Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Ugly Side of Baseball

Baseball is supposed to be such a nice sport.   It's slow and mannered and philosophical.   The participants, as a result, are smarter and more focused, as opposed to the semi-neanderthals of pro football, hockey, and even basketball where contact is king.

But, as our society grows meaner and more hypocritical, the anger is now seeping into baseball.   And no better example of this is the recent Mets vs. Chase Utley battle that began last year during the National League Division Series and recently reached its hopeful conclusion during the Dodgers' trip to New York's Citi Field last weekend.   Luckily, I've been on-sight witness to both the October melee and the subsequent denouement on Saturday night.

Okay, for those not familiar, Chase Utley slid very inappropriately into the Mets' then shortstop (and not even on the team anymore) Ruben Tejada.   The slide broke Tejada's leg and cost the Mets the game.   But, as I have tried to point out to some still-whining Met fans, who won the series, heh??

Well, that slide by Utley was called dirty but it was nothing that some hard-nosed major league ballplayers have been doing for years and you can see even some of the Mets doing it on You Tube.   I'm thinking of you, David Wright, who I do like.  So, in effect, Utley didn't break any official rules at the time.  MLB has since instituted some guidelines and they are now unofficially called "the Chase Utley rule."

But, the New York fans have long memories even though some of them like to forget they voted for Bill DiBlasio to be mayor.  They were waiting for cutthroat revenge and, even though the Mets played the Dodgers earlier this month in Los Angeles, it looked like the Flushing home turf was where blood would begat blood.  

I was at the ballpark the first two nights of the Citi Field series and the reaction from Met fans was vociferous to be expected.   But the amount of venom was frightening from some of the folks around me.

"Hit in the fucking head!"

"Kill the mother fucker."

"Make his children fatherless!"

All verbatim.   

I started to wonder if some of the same people were horrified by what happened in Sandy Hook or Paris or the World Trade Center.   I know they were and mourn those who died.   So you want to kill a second baseman???

Now, growing up a Met fan, I can tell you that these folks are nothing like what we used to be at Shea Stadium.   From my vantage point, some of the new Met fans are something akin to the children of an abusive parent.   Each day, they steel themselves before going home because they don't know what to expect.   Except they know, for the most part, it will be anger and disappointment.   In turn, these abusive children become equally angry and nasty.  A vicious, psychological cycle.

Some of these are the same fans who, last October, prompted Dodger beat reporters like Molly Knight and Alanna Rizzo to close their Twitter accounts temporarily because they got called a female anatomical part repeatedly on-line.  And, in social media, I see some of the same vitriole coming from people I actually know and like.   

Is this what we have become?

Of course, the hand wringing drama took another bitter turn on Saturday night when, in the third inning, the Mets' fireballing Noah Syndergaard threw behind Chase Utley as a means of sending him a revenge message.  Except the home plate umpire had a short fuse and tossed the alleged comic-book-hero Thor out of the game.  Was that warranted?   Nope.   But it was totally up to the discretion of the umpire, so be it.  Indeed, without Syndergaard, the Mets do lose that game.  Especially after Utley answered the catcalls by hitting two homers (one a grand slam).

Now throwing at batters is part of baseball and the likes of Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale would smile at the notion.   If you want to send a message, you aim for the fleshy part of the body.  So it stings and feels bad, but doesn't injure.   Or, to the chagrin and disappointment of the morons around me, kill.  Indeed, the usually-pinpoint-controlled Syndergaard (who I hear is not the sharpest pencil in the dugout) throws behind Utley and in the third inning, no less.   Um, if you're smart about it, you wait till your team is in the lead and then hit Utley's buttocks hard in the sixth or seventh inning.  Done.   Syndergaard said subsequently that his hand was sweaty and the ball slipped.   Um, that's why there is a rosin bag.

But the way the game unfolded, matters were just made worse, not better.   And the mindset around me grew more to ISIS-like proportions.   

Yes, I think this is what we have become.

Truth be told, I've watched Chase Utley play for the Dodgers for a little bit now and I love the professionalism and spirit he brings to the game.   Clayton Kershaw has gone as far to say that, if he ever fathers a son, he will name the kid "Chase."   And, if you look at social media, you will see comments from Phillie fan who are watching from afar and wish that Utley was still patrolling their infield.   

You know what would be a cool move?   The former Met Tejada just got released by another team.   Maybe the Dodgers should pick him up as infield insurance.   And then, in one game, he and Utley would be playing side-by-side around second base.   And both probably relishing it.   Because that's the spirit and calmness that baseball has traditionally displayed.   Not the poison that I heard at Citi Field last weekend from the likes of "Vinny from Passaic."

Dinner last night:  Had a huge lunch so nothing really.

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