Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Starting to like this Manuel Fellow

A strain that runs through much of the dimmer writing on baseball involves extolling the virtues managers who get thrown out of games, and I reluctantly join this chorus in saying that I have come to appreciate Manuel’s tendency to get tossed. I will not go as far as to say that I fault Willie Randolph for not getting thrown out of games—Willie Randolph was a reasonable man, a quality making him nearly completely unique in all of organized baseball, and understood that no greater good would be served by getting ejected. There was a lot to applaud in the understanding, implicit in Randolph’s interaction with the officials, that managerial theatrics ought to be irrelevant to the game’s outcome; something calming and dignified in his acknowledgment that the skill of pitchers and batters would determine the winner, weather Randolph watched from the clubhouse or the dugout.

To use a bad word, Manuel’s interactions with the umpires are somewhat post-modern. Manuel, I think, also knows that his getting ejected is irrelevant, and thus, to him, there is no reason not to have a good time hollering at the umpires until he gets tossed. In the finale against the Philles, after the umpires made an abysmal call on a home run, Manuel kept turning back to get last word in, long after he had been thrown out of the game-- at this point everything was irrelevant: the call had been made and Manuel had been banished, but Manuel stayed on the field, reminding us all that there is something pleasant about a man who yells against injustice, even when the yelling can be shown to have no imaginable effect.

Manuel is a self professed admirer of Gandhi, and I would like to ask him how he thinks Gandhi would handle a blown home-run call in a baseball game he was managing. I suspect that Manuel would reply that Gandhi would understand that there is a difference between the struggle for survival and freedom and the struggle of a baseball game, and that the latter exists largely as a venue for childish rages and frustrations; and that, if he were for some reason managing a baseball team, Gandhi very well might choose to scream at the umpires and use bad language and get ejected.

1 comment:

nigel fowler said...

Excellent point, Sam from Queens.

If baseball is to distinguish itself from a Japanese Noh play, or Cricket, it surely must do so in the realm of extra-athletics and added emotions. A game of baseball that does not actually begin with heightened emotions might as well be a game of Chess.

Additional thought: At the end of the day Gandhi strategically knew that he had gained the sympathies of the Raj, otherwise who knows whether or not be might have, like Manuel against the umpires, screamed and profaned and been tossed out.