Saturday, May 31, 2008

What's Good and Bad for Baseball

Congrats Manny!
I’ve been waiting and watching every night for Manny to hit his 500th Home Run. Tonight, I went out to meet DiAnne, her fiancé Chris, Carrie and Will Chandler in Tupelo. I was driving down the road listening to the game on the radio when the first pitch to Manny from Chad Bradford (a Mississippi boy and ex-Red Sox player making him one of the pitchers I like most) went sailing through the air into right-center field marking Manny’s 500th. The fans went nuts! After Manny touched ‘em all, the crowd roared louder and louder. Through Mike Lowell’s out, the transition from the top of the inning to the bottom, and two Oriole batters the crowd never ceased in its enthusiastic applauding and yelling. Then it happened – the most appalling thing I’ve heard from an announcer in quite some time. The announcer noted how loudly the crowd continued to cheer, and then he said: “Remember, we’re at Camden Yards – not Fenway. And it makes me sick…just makes me sick!” Ok, I get it that it’s frustrating for announcers when Red Sox fans (who are well known for their enthusiasm and knowledge of the game as well as their increasing number of bandwagon jumpers) swarm into road games and are able to out yell the home fans with the “Let’s Go Red Sox” chants. (They never seem to mind the inevitable “Yankees Suck” chant that is almost always started by some drunk, co-ed, Sox fan). I get the anger they feel that their fans only show up to home games versus the Sox and/or Yankees. For the past several years the Oriole announcers have been the most vocal about this frustration, and the fact that Camden Yards is often called Fenway South by many Sox fans has to cut deep. This year I’ve also noticed the Rays’ announcers explaining bad calls behind the plate to the fact that a Red Sox player is batting and the idea that Red Sox players don’t get tossed because of the jersey they wear (never mind that their players don’t get tossed for arguing either). But tonight, the game was in Baltimore, and the announcer made no attempt to hide his disgust. My reaction to the announcer came not from a Sox fan’s perspective but from a baseball fan’s. 500 homeruns is a BIG deal! Only 23 other players in the history of the game have hit 500…TWENTY THREE out of the thousands of names in the Baseball Almanac. As a baseball fan, it’s something at which to marvel and appreciate, and it’s most certainly something that deserves cheers. Had a visiting team’s player hit number 500 in Fenway, Red Sox fans would not only applaud but would pay homage by rising to their feet and acknowledging the feat that just occurred. And Fenway isn’t the only place where fans would react like this. St. Louis, Chicago, and New York are other examples of this, and I would be willing to put money on the fact that there are more stadiums out there that WOULD applaud a visiting player hitting his 500th homerun than wouldn’t. In fact, when Raphael Palmeiro (another Mississippi boy and a personal fav) made his 3,000th hit in an Oriole uniform IN Seattle, the place went nuts. In fact, the game was stopped while his teammates ran onto the field and mauled him while the fans cheered constantly. As baseball fans, true baseball fans, isn’t it only right to acknowledge, applaud, and cheer accomplishments like these? 500 home runs, 600 home runs, 3,000 hits, no-hitters, perfect games are things that should excite all of us, no matter what team an individual supports. When watching a game, I’ll give a guy props for just making a great play or web-gem type of play. I’ll acknowledge a called strike from an opposing pitcher (if it’s actually a strike) no matter how loudly a Red Sox player argues. The love of the game runs much deeper than my love for the Red Sox (which it's easy to see is quite deep), and I think most baseball fans would say the same of their teams of choice. I despise Barry Bonds, but as I watched him pass Hank Aaron, not only did I clap, but I stood up in my apartment and clapped as if I were there. I got chills. As bad for baseball as Bonds had come, that day he was good for the game. No matter that a quirky left-fielder’s 500th homerun added another loss to your team’s total, Manny’s homerun was good for the game! There are 164 games to be won or lost in a season, and giving up one run in one game for the good of the sport should be something that baseball fans should see worth it. In a time when baseball’s credibility and nostalgia have been tainted with steroids and HGH, in a time where the greatest pitcher – not just of our lives but of all time – is publicly humiliated by past “indiscretions” (another point in case, I'm probably one of the biggest Clemens haters out there, but I am willing to admit how great he was/is and how horrible this circus around him has gotten), and when Congress has hauled in and ruined the lives and legacy of revered players and the game of baseball as a whole for their own personal humor and hunt for another way to inappropriately use our tax dollars, it is even more important to celebrate the things that are good in the game. Manny’s 500th, Ken Griffey, Jr.'s plight for 600 home runs, Josh Hamiton’s phenomenal season after having dealt with drug addiction and self-destruction, Jon Lester’s no-hitter less than two years after battling and beating cancer, the Mariners and Rays both leading their divisions (as oxymoronic as that sounds), and Cliff Lee’s 1.80 ERA after a horrific 2007 season are all things that should be applauded. With all these things that are good for baseball and deserve recognition and praise, that Oriole announcer deserves criticism and backlash from listeners because he is definitely bad for baseball!

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

The thought of this post makes me nauseated the point I can't even reread it. Sorry, I...sorry.