“They Think You’re Supposed to Win Running Away”

The Yardbarker headline says, "Dusty Baker blames surprising source for retirement." Then, citing his interview with The Steam Room podcast hosts Ernie Johnson and Charles Barkley, they note the "surprising source" is "bloggers and tweeters" Baker deemed unfair. Baker is not necessarily wrong.

"We had a lot of success here, Ernie and Charles, and then the last couple of months here weren't very pleasant, because we weren't 10 games ahead," Baker said of his Astros, whom he managed to a seventh American League Championship Series game this year and in pan-damn-ic short 2020, plus a 2021 World Series loss in six, but a 2022 World Series ring, also in six.

"You spoil people. They think you're supposed to win this every year running away and it's not like that. Every year's different.

"There was a whole bunch of criticism from 30-year-olds and bloggers and tweeters that I'm not doing this and I don't know that, and I told my wife, 'You know, I'm kind of tired of this and tired of the scrutiny and if I could go manage and show up at say 6:30 for a 7 o'clock game and leave 30 minutes after the game, don't do the (pregame and postgame interviews), I could manage for another four or five years.' You know what I mean? After a while, you just get tired of answering questions."

God and His servant Casey Stengel only know success can soil and spoil. In certain ways, the 74-year-old Baker and his Astros were actually fortunate. Their run of sustained success is comparatively recent. Astro fans actually have time to reconsider, reflect, and remind themselves that sustained success may not always live long. Their own franchise history might be a fine place to start.

They might look to those longtime American League ogres who carried slightly more than half a century worth of pennants and slightly more than a quarter century worth of World Series titles into the current century. Yankee fans are nothing if not spoiled rotten enough to believe a) the World Series is illegitimate without the Yankees in it; and, b) they are as entitled to Yankee success as the Yankees themselves.

They might look to the National League West owners, too. Those Dodgers who've won ten of the past eleven NL West races, including eight straight before 2021 and the past two consecutive, and who had considerable success in the second half of the 20th Century. Starting with winning six pennants (including two pair of back-to-back flags) and Brooklyn's only World Series in 11 years; continuing with four pennants and three World Series rings within their first nine years in Los Angeles.

Dodger fans are almost as spoiled as Yankee fans these days. And, almost as frustrated. They may not yet think a World Series is illegitimate without the Dodgers in it, but they can't fathom any more than the team itself how the Dodgers could win ten of eleven NL West titles with only one pennant and Series ring to show for it.

If Baker (once a Dodger player himself) thinks bloggers and tweeters were rough on his Astros this year, he may not have seen how rough they were on the Yankees and the Dodgers. That roughness almost makes any hammerings on the Astros for not running away with the AL West this year seem like love taps.

Baker also may not have seen how much rougher than that were lots of blogging and tweeting fans of other teams upon whom atomic expectations fell at the season's beginning but upon whom atomic deflations fell almost as fast. Met fans of the past several years have come to believe a season lost upon one bad inning — in April, never mind when big moves became big falls.

Don't get me started on Cub and Red Sox fans, even if the former finally broke its long World Series drought almost eight years ago and the latter have more World Series rings this century (four) than anyone else. Or Cardinal fans, priding themselves as the best in the game but guilty of unnecessary roughness when the Redbirds finished at the bottom of the weak-enough NL Central this year after a decade of nine first or second place finishes in eleven seasons. Or Braves fans, respoiled by recent success after the comparative drought following that protracted NL East ownership of the 1990s-early 2000s.

Baseball is about rooting and caring, but too many fans take protracted defeat and failed high expectations personally. There may never again be the Yankees' 20th Century dominance. God willing, the Yankees today won't succumb to the temptation too many of their fans still ask: what would George do? More fan bases than just the Yankees' base see lack of success and wish their teams had that kind of owner. Not so fast, folks.

There may take several if not many years before the next small dynasty comes out to play. Nobody guarantees that a solid club of Rangers who just won the World Series in five thrilling games can do it again, and again, and again, consecutively or at least consistently. Nobody guarantees the Astros' success run will continue indefinitely.

The advent of the blogosphere and social media makes fan frustration seem about a thousand times more intense than when all we had was the morning paper, the evening news sports reports, and assorted retrospective books by which to go. Interviewers asking foolish or even stupid questions didn't begin with Xtwitter.

Brutal fan attacks didn't end with the letters to the editor sections. Death threats, even, didn't end when Roger Maris (single season) and Hall of Famer Henry Aaron (career) finished knocking the Sacred Babe to one side in the arguable two most hallowed pages of the record books.

Baker's hardly the only manager who ever got fed up with the witless who come forth worse than whatever mis-step they're criticising. He may be the first to retire over it. Some of us think we should consider ourselves fortunate if certain players don't retire when the social media universe attacks them without knowing the possible wherefores behind what they're attacking.

Questioning mediocrity is one thing. But when once-glittering star players decline when they're not exactly old men just yet, the social mediaverse seems to prefer hammering first and asking questions later. Even when it sees those players among the walking wounded on the injured list, the social mediaverse is only too prepared to dismiss them as fragile goldbricks still.

Go ahead and say Baker finally couldn't stand the heat so he walked out of the kitchen at last, if it makes you feel good. But ask yourselves, honestly, how many of you would really be willing to go to work when it's before five-figure audiences in a ballpark and seven-figure audiences watching television, listening to radio, watching online, Xtweeting as they watch, or all the above.

That's what I thought.

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