Archive for the 'Baseball' Category

I live?

Well, I’m back. WordPress has really shit up the interface in the four years(!) I’ve been gone, huh?

The original goal of this place, if you’ll recall (although I couldn’t blame you if you didn’t) was to write every day. I eventually fell out of that habit due to real-life complications, and felt vaguely guilty about it, so it didn’t feel right coming back out of the clear blue sky and picking it back up again. I wish I could say that those real-life complications were all worth it in the end and that I’d since moved to a better place in my life, but I’d be lying — those complications were ultimately much ado about nothing, and I’m roughly back in the same place I was four years ago when I was rambling interminably about game design and writing execrable fiction.

Nor can I say I’m planning on picking the daily schedule back up again, either. Rather, I remembered this place because there was something that’s been on my mind that I wanted to get down somewhere less ephemeral than a rant buried in a forum thread. And to make sure you go ahead and click the ‘X,’ I’ll go ahead and say that it’s about the current state of the Atlanta Braves.

At the end of the 2014 season, the Braves had a major issue. They had a mediocre major league team — not a horrid major league team, as they’d been in the hunt for most of the season and had finished around .500 despite a truly hideous collapse down the stretch. Moreover, they had problems going forward: The farm system was barren, they were set to lose 400 starting pitcher innings due to the loss of Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang to free agency, and the free agency of corner outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward was looming after the 2015. The organization was at a crossroads, and they had to decide which direction to take the team: Make one last try at contention with their current core of talent and pick up the pieces as best they could afterwards; or blow the whole thing up with the idea of piecing together a new core a few years down the line.

They picked the latter. They traded Heyward and Upton for packages of young players, but they didn’t stop there. Evan Gattis, a young slugger they’d brought up in 2014 but who didn’t have a natural position and didn’t hit enough to cover for that, was moved to the Astros. They signed mostly stopgap players in free agency like A.J. Pierzynski, Kelly Johnson, and Jason Grilli — short-term assets who could play out the string and then be shipped out at the deadline for more parts. Then, on the last day of Spring Training, they traded closer Craig Kimbrel, a guy they’d spent the winter swearing up and down they would not move. They got a pretty good pitching prospect for Kimbrel, but the real prize was getting out from under the salary of Melvin Upton, Jr., who had become an albatross.

And here’s the thing: I was fine with all of this.

A lot of other fans were furious with this blatant dismantling of what had been a successful major league team, but I could see the logic to it. The team hadn’t been good enough in 2014, and they had big holes to fill just to keep the team at that level. And even if they managed it, they’d be in big trouble next season when Heyward and Upton walked — they couldn’t afford to sign either player, and even if they could, it was still deck chairs on the Titanic. The team had major issues, and they could solve those issues neither in free agency (because they didn’t have enough money) nor in the trade market (because they didn’t have enough prospects). Tearing down the team and starting over, as much as it hurt, was the right call, I felt, and if you accepted that thesis then the team had done a good job of it. Every evaluator said that the team had done well in picking the prospects it had gotten in return for its major league players, especially with regards to the pitchers it received. In one offseason the team’s farm system had jumped from bottom-of-the-barrel to a top five or ten system.

You could see the plan, if you looked closely. The team would be awful in 2015 and probably 2016; there was no getting around that. But they’d be using that time wisely — evaluating young players, trading short-term assets for long-term ones, taking other teams’ dead money in exchange for premium prospects. Bad money would come off the books and could be reinvested. They’d finish low at the major league level, but receive high draft picks. Then, when the team’s new stadium opened in 2017, they’d have a new core, something that could compete long into the future without the constant patching that the latter years of Frank Wren’s tenure required.

You could even see the kind of team the Braves wanted to build — it looked, more or less, like the current Royals. Lockdown pitching, one through twelve. A tight defense, led by the greatest defensive player of his generation, to make sure that the team was even harder to score against. And an offense built around batting average and speed, to try and adapt to a game that had been changing. Frank Wren was a GM for the aughts, the Moneyball era, where on-base and power ruled the landscape. But power was down across the league and it seemed like pitchers were throwing harder than ever, so the patient, low-batting average, high-power players Wren favored weren’t as effective as they might have been ten years ago. Common wisdom is that Dan Uggla and Melvin Upton, Jr., collapsed as players, but it may have been the case that the game had simply changed around them; no longer allowed them to exercise their strengths.

The Braves had acquired high-ceiling pitching prospects, like Max Fried, Mike Foltyniewicz, Tyrell Jenkins, and Matt Wisler. The hitters they acquired were scrappy line-drive types — Jace Peterson, Mallex Smith, Rio Ruiz. Even the veterans they’d picked up, though largely past their prime, had been this type of player in their youth — A.J. Pierzynski, Alberto Callaspo, Nick Markakis. It was easy to envision them less as major league assets and more as player-coaches, teaching the young guys the way the Braves wanted them to play.

Losing is never easy, but it’s easier to stomach if you think the organization has a plan. The Braves were awful in 2015, playing to the third-worst record in the league, but I wasn’t as upset as I might have been, because I expected them to be. Honestly, I’d been much more frustrated with the 2014 squad, which had supposed to compete but had ended the season as an afterthought. Moreover, they stuck to the plan. They acquired Bronson Arroyo’s useless contract from the Diamondbacks. Arroyo would never throw a pitch for the Braves, but along with him came highly-touted pitching prospect Touki Toissaint, whom Arizona’s new front office had soured on for no real reason (their GM making the absurd argument that he’d taken a ton of college pitchers in the draft, so he no longer needed the high-ceiling prep prospect his predecessor had taken the previous year). They moved out Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe at the deadline for prospects. They made a bad-contract swap with the Indians, sending out Chris Johnson for Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Bourn and Swisher were more expensive in the short term, but their contracts were up after 2016, when the Braves would be in position to reinvest the money, while Johnson’s terrible deal persisted for several more years. They even made a big, risky trade that initially shocked me but that I liked upon reflection — trading Alex Wood and Jose Peraza for Cuban import Hector Olivera from the Dodgers, who at thirty was not the kind of young talent rebuilding teams are supposed to be hoarding, but who was undervalued in his way: His contract was absurdly cheap, with most of the money being tied up in a signing bonus that would remain on the Dodgers’ payroll, and he was supposedly nearly major league ready. It seemed like the Braves had managed to pick up a major league slugger at a position of need (third base) who was far cheaper than his talent merited (at least in terms of dollars). Sure, the price in players had been steep, but still less steep than trying to acquire an equivalent known quantity would have been.

So 2015 sucked on the field, but off the field it seemed like things were progressing. The Braves continued hiring highly-regarded scouts and analysts to man the front office. They promoted assistant GM John Coppolella, who had been the mastermind of the rebuild, to the big chair. And then things started to get questionable.

First, reports filtered out of the winter leagues that Hector Olivera, their big deadline pickup, had been moved to the outfield. Now, Olivera hadn’t impressed at third base during his cup of coffee late in 2015, but the front office and coaching staff assured us that this was because of Olivera’s whirlwind year — he’d defected from Cuba, been the center of an offseason bidding war, played at two or three different minor league stops, been traded, and was recuperating from a hamstring injury. You try playing at your best under those conditions, they said. However, they fully believed that after a few weeks in winter ball shaking off the rust and a full, uninterrupted Spring Training, he’d be the guy the Braves expected him to be. But there he was in the outfield, where the Braves had options (not good options, but nevertheless) rather than third base, which had been, is, and promises to be a barren wasteland for the foreseeable future. Olivera’s bat might play in left, but it’s incredibly optimistic to think that he’d be a plus out there. Trading Wood and Peraza for a solution at third base was one thing; trading them for a possibility in corner outfield was quite another.

