Nov 10, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 09 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Most of us at The Weekly Standard are baseball fans. Like all human institutions we are imperfect, so we have a few colleagues who superciliously disdain sports, and a few others who vulgarly prefer football or basketball. But we ignore the naysayers and carpers in our midst. We’re proud to endorse the words of baseball pioneer Albert Goodwill Spalding:
I claim that Base Ball owes its prestige as our National Game to the fact that as no other sport it is the exponent of American Courage, Confidence, Combativeness; American Dash, Discipline, Determination; American Energy, Eagerness, Enthusiasm; American Pluck, Persistency, Performance; American Spirit, Sagacity, Success; American Vim, Vigor, Virility.
Or as Philip Roth put it a century later, “Baseball made me understand what patriotism was about, at its best.”
We at The Weekly Standard are also admirers of human excellence. There are conservatives whose jaundiced view of human nature not only provides a useful check on utopian fantasies but also casts a wet blanket on any impulse to admire human achievement. There is a role and a place for that kind of conservatism. But it is not ours. We choose rather, in this time and place, to keep in mind the admonition of Leo Strauss: “We have no higher duty, and no more pressing duty, than to remind ourselves and our students, of political greatness, human greatness, of the peaks of human excellence.”
And so, as fans of baseball and admirers of human excellence, we appreciated and indeed were thrilled by the World Series achievement of San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner: seven innings of 3-hit, 1-run pitching to get the Giants off to a winning start in Game 1; a 4-hit complete game shutout in Game 5 to give the Giants a 3-2 lead in the series; and five innings of scoreless relief on two days’ rest to close out the series in Game 7. Curt Schilling, who has a claim to know about such things, called Bumgarner’s the “best postseason performance ever.”
We appreciate the achievement. We will enjoy the memories. But—to get to politics—our message to our fellow conservatives, as we turn the corner from Election Day 2014, is this: Expect no Bumgarner. Put not your faith in princes. Or, to quote the American Founder after whom Bumgarner was named: “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”
In other words, don’t count on a conservative superstar emerging, one who can put the rest of the team on his shoulders and carry it to victory. Don’t wish for what most likely will not be. Expect our standard-bearers to be flawed. None will have all the virtues one would want in a presidential candidate. All will reflect—will fully reflect—the crooked timber of humanity.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t win. The vast majority of World Series victories have been achieved without a Bumgarner. Baseball is a team effort. Democratic politics is a group effort. The reason there’s a conservative movement is to shape, guide, and carry along leaders who can’t do it all by themselves. As even Bumgarner didn’t, in fact. Bruce Bochy and Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence and many others did, after all, play key roles. We have Bochys and Sandovals and Pences. We shouldn’t waste too much time yearning for a Bumgarner.
It is the Democrats, in fact, who are in the uncomfortable position of resting everything on one person. Hillary Clinton is, they hope, going to overcome the evident failures of the Obama administration and the manifest deficiencies of contemporary liberalism. Expectations for her are high. She won’t fulfill them.
The 2016 presidential election is unlikely to produce the drama or the heroism of the 2014 World Series. What Yogi Berra said of baseball is usually true of politics: “It ain’t like football. You can’t make up no trick plays.” Conservatives needn’t and shouldn’t rest their presidential hopes on either brilliant trickery or extraordinary mastery. Neither is likely. The good news is neither is necessary for a victory.
October baseball notebook.7:38 PM, Oct 29, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Gregg Ritchie, head coach at George Washington University, says that the Royals have more of their game-changers going into tonight’s game than the Giants do. With pitching, as my former GW teammate explains, the two clubs are basically even. Royals’ starter Jeremy Guthrie and his Giants counterpart Tim Hudson are pretty similar—right-handers whose top velocity is 90-92 mph, and who, as Ritchie says, change speeds up and down, making them plus-and-minus pitchers, rather than power pitchers.
October baseball notebook.5:34 PM, Oct 29, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
The fact that the Royals and the Giants have pushed the World Series to a game seven is evidence the two clubs are very evenly matched. Even tonight’s probable starters, Tim Hudson for the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals, are similar style pitchers. Top velocity for both is around 90-92 miles per hour. They’re not power pitchers, but plus-and-minus pitchers, meaning they change speeds, up and down, to keep hitters off balance.
