I’m pretty sure the title to this post says everything I have to say on the matter. Both players are beloved in their respective markets. Both players signed lucrative extensions after their 30th birthday. If there is a difference: Ortiz’s contract (12.5 million per year) is half of Howard’s contract (25 million per year)–and Ortiz was considered something of a bargain when he signed that deal. Compared to A-Rod’s monstrous contract for similar production, it seemed as if the Red Sox were locking up one of the game’s most dominant hitters for a nice price. Now Howard will essentially make the same money as Rodriguez. Questions regarding the wisdom of Howard’s deal are flying around before the ink even has a chance to dry.
If the 1/2 hour of ESPN I listened to on the ride to work is indicative of how today’s response to Howard’s deal has gone, then its probably cliche to remark that big, long swinging sluggers usually don’t age well. So, Phillie fans, I’ll say it again:
Here’s to hoping Ryan Howard ages better than David Ortiz.
Lunch break on a Friday, so I’ll throw up a few responses to the early Sox season. Its too soon for any real reflection, so these come more in the form of questions.
Are You Nervous About Big Papi?
I am, and not necessarily because of his low starting numbers. I am more concerned about his lashing out at the media following questions on his low starting numbers. That lash out speaks to me–it tells me that the normally easy-going, gregarious, and confident Papi is sensitive. Last year, of course, Papi was one of the best hitters in the league after June first. He was also one of the worst before then. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until June 1st this year.
Is That Josh Reddick I See?
So Cameron looks to be out for at least a week, if not three, and Ellsbury is still a bit dinged up. Bill Hall showed yesterday that center field is really not an option. It looks like the Sox will have to make a roster move with a call-up. Right now, Reddick, who was real hot in Spring Training, is struggling early–hitting only .137 (4 for 29). In my 2010 Sox Season Storylines, I mentioned that Reddick is likely to compete for Drew’s job after 2011, and I’m hoping, despite his slow AAA start, that he gets a chance to swing with the big club for a week or two.
Can Victor Martinez Catch?
I keep reminding myself that its very early. But I also questioned whether Martinez would be able to replace Varitek as the catcher for this staff. The early response seems to be “no”–but, of course, its way too early. Its early. Just keep telling myself that its early. Its early. Don’t compare their CERA from 2009 (which, by the way, is 5.22 vs 3.87)….
One more thing on Martinez–has anyone else noticed that, unlike Tek, he just can’t seem to keep his glove still? I want to start watching other big league catchers more closely to see if, like Martinez, they have difficulty offering an immobile target for pitchers.
It will be very interesting to see what happens with the rotation next week. Dice-K’s rehab starts in Pawtucket went very well (in 11 innings he hasn’t given up a run, walked only one, and struck out 5). I’d love to see the pitch count numbers on those games, given Dice-K’s efficiency problems. While I am a bit concerned to see he’s only struck out 5 in 11 innings against AAA competition, you have to wonder if he won’t get a shot in the rotation and send either Wakefield or Buchholz to the pen.
Well, so much for the lunch break. Enjoy the weekend.
Just to be sure that I’m not solely a “homer” here, on my academic blog I have long maintained that the steroids controversy was by and large a manifestation of two things: 1) media guilt and 2) general human unease with 21st century reconsiderations of the classical/Modern mind and body divide (i.e., Plato’s Ideals versus earthly reality, Christian souls versus sinful bodies, Saussure’s linguistic signifier versus the semantic signified, etc).
To address the latter: it is often difficult to realize that considerations of what a human is, and the relation between human consciousness and its material container, is not necessarily “natural.” Ideas such as these develop over centuries and are greatly impacted by various non-human technologies. Currently, my research is focusing on how much writing transformed these considerations for the ancient Greeks, and how our digital technologies are breaking up the consistent “either/or” divides initiated by and large by Greek thinking.
