Wednesday, June 2, 2010

UPDATE: Irony Correctly Identified by Sportswriter!

Irony in its many forms has become a subject for Larry B and Jack M's ire. There are literally sixteen posts which are labeled with some form of "irony". (Note: this does not mean that there are literally sixteen posts which are labeled ironically: I suspect that at least 500 of our 1,098 posts are labeled ironically.) Several of them are celebrations of sportswriters' own ignorance, which causes a form of dramatic irony where the reader knows more than the sportswriter, in much the same way that an audience just wants to tell poor Othello about Iago's treachery. Too bad the writers' ignorace doesn't lead them to a similar tragic end. Perhaps, in some way, blogs like this one aim to restore harmony between writers and readers by exposing the writers' own ignorance, much as an audience might want to save the Moor by exposing his lieutenant in Act II.


You may have heard - on Monday night, the Dodgers beat the D-backs on a game-ending balk call. The situation was a little unorthodox. Earlier in the inning, James Loney had walked and advanced to second on Casey Blake's single - but was thrown out when he slipped while foolishly trying to advance to third. He thought he had killed a rally. Blake eventually worked his way to third and scored while distracting the D-backs' reliever, Esmerling Vasquez and causing a balk.

After the game, star reporter Evan Drellich's column seems to have correctly used this contentious term:

For Loney, there was redemption knowing that the team won. And there was a little irony, too: Blake said he would not have tried to distract Vasquez with less than two outs.

In this case, I think it makes sense. Simply and naively defined, irony exists the separation between what's usually expected to occur and what actually occurs; or, verbally speaking, between what words are expected to mean in their literal sense and what they actually mean in the context they're used. That's mainstream sarcasm because the intended meaning of words doesn't correspond with the literal spoken meaning. The intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning.

In this case, Loney appreciates the irony because he thought his gaffe would have decreased his team's probability of winning. Consult:

As it turns out, Mr. Loney was quite right - the win probability chart above suggests that he decreased his team's chance of winning by nearly 20% with his stupid baserunning. Doubtless, in that case, it's better to play a little bit conservatively on the basepaths: there's no way that advancing to third would have raised the win probability by the corresponding amount.

Now the larger irony rests on Blake's statement - that, actually, Loney indirectly increased the win probability through his blunder - since Blake wouldn't have tried to distract Vasquez otherwise. If we take Blake's statement at face value, this is a textbook case of situational irony.

I feel like calling shenanigans on Casey Blake, though [postgame interview video here]. It's a pretty strong statement that you have absolutely no confidence in the batter if you're resorting to fake steals of home to try to get the picther to balk. Blake DeWitt, you got shamed.


Chris W said...

my head hurts

Dylan Murphy said...

Agreed. Too much thinking involved here.

Biggus Rickus said...

So what you're saying is: Ironically, a sports writer used irony correctly.

dan-bob said...


Adam said...

I was actually really surprised watching the video that it did seem like Blake forced the pitcher into a balk. I hate the whole notion of runners like Juan Pierre being valuable because they "distract the pitcher", but it actually worked here.

Elliot said...

If Blake forced the pitcher into a balk, then the really, truly ironic aspect of this story is that a common definition of a balk is an act of the pitcher to deceive the runner.