October baseball notebook.7:23 PM, Oct 28, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Last week Gregg Ritchie, head baseball coach at George Washington University, was talking about what happens when a baseball team strikes out more than seven times in a game. The more you whiff the less chance you have of winning, explained Ritchie. Sunday night’s game showed just how accurate that theory is: The Royals struck out eight times against Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner, meaning that for nearly three full innings the Royals failed to put the ball in play and force the Giants to make plays. “You have to make your own chances against a front-line pitcher like Bumgarner,” says Ritchie. And when you don’t, chances are that you’ll lose.
October baseball notebook.4:15 PM, Oct 24, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Now with the Royals tying the World Series Wednesday night 1-1, things are really getting hot: Two San Francisco radio stations have removed the song “Royals” from their play lists.
October baseball notebook.12:10 PM, Oct 21, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
With the World Series opening tonight in Kansas City, the Giants are no doubt feeling their oats. They’re coming off of a three-homerun performance in their game five win over the St. Louis Cardinals, which landed them their third World Series appearance in five years. However, the Giants should be wary, for power is a fickle friend.
2:40 PM, Oct 17, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Don’t be surprised if the Giants-Royals World Series is decided by 90 feet. After all, baseball is a series of contests for 90 feet—the distance from home to first, first to second, second to third, and third to home again. The two teams are bidding for the same property for nine innings, both when they’re at bat and in the field.
Oct 27, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 07 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Baseball heals. That’s the only way The Scrapbook can explain Keith Olbermann’s transformation. How else did Bush Derangement Syndrome’s patient zero wind up complimenting the 43rd president? After nearly a decade of insulting George W. Bush, Olbermann now says he’s a fan. Actually his praise was more specific. The onetime MSNBC commentator wasn’t recanting all his nastiness—he was just saying, as a baseball guy, that Bush knows his baseball, too.
The Kansas City Royals are not a team of destiny—they just execute team fundamentals.
4:14 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
The Kansas City Royals are hot. With eight straight wins in the postseason, the Royals have the air of a team of destiny. The reality of course is much less magical. The Kansas City club moved on to the World Series for the first time in 29 years not because of divine intervention but because they’re executing team fundamentals. They’re playing superior baseball. The Royals’ 2-1 victory Tuesday night was made possible by twice scoring runners from third with less than two outs. Last night’s 2-1 clincher was won in the first inning with a sacrifice bunt and a grounder to the right side of the infield.
Joseph Epstein; a fan's notes.Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By JOSEPH EPSTEIN
Sometime in mid-February, after the long winter, baseball fans are delighted to read, usually over a two-paragraph-long story buried beneath the fold in the sports pages, the tag line Pitchers and Catchers Report. They are reporting, of course, to spring training two or three weeks ahead of the rest of their teams, and the announcement bodes the first news of the lengthy and leisurely baseball season ahead.
Just like Yaz in '67.2:23 PM, Sep 29, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The Washington Nationals ended their regular season in spectacular fashion when 28-year-old ace Jordan Zimmerman pitched a no-hitter Sunday night. Even the final out wasn't without drama. Left fielder Stephen Souza made a miraculous diving catch on a pop fly to the outfield that secured Zimmerman's landmark game. Watch the video below:
Aug 11, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 45 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Maybe you won’t be surprised to hear that The Scrapbook wishes Keith Olbermann had never gotten into political commentary. But don’t misunderstand: The problem isn’t his terminal case of Bush Derangement Syndrome, or his feud with Bill O’Reilly, or his unintentionally hilarious and pompous policy pretensions. No, it’s that he took way too much time away from sports journalism, at which he excels, especially when it comes to baseball.
Aug 11, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 45 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Keith Olbermann’s derisive reference to the “designated kraken” reminds The Scrapbook of a classic anti-designated-hitter article by Christopher Caldwell, published in these pages in April 1998. Longtime readers may yet remember it: “A DHuMB Idea at 25.” It’s still a great read, all these years later, whether you care about baseball or not. Indeed, even the pro-DH heretics out there might enjoy the panache with which Caldwell goes after them. Here’s a sample:
6:00 AM, Jul 4, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
For the last couple years, the boss has recommended a few important speeches on and about July 4 from Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Lou Gehrig. All are worth revisiting, but earning special mention this year is Gehrig's July 4 farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. On this day 75 years ago, the first basemen retired from the game he loved in front of the fans who loved him.