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THE REALISTIC GIANTS FAN: Ancient Quirks Help Game

Careful With This Game, It's an Antique

Barry Zito plunked Prince Fielder yesterday, and it re-opened the "baseball is an antiquated game" debate on local sports shows, as well as on the MLB Network. It got me thinking, is baseball too old-fashioned? Are players offended too easily? The argument from the Fielder side of the debate was that it was all done in good fun and it had nothing to do with the Giants in particular. The Giants on the other hand claim the right to be offended since they were in the middle of a pennant race. Who's right? If you ask me Fielder himself provided the answer, "they gotta do what they gotta do," he said when asked his opinion after the game.

These little "silly" nuances are what I love about baseball. Baseball is, at its core, a gentleman's game. It is definitely an athletic endeavor, but its rules, format and traditions make it resemble chess or poker more than basketball or football. Without getting too off subject people like Phil Hellmuth throwing fits, and the amateurs over celebrating at the World Series are not helping poker either. Baseball is more connected to its past than any other major sport. If you watched a game from 1930 you would still recognize the game being played. The actual game play and strategy has shifted the least in baseball. The ghosts of baseball are ever present. The second you step onto the field you are immediately compared to everyone who came before you. If you are a baseball fan you know the past well, and maybe even have some random things like Stan Musial's hit total, or Warren Spahn's victory total committed to memory. Yet even the staunchest football fan probably can't tell you Barry Sanders' final yardage, or Jerry Rice's touchdown total, and they were recent figures.

One of the things that I think keeps this link open is that baseball players still take exception to, and are offended by, the same minute things that ballplayers have been getting mad at since the dawn of the game. In this way baseball has been self-policing, and has kept the game following the same ebb and flow for over a hundred years. Maybe we think it's ridiculous that they get mad at these little things, but hey, they are the players, and they all seem to own a bit of the traditions they uphold. They feel a responsibility to keep the on field action contained within a certain parameter, and they take that responsibility very seriously. It's why things like touchdown dances, and cheerleaders, haven't infiltrated baseball. Baseball is to be played humbly. Not quite-but almost-with your head down. I like that baseball isn't filled with the arrogance of football, or the chest thumping of the NBA. Baseball still uses button down jerseys and long pants. It's a game that's supposed to remind you that it comes from a different time.

You also have to remember that a thing like this will help the team. It shows that we take care of business. Zito had to throw it at Fielder, otherwise it says he's not with the rest of the guys. We may have a different opinion on Zito (or more accurately you may, I like him just fine.), but the consensus in the clubhouse seems to be that he is a good teammate and a hard worker. He strikes me as a guy who is more rah rah than he lets on. He has probably been talking about drilling Fielder since he first learned that he was gonna start that game. I like that. It shows that these games mean something to these guys. I think you should like that too.

I'll tell you something funny I noticed though. Actually funny is probably the wrong word, but I can't believe I never noticed it before. Yesterday they showed the Fielder home run about a dozen times, and the MLB Network shows the Spilborghs walk-off homer periodically. Maybe you already knew but Merkin Valdez gave up both blasts. Usually that's something I would have picked up on in the moment. If I had I would have celebrated his exit a little more. So here it is, a belated so long/ good riddance to you Merkin Valdez!

(The Realistic Giants Fan appears every Monday and Friday. Feel free to contact me at realisticgiantsfan@yahoo.com)


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