Meg Rowley wrote a story over at Fangraphs the day after the World Series ended.
Early in that article she stated that part of covering the Astros involves “an honest accounting of Roberto Osuna.”
I’m not sure that is possible. An honest accounting would include the fact that no one really knows what happened between Osuna and the mother of his child. An honest accounting would, further, include that Osuna has seemingly been everything he is supposed to be as a human being since coming to Houston, unless I’ve missed something.
None of that is to excuse Osuna, his behavior toward his girlfriend or the behavior of Brandon Taubman in the Astros’ locker room following their clinching of the AL pennant. Rather, it is to point out a troubling aspect of how we go about covering sports, politics and just about everything else these days.
There are so many outlets and so many different kinds of commentators/reporters out there and even those who have actual journalism degrees seem to have difficulty keeping their backgrounds and biases from coloring their coverage. Coverage is the proper term as opposed to reporting as people will at times leave out some fact or circumstance if it does not promote a particular narrative. It is almost always impossible to get the real story about any issue surrounding anything without reading multiple stories from multiple points of view. Even then, it’s hard to be sure you have the information you need to make a hard decision.
A reporter who tweets out the number of a domestic abuse hotline when Osuna enters a game is following her conscience. She is speaking to one of the issues that is important to her. It’s also somewhat unprofessional. What Osuna once did, and now seems to have paid every required price for, has no bearing in the middle of that particular game. It is most definitely part of a larger societal conversation that should be had. It should be had, however, separately from that game at that time. A lot of us have hurt another person somewhere in our past, physically or emotionally, and we’ve hopefully learned a lesson and become better people and better citizens as a result. When we have, we perhaps don’t deserve to have everyone reminded of the one worst thing we’ve ever done every time we try to do our jobs. If the only penalty severe enough to satisfy us in a given situation is to banish the offender from our world, perhaps we are the problem.
Really, though, this is just part of a much larger and troubling trend. It seems that many of those who make a living surrounding baseball seem to want to spend an inordinate amount of time finding things to not like about the game. I’m not advocating sweeping things under the rug, but there are times where we should celebrate the game we profess to love. The World Series is baseball’s showcase. It’s the pinnacle of the season. It’s a time where the focus should be on enjoying the competition between the lines. It is almost as if those who cover the game don’t actually love the game anymore, if they ever did. In an era where there is so much coverage from so many areas, there is a keen competition to grab readers to your platform. As a society, we seem to embrace the negative in every area. We want the conspiracy theory.
We seem to have spent a lot more time during this World Series talking about Roberto Osuna (off the field) and the umpires, whether it be ball and strike calls or interference judgments that we don’t like, than we did talking about the actual games and how they unfolded. Those things certainly deserved being talked about, but not at the expense of actual baseball. A lot of people have said they just couldn’t get into this series or that they didn’t think it was very interesting. That’s likely because we’ve spent very little time actually looking at, and talking about, the games themselves.
I’m in my mid 60’s and I have loved baseball for as long as I can remember. To me, this was a great World Series. The final scores of the games were not consistently competitive, but the actual games often felt strangely tight anyway. There was plenty of tension. There were great plays and great pitches and great offensive spurts in big spots.
I watched Justin Verlander struggle through not just the Series, but the entire postseason. Steven Strasburg remade his reputation. Daniel Freaking Hudson seems to now be a stud high-leverage reliever. I loved how Zack Greinke, with something of a past that hinted at issues of struggles with mental toughness, had every bit of Orel Hershiser’s bulldoggishness.
In the end, the Nats were the 25-man team they had been all season. While the stars were stars, as Anthony Rendon was big at the biggest of times and Juan Soto showed a present excellence and a future promise of even more, the rest of the roster stepped in to simply get the job done at just the time it was needed. Asdrubal Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez, Kurt Suzuki and (most impressively) Howie Kendrick were all there when it mattered at various times. The much-maligned Washington bullpen out-pitched the Astros in the late innings.
Houston, while getting good enough starting pitching, let games get away late. Their stars, in direct contrast to those of the Nationals’, were much more swagger than substance and they more often than not couldn’t come up big in the important late game situations.
Overall, it was just a magnificent performance by a Washington team that was never supposed to be here. They tried to play themselves out of things early in the season. When they turned it around and made the playoffs, it wasn’t all that surprising that they got past the Brewers in the Wild Card game, but then things got weird. They shocked the Dodgers, everyone’s favorite to win the pennant, and they manhandled a decent Cardinals’ team. Once the World Series started, though, we got bogged down in a lot of minutiae and we lost the big picture, which turned out to be a marvelous story.
The Astros were the best team in baseball over the regular season. The Nationals were the best team in baseball once the regular season ended. Now Washington has the first World Series title in franchise history, erasing the ghosts of Montreal’s 1994 strike-crushed dreams. It would be great if we could put aside our individual issues and our grievances against the game and the people in it for a week or so and celebrate these great champions. Let’s remember the reasons we love this game and forget, just for a bit, those things that we have allowed to creep in that trouble our human souls, but that steal little bits from our baseball souls.