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Soup of This Day #244: Life Goes On Day After Day

September 4, 2012

Bunting
Bunting is ok. It’s a colourful celebration of life and a great way to brighten up any day – Photo: Amanda Slater, 2008. Amanda Slater is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This blog deals with some big questions. Sometimes I don’t posit answers – Preferring instead to lay out everything I know (or have made up) so that readers can provide answers of their own. This strategy hopefully makes me appear wise, sage-like and not at all philosophically lazy.

It’s the latter in case there was any doubt. If there’s no-one parked underneath it, I’m not overly fussed if the tree makes a sound when it falls.

For today though I’m going to buck the trend and try for some answers. Answers to questions like, is it ok to break up a perfect game bid with a bunt?

Yes, it is.

The game is called baseball. Mostly because the objective is to hit the ball such that you can travel around the bases in order to reach home plate whereby you score a run. The team with the most of these runs wins the game. A key detail that requires emphasis is that you need to go around the bases in order – So to score a run you need to 1st of all make it to 1st base. Let me put all of that together now – To win a game of baseball you need to get bats to 1st base.

You don’t need to pitch a perfect game to win. You do need to get runners to 1st. You can’t win without the latter.

Is a bunt a legitimate way of doing that? Hell yes. Why would it not be? It’s a perfectly reasonable hit – You’ve put the ball into space and you’re trying to beat out a throw to 1st. Make it and you have a runner on 1st without sacrificing an out. Good for you.

Bad for the pitcher – Yeah, that’s a bummer – But perfect games aren’t freebies. There has been just 21 of them in the modern era of the majors – That’s 21 in 112 years. They have to be earned, not handed over as tokens of affection.

Particularly not when it’s only the 5th and you’re down 0-5, battling a 5-game losing streak and backing up from a 2-20 hiding the night before. Jarrod Saltalamacchia saw the shift and went the bunt off A.J. Griffin down the 3rd base line. He got on base – The 1st step for getting something happening. It’s good hustle from Salty and his hair.

His hair appears to be a separate being. It doesn’t bat as well but it does have shine and bounce. The name ‘Saltalamacchia’ is derived from the Italian ‘salta’, roughly – ‘to jump over’ – and ‘macchia’, a type of dense shrubland that is apparently ideal shelter for bandits. You could shelter bandits in Salty’s hair.

In spite of Salty and his hair’s best efforts, nothing came of having the 2 of them on 1st. Not that inning and not much more for the remainder of the game – The Red Sox lost it 1-7. The A’s stretched to an 8-game winning streak while the Sox stumbled to yet another embarrassing loss.

But at least Salty tried. And then copped flak for breaking up a perfect game with a bunt.

In a way the debate is heartening. In this big money era of professional sport it’s nice to be talking about the spirit of the game – What it means to be ‘fair’. For all of my simple summaries of how winning is just about getting runners on base, that is never cut and dried. Mostly because runners are people, as are pitchers and fans – They have all of the emotions and attached complexities that people almost always carry – Sentiment is a part of the game and that is as it should be.

Sentiment shouldn’t be used as an blanket excuse for ignorance though. Last night I saw a tweet from CBS’ Jon Heyman. It was based around an apology that Red Sox owner John W. Henry had written to fans, bemoaning the poor performance of their beloved team.

The problem for Heyman appears to be that the team was not the Red Sox.

John W. Henry and his colleagues at Fenway Sports Group (FSG) also own Liverpool FC. Who, like the Red Sox, are not playing particularly well at the moment, on or off the field. Mostly it’s the off the field stuff that is causing consternation with the fans. You see, it’s generally accepted wisdom that you need at least 3 quality strikers to get through an English Premier League (EPL) season.

Liverpool had 3 of those – Luis Suárez, Fabio Borini and 35m Andy Carroll.

The latter though was a round peg in a square hole – He’d been signed by Liverpool in order to fit a particular game plan. Carroll is tall and good in the air so FSG spent roughly 100m acquiring the big lunk and a series of servicing players who could put the ball onto his head.

Sadly this turned out to be a bit of a failure. The servicing players were overpriced and didn’t deliver anywhere near enough ball to Carroll, who was wayward anyway and thus often consigned to the bench.

So Dalglish was turfed in favour of Brendan Rodgers. Who favours a quick passing style over direct long-ball break-out play. Consequently Carroll is an anachronism and naturally enough Rodgers sought to move him on, apparently with assurances that he could be replaced.

Yeah, not so much it turns out.

Rodgers duly moved out Carroll on loan to West Ham and then watched as Liverpool made a last-minute, and comically small, offer for Fulham’s Clint Dempsey. This was rejected and then trumped by Tottenham Hotspur, who snared the prize just before the transfer window shut, leaving the Reds with just 2 strikers until January.

It was extraordinarily poor business and blame could surely be spread far and wide – Rodgers himself is culpable – His desire to break down every last remnant of the Dalglish era has been almost puritanical in its obsession. Players have been discarded at a fraction of their purchase price simply to get them out the door. Which is fine as long as you have replacements in place. This is where the club’s executive wears the criticism. Ultimately John W. Henry has taken that on himself and has acknowledged this with an apology to fans.

Heyman apparently thinks there is something off in that. His tweet, via @JonHeymanCBS:

‘red sox owner john henry shouldnt have to apologize to liverpool fans. hes spent liberally on that abomination, anyway’

Wow.

Okay.

Let’s test that theory of yours Jon. From August 2010 until April of 2012 FSG spent around £143.6m on acquiring players for Liverpool FC, while selling off £90.3m worth of talent – That’s a net outlay of £53.3m, roughly $84m in US funds.

Now, baseball doesn’t have transfer fees in the same way that the EPL does – They generally use payroll to account for acquisitions. In 2011 alone the Red Sox spent $161m on payroll, ranking them 3rd in the majors for that measure.

