We were robbed of postseason baseball this season.
No, not because the Yankees were eliminated on an epic walk-off home run by one of the decade’s best players in the bottom of the 9th to cap off one of baseball’s most memorable innings. Jose Altuve did not ruin it. Aroldis Chapman hung a slider and still did not ruin it. Aaron Boone did not ruin it, neither did Edwin Encarnacion’s slump or Giancarlo Stanton’s injury. Somehow the Yankees miniature-sized pitching staff and the exhausted bullpen did not ruin postseason baseball for us either. We ruined postseason baseball.
It is so hard for me to not enjoy playoff baseball or baseball in general. Playoff baseball is my favorite thing in the world, in heightened circumstances, under the brightest lights, played with more intensity than all 162 previous games combined.
But it was ruined.
Ruined by everyone with an “@” in front of their name.
Ruined by every talking heads.
Ruined by everything besides baseball.
I have to acknowledge that I am part of the problem. I am not proud to show off how Twitter dominates my screen time in the settings app on my phone. I tweet, read, retweet, and reply just like the others that are to blame for ruining this year’s playoff experience. But I played along to the enormous online circus that ripped the joy of postseason baseball away from me.
And when I use these first-person pronouns, I am including everyone else who may feel they were robbed of the true postseason baseball experience because of social media. But baseball, while extremely social, is also very personal. Each fan creates its own experience and creates an intimate relationship with America’s Past time. That is why I am writing about how MY postseason was ruined. Unfortunately, I welcome you to relate to my experiences this October.
First, I must point out something that distracted me other than online, off-field engagements. Actually, this distraction has everything to do with the on-field product.
I was distracted by conspiracy theories about baseball being tampered with. The baseball was traveling anywhere from 4.5 feet shorter, according to Mike Schilt and the St. Louis Cardinals, to 12 feet shorter, according to Rob Arthur, the guy who took on the disheartening responsibility to expose the dead ball to us. I was distracted from baseball’s smooth flow by every would-be homer that barely made it to the warning track and every looping base hit that fell in front of outfielders. Instead of being awestruck by the amazing glove work in the outfield or bat control from the batter, I was distracted by MLB being stupid enough to alter the baseball or stupid enough to not have any control over the baseball.
I was distracted by Joe Buck and John Smoltz. I was not distracted by what they were saying besides the time Smoltz dropped an f-bomb. I was distracted by what the internet was saying. Yankee fans on Twitter were conceded enough to think Smoltz hates the Yankees so much as to openly bash the team on air. For every tweet about something great the Yankees did, there were five more tweets about how Smoltz or Buck did not get excited enough.
Who cares? That is announcing, I came to watch baseball. Instead, I engaged in a pointless amalgamation of takes and insults about Fox’s lead broadcast team. I was hanging on every word Buck and Smoltz said instead of hanging on every pitch. Falling in love with the anticipation and drama before the pitcher’s wild delivery is rehearsed over and over again or the batter’s violently graceful swing is uncorked time after time is how baseball is supposed to be enjoyed…not tripping over an announcer’s opinion or the amount of dead air they allow.
I was distracted by the paranoia of pitch stealing and abusing technology. Every batted ball, every sound on-screen or motion from a Houston player sent red alerts through Twitter as we credited each Yankee mistake to the Astros’ foul play. Instead of appreciating the nuisance and gamesmanship of sign stealing and the complexities of the mute conversation between pitcher and catcher with each intricate sign, all we could do was spew smoke out of our ears because “the Astros were cheating.”
MLB addressed ($) technology and sign stealing. Maybe the MLB’s leader in scouting and analytics just have really great scouting reports.
I was distracted by the fans. There were more than just Uber chants from the Bleacher Creatures. Disgusting individuals representing an entire city and an even larger worldwide fan base spewed junk about mental illness and legal first names as if they could change the game at all. They did change the game in some ways; they ruined the experience for many fans around them and anyone reading the next of a million consecutive tweets about putrid fans. Each beer can be thrown to assault Astro fans, every vile word that was hurled did nothing to change the product of America’s pastime within the chalked white lines, but it tore down the foundations of baseball from the outside, ruining the experience for the people who just want to watch postseason baseball like me.
I was distracted by the smile on Chapman’s face when he literally took the Yankees season to the gallows and hanged it. He hung a slider and killed the season. Before checking Twitter, as I sat stunned from shock and still sweaty from my celebration of LeMahieu’s heroics the half-inning before, I noticed that smile. And I hypothesized as a competitor, Chapman was involuntarily smiling not because he was happy or thought it was funny, but because he was shocked. He was upset. And I promise you he was more shocked and upset than any Yankee fan ever could be. However, it was just a hypothesis. I cannot know what Chapman was feeling. How could I? And why would I want to delve into the emotions of one of the regular season’s best closer? He is dealing with heartbreak and failure in his own way. But Yankee fans will claim he enjoyed the home run and therefore ruined their postseason experience intentionally. But it is not about the Yankee fans. It is about the New York Yankees and throughout this whole postseason, Yankee fans made everything about themselves and distracted the world from baseball. They distracted me from baseball.
Maybe I wasn’t distracted though. Maybe I was in tune and locked into the most important aspects of this October. When I think back on the 2019 playoffs, these are all the things I will remember. I will remember the “dejuiced” baseball, the bad announcing, the sign stealing and evil fans in the crowd. Sure, it is impossible to forget one of the best innings in baseball history. The inning featured the Yankees’ season being saved with a desperate and heroic 10 pitch at-bat by the Yankee MVP and torn right back down with a violent swing from the 5’6 Altuve that could have torn down the wall in left field while bringing the Yankees’ season down with it.
But besides that, it is all the selfish drama drummed up by people with no effect on that game that I’ll remember.
And who is to blame? Sure, the Yankees fans, the media, Twitter…but also myself. I played right into this 21st-century attempt to take over baseball.
Maybe I am too old fashioned and no one my age shares in my distaste of the internet’s abusive relationship with baseball. I am 20 years old and I still keep score by hand when I go to games. However, keeping the score from my couch still could not keep the internet trolls away. Maybe because I read Roger Angell or books on the 1970s Oakland A’s, I am conditioned to reminisce for a time when a brawl in the locker room before Game 1 of the World Series would not derail a team’s title chances. Or because I read biographies of the game’s greats like Roberto Clemente which makes me yearn for a time when the only off-field actions of a player resulted in an award being created in that player’s honor. But today’s game is not inherently better or worse than the ‘80s, ‘70s or ‘10s. It is all the artificial junk created online that distracts me from such a pristine on-field product.
I am scared for the future of baseball after this. These issues were brewing for a long time, but in October 2019 solemnly marks the occasion where I realized baseball is in danger. Where I realized the real theater for baseball is not in any of the cathedral-like stadiums anymore, but on the internet in the nest of a little white and bluebird. The game is being overrun by off-field issues. By anonymous Twitter accounts concerned more with the number of likes and followers rather than the number of runs their favorite team scores. By criticism of one of the world’s most esteemed announcers and one of the 1990s most esteemed pitchers. By evil fans.
Maybe turning Twitter off for 9 innings could save baseball, but good thing I will have it to distract me from the baseball-less winter that lies ominously ahead…right?
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons,