Politics Ain't Baseball, But Politicians Are Full of Bullshit When They Talk About Baseball


Politics and sports, especially baseball, don't mix. Just ask President Obama, who can neither toss a ball a mere 60 feet, 6 inches nor name any players of his supposedly favorite team.

The sad-sack intersection of horsehide and horse's asses typically presents itself as a comic variation of Pete Rose barreling through Ray Fosse (read the true story about that less-than-apocalyptic crack-up, btw). Consider just briefly the idiotic nature of a 2005 congressional committee, its bench groaning under the combined weight of splinter-pickers who themselves were doubtless on 50 different sorts of magic pills just to get through their next trip to the bathroom, grilling slugger and one-time Viagra pitchman Rafael Palmeiro about whether he'd ever used performance-enhancing drugs. That Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame stats belie his absolute lack of impact on the game, lied about not using steroids is secondary to the point that Congress should not concern itself at all with baseball's internal workings. If Congress wants to get into the urine-collection business, well, that's what interns are for.

Fast forward to the Ohio governor's race, where Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland and Republican challenger John Kasich are sucking wind like Ernie The Shnozz Lombardi ambulating to first base with Greg Luzinski and Harmon Killebrew on his back. Each was asked by the Columbus Dispatch to name the greatest baseball player of all time.

Strickland picked Cal Ripken, Jr. and Kasich made the call for "Roberto Clemente, hands down." Take it away, Craig Calcaterra:

I'd let it go if I didn't suspect that something other than baseball ignorance was afoot. No, I smell calculation. I smell Strickland trying to message the concept of perseverance, of keeping going no matter what faces you in the Ripken choice, thinking that it's a smart move for a guy trying to keep his job despite a budget crunch and the state's economy being in the toilet.  I smell Kasich going with Clemente as a means of messaging "charity" and—maybe—diversity, which would be useful for a guy who needs to move a bit towards the middle in order to secure the election….

I've met and talked to both Kasich and Strickland and I find it hard to believe that if you asked them point blank, either of them would say Ripken or Clemente. Even if they were total baseball ignoramuses I'd figure they'd say Babe Ruth or Willie Mays or something because—setting aside the fact that those would both be great answers—they're way more well-known names.  Ignorance actually helps you with this question! And if they know a little about baseball then they know that the answers they actually gave are dumb.

And you know what else? Even if this is political calculation, it's dumb political calculation!  Kasich is a Republican, and Republicans have a hard damn time getting votes in northeast Ohio. Go with Bob Feller or Rocky Colaovito! They're just as bad an answer as Clemente, but at least there's a percentage in it! People in Cleveland hate Pittsburgh! Likewise for Strickland, who will be hard pressed to get votes in southwest Ohio: Go with Pete Rose! They love Pete down there! You might push someone into voting for you!  If you're going to be political animal at least do it right!

More here.

Just limiting ourselves to the 21st century, we have with all the justification in this world and the next given up on our politicians as being anything other than glad-handing, self-interested fools who will do their best to screw us more than Margo Adams during a Wade Boggs hitting streak. As Calcaterra's reaction underscores, we are reduced to only one last, final illusion: That they might at least be good at it.

NEXT: You've Changed, Man

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  1. Ty Cobb

    1. Same as my vote. That should be the automatic Libertarian answer to greatest baseball player of all time too.

      Roberto Clemente was not a bad choice by the Republican.

      1. The correct libertarian answer is Curt Flood.

        1. The irony of course that he did not win his case, but apparently influenced the next case settled by arbitration.

          1. And the further irony is…the owners were right about free agency destroying the competitive balance of baseball.

            30 teams owned by Steinbrenners would be great for baseball. But one of them is terrible for it.

    2. Chico Escuela.

    3. What’s wrong with a politician just saying, “I have no idea.”? They never do, and they always get in trouble by speaking and exposing their ignorance.

    4. Ty Cobb

      Note: It is fitting that the best player of the worst sport ever conceived is a full blown racist.

      Fuck Baseball.

      1. We are talking baseball, not golf.

  2. Imma let you finish, but I am the greatest baseball player of all time. OF ALL TIME!

  3. Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn is the only answer any politician should give.

    At least any one that wanted my vote.

    As for actually liking baseball, they can go have a circle jerk with George Will.

  4. Clemente might be a good answer for getting votes in eastern OH. Cleveland is a 2 hour drive from Pittsburgh, and Youngstown is half that.

    1. Looks like someone solved the puzzle.

    2. As we all know, Cleveland and Pittsburgh just love each other’s sports teams. It would have been interesting if he’d said Hines Ward was his favorite football player.

      Seriously though, how the heck can neither of them pick a Reds or Indians player? Pete Rose or Bob Feller would have been plausible answers, at least.

  5. It’s Craig Calcaterra, not Greg.

  6. Strickland picked Cal Riplen, Jr.

    And you criticize Obama for his lack of baseball knowledge.

    1. Hey! Riplen, Jr. was every bit as important to the game as Mortimer Brown or Jackie Robertson.

  7. 1B – Lou Gehrig – nobody’s close.
    2B – Rogers Hornsby or Charlie Gehringer.
    SS – The old and the new – tie between Honus Wagner and A-Rod.
    3B – George Brett
    LF – Ted Williams
    CF – Ty Cobb
    RF – The Babe
    LHP – Lefty Grove
    RHP – Walter Johnson
    RP – Dennis Eckersly

    1. Oh yeah, Billy Martin has got to manage this crew. 😉

    2. C- Yogi Berra

      … Hobbit

    3. I notice that there are no black players on your list and only one Hispanic.

      Seriously, how do you keep Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson off the list?

      1. I notice that you forgot to mention Asians Tulpa. And Women. And Robots.

        Love that you went there though.

        1. There haven’t been many Asian players in US baseball, historically speaking. And you’re obviously joking about the other categories.

          How each of Ty Cobb and Ted Williams beat Willie Mays is beyond me, that’s for sure.

          1. You haven’t turned on a tv in the past 20 years.

            1. My TV gets terrible reception on every channel except Spice, so you can’t blame me.

            2. If this is intended seriously, yes, there have been some outstanding Asian players in US baseball in recent times. Not nearly enough to have a good shot at breaking into the all-time starting lineup, though. Ichiro is amazing but he’s not THAT amazing.

          2. Who’s kidding about robots? Wireless Joe Jackson was a blern-hitting machine.

            1. Ya see, does any other sport inspire the sanctimoniousness that baseball does? Thank you Hugh, for putting this all in the proper perspective.

              1. I’m jus’ doin’ my part ji.

          3. Williams is the best hitter of all time, so I can’t fault anyone for including him. I would have gone for any combination of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Joe DiMaggio over either him or Cobb for all around player, though. Ken Griffey is another guy that should get some consideration…his last injured years nonwithstanding.

      2. No Hank Aaron?

      3. My list wouldn’t be a lot different. It’s a very good one as these go (especially with Lefty Grove in there).

        Two black players I might replace would be at 2B and LF with Joe Morgan and Barry Bonds (might beat Williams with defense and baserunning). Mays would not be my center fielder. In that case I think Cobb or Mantle are indeed the correct choice. I’d also replace Brett with Schmidt, but he’s not black.

        Wrongly, of course, black players were excluded from competing against the game’s best for many, many years so it really is impossible to know precisely where Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston or Martin Dihigo might have measured up. They were great, but then so were Mickey Cochrane and Tris Speaker and they aren’t on the list either.

    4. Also, only 2.5 out of the 11 played after 1950, and one of the positions didn’t even exist before the 1960s (RP). The good old days weren’t quite that good, what with the talent dilution produced by the color barrier, balls bouncing into the stands being called home runs instead of doubles, and lack of relief pitching all contributing to inflate hitting stats.

    5. 1B-Lou Gehrig
      2B-Rogers Hornsby
      SS-Alex Rodriguez
      3B-Mike Schmidt
      OF-Babe Ruth
      OF-Willie Mays
      OF-Ty Cobb
      C-Johnny Bench
      LHP-Lefty Grove
      RHP-Cy Young
      RP-Mariano Rivera

      1. Forget individual pitchers, list an entire five-man rotation:

        Nolan Ryan
        Sandy Koufax
        Cy Young
        Bob Feller
        Walter Johnson

        The rest are fair, but I would argue:

        If you put A-Rod at third ahead of Mike Schmidt you could give consideration to some other great shortstops like Cal Ripken, Ernie Banks, or Ozzie Smith.

        Ty Cobb Barry Bonds
        (I don’t care what people say about steroids, they’re not the reason you hit .340 and have more homeruns than strikeouts)

  8. By the time his career is over, Albert Pujols will be on this list

    1. What, the All-Roids Team?

      1. And I don’t see him beating Gehrig anyway…

      2. No ‘roids in Bert, baby. He’s just a big boy.

  9. Obama has not learned the art of the pitch.

    /Oscar Gamble and Rollie Fingers

  10. I was not aware that Bill the Butcher played for the Indians.

  11. Whoa. A Reason blog post on a Sunday.

    1. Ain’t no blue laws in Internetia, boy!

  12. well, that’s what interns are for

    I’m suddenly reconsidering ever applying for an internship at Reason.

    1. Reason intern was the worst job anywhere when Weigel was here.

      1. Yeah, having to apply make-up to two faces must have been a bitch.

  13. I thought it was Matt Welch who was gaving the gay romance with George Will. I’m confused …

    1. Giving, taking, top, bottom, just details after prop 8 is overturned.

  14. You’re all winners!

  15. God, no, please do not let “message” become a verb in this sense. No. Absolutely just fucking NO.

    1. It’s an important issue that’s being studied. As soon as the committee reaches a consensus, we’ll message you back.

      1. There’s going to be pushback!

  16. Satchel Paige.

  17. Kevin Mitchell. He caught fly balls with his bare hand!!!11!!1

  18. These lists of “all time greatest” don’t make much sense when rules have been changed. As someone noted, balls hopping the fence were once considered homeruns. And some fields didn’t have fences, so balls hit sharply in the gap would become homeruns.

    At least three eras should be considered in selecting “best ofs”:
    Up to 1945, Baseball integration starting with Jackie R., and post 1968 when the pitcher’s mound was lowered to ten inches in order to cancel out some of the pitcher’s advantage.
    And probably the pre-WWII could be carved up too, into deadball eras, and etc.

  19. When Matt lets Nick write about baseball, does he get to wear The Jacket for a day? Or, is it like 5 minutes or something?

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  21. In your life, there will at least one time that you forget yourself for someone, asking for no result, no ownership nor love. Just ask for meeting you in my most beautiful years.

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