Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sportsmanship in baseball affects its role in building "social capital": the Strasburg Incident last night in Atlanta

After reviewing a music CD (by a distant friend) last night, I checked baseball and learned about the fiasco in Atlanta where Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg was ejected after three straight wild pitches following a hit batsman (the previous inning). MLB’s video of it is here.

I believe that a few of the Nats players know me or of me and might see my content.  So I tweeted that this was not the time for “road rage”, but to turn the other cheek, and simply win the game.  I had attended a Nats game Aug. 5 and seen them lose to Atlanta at home, and in this disappointing season, the Nationals have been totally dominated by the Braves, now 4-11 after finally winning last night’s marathon.  (La Roche’s “pop up” homer was “rather skimpy at that”, to quote a joke from boyhood summers in Ohio following the Senators lose to the Indians in the 1950’s.)  In fact, if you subtract their games with Atlanta, the Nats are 56-51 this disappointing season.

The Strasburg video is disturbing.  The initial hit batsman seems motivated by “protectionism” indeed, following the incidents last week and Friday night with Atlanta pitchers and sophomore 20-yearold prodigy Bryce Harper.  It might even sound like a familiar topic – bullying.  Harper has shown the character not to lose his temper (religious upbringing seems to matter in a positive way, doesn’t it), but not everyone else has.  The wild pitches might be unintentional.  His anger or need to play the “social capital” card might have shortcircuited a brain circuit that determines his release point.   The brain momentarily forgets how to pitch, much as a person could forget how to tie a bow-tie by hand. So this may be a “neurological malfunction” bike a wardrobe malfunction.  Hopefully, that’s how MLB will see it and there won’t be any more discipline.  Hopefully he’ll be OK in a couple days and be able pitch after a short, essentially missed start.  I recall Strabsburg’s funny commercials in 2010, one that mentioned back waxing, as if Steve Harvey were ready to put him on his talk show.

What does this say about sportsmanship?  Character?  The only obviously satisfactory answer to an outrage would be Donald Trump’s idea, just win.   But throwing at batters in baseball is serious, not only because of the obvious individual hazard, but because deliberately causing a disabling injury to an opponent is an unfair way to win – just as is using PED’s, performance enhancing drugs.  Baseball’s value in enhancing social capital or eusociality, in letting people experience the idea that sometimes their emotional and even physical well-being, is undermine by “revenge” behavior   

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