Now that the season is over, I felt it was time to get some perspective on some non-Phillies related controversies. And between the Pendleton-Johnson dustup two nights ago and homergate with Carlos Gomez, the Braves have dominated the Hot Takes section of the virtual newspaper. While we are likely to see many and more inanities over the next couple of newscycles, with the playoffs, the offseason managing of pundits, and the retiring and canonization (presumably) of Mariano Rivera, it would be wrong of us to simply pass over the masterful opining of MLB's Bureau of Culture and Enrichment.
With that in mind, I want to turn to Richard Justice's transcendent defense of Brian McCann's blocking the plate against Carlos Gomez. In case you've blocked this incident out of your mind, here are the basics so you can follow what is likely to be a fairly dense argument by Justice: Brewers' outfielder Carlos Gomez hit a shot of a homerun against Braves starter Paul Maholm, with whom Gomez apparently had some history (he's been plunked after hitting homers against Maholm in the past); as Gomez rounded the bases, he jawed at Maholm, which in turn caused a bunch of the Braves infield to yell back at Gomez; and in case this wasn't enough inanity for you, when Gomez reached home plate, Brian McCann blocked him and yelled at him for...well for one or more of the things that happened. Then a huge fight broke out and multiple ejections happened.
In the midst of all of this, we were forced to ask -- what was this all about? Who was to blame? Was Brian McCann actually as batshit crazy as he seemed? Richard Justice, like any true hero, was brave enough to answer our questions without any equivocation in an article titled "McCann Stands Up for Maholm, Braves." Let's read it together, shall we?
Brian McCann is the heart and soul of the Atlanta Braves.
Oh definitely. When Tim Hudson went down, the Braves needed a replacement heart and soul guy, and McCann has a 7 HSAR (heart and soul above replacement) this year. It's been a revelation.
Oh and Freddie Freeman has a 4.8 fWAR at first with a 396 OBP and 502 SLG. But everyone knows that he is a crummy leader and a heartless man.
So on Wednesday night, he did what great leaders almost always do.
Rose above petty grudges in order to inspire a group of people to be the best that they could possibly be?
McCann stood up for his pitcher, and he stood up for his team.
Oh, neat. He did exactly the opposite.
In the end, that's all this was about. Was McCann right to confront Brewers left fielder Carlos Gomez at home plate? Could he have have looked the other way?
Okay, here's a pet peeve of mine. You know how people call these kinds of questions "rhetorical questions?" That's a pretty fair misunderstanding of rhetorical questions: ideally, these questions should direct inquiry in prose in such a way that they tweak the flow of an argument without explicitly making a point. A question like "But what would such a victory mean?" after someone points out that McCann won "the attitude war" against Carlos Gomez would be rhetorically useful, as it would shift inquiry somewhat subtly. You can see how it works, however imperfectly.
These rhetorical questions were already answered. The first paragraph answers these questions. "Was McCann right to confront [Gomez] at home plate?" Well of course because "he did what great leaders almost always do." "Could he have looked the other way?" Well, that would necessitate him not "[standing] up for his pitcher" and "[standing] up for his team." So really good questions, Richard. Really hard to figure out where you're going to go with them. Just tremendous building of inquiring tension. And what terrible conclusion will Richard Justice jump to next? (Learning from the master, guys.)
Clown questions, bro.
Oh wow, deep track here. See, Justice is referring to the archetypical figure of the Zanni in the 16th Century Commedia dell'arte, a figure dealt with in intriguing and aesthetically profound ways in Sianne Ngai's Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting. Obviously Justice has read the Ngai, and he is building upon the nature of the Zanni as a "dispossessed migrant worker," drawing upon the nature of dispossessed labor as a metaphor for the plight of the MLB writer in the marketplace of the internet. Expected to perform the questioning stance while fully ensconced within a rigid positionality necessary for placating his limited audience in a crowded marketplace. Trenchant critique here.
...oh. Oh wait. He's referring to that year old Bryce Harper thing? Oh. Huh. Well there goes some of my will to live.
McCann was reacting in the heat of the moment. In a situation bubbling with anger and emotion, he did what almost anyone who knows McCann might have expected.
In an effort to keep this under 5,000 words, let me just say briefly: to react in "the heat of the moment" and to do what "almost anyone who knows [you] might have expected" are two mutually exclusive impulses. That's the point of acting in the heat of the moment -- it's unpredictable.
Suffice it to say, Richard Justice does not write in the heat of the moment.
These are tough, resilient, competitive people who've risen to the very highest level of their profession. These are not people who got where they are by backing down from a challenge.