It is difficult to compare those 2 figures – It’s a little like apples and oranges. What we can do though is surmise that neither team was lacking for funds.

Ultimately though, neither club returned particularly well on that investment. So the organisations let down the fans. Where does the buck stop in all of this? With the person, or persons at the top of the tree – That would be John W. Henry and it is therefore entirely appropriate that he apologises.

You’ll note there that I used the anglicised spelling of ‘apologise’ with a ‘s’ instead of a ‘z’. That’s because, as a former colony of the UK, we tend to follow their spelling conventions. The language is after all, called English and there is some history there.

A lot of history.

Liverpool FC for instance have been around for 120 years, in which time they have been crowned national champions 18 times. They have also been the champions of Europe no less than 5 times – Playing against representatives of a large number of countries at a sport that is the world’s most popular.

They are not an abomination. They have earned respect.

Xenophobia ill behoves you America – You’re much, much better than that – You’re a country built on a multicultural foundation of immigrants. You’re the country that has given us baseball and still finds time to debate whether a bunt in the 5th is a fair and reasonable way to break up a perfect game.

Life Goes On Day After Day

4 Comments
  1. Dalglish’s team was NOT playing a long ball style. Dalglish was schooled in the Liverpool pass and move ethos as a player and he continued to develop this pass and move ethos, combined with occasional use of a more direct approach, as a player-manager and then as a manager in his return to LFC. Andy Carroll, contrary to what many pundits state, has a good touch and wa adapting well to Dalglish’s pass and move ethos as we saw in the last few months of last season.

    Second point – Dalglish DID NOT spend “roughly £100 million” on some failed route one project.

    Net spend last season was a comparatively modest (for a team aiming for top four) £35 million.

    A quota of homegrown (English) players is required under Premiership/UEFA rules.

    Previous regimes had not addressed this fact….Going out and buying England internationals always means a premium in price asked for and paid,

    Both Downing and carroll had had excellent seasons/form before coming to LFC.

    Carroll in particular at 22 was terrorising defences in the EPL – 13 goal in 19 matches…and was attracting serious interest from all the big clubs.

    FSG unequivocally backed Dalglish as manager for the long term in an interview with LFC.tv in mid-April….regardless of the disappointing league position. Then they sacked him weeks later, citing league position. Bizarre.

    They also dismissed the League Cup, LFC’s first trophy for six seasons as irrelevant….strange, seeing as they hailed it as a magnificent achievement and an important stepping stone back to winning ways when they were interviewed post-match by LFC.tv. In fact, both Werner and Henry hailed the victory as one of the highlights of their “careers” as LFC owners.

    As for Heyman – to use the word “abomination” suggests a complete lack of class and knowledge on his part. He needs to sort himself out – and/or Mr Henry needs to have a word with him.

    A club – LFC – that has supported the amazingly tenacious and dignified families involved in the Hillsborough Justice Campaign for 23 years is anything but an abomination….it is a club built on dignified community values of support and solidarity.

    Now that the Hillsborough Panel Report has just been published, exonerating the LFC fans of all blame, and revealing that South Yorkshire Police and other people in positions of authority, power and responsibility colluded to cover-up police failures and other failures of responsibility and stadium safety, in order to transfer blame from themselves to falsely blame the 96 victims of the disaster….the honourable spirit of LFC, the club and its fans, resonates more powerfully than ever.

    JFT96 (Justice For The 96)

    • Jake – I get that Dalglish was a ‘pass and go’ man – I don’t think he had a team set for that. Downing, Henderson and Adam, regardless of the quality of their form prior to joining Liverpool, were not good in the roles Dalglish set down for them. Carroll is another story – The lad showed his worth at season’s end and I was truly shocked and disappointed that he’d been loaned out.

      I did suggest that Dalglish had spent roughly 100m and as you point out this is not entirely correct – I did later in the post break down the incoming and outgoing figures, noting that the responsibility for the financial spend fell to FSG – It was wrong of me to say it was down to Kenny – I guess this continental football director stuff just seems strange to me – Managers used to do that stuff.

      Whilst Comolli was responsible for signings Dalglish must surely have had input though. I’ll stand by the term ‘spend’ and that 100m figure – I wasn’t referring to net cost – I was highlighting the level of expenditure. The net spend is heavily distorted by the 50m netted by Torres heading off and yes this did inflate the price on Carroll. At the end of the day though 100m on players needs a return, whatever the market, and FSG should apologise for that and Comolli should have lost his job.

      Should Dalglish have lost his job? I honestly did not want him back – I idolised him, even for walking away 20 years ago, and I selfishly wanted that memory untarnished. As it is I don’t think the shine has gone off Kenny, just that the state of the game is poorer for not having him in it.

      Heyman’s ignorant tweet highlights the problem with FSG owning 2 historic clubs. Fans on either side of the Atlantic are going to struggle with a commitment to the ‘other’ team. Both are grand clubs, with fans the envy of their respective leagues.

      You’ll get no arguments from me re the spirit of Liverpool FC – I’ve loved the club from afar for too long. Hillsborough was deeply shocking for all sports fans. That people could be harmed going to a game of football is horrible. That the tragedy should be compounded by 23 years of sheer bloody-minded cover-ups is something that would make most curl up and quit. Not this club and its people though.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. By the way – Damien Commolli, the director of football was responsible for negotiating all transfer fees and wages….NOT Kenny Dalglish.

    • Not entirely responsible – Surely Dalglish had some input. Although that is not necessarily the baseball model that FSG would be used to so perhaps Kenny had little say…

      Either way I take your point and have amended the part of the post tagging the spend to Dalglish, instead referring it to FSG.

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