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Players over team? Brawls belong in MLB? : While We’re Waiting

Photo-David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 17, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov (20) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The sporting world is focused on the intense battle between the Bay Area and the North coast as the teams culminate with a third installment of their epic clash. Of course, I am referring to Mike Clevinger and the Cleveland Indians taking on Sean Manaea and the Oakland Athletics in the third of a four-game set on Wednesday night. There might be a basketball game on Thursday or something too. With my attention more dutifully focused on the Tribe, I’ll leave NBA Finals breakdowns to our excellent NBA staff. WFNY has more to read about that matchup here, here, oh, and here. Plus, plenty more coming today and tomorrow.

Worshiping owners and hating players

One NBA Finals narrative I can contribute to though is the Bay area madness stemming from Mercury News journalist Tim Kawakami. With too much time on his hands before Game 1 of the Finals, Kawakami took to the Twitterverse to denigrate anyone who was not 100% happy that Kevin Durant joined up with the 73-win Warriors that created a ridiculously stacked super team and simultaneously neutered the Warriors biggest Western Conference rival.

The repeated adage in his long response chain (that he continued over multiple days) was a love for ownership and a hatred for the players. There were many theories floated for why this supposed obvious nature of the fan existed. Some thought it was fans easier to identify with the less athletic front office people. Or a worship of their money. Or a desire to be subjugated by authority.

Kawakami decided that throwing his hat with intimating that people who disagree with him are racist was the wisest choice. He is presuming not all of them are though, but he can only presume.

It is possible that people are not so nefarious in nature. Fans of a particular team might simply be aligned in rooting interest of, and I’m just spit-balling here, that particular team. Perhaps it would explain why fans celebrate when something helps that team’s chances of competing for a championship- like signing a superstar free agent. Such a radical hypothesis might also explain why fans are upset when something happens that lowers their team’s chances of winning a championship- like Kevin Durant joining a Golden State Warriors team that was already considered one of the two best teams in the league. Attempts to explain such reasoning to Kawakami were met with his boilerplate response.

The Durant signing has been forever linked to LeBron James’ decision to take his talents to South Beach in 2010 and back to the North Coast in 2014. Kawakami’s Mercury News story from the first trip of the Miami Heatles visiting Oakland did not seem to be especially pro-player.

“I didn’t think we were going to be Team America when we all joined forces,” James said with a slight smile. “It doesn’t surprise me that people don’t like us. We don’t care.”

The perception that James, Wade and Bosh don’t care, of course, is one huge reason why the Heat has been so universally unloved.

They often seem just thrown together — a tri-corporation of shared assets — without history or a lot of depth and soul.

But, it is not like he had any snarky comments on Twitter the night LeBron James returned to Cleveland in 2010 about him jumping ship from the early struggles of those Heat teams. Oh, wait…

The good news is we have another example that people are more similar than we might think.

Baseball People

Most MLB brawls amount to someone charging the mound and getting in a two-hand shove before everyone grabs their teammates and pulls each other backwards. Perhaps there are some rather loud and harsh words exchanged. Monday’s brawl that was sparked by San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland drilling Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper with a 98 mile per hour fastball was a different matter. Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Strickland (instead, he hilariously lost grip on the projectile), both men attempted to time head shots with Strickland landing one square across the face. Strickland would be suspended by MLB for six games with Harper receiving four.1

Plenty of sub-narratives popped up. Strickland apparently was exacting retribution for a Harper home run trot and words from the postseason years ago. A series that the Giants won (Strickland’s team) on their path to a World Series title. Catcher Buster Posey watched the entire episode with no hint at entering the fray. There have been suppositions he is under orders from management to do so (to avoid injury) or that Strickland asked him to leave him alone with Harper or that Posey disagreed with the plunk.

There also began a discussion on who is allowed to weigh in on whether or not pitchers should be allowed to throw tightly-coiled leather-bound objects near 100 miles per hour at people standing 60 feet and six inches away. Texas Rangers analyst C.J. Nitkowski believes that only MLB players and former MLB players should have a voice.

https://twitter.com/CJNitkowski/status/869323924290641922

Yahoo! Sports Jeff Passan is on the other side of the debate as he sees the devastating effect of Mike Trout getting injured (missing a star player from MLB for two months) and does not see a reason to risk such through beanings or brawls.

