How to talk about baseball with your family this Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a stressful time. While the travel, cooking and annual staring at the parades and/or sports on the TV can keep conversations with difficult relatives to a minimum, there is always the dinner table. So, what are you going to say when your cantankerous grandfather or kooky aunt bring up baseball topics with old, bad takes? We're here to help.
"Why are strikeouts so high? You know, batters used to take pride in making contact with the ball."
So, teams realized that since there is very little difference between a weak groundout, pop fly and a strikeout, there was no reason for hitters to feel bad about striking out. So, instead of merely trying to make contact to avoid a strikeout, why not try to hit the ball as hard as they can. Aren't doubles and homers better than weak groundouts?
"But they still strike out too much. Can't they stop swinging for the fences and just go the other way?"
You make it sound like that's incredibly easy to do. How many pitchers could hit triple-digits and then throw a diving 90-something-mph-slider on the next pitch back in the old days?
"Can you believe some team is gonna pay tons of money for Manny Machado! I don't like him."
How do you not like him? He's one of the best players in the game. He can hit for average, power and he plays strong defense at either third or short -- arguably the hardest position in the game. Any team -- literally every single one -- would be improved with Machado on their team.
"But he doesn't even hustle!"
If not hustling leads to a .297 average with 37 home runs from a shortstop like last year, sign me up.
"I hate that players flip their bats after home runs. It's so selfish."
Do you hate touchdown celebrations? Are you upset when players unleash a great dunk in basketball? In fact, I know that's not true because I saw you spike the football during our annual family football game, Uncle Drew.
Plus, many baseball-playing cultures outside the United States have no problem with bat flips. They see a bat flip or on-field celebration as simply an extension of their enjoyment of playing the sport.
"It's not respectful to the sport."
Having fun isn't respectful? As Willie Stargell said, "It's supposed to be fun, the man says 'Play Ball' not 'Work Ball' you know." Ken Griffey Jr. is even in support of bat flips. Would you want to disagree with Ken Griffey Jr!? He's baseball royalty.
"I just don't like it. Can you imagine if Bob Gibson saw something like that?"
Well, Mickey Mantle bat flipped.
"Can you believe these shifts teams are employing? Sometimes I don't know if I'm watching baseball or a game of backgammon."
Let me ask you something: If you were the pitcher, would you want your fielders lined up in the best place for them to field the baseball?
"Yeah! But it's just not right. It's not how baseball is supposed to be played."
Did you know that the shortstop actually started as a kind of short fielder -- like in softball? There's nothing that says where any player should play, so shouldn't baseball teams tailor their defenses to where hitters hit the ball? Football teams are allowed to have any variety of defenses to best combat their opposition. Shouldn't baseball teams be able to do the same?
"But they didn't do it back in my day! And if they didn't do it then, it's definitely bad."
Ask Ted Williams about that.
"Can you believe this --
OK, so do you agree that deGrom -- who led the league with a 1.70 ERA, pitched 217 innings and struck out 269 batters in the season -- had the best season among NL pitchers?
"Yes, but --"
So you would rather a worse pitcher win the award because the team's offense -- something the pitcher has no control over -- didn't hit well enough to get him more wins?
"Yes. Baseball is about winning games. Not stats."
OK, I'm going to suffocate myself in the pumpkin pie.