Then came the trades. Reports trickled out that the Braves were listening on Andrelton Simmons, their young, all-world defensive shortstop. The free agent market for shortstops was so shallow, the argument went, that some team who wasn’t willing to invest in Ian Desmond might overpay for him. Fair enough — there’s no harm in listening. But then, basically the next day, they announced that they’d traded him to the Angels for the Angel shortstop Erick Aybar (who would be a free agent after the season) and two pitching prospects.

Look. I understand that when you’re rebuilding, no one should be off-limits. But Andrelton Simmons is the best defensive player in the world, at a position where you’re light on long-term options. He’s young. He has upside with the bat. He is signed very reasonably for a long time. If your rebuilding organization doesn’t have room in its plans for that guy, who does it have room for? And it’s not like they got blown away — I’ve seen the return repeatedly described as “light,” and the prize of the the deal, lefty Sean Newcomb, walked five per nine at three levels last year and is by no means a sure thing even as pitching prospects go. Moreover, pitching prospects are the organization’s major strength at present. They’ve accumulated a half-dozen promising prospects from other organizations, one of their best prospects remaining from the previous regime (Lucas Sims) is a pitcher, and they took approximate half a billion pitchers during the 2015 draft, including highly-regarded youngsters Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka. You can never have enough pitching, except when you can. So essentially the organization traded one of its most valuable major-league assets to beef up what was already an organizational strength. Coppolella can talk all he wants about how you can’t turn down that deal, but I think you turn it down very easily, and demand position players.

Then they traded Cameron Maybin, who resurrected his career with the Braves in 2015 after being part of the contract-balancing in the Kimbrel deal, for… more pitchers. Relief pitchers, even, including a guy (Ian Krol) who has never been effective at the major league level, and a guy (Gabe Speier) who has a big arm but even at 18 years old was slotted to the bullpen (and has been traded twice before he can drink, just incidentally). Now, I was of the opinion that Maybin should have been traded last summer when his value was at its peak, before he had a chance to revert back to being Cameron Maybin — and I was right. But more pitchers?

I can no longer see the plan. How does this team compete in 2017, the year they’ve been publicly trumpeting as their return to contention? Even if Olivera is the big hitter their scouts identified him as, that leaves Olivera and Freddie Freeman (who they are reportedly shopping!) as the only real hitters on the major league team come 2017. Aybar’s a free agent. Markakis, to the extent that he is presently useful, probably won’t be by then. They’ve still got holes at catcher and third, and uncertainty at second and center. Where is the hitting coming from?

The party line has been that the Braves will be able to move their surplus pitching for hitting, just as they did in the ’90s when John Schuerholtz made an art form of hyping up a pitching prospect, trading him for major league help, then watching him collapse for his new team. But I don’t see it. Quality pitching is more common than it’s been since the ’60s right now, and quality hitting is as rare. Who are these teams that have bats to spare and are willing to cash them in for a pitching package? The Cubs, I guess, but that’s about the end of the list.

Free agency? The list of free agents for 2017 looks like this. It’s a good market if you want a reliever; not so much if you want, oh, basically anything else. The Braves will have money to spend, but who are they spending it on? The corpse of Adrian Beltre?

Promote from within? The Braves’ best hitting prospect is 18 years old. Their second-best hitting prospect… is 18 years old. Third-best is Mallex Smith; he’s major league ready but might end up being a fourth outfielder. Fourth-best… 19. Fifth-best… 17. These guys are exciting, for sure, but they’re also really, really far away, and the road they have to travel is long. Austin Riley might be the best power prospect the Braves have produced since Andruw Jones, but he’s 18 and there are already questions about his weight. If they’re counting on him to man third base when the team is good again, a) they’re going to be waiting a while, and b) he might be a first baseman or DH by then.

It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that the Braves will have a quality pitching staff by 2017 — they’ve acquired a lot of talented guys, and some of them are bound to work out. If a bunch of them figure it out at once, they could be special. But that’s only half the battle, and I can’t see any road that leads them to a quality lineup by then. And the Braves are making the road longer by trading their tangible major league pieces for more pitching.

