Adam Reger | Pittsburgh Writer, Editor, and Teacher

Pittsburgh writer, editor, ghostwriter, and teacher.

Tag: Pittsburgh Pirates

Nyjer Morgan and the unwritten rules of baseball

On Sports Illustrated‘s website there’s an interesting article about Nyjer Morgan, the Washington Nationals outfielder who’s gotten in a bunch of incidents in the last week or so. The facts of the case are interesting enough in themselves (and I’ve heard that the brawl Morgan incited is pretty lively, although I am too squeamish about that stuff to have clicked through yet; after replays of football players getting injured, watching athletes brawl is one of my least favorite elements of televised sports).

But what the author of the piece, Jason Turbow, focuses in on is Morgan’s repeated flaunting of baseball’s “Code”: the unwritten rules that governs how players comport themselves. This kind of stuff is, in general, fascinating to me, and I also find it interesting the way these sorts of insights are creeping more and more into public view. There is so much more information now, so many more media outlets, it seems increasingly difficult for there to be anything left “behind the scenes.” (I am thinking generally about reality shows where things are produced, “Behind the Music”-type programming, document and information leaks, etc.)

On its surface this seems like a negative development, that the joy of these illusions is vanishing. But maybe it’s more complicated. I’m wondering, for instance, whether anyone really keeps all these unwritten rules in his or her mind. It seems to be in the nature of unwritten rules—or, calling back my 10th grade social studies class, folkways and mores—that they’re embedded somewhere deeper than mere software, that we basically don’t think of them. And in any case, it’s an outside, authorial presence that is calling our attention to the rules; it’s not Morgan or any other player who is pointing to the nebulous framework of rules, and when they do so it’s situation-specific, not some calculated effort to pull back the curtain. As an example, see Dallas Braden calling out Alex Rodriguez, earlier this season, for jogging back across the pitcher’s mound after a foul ball.

As a sidenote, Morgan started his career as a Pittsburgh Pirate. I’m curious to see whether there’ll be a local media report about the Pirates shipping him out for just this kind of insanity; going from the Pirates to the also-dirt-cheap Nationals, it doesn’t make sense to assume he went the way of Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay, etc., etc., and got bought up for more money.

More Sports (Pan-Pennsylvanian Edition)

Two sports-related posts within a single (sports-related) post!

As a kind of follow-up to this post, on the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates, some recent stuff in the news about the team and, especially, the reasons for its awfulness:

A Slate article asking the question, “Should the Pirates Spend Money to Win Ballgames?” and looking at the ins and outs of how they’d even go about doing that. Fascinating tidbit:

“Sabermetricians . . . have figured out ways to determine how much an individual player’s performance contributes to his team’s victories. Correlating those performance metrics to actual market prices for free agents shows that it costs management something like $5 million to purchase each additional win. (For example, by signing a $10-million-quality free agent, a team might improve its record by two games.)”

It does present more of an obvious dilemma for the Pirates’ ownership, as well as casting attention back on the greater disparities among large- and small-market teams within MLB.

Then again, if you’re feeling overly sympathetic, you might look back to the revelations that provided the impetus for the Slate article: leaked financial documents showing that the Pirates, among several other teams (most egregiously the Florida Marlins), made bank despite being among the worst-performing teams.

Moving over to football, I should say by way of preface that there’s only one professional team whose doings I give a fig about: the Philadelphia Eagles. The much-maligned, long-suffering, beleaguered Eagles.

Yet also the perennially in-contention Eagles. It’s true that, at this time of year, hope springs eternal for all 32 teams. Hope seems to be springing a bit too forcefully for the Eagles, by my estimation of their chances this year. Having dealt Donovan McNabb in favor of back-up and heir apparent Kevin Kolb, they’ve been tabbed by many to go through a rebuilding phase this year. I mostly agree with that: I have them finishing in the 8-8 or 9-7 range, and think it’s more likely they’ll finish a game or two below that than above it. And to that I say: That’s life. It’s rare that any team can rebuild on the fly, and still maintain—in spite of what I’ve just said—the chance to surprise people and remain a playoff contender.

That said, I’ve been cheered by reports like this ESPN profile and this Peter King column item that say Kevin Kolb is the real deal. I love that he’s getting this kind of praise, and that by all accounts it’s coming from inside the locker room. But I’ve periodically felt the need to throw cold water on myself, because buying into this sort of sports reportage feels like a shortcut to some kind of jinx: there’ve been so, so many big-money rookies and (as with Kolb, third-year) heirs apparent who’ve been similarly pumped up and anointed, only to fail dramatically or quietly, but in the end to fail, and to slump away into obscurity. Philadelphia, certainly, has had no shortage: Shawn Bradley and Mike Mamula are the first names that come to mind.

I don’t expect failure from Kolb. It’s just that, on the hype versus realistic-attainable-results spectrum, I don’t want to raise my hopes quite so high, at least not yet.

With that said . . .

E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!!

Onward and upward for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Last night baseball’s worst team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, lost to the Florida Marlins 4-2. They’ve lost many times this year, but this one was notable because it was their 81st loss of the year, ensuring that the 2010 campaign will not be a winning season; and that, almost certainly, this will be their 18th straight season with a losing record. (They could still end up at 81 and 81 on the year, but a 40-something-game winning streak seems beyond them right now.) To go all Mindset List, a Pittsburgh-based student entering college later this month could not remember a winning Pirates campaign in his or her lifetime.

Next up for the Pirates is trying to avoid a 100-loss season. You’d think that would be no big deal, but, though the franchise has done it a number of times, during the current dynasty of poor teams (in the monetary and athletic senses both) it’s only happened in 2001 (and that was with exactly 100 losses, no more). Last year, they finished at 99, with a make-up game against the Atlanta Braves being mercifully waved off. It looks like a lock, and like they could even demolish the franchise record of 113 losses. But who knows? With something to play for, maybe they’ll come through.