What's the challenge that McCann faced here? Gomez already bested the challenge of a Paul Maholm meatball, and then yelled at Maholm. The latter act wasn't maybe the most measured action, but it showed an inability to back down, something Justice seems to love. Hell, the Brewers beat the Braves that night. They didn't back down from the challenge of ruining their draft pick through irrelevant baseball.
Brian McCann didn't back down from the challenge of creating a blockade on the basepaths that wasn't necessary. He didn't back down from the challenge of blocking a runner from scoring who had already scored in everything but the rankest technicality. Brian McCann essentially didn't back down from the challenge of acting out due to anger. QUICK GIVE HIM TEN MEDALS.
To McCann, this was a matter of respect. For his teammates. For his game. For his home ballpark.
For apple pie. For mom. For tradition. For the good guy. For not taking a handout for once. For America. For the constitution. For Babe Ruth. For Jackie Robinson. For Nick Adenhart. For the good ol' game. For God Country and All That is Good.
(By the way, why is this only "to McCann?" If this is some sort of mark of honor and of common sense, didn't a lot of people besides McCann feel this way? Why didn't they cold cock Gomez while he rounded the bases? Richard Justice would have had way more articles that way!)
And this whole thing captured the meaning of September baseball.
Essentially identical to April baseball except with an inflated sense of bearing because of our desire as humans to put artificial meaning on arbitrary endpoints? Yeah, totally.
The Braves have been one of baseball's best teams since Opening Day, one of the teams that would surprise absolutely no one by winning the World Series. In a season of high expectations, they've endured injuries and slumps, tests large and small, and still sailed to the National League East championship.
So clearly all that September baseball that McCann embodied (losing September baseball???) was super important for the Braves playoff chances. Why, they could have been caught by those upstart Nationals who are...yes, nine games back. September baseball, everyone!
For the Brewers, this has been a season of bitter disappointment.
He said as if there was any reason to state the obvious.
They, too, began the season with optimism and expectations.
Nothing has gone right, and they began Wednesday 17 games under .500 and 22 1/2 games out of first place. They're five days away from an offseason filled with uncertainty as their front office tries again to get it right.
You mean the front office who poached Jean Segura from the Angels for a half season of Zack Greinke, who somehow were supposed to weather injuries to Corey Hart and Mat Gamel, who decided not to pay through the nose for Prince Fielder, who had nothing to do with Ryan Braun's suspension, and who have seemingly weathered a maelstrom of uneven performance and injury two years in a row despite fairly sound management of a team with a middling income.
Hahaha, I can't wait for those idiots to get fired. /high fives Ruben Amaro, Jr and finishes signing Robinson Cano to a 10/305 contract
Gomez began the day with a grudge. He remembered that Braves starter Paul Maholm had hit him with a pitch on June 23. He believes it was intentional.
Real even handed journalism here. If someone seemingly hit me with pitches every time I hit a home run, I'd feel like it was intentional too. Also, Paul Maholm has fairly tight control, with only 10 HBP this year. 11 last year. That Gomez has been hit twice (about ten percent of Maholm's HBP past two years) might be enough to make him start wondering. Maybe he overreacted, but put in his shoes, I don't know what I'd do.
Haha, just kidding. Carlos Gomez: more paranoid than Nixon and more evil than Elizabeth Bathory.
"If you see the replay," Gomez said, "they hit me for no reason."
"He said as he twirled his cartoonishly long handlebar mustache and snickered under his breath."
Gomez showed up ready to get even. That much was clear when he stepped into the batter's box against Maholm in the first inning.
Because he came up to the plate with a fungo bat? Because he pointed at Maholm and tore his jersey off Hulkamaniac style? Because he came to the plate using the diss track he just recorded about Paul Maholm ("His Tossin' Ain't the Only Thing That's Soft") as his walk-up music?
Gomez almost came out of his shoes swinging at Maholm's first pitch.
Oh, he tried to hit a baseball, huh? Clear intent there. Incidentally, I'm super sick of Chris Davis, too. Trying to start 50+ brawls a year. Thinks he's so great. And don't get me started on notable asshole Roberto "3000 showboat career grudges" Clemente.
His reaction announced where this was going. Gomez glared at Maholm, his face lined with tension and anger. And then he jacked Maholm's next pitch out of the park.
I'm sorry, so you're saying that Gomez basically called his shot? If that's the case, he's allowed to wander into the Atlanta suburbs after rounding second and claim any one home he wants for free and forever. That's the law. Or what it should be...thanks a lot OBAMA.
Gomez stood there and briefly admired it.
I'm not the first person to say this -- I think Jon Bois said it better already -- but if I could hit a baseball that far, I'd probably do more than "briefly admire" it. I'd likely set up an easel and do a quick pastel of the ball's arc, and then hang that painting up behind home plate with a price tag of $30,000 and loudly bother fans until someone bought it.