Look. The purpose of running a baseball team is not to try and get peak value for every single player in your organization. The purpose is to try and build a winning core, and supplement it with complementary pieces. The Simmons trade strikes me as John Coppolella reading his own press clippings and buying into the idea that he’s the smartest guy in the room. Maybe the Braves did trade him at peak value — I doubt it, but anything’s possible. But if you trade everyone at their peak value, you will never have a good team. What you will have, instead, is roster churn — a collection of assets being moved in and out according to the whims of the market, but never a coherent team. Billy Beane, as sharp a guy as he is, has fallen into this trap numerous times — you can’t read last year’s Josh Donaldson trade as anything other than that.

The reason I was inspired to write this down was because I’ve seen a lot of people make comments to the effect of “Well, rebuilding is hard for the fans, but the front office has a process, and they’re making good moves, and they’ll get there in the end.” As if I don’t understand what rebuilding is all about, and am still just sore about trading homegrown favorites like Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons.

I get rebuilding. I was in favor of rebuilding, in fact. But rebuilding has a purpose. It’s not about showing people how smart you are, or how clever your trades can be, or zigging when people though you’d zag. It’s about taking one step back so you can take two steps forward. The Braves, I fear, have become addicted to taking two steps forward and two steps back, and they’ll never get anywhere on that business plan. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Maybe I’ll start writing blog posts again. I don’t have the time for a daily schedule anymore, but there are still subjects I’m interested in exploring in writing, and it seems a shame to let this place lie fallow just because I couldn’t keep to its original idea. God knows I could write page upon page about Hearthstone alone, these days. Watch this space.

Tuppence

So obviously the big news last night was that the Phillies traded for Hunter Pence, the best player still on the market. I’m of mixed feelings.

First off, Pence (who was alternatively the Braves’ top target or not on their radar at all, trade season being what it is and all) makes the Phillies appreciably better, and they didn’t need the help. He could have been an asset for the Braves. On that front, it’s a disaster.

On the other hand, though, he’s not an elite hitter, being more of a complementary guy. (Of course, it’s the Phillies, so he’ll probably hit .370 the rest of the way.) And the Phillies paid a very dear price to get him, two of their best prospects plus some other stuff. It’s easy to make the argument that this was an overpay — scarcity made Pence out to be some savior, but he’s not, and bowing to the Astros’ demands in this was probably not the wisest idea. Word is Braves GM Frank Wren is flat-out refusing to include any of the Braves’ top four pitching prospects — Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado, and Mike Minor — in any potential deal.

Now, in recent days Wren would be absolutely right to do this. Used to be you had to give up grade-A prospects to get a good player in a deal, but recently we’ve found that this isn’t necessary — if you hold the line, often a team will be forced to make a deal for subpar players (see Gonzalez, Adrian). Why give up these high-ceiling guys if you don’t have to?

I do wonder, though, why Wren insists on keeping all four of these guys. I’m totally on board with naming Teheran untouchable, and it would probably be smart to hang on to Vizcaino too, but Delgado and Minor are the very definition of prospects you trade to help the major league team. They’re good enough to be desirable for another team, but probably not so good that you’ll be kicking yourself three years down the line for having let them get away. And if you’re not going to trade them, what are you going to do with them? Assuming they all make it, there’s not enough room of the major league roster to use all of them, even if some are converted to relief. At the same time, the cupboard for hitters is bare in the Braves’ system right now — Freddie Freeman is the last gasp for position players until Edward Salcedo is ready, which could be years. Eventually you’re going to have to trade a pitcher for offensive help.

