puma either. Now, almost three years after you and I joined forces at Pitchers & Poets, the Lance Berkman era could be coming to an end. He appears to have torn an ACL this weekend in Los Angeles, and has already floated the idea of retiring. Thank goodness, that in the first day of Berkman's absence, a pair of large and similarly uncouth rookies performed astoundingly well.
The Cardinals called up prospect Matt Adams, who quite visibly exceeds his listed dimensions of 6'3", 230 pounds, to replace Berkman at first base. He went 2-4. The Dodgers, meanwhile, won the game on a 3-0, pinch hit home run by Scott Van Slyke, son of Andy. Scott is 6'5" and weighs 250 pounds. He has a puffy face like Berkman's and, despite his lineage, a similar bemused working class demeanor.
My question is this: What would the end of the Berkman era mean for baseball? Furthermore, is he a replaceable entity?
Ted: Only if those big rookies actually move with a grace that belies their build will they inherit the Berkman crown. It's odd to me that such a quietly capable fielder and hitting--so smooth and confident and patient--went down simply catching a routine throw. I felt like I was watching my dad come up lame in a pick-up basketball game; it was the injury of a twilight player.
The potential retirement of the Big Puma marks a kind of turning point in baseball player media relations. Lance was and is a maestro of the old media. When sportswriters needed a sound bit or an observant and humorous sports radio interview, they could bank on Fat Elvis. Berkman didn't tweet, he talked. He is eloquent and funny as a conversationalist, in contrast to today's young up-and-coming social media marketeers.
That and he could hit. I'm glad he got a ring.
If this is a year of departures, it's also a year of arrivals. Are you a Trout guy or a Harper guy? (I'm a Bryce man, myself.)
Eric: Are we already aligning ourselves into camps? I heard John Kruk talking about this on ESPN the other night, and it didn't even occur to me that anybody was picking sides. But I guess it makes sense. The Angel-faced, fishy-named Trout does present a helluva contrast with Harper and all his stylistic excess.
If this is the Beatles vs. Stones of our baseball-viewing generation, I want to align myself with the Stones. Because a Stones man is what I am. Musically, and I think/hope/hope not aesthetically. But then I watch these guys play. Harper's super-aggressive, sizzling, kinetic assault on the baseball experience is the more captivating; Trout's classicist embrace of all five tools, his left-handed game from the right side of the plate, is something more archaically, innocently beautiful.
At risk of reducing this to a Simmonsian level (not that Bill Simmons would ever engage in such old-dude categorization), Bryce Harper is the Rolling Stones and Mike Trout is the Beatles. And yet, despite myself, I find myself preferring Trout. Bryce Harper is changing the way we watch baseball. Mike Trout makes me feel like I'm watching the next Joe DiMaggio. His very swing feels steeped in history. Right now, that's easier for me to consume and appreciate.
More importantly: Who is the Beach Boys of baseball?
Ted: The Tampa Bay Rays are the Beach Boys of BaseBall. Sunny disposition, coordinated beachwear, and an elevated level of quality that will outlast the schtick....
Give me Bryce Harper. Ordained for years as the second coming, scrutinized like a British royal, called up before his 20th, and how does he respond? By playing baseball with Pete Rose-level gamesmanship mixed with the grade-A talent that he didn't even bother with at Triple-A. Trout has his appeal, the Dimaggio-like understated disposition, and his footspeed is a totally compelling characteristic. But thus far Harper is the cultural confluence.
Do you think there's enough going on between the two of these players to create a Nomar-A-Rod-Jeter dynamic at some point down the line?
Eric: Even though I just finished reducing them to stale classic rock archetypes, I'll now say I don't even want to go there. For one, I'm not even sure I can explain the Nomar-A-Rod-Jeter dynamic. I was so young, and they were so big. Now I'm old enough that if I was an MLB player I'd be entering my prime soon, and Harper and Trout actually sort of seem like kids. To burden them with that sort of expectation would be unfair. I just hope they are both great, exciting ballplayers for a long time. I hope whatever energy that exists between the two of them only serves to enhance the way each is appreciated. I hope they can be as comfortable in the media landscape as tomorrow as Lance Berkman was in yesterday's.
22 May 2012, by Eric
The year was 1991. Jose Canseco had gone several weeks without hitting a home run and was becoming alarmed. No matter that this was December, 1991, and the baseball season was still months away from starting. His biceps felt deflated. The rhythm of his heartbeat was far too steady. "I feel empty," Jose Canseco said to the fish inside his massive, brilliant fish tank, "as if my broad shoulders have been robbed of their broadness." To clear his mind, Jose Canseco took his pet lion Mark McGwire on a sunset walk through his Miami neighborhood. They encountered an old woman sitting on a lawn chair. She saw Mark McGwire's dejected face. Then Jose Canseco's dejected face. "Take this," she told Jose Canseco, ripping a gold tooth from the back of her mouth. "Swallow it. Next year, you will be traded to the Texas Rangers for Ruben Sierra."
