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Out of Left Field: All I Know About Baseball Without Really Paying Attention

by Steve Keene

MlbHlSqIt’s not easy being a baseball fan in Britain. A truism, I grant you, but one worth stating. Those pesky MLB bods insist on having the vast majority of games in the middle of the British night. How selfish. So, we either have to do without sleep, or find a spare three or four hours each day to catch a game. Then all that pesky real life stuff gets in the way. That’s not to mention other important events, like the World Cup. Pretty soon, Joe British Baseball Fan ends up with a rather distorted view of the sport. It’s inevitable when you’re relying on the odd early game caught here, a highlight there, a half-read box score and a quickly scanned match report.

As the esteemed writer of this column at BaseballGB, I think I end up with an even more distorted view than most. As all you regulars know, and any newcomers will soon find out, this column is all about the strange, the weird and the wonderful. And so, being the jet flying, limousine riding, son of a gun that I am, I end up focusing on the ridiculous, the esoteric and the plain odd, rather than anything as dull as, y’know, who beat who.

So, let’s take a look through the Out of Left Field Looking Glass, at all that I learnt about baseball this week…from desperately scouring the news sites for something to write about.

The New York Yankees are super, super rich. This is the sort of perceptive, intuitive analysis you’ve come to expect from this column, isn’t it? You can’t buy this kind of insight, right? In 2009 they grossed $397 million in ticket revenue, including $72 million on the postseason. That’s not to mention all those horrible Yankees caps infiltrating the youth and the misguided of the world.

If you need to diet, you could do worse than become a minor leaguer. Yep, you’ll be sweating it out on the field, and struggling to find a decent meal. Of course, that means you’ll lose some power in your game, but hey, you’ll look real trim. If I had any sense of co-ordination and sporting prowess at all I’d give it a try. Then again, I’d probably fall prey to the pretzels and hot dogs in-between at-bats.

Some pitchers are statheads – just like those geeky sabermetric guys off the internets! Detroit Tigers’ Max Scherzer is not only a graduate in business finance, but is using fancy statistical tools like the PITCHf/x Tool to help him improve his game. But this is where my head hurts. These tools help predict what is going to happen in the future. If a pitcher takes this on board, changes his approach, and the prediction doesn’t happen, is there some sort of tear in the space-time continuum? Does a stathead somewhere explode in front of his Excel spreadsheet?

General Managers can be rude. This is news to me. I’d never have expected that. An ESPN survey of general managers had them rate each other on various areas. The guy who seems to have come out particularly badly is the San Francisco Giants’ Brian Sabean, who apparently is the rudest of them all, especially with his inability to answer calls. I like to think of General Managers across America twirling their hair, staring longingly at the ‘phone, asking themselves tearfully, “Why won’t he call?”

There is a Baseball God. Take a look at this guy getting his comeuppance for paying more attention to his mobile phone than the game at hand. Wonderful. I wish every annoying phone call I witness could end this way.

It’s not just the Phillies’ fans that are badly behaved. The Phillie Phanatic may well be the most sued mascot in the whole of baseball. Either this guy is crazy and never learns, or we’ve got a lot of litigious people swarming to him, eyeing the dollars. I imagine it is little bit of both, eh?

So, baseball is full of mental mascots, annoying Yankees fans, geeky pitchers, rude GMs and puny minor leaguers. On reflection, I think I’ve got a pretty sound understanding of baseball after all. Now, where are those box scores?

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