I understand, too, the idea that if you want to trade these guys it should be for a superstar. Here’s the problem with that: Superstars don’t get traded. For one, the teams that have them are usually good, and thus are buyers, not sellers. Whenever a superstar is traded there are usually extenuating circumstances, usually involving an attitude problem or money. Either the star is in the final year of his contract and the team wants to get something for him, in which case he’s not worth a top prospect; or the team is in financial trouble and needs to slash payroll (which is very rare — witness the Dodgers, a team for which it’s an open question whether they’ll make payroll each month; you haven’t heard their players mentioned much in trade rumors). In any case, that mythical MVP-caliber bat that puts the Braves over the top is simply not out there right now, and if you wait for him you might find that Mike Minor is in his second year of arbitration by then and not quite so desirable a chit anymore.

So I dunno. I hate the Phillies, but you have to give them credit — every time trade season comes around they identify the best player available and put all their efforts towards landing him. They do this even when they’re the best team in the league by leaps and bounds, which is why they stay the best team in the league by leaps and bounds. (It helps to have money in this endeavor, but still.) The Braves, on the other hand, usually content themselves with being “good enough” and make improvements on the fringes, if there. I’m all for hoarding prospects, but the idea that the Braves will be better than the Phils in five years isn’t all that comforting anymore. The Braves have a chance to win now, and prospects are a renewable resource. I’m not saying gut the farm, but you have to put some effort into improving the team, don’t you?

I’ll hold off on making final judgment until the trade deadline has passed, but the odds of the Braves making any kind of impact deal lessen with each passing hour. Most likely they’ll end up with Coco Crisp or somebody then scratch their heads when the Giants eliminate them in four games again. Sigh.

I haven’t written about the Braves in a while.

I should maybe do that.

I’d have a hard time explaining to a fan of, say, the Twins or Mariners why I haven’t been too enthusiastic regarding the Braves this year. After all, they’ve got the third-best record in baseball. They’ve got a four-game lead in the Wild Card race as of the halfway point. They’re on pace for 94 wins. They’d be leading four of the six divisions in baseball and would be tied for second in the fifth. By most measures you can think of, they’re having a fabulous season and living fully up to their preseason expectations, which had them as the second-best team in the league, behind the Phillies.

Part of that has been that I haven’t been able to see them play much, of course… It seems like it’s been forever since a national outlet has picked up one of their games, so the most I’ve been able to interact with them most nights is by finagling away the remote in the break room at work long enough to check the score. It’s harder to keep your perspective when you’re not breathing it in every day.

But I think the major reason is that as good as they’ve been, I think they’ve blown a lot of chances to be even better. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a perfectionist. I know that losses and setbacks are just things that happen to baseball teams over the course of the season. Still, I think they could have easily been hanging with the Phillies if a few other things had gone their way… Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward’s absolutely inexplicable collapse. Rashes of injuries… Mediocrity in the bullpen resulting in overuse of the only reliable guys down there… Terrible managing… Somehow they “feel” like they’re having a much worse season than they actually are. If I didn’t know their record but you told me that they were 40-43, I’d believe you. And yet here they sit at 48-35.

It’s likely that the core of my grousing really lies in the fact that the Phillies are having an even better season. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more charmed team in my life… it seems like teams are falling over themselves to give away games to the Phillies in the most embarrassing manner possible. Whenever I go to check the Braves score SportsCenter is always running highlights with titles like “Phillies comeback” or “Worley dominates”. I’m mature enough to concede that they’re better than I thought preseason (when I was probably reading too much into Utley’s injury), but that lineup? That bullpen? On pace for 102 wins? No way. At least when the Yankees were having everything magically working out for them they had the good grace to do it with record-breaking payrolls and All-Stars at every position. The Phillies, though? Weak ground balls squib through the infield. Line drives fly inches above leaping fielders. Lineups flail against spot starters. Bullpens cough up leads, aces hang fastballs, managers mismanage. In absolutely every situation, you find yourself thinking “How is this going to turn to the Phillies’ advantage?”, and lo and behold, it always does, no matter how unlikely. If they were just bludgeoning people to death being behind them wouldn’t be so galling, but they always look so beatable. And yet no one ever does. (Except for the Braves and the Cardinals, the only two teams with winning records against them so far this season.)

