Is throwing trash on the field ever okay? Musings from the upper deck at the Cardinals/Braves Wild Card Game

I was at Turner Field in Atlanta Friday to watch the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Atlanta Braves 6-3 in the first-ever Wild Card Play-in Game as part of the newly designed MLB Postseason.

The Braves played a terrible ballgame. They committed three errors, each leading to Cardinal runs. St. Louis managed only six hits, but scored six runs – four of them unearned. Atlanta, meanwhile, racked up 12 hits, but managed just three runs, leaving 10, 12, 18, 21 runners on base, depending on where you look (seriously, is it that difficult?).

The starting lineups before the game, as seen from my seats in the upper deck.

But none of that merits a blog post.

Then, “the call” was made by left field umpire Sam Holbrook in the bottom of the eighth inning – the common sense-defying, if not rule-defying application of the infield fly rule to a ball landing in the outfield some 225 feet from home plate.

How Holbrook could reason that St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma was exercising “ordinary effort,” or was “in position” to catch a ball he couldn’t see, or, to the casual observer, was anywhere near the infield, is beyond me. How Holbrook could think that the Atlanta baserunners were in any danger of being deceived into a double play and would be aided by his raising of an index finger less than a second before the ball hit the grass is again unfathomable.

How Holbrook could feel inanimate being relegated to calling fair or foul balls down a chalk line in the outfield; how he would desire to do something, even if it was out of his jurisdiction… that makes a little more sense.

But none of that merits a blog post, either.

Is the Wild Card Game right for baseball? Chipper Jones prophetically stood out against it just two weeks prior to the game being his last:

You say to yourself, we could possibly have the second- or third-best record in the National League when the season’s over and we have to play a one-game playoff just to get in, that doesn’t seem fair because anything can happen [in one game]. Now if you were to say the two wild-card teams will play a best two-out-of-three [series], I’d be OK with that. We play three-game series all the time, and we concentrate on winning those series all the time. I think it’s more fair from a standpoint that anything can happen in one game — a blown call by an umpire, a bad day at the office … at least in a two-of-three-game series you have some sort of leeway. [emphasis added]

Well before last night, I had sided with Jones. You don’t follow a 162-game regular season with a best-of-one playoff round. More than any other sport, the series is essential to baseball. Even a bad team can have one dominant pitcher capable of winning one game. Winning the Postseason rounds that follow require more complete teams than a one-game play-in can adequately determine.

But it’s great for ratings. And attendance. I don’t know if I would have made the drive to Atlanta for a Divisional Series contest. Knowing that I would see a definitive outcome at the end of that one game got me to the ballpark. Wild Card Play-in: Bad for baseball, but I loved it in person. The claim of hypocrisy is self-evident and duly noted.

But again, though my word count is getting there, none of this inspired me to write.

Continue reading “Is throwing trash on the field ever okay? Musings from the upper deck at the Cardinals/Braves Wild Card Game”

[Clickworthy] An old-fashioned hero

Are newspapers dead? Not yet, says Stephen Colbert. At least not when we have old-school reporters taking to the streets in search of a scoop. The nose for news can still smell, as exhibited by this package that ran on The Colbert Report last week.

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Coming from a journalism program right next door to a state capital, teaching basic news reporting in a small-town setting has taken some adjusting. Certainly, the bar for newsworthiness must be lowered if you ever want to allow student reporters to roam free and actually find something to write about before the deadline. Covering a meeting – one of the assignments toward the middle of the semester – has to be issued over a month in advance in order to give students adequate time to find a newsworthy proceeding (last year, the Magnolia city council, which only meets once a month anyway, decided to cancel their monthly meeting in that period, throwing a group of students into panic).

So, “Too hot to fish” rings true around these parts.

The really interesting part of the story was the news ecology angle. The New York Times article Colbert references is real, but it’s not about the story so much as it’s about how the story spread to social media, radio stations, other newspapers, Colbert’s program, and eventually to the Times.

That’s how our modern day news aggregators operate, and it is a problem the news media has yet to solve. Consumers seek out large media outlets, providing them with revenues, or the page views necessary to obtain it, but these large outlets are simply reporting on reporting already performed by smaller outlets that are struggling to make ends meet.

The folks doing the reporting are going broke. The folks browsing Twitter are rolling in the dough going less broke.

That’s a business model even Bobby Kirk will tell you doesn’t add up.