Sunday, October 14, 2007

Responses, an Apology, and GBA

Usually, I try not to write while upset. I make a habit of setting the post aside, and not pressing the "publish" button until I've had some time to think about it calmly. I didn't do that the other day when ranting about Scott Raab's douchetastic playoff blog post at Esquire.

Nonetheless, the only words from that last post that I regret writing were the final three: stay classy, Cleveland. It was a jab directed at the author of the Esquire blog (proclaimed by Esquire to be an Indians fan, and self-identified in the blog entry I quoted as a Clevelander) that maligned the whole city for the words of one of its supporters. There was no good reason to drag the city of Cleveland into the conversation--for all I know, they're the nicest people on earth--and I apologize for doing so.

As for the rest: look, I understand that many reasonable people have objections to patriotic displays of any sort. They consider flag-waving to be jingoistic and anti-intellectual; some object to anything that puts the words "God" and "America" in the same sentence; many also consider that patriotic displays are an overt endorsement of the current administration's actions in Iraq and elsewhere. There's also the phenomenon of Yankee Stadium security not letting attendees leave their seats during God Bless America (although I've never experienced this phenomenon myself, it's been reported so widely that I believe it to be true), which is a practice that I can't defend, in any way.

While I understand and respect those objections, I'll admit that I like the God Bless America break. Everywhere else in American public life, it feels like every effort is being made to make us forget that there is a war going on, and that Americans are killing and dying on our behalf. I like that when you go to Yankee Stadium, the war is acknowledged, and they take a moment to pay tribute. Having watched a few games with servicemen, they don't seem to consider the "patriotic ritual" cynical or dishonest. It also isn't a bit of window dressing for the playoffs or national broadcasts--they consistently do this every home game of the season.

As much as I respect the political reasons to oppose the seventh inning ritual at Yankee Stadium, the idea that it's some sort of hardship--a premeditated hardship--to visiting pitchers is bunk. Even though Tynan started singing GBA at Yankee Stadium in 2001, the whining didn't start until 2003, when the Yanks scored three runs against the Twins in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 2 of the Division Series. In that game, we're supposed to believe that the long layoff caused Brad Radke to hit Nick Johnson with a pitch to lead off the inning. After that, the Yanks got a couple of singles and an error against LaTroy Hawkins--also, somehow, Dr. Tynan's fault, even though Hawkins was in the bullpen during the seventh inning stretch.

Now, no one had complained about the deleterious effect of GBA prior to 2003, because the Yanks didn't score any bottom-of-the-seventh runs in 2001 and 2002. And the cause has been resurrected as an excuse whenever the Yankees score a run in the bottom of the seventh of a playoff game. In Cleveland's Game 4 win this year, the Yanks scored in the seventh--an Alex Rodriguez homer, not like that ever happens--and on cue, Mr. Raab started crying about how it's a horrifying shame that the Yankees are allowed to compromise the game by putting on the GBA show, yadda yadda yadda.

But is there really any negative effect? I sat down with BB-Reference and did some back-of-the-envelope calculations (literally--they're scribbled on my Time Warner cable bill). Since 2001, the Yankees have scored 140 runs in 283 innings at home--0.495 runs per inning. In the 7th inning of those 32 games, guess how many runs the Yankees have scored? Fifteen (or 0.469 per inning)--a hair less than you'd expect from the overall numbers. It's a small sample, but you'd think that we'd see some run-scoring boost from the supposedly intentional, pitcher-freezing delay.

Unless, of course, the delay is irrelevant. As I mentioned before, baseball isn't a game of fixed time limits. It's not like the pitchers take the field every 10 minutes on the dot, and a six minute delay will throw off that rhythm. In an AL ballpark, there's nothing for the pitcher to do but sit from the time he ends an inning until he's called upon to warm up again. That could be five minutes, or it could be twenty--it all depends on the team's bats and there's just no telling. So it kind of makes sense that pitchers would be no more or less effective after listening to three minutes of Ronan Tynan than they would in any other inning. They're just that resilient.

A number of the respondents to my rant, both here and elsewhere, called me a sore loser. Mind you, I've stated (before any of this) that Cleveland was the superior team, and that the midges weren't any kind of excuse for losing a playoff game. While conspiracy theories abound on this last point, I think they're BS. It's one of those things that happens--like rain and bad umpiring--and you just have to deal with it.

But if I'm a sore loser for mentioning the bugs in passing, how is it not poor sportsmanship to whine about GBA at Yankee Stadium, when there's no indication that it negatively impacts play on the field? How sporting is it to imply that GBA, as sung by Tynan, is gamesmanship rather than a sincere tribute?