They can mostly credit this to that great pitching, which keeps them close enough that when things start to turn in their favor, it can be decisive. And it’s not like they haven’t had some injury issues themselves, which have been well-documented. I still can’t shake the feeling that everything that’s been going wrong for the Braves has been going right for the Phillies, though, and that’s irritating. It’s entirely possible that if the Braves were in another division (where, as Patton Oswalt once said, mediocrity holds sway) they’d be winning handily and having a nice little season. But the 2011 East Coast is too cutthroat for “nice little season” to get you anywhere.

The Braves are supposedly on the hunt for offense, but it’s hard to think of anyone who both fits on their team and would be a big improvement. I mean, Hunter Pence? Josh Willingham? Talk about acquiring a guy a year too late.

Welp.

I didn’t mean for updates to get away from me again like this, but a combination of extreme busyness and rougher-than-usual work making more sleep necessary has kind of sucked away my free time. What leisure time I have had has mostly been spent fiddling with my PSP. Don’t feel too left out, though, as this blog isn’t the only thing I’ve been neglecting: I’ve fallen behind on my TV viewing, I’ve been stopped on the last level of Sonic Colors for about two weeks, I haven’t read anything new in a while, and I can’t remember the last time I watched all nine innings of baseball game.

Fortunately I’ve got three off-days in a row lined up, so I plan to get some Shit Done. Get caught up on my shows, crank out a Majora’s Mask update, watch some baseball, and play all the games.

1) I’d been plugging away at Dissidia even though the main quest has started to bore me. The original Dissidia plot is a lot more insipid than the new stuff for 012 (which is hardly brilliant itself), and I ran into two characters back-to-back who I don’t really enjoy playing in Terra and Cecil.

There’s a lot to like with Terra; she’s a ranged fighter, which I like; she can easily initiate chases, which I also like; and her EX Burst is really easy to do perfectly, which I love. However, actually killing things with her is a chore. At the level I finished her story with she had essentially only two HP Attacks, both of which were really slow, telegraphed things that are hard to hit with. I probably won more matches with her by building up massive Bravery, initiating a chase, and hitting the other guy with a big HP Attack than I did by winning “normally”.

Cecil, on the other hand, I don’t like at all. He’s a multiple-stance character, like Lightning, but he changes between Paladin and Dark Knight automatically when he uses certain moves rather than activating the transformation with a button combination. Usually with multiple-stance characters like Lightning or Zelda I just figure out the one I like best and stay there, but that’s not really possible with Cecil. I could stand this, too, but his HP Attacks seem really punishable. I think I’ve used an HP Attack only to be immediately Brave Breaked in retaliation more in the dozen or so fights I played with Cecil than I had in the entire rest of the game up to that point.

It seems to me that the major problem with both characters is how limited their angles of attack are. This could probably be an entire essay in itself, and in fact I think it will be, once I’ve fleshed out the idea some.

2) While at work I was listening to a fantasy short story podcast and happened across a story by George R.R. Martin, more famous of course for the A Song of Ice and Fire series. It was about dimensional-hopping beings, and it was pretty good, but one thing that stuck out at me were the villains — a cabal of godlike beings called (wait for it) The Seven.

Now, as everyone knows, the Seven is the primary religion of the main continent in ASoIaF, and the most likely explanation is that it’s just a cute nod by Martin — that, or Martin has a Costanza-esque fondness for the number seven. I am kind of worried, though — it’s been a while since I’ve read the series, but I seem to recall that the nature of the Seven was somewhat vaguely defined, and their major influence on history was summoning forth an Andal horde to wipe out the old gods. In addition, the Faith of the Seven became more prominent in A Feast For Crows, and they started to seem more sinister rather than just part of the backdrop of the setting as they had been. I’m probably worrying about nothing, but I’d hate to see a series that’s so innovative in so many other ways degenerate into “god is evil” ridiculousness.