When Gomez began to run, he began to talk, too. Loudly. At Maholm. As Gomez rounded first base, still talking, still glaring, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman did some yelling, too.
Frankly, there's no defending Gomez's early jawing -- it's the kind of stupid machismo that encourages articles like this nonsense piece that we're reading right now. But look, Freddie Freeman yelling back isn't admirable. The admirable thing would have been to ignore Gomez and wait for him to be ejected at home for being a knob.
But that's terrible copy! You won't be able to pass off that dreck as good writing at the Richard Justice School for Journalism and Coffee Shop and Espresso Bar.
And when Gomez rounded third, he kept barking at Maholm. He was so focused on Maholm that he didn't see McCann had moved several feet up the third-base line and straddled it.
Rookie mistake, Gomez. You always look for the insane catcher as you're rounding third -- you never know when they're going to do something explicitly against the rules of the game that they purport to be defending! They're crafty like that.
Gomez looked toward home plate at the last minute and seemed startled to see McCann there. McCann had raised his mask onto his head as if he was almost taunting Gomez to take a shot.
Short reminder: this is who we're supposed to be rooting for. The guy we are supposed to admire is the one basically goading an opposing player who -- let's not forget -- has committed the major sin of being good at baseball and being kind of proud of it.
In other news, Richard Justice really likes the blonde, muscular villains in all 80's comedies. "Haha," he says, "I hope Marty gets arrested and Biff gets even richer from that sports almanac. That's the world I like."
And that's when all hell broke loose in Atlanta.
Easy mistake to make, of course, but worth a correction: Atlanta is already hell, so this would be technically redundant.
Gomez and McCann yelled at one another as an umpire tried to get between them. Both dugouts quickly emptied and both players kept jawing. It took three Brewers to get Gomez back to the dugout.
What a maniac! I'm sure that McCann went back to the dugout peacefully after he had his say. Yes, absolutely sure of that. Because McCann wasn't out of control there at all and didn't seem overly upset in any way. Nope. No. Not at all.
Afterward, Gomez admitted he'd gone too far and said McCann did what he was supposed to do.
"If I'm the catcher, I do the same thing," Gomez said.
Kill all normative baseball conventions.
Also talk about putting words in Gomez's mouth: where does his quote acknowledge he "went too far?" One can say "Yeah, I'd do that, too" without actually abandoning one's own position on the matter. Gomez is not the catcher, so this purely hypothetical, almost certainly leading question he was asked is essentially pointless. Justice's anti-journalistic desire to have the rash, cocky (*cough*black*cough*) outfielder be shamed by the veteran, serious (*cough*white*cough*) catcher basically makes me want to hurl.
The incident will be front and center on talk radio and the blogs Thursday.
Or Monday or whatever. Also this might be the first time I've ever considered sports radio and blogs in the same synapse firing -- talk about your lack of common points of experience and discourse. Though I'd pay good money to watch the Youtube clip of schmenkman salting the Earth of Mike Missanelli's argumentative landscape.
There'll be people who say this guy was wrong or that one was wrong. Everything will look different in hindsight.
Richard Justice, King of the Cliche.
Also, did anyone else notice how Justice has positioned himself here as if he was not speaking in hindsight? This opus was written at 1:14 AM the same day of the game, and yes, while I'm certain that emotions may have still been running hot hours after the game, hindsight does not work by degrees. Once the incident has passed -- and, unless I'm totally off, I did not see Achillean scribe Richard Justice in the scrum -- then you have to think of the incident in hindsight. That's one of the deeper complications of being human: we are always composing narratives to explain the world imperfectly after the fact. It's a sad truth that has produced some of the most profound and beautiful art and thought that exists.
Plato, Laurence Sterne, George Eliot, James Joyce, Djuna Barnes, John Dos Passos, Edouard Manet, GWF Hegel, Francis Bacon (both of em!), William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Kathy Acker, Cormac McCarthy, Igor Stravinsky, Jack Kirby, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Frantz Fanon, CLR James, and George Herriman, among countless others, have been unable to square this circle.
Justice is trying to get out of this existential doublebind by simply implying that he's out of it. That's a clown move, bro! (did i do that right?????)
People in the heat of the moment -- competitive, fiery people -- don't have the benefit of hindsight. They react.
Hindsight isn't a benefit -- it's a thing that allows us describe what happens after "the heat of the moment." It's not just "competitive, fiery people" who are forced into reaction. Dull, dry, academic people who can't swing a bat to save their lives also react in the moment. Because they are not slow forming salt crystals, but human beings.
