People have different reasons for blogging, tweeting, discussing, or just watching baseball. The game’s numerous facets allows most people to find some aspect to enjoy in their own comprehension. From the players, to the numbers, to the narratives, to going to a game and enjoy a beer, or watching it with friends on your couch at home, it’s easy for even the most antagonistic of minds to find a commonality.
I know where I stand when it comes to baseball, and most regular readers are aware that I’m objective. I come from a scientific background, international law to be more specific, where it’s important to keep an analytic frame of mind despite your own prejudgments. Though my reasons for watching baseball have changed, I have been a Yankee fan my entire life. But the romantic side of baseball has largely disappeared, especially in my blogging, and I can’t even remember the last time I wrote something subjective. It’s hard for me to imagine having a favorite player nowadays. I love the numbers, not the players.
I think my story is very similar to the majority of other bloggers and readers. If you’re reading a blog like this one, chances are that you enjoy the same type of statistical-minded analysis that I do. The evolution of sabermetrics has undoubtedly changed the game for front offices, but it’s also changed the game for fans. I don’t have any evidence, but I would hypothesize that the newest generation of baseball fans are the most analytically minded, and it’s created a culture that cares less about written narratives and more about actual numbers.
That doesn’t mean fans are any wiser, or appreciate the game any more than older generations, but I think most heroes today are based on statistics. While the majority of the Baseball Writers Association still wants to swear Jack Morris into the Hall of Fame, there is a counter-movement, even inside the BBWAA, that’s beginning to fight off these “clutch” type players due to his overall career performance. Morris postseason contributions might be Hall of Fame-caliber, but today’s crop of fans don’t believe in clutch players. They see a career ERA+ that’s barely above average.
Our generation cares more about the stats, and when it comes to the Yankees, our heros are based on numbers. Yes, Derek Jeter has been nicknamed Captain Clutch and Mr. November, and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte have been noted for their late 90’s postseason dominance, but today they’re being immortalized for their placement on all-time hit, win, or saves leadership boards.
At the same time as we recognize the importance of statistics, somethings haven’t changed. CC Sabathia has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, but one bad start and we hear people questioning him as an “ace”. Robinson Cano is one of the five best players in baseball by most statistics, but when he doesn’t sprint to first base on a routine ground ball to second base, he’s deemed lazy. Nick Swisher, a fan favorite for four years in the Bronx, had as much charisma as you can fit into a baseball player, and yet a 5 for 30 slump in the playoffs had Yankee Stadium booing him and anticipating his free agency. Is our generation beyond seeing the small sample size here?
Yet a player that was detested over the last few years with the Blue Jays and Angels has found a cheering crowd in New York. Vernon Wells is one of the most popular players on this team at the moment. So many players move to New York and struggle on the big stage, and it absolutely blows my mind that someone detested by Angels fans less than 2 months ago could be among Yankee fans’ favorite players.
His numbers haven’t even been remarkable, though they’ve been excellent. His .294/.346/.504 slash is far better than what I expected, but it’s also inferior to what Travis Hafner and Robinson Cano have done this season.
Yet, I’d almost rather watch Vernon Wells hit. He’s a comeback player that’s finally found a home.
I’m still counting singles, doubles, and home runs when Hafner and Cano hit, but not with Wells. With Vernon, I’m rooting for the story, and that’s not normal.
What have I become?