Tony Gwynn

Hitting For The Cycle: Tony Gwynn, Parity, and Momentum

We were all incredibly saddened about loss of Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history. So, it only seems right that the first two hits are about this huge loss for baseball. After Gwynn, we look at the unbelievable parity in Major League Baseball this season and whether momentum is really something you can quantify.

Single: Keith Olbermann Tearfully Remembers Tony Gwynn (Olbermann via Deadspin)

Right off the bat, we need to start with the loss of one of the best hitters in baseball history. The internet right now is rife with pieces focusing on the mind-boggling stats that Gywnn was able to put up throughout his career – those are pretty easy to find. Instead, I would like to point your browsers to former ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann’s tribute to one of baseball’s legends. There’s nothing I can write about in this space to honor a man that so many have already eulogized far better than I ever could, so please just watch this.

Don’t forget your tissues.

Quote: “He lived so much in the moment that it is impossible to think about him in the past”

Double: Tony Gywnn’s Death Reinforces Danger of Smokeless Tobacco by Dan Shaughnessy (Boston Globe)

As tragic as Tony Gwynn’s death is to the baseball community, it might serve as a launching point for a battle that has been raging for years throughout certain baseball circles – the proposed ban on smokeless tobacco. For his entire career, Gwynn used “dip” or “chew” or whatever other name you want to call it, and it ultimately cost him his life, as he died at the too young age of 54 after a diagnosis of salivary gland cancer attributed to the use of smokeless tobacco.

Many people in this country think that “they are grown men, and they can do as they choose” and that’s absolutely true – to a point. Baseball has a certain place in society and is marketed in such a way that ballplayers are superheroes for children to look to up, to aspire to. Smokeless tobacco is not something that should be encouraged for our youth. MLB and Bud Selig know this, which is why they have taken the drastic step of banning all smokeless tobacco in the minor leagues but have, not shockingly, stopped short of taking any stand on an issue that ultimately robbed the baseball community of one of the all-time greats.

Quote: “It’s a baseball thing, and it’s killing players, and many don’t want to stop. Or they can’t stop.”

Triple: Mediocre League Baseball: Extreme Parity a Result of Selig’s Plan by Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated)

The first 40% of the 2014 season has resulted in one of the most balanced periods in baseball history with 24 of the 30 teams within six games of their respective division leaders. Most people would look at this number and say that baseball is as healthy as ever; Tom Verducci is not one of those people. For all of the great action that is taking place on the field, there is a real lack of quality baseball teams – only two very good teams and no great teams in Verducci’s eyes.

Why is this the case? There are a million reasons: expanded playoffs, revenue sharing, sabermetrics, etc. What this really means is that we are looking forward to a trade deadline where every team still thinks they are in the hunt. Will there be more trades? Will there be less? More than ever we are looking at a new normal where an 83-79 team can get hot at the right time and march to a World Series title. It might be of a lesser quality in this writer’s eyes, but it sure as hell will be exciting.

Quote: “The cynic has his or her own word for this new world order: mediocrity.”

Home Run: Do we give momentum too much credit in baseball? By Russell Carleton (FOX Sports)

You have heard it time and time again. “[Insert Ballclub Here] has momentum in their favor now! But do they? Do they?!” Well, using new-fangled methods like numbers and data, Carleton takes one of the biggest announcer clichés and proceeds to hack it apart with a machete – it’s really quite beautiful.

The casual observer might say, “hey! Wouldn’t feeling momentum actually create momentum?” Nope. Well, that’s being a bit cavalier on my part. It might actually have some measurable effects, but no one has been able to actually quantify it. And wouldn’t something so “influential” have some clearly visible effects?

Anyway, this is a great article, and I think that you will enjoy debunking one of the great clichés in baseball.

Quote: “I do believe that emotions can affect a player’s abilities or at least his level of effort.”

About Craig MacHenry

Writer for The Nats Blog and co-host of Nats Talk On The Go podcast