I worry that Richard Justice doesn't know this. I'm worried about Richard Justice's essential understanding of the world around him. Guys maybe we need to have an existence intervention for Richard Justice.
Maybe the Brewers will think Gomez overreacted.
You misspelled McCann.
After all, his reaction to something that happened in June set the whole thing off.
Oh come on. It's not like Carlos Gomez happened to bump into Paul Maholm on his way to the Kroger and was able to hash things out over a coffee and a bagel with schmear. These guys play in different divisions. They see each other six times a year. Of course if there was a beef it would have some time lag in between. My god, it's vaguely coincidental that Gomez even saw Maholm again this year -- this grudge could have lasted into 2014.
All because of baseball's scheduling. Oops I mean all because Carlos Gomez is a relentless sociopath who will stop at nothing to debase our country's finest institutions.
But there won't be one negative word about McCann in the Atlanta clubhouse.
Because the Atlanta clubhouse is a strictly enforced quiet zone, in coordination with their strict "Enjoyment Loses Pennants" program.
This is why McCann's teammates love him. In the moment, he went to bat for his teammate, his team and his home ballpark.
"Brian, you're boorish, dull, and probably the least appealing human being I've ever met. I would be shocked if your significant other felt any shred of emotion for the terrible shell of a man you are. Hell, I don't really even think you're very good at baseball. You're basically human garbage. But you always stand up for our teammates, our team, and, most importantly, our home ballpark and it's rabidly enthusiastic 15,000 fans. So turns out you're a good guy after all: I love you."
This stuff isn't new to the Braves. McCann had words with Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez after the kid hit a home run and took a leisurely stroll around the bases.
Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. Let's get out our shovels and un-bury that lede. Jose Fernandez hit the home run in this story? Pitching phenom Jose "The Nose" Fernandez? A Braves pitcher served a meatball thick enough for the Nose to hit it out of Turner Field (or maybe the Marlins' park??)? And Brian McCann yelled at him? Hahahahahaha.
McCann: "Hey rook! Act like you've been here before!"
The Nose: "I literally have never been here before and there are decent odds that I never will be again."
McCann: *unintelligible grumbling and gurgling*
The Braves and Nationals got into it earlier this season after Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch.
Could not be less relevant to the point of this article. Actually, what I'm starting to gather is that the Braves have a nasty habit of hitting opposing batters. Gosh, I wonder if this article is an example of a narrative composed in hindsight that misses some of the facts for its own biases?
No, no I'm sorry: I forgot I was talking about Richard "Philosopher King" Justice.
At a time when some of their fans may have wondered if the Braves would be in cruise control after clinching the NL East on Sunday, they appear to have some fight left in them.
Fredi Gonzalez: "Good job, men. We won the NL East! Enjoy, celebrate! For tomorrow, we start the cruise control process. Only leisurely strolls around the bases, even if the ball is in play. Loopy cartoon swings only. If you want to do some Ty Cobb style trick catches in the outfield, hey, go nuts.
Also we'll be forfeiting each game in the fifth inning, as is proper for teams who have clinched their division early. Baseball!"
McCann left Turner Field before reporters were allowed into the clubhouse. What could he say anyway?
"I admit it! I shot JFK! I'm the Zodiac Killer! I'm the Mad Bomber! I'm Jack the Ripper! I killed Marilyn! I'm the one that assured that John and George would die before Paul and Ringo! I am an all-powerful demi-god who controls fate and chance and assures suffering will continue in the world!
"But judge me at your own peril -- all of the things I do, I did in the moment! Your hindsight may not deign to judge me!"
Also, Richard Justice would totally have slammed, say, Carlos Gomez, for leaving before reporters were allowed into the clubhouse. But McCann's a regular Clint Eastwood for leaving reporters high and dry. Baseball can be horrible sometimes.
McCann did what he thought he was supposed to do.
Have you ever seen a closing argument less convinced of itself? I grade Freshman composition papers for a living and I am tempted to say that this is the least compelling penultimate line I've ever seen. Not only does McCann's iron will get reduced to something he "thought" in the moment, but it also gets reduced to a weakly stated norm -- what "he was supposed to do."
"I thought this was what I was supposed to do" is basically the excuse I give to the TSA screener at the airport when she tells me to put my license back in my wallet at the scanner because I only need it for check in. I am also a modern American hero.
He did what any of us would want a teammate to do.
Because we're all norms-obsessed, violent, and vindictive troglodytes. I'm spent, Richard Justice -- go to a dungeon post-haste. I'd tell you to bring Brian McCann with you, but he's probably busy blocking a little league plate because a kid broke some unwritten law and needs to be terrified. Because whereever there's baseball injustice...McCann will be there. Like a great hope in the night.
We are all so lucky to have him.