The Politics of Baseball

It’s a divided world out there, in more ways than one. Especially these days. Highly opinionated sports fans have always been part of the fabric of America. But are things changing? Are men forgetting how to debate and talk to each other?

For decades men would gather at a local watering hole after work, or perhaps at some type of general store in the mornings to discuss baseball and to exchange opinions while engaging in debate. This was done in person, to another man’s face. They’d recap the previous night’s base ball contest and challenge one another’s opinions. “Is Mickey Mantle really better than Joltin’ Joe?” “Hell no he’s not! Joe was the best there ever was!”

At bars in Boston, they’d argue about Slaughter’s Mad Dash¬†for years to come. “If DiMaggio never came out of the damn game, Slaughter wouldn’t have scored. Culberson’s got a wet noodle for an arm,” one man says to another man (in person) at which point another man says (to the other man’s face) “That’s bullshit. Slaughter was going to score no matter what. Culberson should have started the god damn game anyway if you ask me.” During said conversation no one’s feelings were ever hurt. In fact, more times than not, they’d end up becoming friends. Even close friends.

In the year of our Lord 2018, you don’t have to worry about the consequences of a bad idea. You don’t have to worry about winning an argument or defending an opinion. You have Twitter now. For no charge at all, you can create a Twitter account, using whatever name you’d like along with whatever photo you’d like. Your grandfather would exchange ideas in person, in public, while you get to exchange your ideas from the shield of anonymity via your mother’s basement.

Furthermore, it seems that the actual political divide we are experiencing right now in this country sometimes bleeds into baseball. Am I the only one noticing this? We see “the mob” mentality all over baseball Twitter and if you don’t have an erection over advanced stats, you must hate all advance stats and you’re probably a Trump supporter. And, under no circumstances, can you have these debates in person.

On one side of the aisle you have guys like Joe Simpson, Chip Caray, Jeff Francoeur, John Smoltz and Dale Murphy. On the other side of the aisle you have an angry mob telling guys like Murph how stupid they are for not adhering to the fact that wRC+ is a much more accurate representation of a player’s offensive story than batting average.

On one side of the aisle you have Jim Kaat. A guy who pitched in the big leagues for 25 years, who faced both Ted Williams and Julio Franco, and while he wasn’t as effective the third time thru the order and owns the fact that the last six outs are the hardest, he offers to speak with you. And on the other side of the aisle, you have Twitter accounts operated by grown men who aren’t ready to speak to other men in person.

American politics has placed everyone in one of two buckets. It’s always sort of been this way, I think. We’ve always been a little divided, but not like this. Now, more so than at any other point in American history, we seem to be completely confined to only TWO boxes. How depressing is that? We opinionated and complex humans are confined to just one of two boxes.

In 2018, it’s impossible to like part of one thing and part of another thing. I thought Hillary Clinton would have actually done a decent job as President. But I don’t really care for Hillary Clinton. And if I say these things publicly, I’d be painted with a broad brush. Based on everything I’ve read and seen, I still haven’t found any evidence to indict Donald Trump as a racist. But, can you imagine if I said that publicly?

This very same mindset has bled into baseball. If you like Nick Markakis, out of Young Harris, you are not also allowed to like a guy who just hits for power and strikes out a lot. If you question WAR, you must hate all advanced stats. If you refer to someone’s batting average, you’re a traditionalist and you hate wOBA.

Perhaps the extreme political divide has driven the engine towards not debating face-to-face. Or perhaps, it’s the vehicle – Twitter. Either way, it’s sad. As long as men grow increasingly dependent on keeping their arguments confined to a keyboard, they’ll continue to get weaker, and weaker men will continue to give us a weaker society.

Do yourself a favor and go sit at a bar and strike up a conversation with someone. You’ll be surprised at your ability to carry on with someone (in person) if you allow yourself to get away from Twitter. Then, get that person’s number. Keep in touch. Maybe meet at said bar each week. Or maybe even at Waffle House. Invite others. Maybe like four or five (be selective). And eventually you’ll have a group. A weekly baseball group. The bartenders or servers will get to know you and eventually slip you a free drink here or there. And most importantly, you’ll feel better about yourself.

Josh Brown

Josh is the co-host of Knockahoma Nation. He's written for the Rome News Tribune, as well as Fansided's Tomahawk Take, and he's been published on Fox Sports. He lives with his wife and dogs somewhere in the mountains near Boone, NC.

3 thoughts on “The Politics of Baseball

  • October 25, 2018 at 11:35 pm
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    Josh, I know you enjoy getting on peoples nerves but honestly, I think you are a step ahead of most people. Why not question ppl in a frustrating, but loving way?! Why not be honest about your beliefs? Ppl love to quote tweet to get max views, not to have a conversation, or to see a different view. As someone who is bad at twitter but loves baseball with all my being, I get ‘shamed’ because I don’t think about baseball like another on twitter. I’ve been a Braves fan since I can remember. I named my son after a Braves great. But on twitter, I’m sexist because I disagreed with a female blogger. I’m crazy because of a take here of there. I’d love to have *a beer and talk baseball with you and Ken and a few other Braves fans on twitter. Anyway, I love the podcast and hope you guys keep it going.

    *get drunk

    Reply
    • October 26, 2018 at 9:00 am
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      Glad you enjoyed it, Justin. You’d dead correct on the quote tweeting thing. (And I’ve been guilty of that myself!) I’d sometimes much rather leverage my own view, and make someone look like a fool, than have a conversation.

      P.S. Last year, when a female Hall of Fame voter tweeted her ballot (that did not include Fred McGriff) I quote tweeted her and said “That’s a crime, dog.” As I did (obnoxiously) with any voter who didn’t vote for The Crime Dog. It was funny (clearly) and several voters actually responded and we would banter back and forth about McGriff. At which point Ryan Thibodaux, who runs the ballot-tracking Twitter account @NotMrTibbs sent me a long DM about how I was being sexist, then he blocked me. That’s when I knew we had a problem.

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 12:19 am
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    FUCK TRUMP! FUCK YOUR MADE UP GOD (anyone who believes in A MADE UP GOD..is A STUPID MOFO who is unable to be reasoned with).

    Dude, really….’The Year of our Lord’ NONSENSE? I love baseball…however I FREAKING HATE religion/PHONY patriotism brought into the sport. What happened to ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame” being played/sang during The 7th Inning Stretch? Take that “YOUR MADE UP GOD Bless America’ CRAP to your BS churches!

    I grew up a Braves fan (I’ll never forget that 1982 Season as a 10 year old who first started following The Braves on TBS while growing up in Arkansas). However I FREAKING HATE the fact that most MLB fans are TRUMP NUT SACK SUPPORTERS (most fans are White…..most White people LOVE FREAKING Trump…btw, I’m White as well, however I woke up LONG AGO to the fact that Rich White PRICKS have been MANIPULATING/EXPLOITING GULLIBLE non-rich White people in America since the early 1600’s).

    Reply

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