Grumpy old man yells at clouds and WBC

Edwin Diaz was injured during Puerto Rico’s celebration after Wednesday’s victory in the World Baseball Classic, suffering what turned out to be a season-ending injury to his patellar tendon.

This sucks for anyone who likes watching really good players play baseball. Then, it went even further downhill because there is no situation that Twitter can not make worse.

If you’re not familiar with Barstool Sports, congrats. I legitimately envy you. Barstool is a fairly large company staffed by people who fashion their content like a pro wrestler conducting an interview. They insist they’re serious while saying obviously outlandish and occasionally offensive things, and when anyone objects, they get virulently angry because you obviously “don’t get it.”

That’s a long way of saying that this guy got the attention he was aiming for with this Tweet. The fact that Keith Olbermann channeled this exact same energy AND managed to wiggle a little sexism in is only a little more surprising.

I loved Olbermann when I was in high school in the ‘90s. He was half of my favorite SportsCenter tag-team, the rye counterpoint to Dan Patrick’s mellow cool. I’ve met Patrick. He’s absolutely awesome.1 I have never heard anyone describe Olbermann in this way, and I find this particular opinion indicative of his over-arching sense of self-importance.

You see, I can understand why some people would be very upset that Diaz was injured while playing in a competition that is not his primary job. I will now list those people in descending order based on the size of their gripe:

  • Steve Cohen, the Mets owner who just signed Diaz to a $100 million deal

  • Buck Showalter, the Mets manager whose job is almost certainly tied to this team’s ability to advance in the postseason

  • Diaz’s teammates on the Mets

  • Mets fans

In each of these cases, I can see why that person would value Diaz’s ability to perform in Major League Baseball games this season ahead of his participation in the World Baseball Classic.

What I absolutely can’t understand is the sentiment – expressed clearly by Olbermann – that the World Baseball Classic is this indulgent sideshow. You see, Olbermann fashions himself an Important Baseball Man. He is an obsessive with a photographic memory and an appetite for baseball cards and memorabilia. I’ve read stories that mention the fact he’s owned the hat Jose Canseco was wearing when a baseball bounced off his dome and over the fence for a home run as well as the ball that Carlton Fisk waved fair in the 1971 World Series.

He's decided the World Baseball Classic sucks because it risks the availability of the very best players for what matters to him, which is the major-league season. And while I won’t contest his right to hold this opinion, I do wonder why he feels this way. Because anyone who’s watched the World Baseball Classic can tell that this means a great deal to the players, which is why I like it so much. There are stakes. There is passion. Then there’s the incredible athletes. To me, that’s kind of everything you’re looking for in sports. Shohei Ohtani was clocked throwing 102 mph in Japan’s victory on Thursday.

I can understand why the Angels might think that’s not the best idea. In fact, I remember how much the Mariners were hurt by the arm injury suffered by Drew Smyly in the World Baseball Classic. I can see how a team — and by extension its fans — who are depending on a specific player to fill a role might be hesitant about letting them take risks with their body. It’s why many NFL contracts have a list of prohibited activities.

It’s harder for me to understand this knee-jerk reaction that some baseball fans hvae to defend the investments of major-league owners whose teams they have no rooting interest in.

Wait. That’s not entirely true because I do understand it. I just disagree with it, and actually, I find it kind of repulsive. Olbermann views players not as people, but as widgets who are obliged to perform in his preferred venue and format. He is unmoved by how much the players care about this tournament. In fact, he resents it because it gets in the way of what is important to him, which is the major-league season. He’s a crusty old toad who feels that he’s owed something by these players. It’s not just that he doesn’t like the tournament, he wants it abolished because it threatens the thing he values. The fact he boils the team affiliations down to “where their grandmothers got laid” is a pretty good tell that he sees himself as the sophisticate who wants these talented, culturally diverse players to restrict their activities to ‘Merica. What a loathsome world view.

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