My opinion lands decisively on the Passan side of the debate. Removing blocking home plate without the ball, take-out slides at second base, neighborhood plays, and the like were all decisions MLB made to make MLB a better and safer game. Each move was opposed by the players when announced. The more games the best players are able to play, the better the product on the field, and the more people will enjoy watching the game. Such is far better for the game than some water cooler talk about a brawl.

There is no need for men to act like overgrown babies on the field whether it is managers (looking at you Paul Molitor. You too Brad Ausmus) or players. Intentionally attempting to hurt and risking injury has no place in the game. Passan might have summed it up best here.

Let’s let Tim Kawakami have the last word.

  1. Four games for a position player being far more than six for a reliver. []

  • RGB

    Baseball payers are the worst. Onion-skinned children.
    Brawl? Laughable.

  • RGB

    https://i.imgflip.com/1q12oa.jpg

    The very first new Brown.

  • BenRM

    Well, that guy is officially a tool.

  • mgbode

    I hear he is going to commission Dwayne Rudd to help him with his helmet toss while on suspension.

  • mgbode

    Apologies, you will have to be a bit more specific.

  • RGB

    Care Bear can also advise.

  • jpftribe

    Guy throws ball at other guy.
    Fight ensues.
    Suspensions administered.
    Play Ball!

  • BenRM

    Kawakami

  • JM85

    I’m guessing he meant Kawakami or the pitcher.

  • MartyDaVille

    Ha ha, I enjoyed your lead, Michael.

    I remain mystified as to why people take Twitter so damn seriously. In almost all cases, it’s electronic graffiti scrawled by total strangers, nothing more.

    I’m also mystified as to why people get offended by Twitter comments by said strangers. You already know that haters and bigots and morons are out there spewing garbage, but you go in anyway, volunteering to be offended. If you’re going to sit in mud, you’re going to get dirty. What else did you expect?

    Spare me your outrage. You asked for it.

  • JM85

    That helmet toss was hilarious. I don’t blame Harper though. Throwing at hitters is getting ridiculous.

  • mgbode

    Yeah, between Kawakami, Nitkowski, and Strickland, we had a bevvy of options today.

  • mgbode

    You were correct. I do agree he would ‘win’ that prize even amongst the others mentioned.

  • mgbode

    Thank you. It is pretty crazy how aligned the schedules have been between the Indians and Cavs the last couple years (w/ the 14 game streak for Tribe last year aligning to Cavs postseason opponents too).

    Yeah, you always have to understand to not take things too seriously on the internet as people will say things with much more gusto and hyperbole than they ever would to someone’s face- in many cases go further than they actually believe (for the sake of getting those precious likes or upticks or whatever). Still, getting a gauge for how people feel about certain items is valuable especially when those people are sending out their thoughts to 82000 people.

  • BenRM

    Sadly, athletes acting like idiots isn’t something I find all that surprising. Honestly, I hold them to a pretty low standard.

    I am, however, consistently perplexed when people who are allegedly educated journalists and reporters can be so publicly idiotic.

  • jpftribe

    Twitter provides the illusion that you have some control over the content you see. As it is a useful tool for sports info, I set up my feed to me almost exclusively that. In the Trump era, I’ve had to unfollow people because they’ve gone off the deep end. It’s worse than email spam because you actually see it all.

  • CBiscuit

    Strickland is a yahoo. Yet counterpoint: Bryce Harper has a very punchable face. Perhaps THE most punchable.

    I’ll allow it.

  • jpftribe

    Not quite Jeter punchable, but close.

  • mgbode

    I find journalists no different than athletes or any other segment of society in that there are plenty of insightful people within alongside some complete… well, not as insightful people.

  • BenRM

    Fair point.

  • mgbode

    Yeah, it has been a brutal landscape as many people have devolved into the types of attacks they say they are against. Crazy times.

  • RGB
  • mgbode

    Best SC commercial ever

  • Eric G

    You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, “Hey let’s go get some parfaits” and they say, “Eh no, I don’t like no parfaits”? Parfaits are delicious.

  • mgbode

    I’m making waffles!

  • mgbode
  • tsm

    Great writing today Bode. Guys like Kawakami who immediately assume inappropriate motives – racism, sexism etc. for those who disagree is becoming very prevalent in our culture today, and it is terrible. How someone can look into the actions of another and determine their reasons is beyond me. I was always taught to assume the best, until I have proof of improper motives. Durant is a good guy, but you made a good point in explaining why many would be upset with his move to GSW. Just as most Cav fans being upset with LeBron leaving had nothing to do with racism or being anti-player, the same is true of those unhappy that Durant moved to GS.
    As far as the brawl, I used to be very old school and would let the players police themselves. Drysdale and Gibson would knock down the next batter after a home run, and were known as headhunters. I have since come around to the position that throwing a 98 mph ball at another’s head is unacceptable regardless of circumstances. Also, if you don’t like the guy hitting home runs, then get him out! Who cares if a guy flips his bat or the pitcher acts out after a big strike out? Your job is to deal with adversity, just like all of us in the real world have to.

  • There is an argument to be made for this one though

    https://youtu.be/p2e8gF6YL6Q

  • mgbode

    Been talking about these all day. So many good ones.

  • mgbode

    Thanks. I have had a similar arc on baseball. Much of the celebration side coming from coaching kids. They hit a big hit (which might mean they get on base to they hit one to the fence depending on the kid) and they are jumping and happy. Why exactly do we want to suppress that? There’s enough things in life that suck the joy our of us. So yeah, not happy about Harper staring down a home run, then make it your mission to strike him out and make him look foolish every time you face him.

  • RGB

    What’s the big deal if I deposit one of your crapballs into the parking lot, and enjoy it’s majestic flight?
    Don’t like it? Suck it up buttercup. Pitch better.

  • woofersus

    Since when do the consumers of entertainment products not have a say in what that product should be? I’m not one of these people who thinks of athletes as owing me something for their great fortune of being in the position they are, (they created their own value – not me) but I do get tired of this “baseball people” thing that suggests only somebody in the sacred trust can possibly have any understanding of how things work. I am the customer and what I want matters. (in aggregate, of course) The NFL became the no fun league because of crusty fans who have fragile sensitivities when it comes to players (especially of a different culture than their own) expressing themselves. Finally, the newer generation of fans spoke up and said enough, and the NFL listened, at least a little bit. For all the effort MLB is putting into changing the fabric of the game over a few minutes of runtime, you would think they could see that the inbred culture of the sport is blinding them to the fact that fans today don’t tune in to see a guy get thrown at and love the younger, more expressive players.

    I’m sick to death of baseball players being a bunch of babies that can’t handle a little celebration at their expense, or feeling the need to get some kind of revenge after even a completely unintentional incident like Machado sliding into Pedroia. It’s not part of the game. It’s just some kind of pseudo-masculine jackassery masquerading as “old school.” I felt the same way after the Bautista/Odor scrap last year. Is Bautista maybe a little bit of a punk? Sure, but throwing at him is absolutely an act of physical violence, and it’s dangerous, and it’s bad business. And frankly, his slide was legal. Odor was beyond out of line to throw a punch and I was blown away at the lenience of his punishment. I’d have given him 20 games off. It’s disgraceful behavior that tarnishes the game.

    Should Harper go to the mound and fight? No, and he should be suspended, but if he doesn’t start that fight does it even raise eyebrows? Maybe that’s what it takes to get some action on the issue. Maybe he should announce that whenever he gets thrown at, he’ll go take the pitcher down right there and then. At least then it’s not another pitcher throwing at another defenseless hitter. If MLB wants this out of the game just stop giving 1-start slaps on the wrist when it happens and start doling out meaningful suspensions.

  • mgbode

    So, tell us how you really feel.

    Also, I agree.

  • The_Matt_of_Akron

    THE most punchable in baseball, maybe.

    For most punchable in ALL of sports, I submit:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/04a2ee7c8172dc5da77dcf24cac15facde734f64176799e8b60310862f9f7d35.jpg

  • RGB
  • mgbode

    Arnold Palmer, Tony Romo, Gene Simmons…

    so many, so good. they should just make SC a never-ending series of their commercials. it’d save ESPN.

  • mgbode
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  • RGB
  • mgbode

    (you missed the joke)