To jump to the manner at hand: steroids are the tip of the proverbial needle penetrating public consciousness that our relation to our bodies is quickly changing. If our bodies are temples, then these temples are getting remodeled in ways unthinkable 100 years ago. Until very recently, these technologies have been completely external to our bodies: clothing to whether the elements, glasses to correct vision, make-up to cover blemishes, automobiles to reduce distances, telephones to transport us across space, etc. Then comes the pacemaker… When I suggest changes are coming, I’m not just talking cosmetic surgery or athletic enhancement, although these are likely the tip of the iceberg (or, um, the needle, if I keep my metaphors straight). I mean an almost science fiction future in which we can engineer the genetric traits of our children. I mean a future where “selection” isn’t left to either God or Darwin’s “natural” hand. I mean a future where a baseball player will replace his eye ball with one that tracks the movement of a baseball and designates spin and velocity in a real-time readout. I mean pitchers who replace their elbow with something more composite than bone. This might sound crazy to some, but, go read Andy Clarke’s Natural Born Cyborgs, this is the future. And its closer than you think.
As an academic who works in the history of ideas, I am used to reading extremely reactionary material that looks foolish hundreds of years later. Much of the anxiety regarding performance enhancing drugs will be “reassessed” in decades to come, when we all take human growth hormone in our daily vitamins. What is dangerous now will likely be healthy then. Mark my words. Cosmetic changes (including things such as gastro bypass surgery) are just the tip.
To my first issue, media guilt: writers feel as if they didn’t do their job in the late 90’s. They saw the andro in McGwire’s locker and did what the rest of us did: cheer. As the public has shown at the turnstiles, most people don’t care about steroids. Most fans, those who don’t call in to sports radio, don’t want their sports to come with heavy doses of moralizing, crisis, and stress. Its not that they don’t care, its that they don’t have the energy to care. They are too busy caring about mortgages, health insurance, car payments, their beat-up 401k, their parents, their spouses, their children. Sports provides a 3 hour window to get away from problems. If a few athletes broke some rules to play better (or make more money), then whatever. As long as my kid doesn’t do it, all is forgiven. As a professional rhetorician, I am always suspicious of the “won’t someone think of the children” argument, but this is one time it clearly applies. While I endorse taking a long view of this issue, I do not mean to discredit immediate medical concerns. Although I would stress that contemporary steroids shouldn’t be equated with what plagued the NFL in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I don’t think Mark McGwire is going to deteriorate like Lyle Alzado. Medical technologies continually improve. While science is currently a bit ambiguous on the topic of human growth hormone’s side effects, there are dangers. My point is that, in another 20 years, there probably won’t be. (I imagine an infomercial with a side affects warning no less scary than that for any allergy medication or purple performance enhancer advertised during so many baseball games).
This, of course, is not the sole perspective of sports writers. Their livelihood is very much tied to the “integrity” of the game (or, at least this is what they think). They pronounce themselves, consciously or subconsciously, guilty of betraying that obligation. American rhetorician Kenneth Burke had a concept called “trained incapacity”: essentially, for Burke, any regular occupation provides someone with a particular way of seeing and assessing the world. This perspective cannot be transcended. We all have limited perspective on what we see, and no one can consciously claim to eliminate all professional bias from what they do. In the past few years, and I expect, for several more, sports writers will continue to disparage fans who still cheer for athletes found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. There will be anxiety over the Hall of Fame, as if the regular fan relies on such an institution to confirm greatness. They will continue to hold investments in numbers and records that fans have shrugged off years ago. They will protect the culture of baseball against the nonchalance of fans who cheer and boo at their on discretion, but never with the proper amount of outrage.
Those writers would be wise to read Burke’s conclusion to Permanence and Change, in which he reminds us that
…there is no place for purely human boasts of grandeur, or for forgetting that men build their cultures by huddling together, nervously loquacious, at the edge of an abyss. (272)
Papi, A-Rod, Manny, Roger, McGwire, Sosa. Go ahead and cheer.