17 May 2012, by admin
Using images from the Pitchrs & Poets Tumblr as a creative launching point, our resident Imagineer Dylan Little has put together a series of cipher poems. Can you guess the ballplayer below, as described using the literary tools of the $ubconscious$. (Click the link at the end for the solution.)
You can follow Dylan on Twitter: @orangehunchback.
Billy will never be
as bald as me.
I'd rather party
with an '82 Eddie
Murray. If little bro
penned a book
it'd be called Billy:
the Pervert Who Holds The All-Time Record For Most Farts In His Brother's Pool.
10 May 2012, by Patrick
I’m not sure I should admit this, because it’ll probably destroy any chance I have of writing for The Classical, but I know nothing about bullfighting. This is at least partially my fault; I have a longstanding rule that when I read the word “bull” in a Hemingway novel, I immediately skip forward to the next chapter. But however elaborate and nonsensical the version of bullfighting that exists in my head, I tend to think of it as a rather graceful sport. The bull charges, the bullfighter glides just out of reach, and the scene continues like a dance until, again in my mind, just before bull or man is bloodily gored in front of thousands of men, women and children. The sky is blue. There are trumpets in the background.
I relate this anecdote to provide context for my mood on Monday morning. It looked to be an arduous week, and so as I prepared my office I gave myself a little treat: I dialed up mlb.tv and enjoyed the phenomenon of position players pitching. There stood Chris Davis, who according to the media guides weighs thirteen pounds less than Seattle Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin, as he cast his entire repertoire at the Boston Red Sox in the bottom of the 16th. There was the fastball clocking 89, or perhaps a tick faster than Jered Weaver’s, but even more enjoyable was the indecisive knuckle-change that seemed to give up halfway to the plate.
It was one of his mistakes, however, that led to what drew my interest. With a runner on first, one of Davis’ fastballs found itself up and over the plate, and Mike Aviles relocated it to te base of the left-center wall. Marlon Byrd rounded third and met Matt Wieters.
I have, like many people, complained about catchers blocking the plate as they wait for the ball. The home plate collision invoked a new round of controversy after it felled Buster Posey last year, but I’ve long found the practice distasteful. Catchers are no more entitled to the runner’s path than any other fielder. In this case, however, the catcher stood well in front of the plate, stretching out to receive the relay at its earliest point and sweep the tag back over the plate. The throw was true and early. Wieters turned. Byrd threw his left elbow into the catcher’s ribs. The two men sprawled over, the dust billowed, and Wieters held up his mitt dramatically to reveal the ball still inside. The crowd cheered; the inning was over.
The play felt wrong to me. It felt dirty.
I realize I am in the minority in this respect. The rules don’t talk about home plate collisions in the same sense that the U.S. Constitution fails to tackle abortion: like government, the game of baseball evolves, however slowly, as a sort of social contract between the representatives and the People. In this sense the home plate collision is baseball’s pittance to its fans, a rare acquiescence to the natural fan appeal of goonery. Hockey has its referee-sanctioned fistfights, football has its everything; baseball, in comparison, has merely sacrificed Ray Fosse to the altar of bloodlust.
My idealized baseball would involve no contact at all between the players beyond the tag.I’d like to leave the collisions behind, relegating them to the memories of belt-grabbing and knee-high cleats. My ideal form of baseball is more like my version of Hemingway’s version of bullfighting, an ethereal grace under pressure. In fact, my idealized baseball would involve no contact at all between the players beyond the tag; every moment in baseball centers on each player’s interaction with the ball, not each other. This renders the tag as the most potent and percussive act in the game, like the flourish of the cape. The rest of the game becomes a sort of waltz, performed either by Kinsella’s ghosts or Plato’s forms, both in some way seeking perfection.
This is romantic of me, I realize. But the game is moving this way on its own accord, becoming more visual and less visceral. The players themselves become less real as they are increasingly separated from the fan by distance, security and tax bracket. The game has become an increasingly televised event as baseball’s culture spreads across the country and globe. And perhaps most vitally, the game itself is no longer held in common between player and fan; fewer and fewer people play the game they love, preferring to watch passively. This is not a sign of decay, only change; we as fans love our game a little differently than we once did. Baseball is more symbolic, less tangible than it once was.
Maybe that’s why I felt so strongly about Byrd’s slide; after all, he wasn’t trying to hurt Wieters, nor break any rules. What he did wasn’t wrong. It just wasn’t the baseball I’ve romanticized, that we all romanticize to a certain degree. When Alex Rodriguez tried to slap a ball out of a player’s glove a few years ago, he was condemned, not for his desire to win, but by his gaucheness. This felt the same. The game, for me, is greatest when it is at its most gentlemanly, and it’s a shame that Wieters was unable to flick his wrist and tap the bull as it charged toward him.