Home > MLB, Penguins > Quick Thoughts on the Pens, and Baseball Snobbery

Quick Thoughts on the Pens, and Baseball Snobbery

It’s worth noting that the Penguins have won five consecutive games. All of these wins have come without Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy (two of their top three goal scorers last season), and some of them without Zbynek Michalek (arguably their best shutdown defenseman). Last night’s game saw the Pens battle back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to win the game in a shootout. This is significant for two reasons. 1) They scored the game-tying goal on the power play, and the goal was scored by James Neal – these are two things that pretty much didn’t happen at all last season. 2) This was the first game the Pens won when trailing in the third period since April of 2010: Game six – the deciding game – of their first-round playoff series against the Senators.

Aside from that it was business as usual. “Business as usual” these days includes winning well over 50% of faceoffs, timely and spectacular goaltending from whomever is in net, and a suffocating penalty-killing unit that is on pace to allow somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 to 8 goals against this season.

Crosby looms. This team is scary.

****

People are in hysterics over last night’s baseball game, and for good reason. It was a fairly absurd game from top to bottom. Through six innings there was talk of it being the worst played baseball game in the history of the sport. Five innings and twelve hours later grown men are still shaking over its greatness.

There are limitless writers with a deep history and understanding of baseball, and those are the people to read about a night like last night (with Joe Posnanski, as usual, making it seem incredibly easy). I feel somewhat foolish attempting to wade into these waters, but there is a common thread being pulled from last night’s contest that I find more than a little overbearing and annoying.

Jonah Keri – in this fairly insufferable article on Grantland – makes bold mention of the notion that baseball is deeply special because it is played with outs and not a clock, and therefore a team always has a chance as long as it has outs. I have heard this from numerous other places (the Posnanski article mentions it as well, and I saw at least half a dozen tweets last night echoing the same sentiment) and it is almost always presented as a way to argue that baseball is better than every other sport (except for cricket, I guess).

Baseball wonks have this idea that their game is the purest game because of this structure. A team is always able to win for as long as they have outs. Even if it is down by eight in the bottom of the ninth, a team has a chance to win.

This is great, I agree. This is definitely what makes baseball special. The drama of a close baseball game in the bottom of the ninth – or extra innings – is difficult to match, and no other sport features late-game drama as frequently as baseball. But clearly there is something special with games played by the clock. Timed games feature their own strategies, their own situational nuances that separate great coaches from good coaches and great players from good players. Football particularly thrives on this. Most of the greatest moments in the history of football have been wrought only because the clock forced the drama. Dwight Clark’s “The Catch,” John Elway’s “The Drive,” Kordell Steward to Michael Westbrook: none of these iconic moments ever occurs if not for the time limits of football. Santonio Holmes’ touchdown catch in Super Bowl XLVI –  possibly the greatest sports-watching moment of my life – never happens if not for time expiring.

I don’t want to be a killjoy. I loved every second of what I watched last night. I’ll never forget it. Before last night David Freese is a name that me and millions of other people could not give to shits about. Now David Freese is a name that I will always remember. There is something undeniably cool about that. But just because baseball is the only major American sport that is not bound by time limits doesn’t make it better than every other sport.

Maybe once the excitement wears down we’ll all come back to earth. Hopefully that doesn’t happen until tomorrow. Game seven is tonight, and I hope the hysteria continues.

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