So, now that that is out of the way, how's the whole rooting-for-the-Red-Sox thing going? I'll admit, it's pretty tough. As a Dominican, I find it easy to pull for David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez--just like in 2004, that's just a brutal hill to get over in the lineup--but it's a little harder to wish good things for Chipmunk Face Beckett and ol' 38 It'll probably be easier to cheer Matsuzaka on the mound on Monday, when the series resumes.

Buried news item from Friday: the Baltimore Orioles, in a typical bit of crackerjack management, fired pitching coach Leo Mazzone. I guess it must have been awkward for O's manager Dave Trembley to have a guy on his coaching staff who came to Baltimore specifically to work with Trembley's predecessor, Sam Perlozzo. Regardless of the circumstances--and Leo's poor results with the O's pitching staff--you have to think that Mazzone might factor in to all of the managerial intrigue surrounding the Yanks this week. Mazzone was coveted for the job as Joe Torre's pitching coach when he left the Braves two years ago, and could still fit in there (no offense to Ron Guidry) if the Yanks decide they still want to retain Torre's services. If the Yankees wanted to hire Mattingly as the new manager, the decision might be easier if the Yanks had a veteran pitching coach to pair with the newby manager, such as Mazzone. Any way you cut it, I'd be surprised if Mazzone isn't getting a lot of phone calls from the 813 area code this week.


Esquire's said...

Scott Raab here, Derek.

I take no issue with anything you've posted. It's your blog. Rant away.

I just wanted to make two points:

1. I've written about the GBA/Yankee Stadium travesty before, including my critique of Tynan's warbling, in an Esquire feature about rebuilding the World Trade Center -- over a year ago. It's nothinng I started whining about based on one playoff game.

2. Since you're so full of tender integrity, you might consider owning up to the fact that what you were rooting for before you ever read my post was for the Tribe to lose in the World Series.

That may feel like big-heartedness to a self-pitying Yankees fan. To an Indians fan, it smells an awful lot like a gigantic bag of douche.

DJ said...

Thanks, Scott, mighty nice o' you to come by. So long as I have your leave to retort:

1) Then Esquire's search functionality doesn't work, because I tried to read as much of your writing as possible prior to the blog post, to see if you were a jackass or if this was some sort of continuing gag or response to something someone else had written. The website didn't come up with much, and nothing previously about Tynan or GBA.

2) Let's see if the HTML works here: Douché! I'll not comment on the rest of Indians fandom, but it's not surprising that you're familiar with the smell.

I've never denied my original call of rooting for the Rockies over Indians if they both reach the World Series, but it was a pretty close decision. I have friends that work in both organizations, and it was a matter of really liking Colorado just a bit more, rather than disliking the Tribe. At the time, I would have happily taken up for the Indians against the Diamondbacks in the WS, and I wouldn't have shed a single tear if they'd gotten the better of the Rockies for their first win since the Truman administration.

But self pity? More like self-defense. I don't know why anyone thinks that Yankee fans should just sit there and take it while someone tries to take a big, fat dump on our heads.

I'd have to think that if I'd been talking smack, dropping f-bombs and mocking disabled people in Cleveland after the Indians got knocked out of playoffs in 2005, someone would have called me on it. Meanwhile, your team wins and you act as if the Indians have never won a postseason series--much less a postseason series against the Yankees--ever before. Instead of celebrating your team, you waste wordcount crying about God Bless America, and Michael Kay, then wonder why no one's giving them the respect they deserve.

And I'm supposed to be the one with the self-pity problem?

Esquire's said...

I'll paste the link below. The Tynan comment is on page 3. I was wrong about when the piece ran -- it wasn't a year ago; it was back in June.

The last word will, of course, belong to you, but I simply can't vanish without remarking upon your remarkable lack of any sense of humor. That goes nicely with the self-pity, but it's really kind of sad.

As for Dr. Tynan, and mocking the disabled, I'm guessing he'd rather have some asshole making fun of his melodramatic yodeling than some highly moral gentleman sticking up for him on the basis of his disabiltiy -- as if that was his sole defining characteristic.

In fact, I think he'd say, 'Derek, save your pity for yourself. And, of course, for poor Joe Torre.'

DJ said...

Nice, if predictable, douchetastic final shot, Scott. Isn't it always the last defense of a true jackass to claim that all his insults were just good-natured ribbing, and that everyone else's problem is that they don't have a sense of humor?

Don't go out on the standup circuit, just yet, funnyman. The field of provoking hissy fits between superstar athletes would miss you.

As that I started this conversation by expressing my admiration for Dr. Tynan's accomplishments--particularly noting how favorably they stack up with yours, it's whole cloth fiction to claim that I see his disability as his "sole defining characteristic." This whole thing started when I noted the irony of you calling a doctor microcephalic--I didn't even know the paralympian stuff until I looked it up.

Regardless, I doubt that he'll take a shine to your hateful little comic stylings, no matter what he thinks of me.

