Monday, June 13, 2011

Watched: Kansas City Royals vs. Anaheim Angels

As I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to avoid the media-made narratives and just watch sports while creating the narratives for myself. So far it has been kind of nice watching games without the announcers mindless drivel (although I do find myself to be more easily distracted from the game when I watch without sound).

I watched most of the Royals three games against the Angels over the weekend, mainly to get a first glimpse of Mike Moustakas, who was called up prior to Friday's game. Mike started all three games at third base and had a pretty decent series, going 3-10 with three walks and hitting his first home run during Saturday's game. He did not commit any errors at third base over the weekend, although his arm seemed a little erratic and Eric Hosmer had to make a couple of nice plays at first to save an error for Moustakas.

My overall impression of him is (small sample size alert!) that he is patient at the plate - he seemed to go deep in the count almost every time (he saw 4.08 pitches per plate appearance) - and when he finds a pitch that he likes, he swings hard and when he connects, hits it with authority. He was fooled by a couple of good breaking balls, but that is expected out of a 22 year old rookie. I think he'll end up being a guy that hits for a lot of power, gets on base at an above average level, but probably strikes out quite a bit and never hits for a high average. I don't think he's quite at the Mark Reynolds level, as far as that goes, but maybe Adam Dunn. His defense should be adequate, although I can see him bulking up as he gets older and becoming less mobile, killing his range. For the immediate future, though, he looks to be a very nice complement to Eric Hosmer in the middle of the Royals lineup.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sports Narratives

I am almost certainly the worst-disciplined blogger in the history of the internet. When will I learn that making a statement about a post that I am going to write in the future almost ensures that I will never write it? It's a good thing that no one reads this blog or else I'd owe an apology for never giving my reasons to watch the American League this year (let's see, Adrian Gonzalez finally in a hitter's park, can Bautista have another great year, the first wave of Royals prospects... that about covers it, right?).

Anyway, I've been watching a lot of basketball lately. We are in the middle of the NBA Finals and there have been some great storylines with LeBron/Wade/Bosh for the Heat and Dirk's incredible run through these playoffs. The thing that strikes me, though, is how quickly the narrative has changed over the course of this series. I read a lot of sports blogs (The Big Lead is a favorite) along with mainstream media sites (like ESPN, Yahoo and SI) and it seems like each game draws out different big picture conclusions. For example, after the Heat easily won the first game, the narrative was that they would cruise to victory, but LeBron gets no vindication because he did it as second fiddle to Wade. My first reaction to this was that people were really reaching for a way to hate LeBron. But then the Heat lost the second game and suddenly the narrative changed - the Heat suddenly weren't sure things to win it all anymore. Then they won game 3 and it changed back and so forth.

Now, it is natural for the blogs and the mainstream sites to read too much into small samples - it makes for a much better story if every game has an importance outside of the win or loss. So I don't blame them, but I have started to wonder if this insistence on creating a narrative has altered the way that I watch the games. I find myself thinking about the things that I've read as I watch the games - does LeBron defer too much in the fourth quarter? When the going gets tough does LeBron quit on his team (as some claimed after Game 4)? I found myself watching for these things, but then wondering to myself if I would have even considered those storylines if I was just watching the games and not reading other people's analysis.

I think back to the pre-internet days and I think that narratives were still created by sportswriters, but, without the immediacy of the internet, the stories were allowed to breath, to find life over time. It's hard to remember if reading the sportspage informed my thought process while watching the next night's game. Then I wonder if these narratives enhance my enjoyment of sports. Would I be better off without all the extraneous analysis? Without them, perhaps I could focus on the game and develop my own narrative based on what I am seeing, instead of looking for evidence to support or refute the narratives that I read elsewhere.

I don't know what the answer is, but I'm going to give it a shot. I'm going to stop reading blogs (sorry, TBL) and other analysis and I'm going to watch games with the sound off and let my eyes tell me the story. There will be exceptions, of course. I'll have to do some reading for news and I may have to turn the sound on for injury reports or other news-like information. But I am going to try and avoid analysis as much as possible. We'll see how long I last and if my sports-watching experience is altered for better or worse.


Speaking of watching a game - I am currently watching the Royals play the Angels. I've watched more Royals games this year than I have in several years, partly because I didn't buy the Extra Innings package this year, so some nights the Royals are my only baseball option, but also because they are becoming a fun team to watch with all the young players making their debuts this season. Tonight is the major league debut of Mike Moustakas (Moose Tacos), a power hitting third baseman. So far he has flown out to the opposite field (left) and walked. In the field he has only had one opportunity that I can recall (I've been writing the paragraphs above throughout the first five innings) where he handled a popup behind third base in foul territory without incident. And (not to turn this into a live-blog) he just fielded a groundball and threw a bit wide to first, but Eric Hosmer was able to adjust and save Moose from making his first error.