Matt Holliday, the left fielder for the St. Liouis Cardinals, has his height and weight listed as being 6’4″ and 235 lbs. That seems about right. Marco Scutaro, the second baseman for the San Francisco Giants, has his height and weight listed at 5’10″ and 185 lbs. That seems generous.
This is Scutaro. He looks like a fairly typical human being. He’s the type of physical creature that might populate your office, with whom you’d have an awkward exchange with in the elevator, wanting to seem courteous, but not over-stepping the boundaries of unfamiliarity.
This is Holliday. He looks nothing like a fairly typical human being, unless your reference point for what a typical human being looks like is based on growing up in Sparta circa 400 BC. If you were to come across Holliday on an elevator, you would clutch whatever valuables you had on you and stare down at the ground like a submissive little monkey in the hope that he wouldn’t consider you to be a threat to his alpha maleness. You might also whimper and reveal your neck or belly.
During Monday night’s Game Two of the NLCS, in which the Giants won 7-1 to even up the series, Holliday collided into Scutaro at a force consistent with a freight train running over a little baby lamb. Scutaro eventually had to leave the game in order to get an x-ray and MRI on his left hip, but not before exacting no small amount of revenge with a two out liner into left field in the fourth inning that Holliday bobbled to allow three runs to score.
So, while everyone not dressed in Cardinals red vilified Holliday, Scutaro acted the part of the vindicator, prompting more than one person to christen him Marco ScutHERO. Oh, and as an added bonus, the test results on his injured hip came back negative.
Personally, I don’t think Holliday intended to do any harm to Scutaro on the play other than break up the double play, at which he was successful. By MLB rules, the slide was clean, even if it did come late and some extra momentum was added by Holliday leaving his feet. Additionally, if beat writers from St. Louis are to be believed, the left fielder was more than contrite, admitting that he felt badly about the incident throughout the game, even going so far as to call the opposing team’s clubhouse following Scutaro’s removal from the game.
However, none of this stopped broadcasters from attempting to build a narrative around the play, and then force that round peg of a story line into the empty square of what actually happened. This began almost immediately in the bottom half of the inning when FOX Sports broadcaster Tim McCarver suggested that Angel Pagan mockingly saluted the St. Louis Cardinals dugout after hitting a lead off home run.
In truth, this salute was not directed at the St. Louis Cardinals, but rather his teammates in the San Francisco Giants dugout. This is something that Pagan does almost every single time he gets on base.
Senility aside, the narrative building continued throughout the game, reaching its zenith when Scutaro’s liner into left field was mishandled by Holliday, allowing an additional run to score.
Yes, that was a funny coincidence given what happened earlier in the game, and you could even refer to it as one of the more notable moments considering the the play increased the likelihood of the Giants winning more than any other play in the game, but that’s where the meaning behind it ends.
Following the game, both Erin Andrews and Ken Rosenthal attempted to elicit responses from Angel Pagan and Ryan Vogelsong that supported the idea that Holliday’s slide rallied the team in some fashion. Both players were dismissive of the assumption, saying that they hadn’t even seen the replay and didn’t know if it was a good or bad slide. Vogelsong, speaking with Rosenthal, even went so far as to say that it wasn’t something that the team was thinking about or would think about in the future.
Moments after these interviews aired, a musical montage was shown connecting the collision to Pagan’s salute and Scutaro’s liner. Of course, this won’t be the end of it. We’ll hear all about the play in Game Three in St. Louis on Wednesday just as soon as Holliday comes up to the plate, or Scutaro, if he plays, participates in a double play. If you think for one second that they won’t, I’ll direct you to the FOX broadcast using this collision on Monday night as an excuse to show a clip of Buster Posey’s leg shattering injury from 2011, more than a year and a half ago.
All of this reminded me of something that Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted out in response to criticism of a recent post in which he suggested that apathy and malaise have replaced mystique and aura for the New York Yankees.
@cwyers The proliferation of the word “narrative” is the single worst thing to come out of the stat crowd since defensive metrics.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 15, 2012
@cwyers It’s so easy to reduce something to that single stupid word. It’s lazy. And of the many things you are, lazy isn’t one of ‘em.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 15, 2012
If using “narrative” as an all-encompassing term is indeed lazy, it pales in comparison to the post hoc arguments the term is usually used to describe. The misuse of Holliday’s slide preceding Pagan’s home run, Scutaro’s heroics and the Giants putting up seven runs against the Cardinals as something more than a sequence of unrelated events is the perfect example of what many fans find offensive, and ultimately insulting to their intelligence. I understand that a sports broadcast is in the business of building narratives, and doing all they can to make games exciting and draw as large of an audience as possible.
However, it’s the baseball playoffs. Actual, true narratives are everywhere. Ryan Vogelsong was out of Major League baseball for three years before the 2011 season. He’s now winning games for the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. The St. Louis Cardinals have three young pitchers in the bullpen who all figure to be big league starters and are all throwing fastballs at velocities higher than 95 miles per hour. Carlos Beltran played in San Francisco last year, and the Giants flirted with bringing him back this past off season. He’s now killing them, as he does every opponent he faces in the post season. These are all interesting and accurate narratives.
Distorting facts and insinuating cause where none exists is completely unnecessary and only serves to tarnish the presentation of what was a very exciting game.
GIFs courtesy of C.J. Fogler.