3) I’d completely overlooked all the shows starting back up. I taped White Collar but haven’t had a chance to watch it, but forgot entirely about new Futurama, Burn Notice, and Leverage. Will I ever get caught up? Stay tuned to find out!

Well, I’m back.

I hasten to assure you that I didn’t suddenly become lazy. (Well, I have, but that’s not why there weren’t any posts over the last five days.) Rather, my sister got married on Friday and I spent the last week-ish down in the Outer Banks trying to prepare myself psychologically. There was internet down there, but the connection was so shoddy and inconsistent that I didn’t want to risk a post to it, and it’s not like I was really in the writing mood anyway, so here we are.

The wedding itself was all right, I suppose. It didn’t go perfectly, but everything that needed to happen happened, no one ran off screaming into the night, and no one ended up killing anyone else, so my feeling is that it has to be counted as a net positive.

Stuff happened while I was gone! Not super-important stuff, but stuff nonetheless. The Braves are currently engaged in the crummiest five-game winning streak in the history of baseball. I never did get a chance to talk about Nintendo’s E3 press conference. (The short version is: Wii U, in addition to having a terrible name, is only interesting to me to the extent that it’s a new thing that plays Mario, as if I wanted brown and grey FPSes I’d have an Xbox by now; Nintendo failed to sell me on the 3DS for now so I’m getting a PSP instead; and where the hell were Xenoblade and The Last Story.) The Commander set was spoiled, as was a bunch of M12 stuff. I finished two books and nearly polished off Sonic Colors.

I think I’ll tackle those last two first, once posts start up in earnest again. The books deserve to be talked about, at the very least. I’ll say this: I shouldn’t have any trouble scrounging up topics for posts for the next little while.

I can’t believe I have to go back to work tonight. :(

The Draft is when!?

After having not really thought about it, I found out today that the MLB draft is Monday. Christ! I mean, yeah, it’s the right time for it, but… I guess it just sort of snuck up on me.

I know virtually nothing about this draft class, except that it’s supposed to be a deep one. That, too, is a change from years past — when the Braves took Jason Heyward in 200… 7, I think it was, I pumped my fist, because I knew, even then, that it was going to be a dynamite choice. This year, though, I don’t know any of the guys on the draft boards (except Anthony Rendon, a third baseman who’s supposed to be a beast, and will almost certainly go to either the Pirates with the first pick or the Mariners with the second) from Adam. The experts have the Braves making a typical Braves pick… a high-velocity high school arm that they can sign for cheap. I’m not sure that’s altogether the right choice, speaking personally. I’m against drafting for need, but the Braves are well-stocked on pitching currently. It’s the bats they need. I’d really like to see them take an up-the-middle guy who projects as a plus offensive player, should one fall to them. You can never have too much pitching, but a staff that loses 2-1 every night won’t get you anywhere either.

The baseball draft is kind of an outlier in that it’s not an event like the NFL or NBA’s, despite MLB trying to make it one. Part of that is that college baseball lacks the exposure of college football and basketball, so the players aren’t as well-known (and that’s not even getting in to high schoolers, who are only going to be known by aficionados regardless). Mostly, though, it’s due to the fact that baseball’s developmental period is much longer than the other sports. In the NBA or NFL, there’s a pretty good chance that your stud draft pick is going to be a key piece on your team in short order, so the draft is critical to shaping the team for the coming seasons. Baseball’s draft is just as critical, but there’s usually a period of several years before a guy’s name is called and he becomes an impact player at the big league level, if he ever does. If you’re a casual fan who doesn’t follow the minors, hearing that a guy was taken with the such-and-such pick in the first round is likely to be the last you’ll hear of him for three or four years at least. It’s hard to get excited about “This guy’ll be big… half a decade from now”, you know?