Anyway, I don't pity him (I tend not to pity people whose accomplishments and bank accounts outstrip my own) and I don't pity myself (I've been lucky to see a lot of great baseball in my life). As for Joe Torre, he's had one of the best managerial runs in baseball history, so if you pity him, you must have a pretty high pity threshold, for others as well as yourself (as if your crybaby routine about GBA and your whining about LeBron James didn't make that clear).

Heck, since the Red Sox have completely fallen apart against the Indians (score of 7-1 right now in Game 4) I don't even pity you, despite the Gibraltar-sized chip on your shoulder about your baseball team--a chip I suspect you'll keep on carrying even if they win it all.

[UPDATE: David Ortiz makes that score, make that 7-3, on back-to-back-to-back shots. Still no pity, the Tribe has this game in hand.]

Esquire's said...

I'll keep it brief. I'll keep it simple. And I'll try to keep it on a higher plane, which isn't easy for me. As you know.

I don't do standup. I do write for a living. What I write speaks for itself -- just as your extended tantrum speaks for you.

This sort of thing -- offending people -- comes along with the job and obviously suits me. That doesn't mean you're not a douchebag -- you are. It does mean that I'm a professional douchebag.

You're a professional writer yourself -- I'm a Prospectus reader and fan; the 'Esquire' blurb on the back of the 2006 annual is mine -- and if you can't get your mind around the fact that Dr. Tynan is fair game as a public performer, that's truly not my problem -- nor is your increasingly shrill and hostile tone. The only real hater here is you.

DJ said...


If you're serious about "keeping things on a higher plane" then maybe we shouldn't start playing "who's the real hater here." Right? It's not like the hostility in this exchange has been a one-way street, and it seems that both of us might have been tone deaf to any attempts to lighten the mood.

You say offending people suits you. Not to offer backhanded compliment in any way, but I'd say you're right. You have a certain flair for it. But I'd hope you realize that when you exercise that flair, people will get offended, and will respond in kind. What sort of reaction were you expecting? Given the shrill and hostile tone of your original post, and the digs you've managed to toss into every reply (including this one) this belated call for professional decorum feels a bit odd.

As for Tynan, my point was not--as someone on Baseball Primer put it--"You can never criticize a person with a disability, ever." I could care less if you criticize his voice or singing (even though I'll disagree with you on that score). But I thought that making a gratuitous birth defect crack (microcephaly) about a guy who actually had birth defects, was in really poor taste.

This doesn't mean I consider you a horrible human being. It also doesn't mean I consider Tynan beyond reproach, or someone no one can ever joke about. It's just that I, personally, would lay off the birth defect humor.

Since I have no interest in being called humorless and self-righteous again, in the interest of this "higher plane" thing, I'd say we get to agree to disagree on this. I'll do now what I should have done after the last round of comments (except you'd made it sound like you were walking away from the conversation, so I didn't bother): if you feel the need to respond further (or want to talk about anything else) you can email me at derekbaseball at gmail dot com. I don't think this conversation has any value for other readers anymore.

Anonymous said...

Of course the thing you miss DJ in your attempted "defense" is that the Yankees actively choose to ask any visiting team to play by different rules when visiting Yankee Stadium in order to put on this faux-patriotic ritual to which they hold their fans hostage. I happen to have nothing against Dr. Ronan at all and assume that he's a pretty nice guy. But asking for a dispensation when your team already can afford the highest payroll in baseball and enjoys the putative competitive advantage so afforded is pretty dang petty. To complain when others point out the disparity in playing conditions that results from that dispensation is even pettier. If you're gonna have different rules when you play at home - and for no particularly good reason, mind you - then you can safely expect the visitors to complain.

DJ said...


What does having the highest payroll in baseball have to do with God Bless America? Would a lower payroll mean that a team is actually patriotic, instead of "faux patriotic"? What's your point, here?

Based on the research I showed above, opposing pitchers do marginally better in the bottom of the seventh at Yankee Stadium, than they did in other playoff innings there. Maybe they benefit from the extra rest, maybe that's the "disparity". Maybe the Yankees hitters are more affected than the opposing pitcher by waiting around. Or maybe--and this seems the most likely thing, based on the data--there's no effect.

Now, I could be wrong about that. Maybe there's some disparity that isn't represented in the runs scored numbers. Maybe I did the math wrong. But you're not saying those things. You're just blindly claiming that because there's an extra few minutes in one inning break, that's automatically a "disparity in playing conditions"--one which we're supposed to assume gives the Yankees an advantage.

Since MLB does consider actual patriotism a "good reason" to have the GBA break in the seventh inning (heck, for a time, they mandated it), the burden's on you to show that it adversely impacts the game, not on the Yankees to "ask for dispensation." If you're not willing to back your claims with some basis in fact, who's being petty?