I still like it, though. The Draft is all potential — for a lot of guys, it’s the height of their careers. Draft day is all about ceilings and potential — everyone’s a future All-Star or a number one starter or throwing aspirin tablets in someone’s pen. It’s great to look at these guys, with little real data to drag them down, and imagine what they might be, someday, in an ideal world. The minors will tarnish their images, no doubt. Monday, though… anything’s possible then, at least until the contracts are signed.

Advantages and disadvantages.

The internet is, in all ways, a mixed blessing.

One thing I’ve always found intriguing/infuriating about the geek/nerd subculture is how fractured it is. I suppose that’s the case for all subcultures, really, it seems monolithic unless you’re on the inside, at which point the distinctions become glaringly clear. By most people’s standards, I think you could consider me a geek. My hobbies and interests are mostly geeky in nature, and even the ones you could consider mainstream (like baseball and history) I approach from a geeky perspective.

I bet that a lot of geeks, though, would look at me and see nothing but a normal guy who occasionally indulges in geeky pursuits. Much of what is considered part and parcel of the geek experience is stuff I don’t indulge in, after all… I don’t like comic books, I’m mostly indifferent to anime, I find fanfic insipid, I’ve never role-played, I mostly ignore the sci-fi genre entirely. Even my first love, video games, is something I enjoy only a relatively small fraction of and only relatively rarely.

And it goes both ways. As I grow older, I find that people I once saw as kindred spirits I now see as little more than obsessed manchildren. This, as much as the administrative issues I detailed in a long-ago post, is what drove me away and keeps me away from TV Tropes in the end: It exposed me too deeply to the dank underbelly of fandom, an aspect of geek culture I would just as soon not be associated with.

So on the one hand, the internet has expanded my horizons and perspectives enormously. I have no idea how stunted my understanding of the world and other people would be if it had never come into being, but it wouldn’t have been a pretty picture. On the other hand, though, the internet exposes, and continues to expose me to, a worldview that I not only disagree with, but one that irritates me immensely. I’m not talking about the scum of the internet like YouTube commenters or GameFAQs monkeys here — I’m talking reasonable, usually respectable people who have nonetheless bought into the culture of cynicism and victimization that seems to have become the default state of being in the world of geekery.

You probably know what I’m talking about here… People who not only expect the absolute worst out of their hobby of choice, but who seem to welcome it and embrace it. Are we really going to, as a society, shovel dirt on the 3DS after three months? Really? How much Summoner 2 and Perfect Dark Zero are you playing these days? Are we really calling Project Cafe and the new Sony portable disasters before we have a single concrete fact about them? Are we really going to make the argument that two weeks of data is more relevant than two years?

Look, I understand a reasonable level of cynicism. It’s a defense mechanism, designed to keep you from being burned by buying into something then getting your time wasted. But it seems that, collectively, the internet has taken it way, way too far. Everything’s a disaster until proven otherwise, and sometimes not even then. (I heard someone call the Virtual Console a “failure” the other day — the same Virtual Console with literally dozens of classic games; the same Virtual Console that you could spend hundreds of dollars in and not even come close to tapping.) Companies aren’t making the decision you want not because it’s a bad business decision, but because they’re out to spite you personally — because they hate your fandom and want you to suffer. Teams don’t make a reasonable bet on a player and have it not work out — it’s proof positive that they’re run by idiots and cheapskates. It never fucking ends, and I’m sick of it. Does it really make people feel good to make them act like this? It probably makes them feel smart, because they’re seeing through the corporate bullshit that all the idiot sheep aren’t smart enough to penetrate, but it seems to me that the absolute cynics are wrong as often as they’re right. There is still good stuff in the world. People have come to expect perfection, but they’re making the perfect the enemy of the good.

Cynicism has its place. But its place is on a case-by-case basis, based on real evidence, not the default state for everything that comes down the fucking pike. I would like to see a preview for something without some know-it-all jackhole confidently declaring that it’s going to crash so hard it’ll leave a crater that can be seen from outer space. It makes me embarrassed to count myself among their number, it really does. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here.


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