Monday, August 5, 2013

Good Old Bill Plaschke

So I wanted to find something stupid.  I don't know if I am just off my game, but it's harder to find outright stupid on ESPN.com these days, so I decided to read some of Bill Plaschke's latest screed. Here's a recent puff piece about a grindy old  white middle infielder!  I'll bet you didn't realize the greatness of a truly unsung Dodger hero: Mark Ellis.

As the sports world is learning with every jaw-dropping win, these suddenly delightful Dodgers are a team of many faces.
As opposed to the crosstown Angels, who are a team of ONE FACE.  And it's the face of Ernesto Frieri.
They include Yasiel Puig's giant look of wonder, Juan Uribe's impish grin, A.J. Ellis' grimace,Clayton Kershaw's scowl, and occasionally even Don Mattingly's smile.
That is a lot of faces.  The Dodgers sound like a bunch of manic depressives.  And if there's any word that describes Juan Uribe, a 33 year old man, it's impish.
Then there is The Stare. It's solid, expressionless, powerful in its confident calm, a constant in the Dodgers' dizzying array of emotion.
"Solid, expressionless, powerful in its confident calm". Woah!  That's a lot of adjectives. "Dizzying array".  I'm getting vertigo just reading this stuff. It sure sounds like these Dodgers need Mark Ellis to calm things down. He's the Zoloft of baseball players.
Dodgers fans know The Stare. They see it on Ellis from the moment he steps on to the field, as endemic to his appearance as the blue lettering across his chest.
Uniforms are endemic to players... until they take them off at the end of the game.  Unless maybe Mark Ellis has a Dodgers tattoo on his chest. It's all part of his confident calm.
 He stares at the hitter from the field, the pitcher from the plate, the game from the dugout, the giant season from his small spot.
Bill, thanks for illustrating for us readers.  It makes the baseball game come alive in our minds.  We can imagine where Mark Ellis stands!   Except for that last one: where exactly is this "small spot" that Mark Ellis is staring at the giant season?

Is Mark Ellis's spot any smaller than other players' spots?
It's also apparently really cute when Mark Ellis' 6-year-old son, Briggs, imitates it while playing tee ball in the middle of his living room.
"Yeah, he taps the bat on the ground and then goes into that look,'' said Ellis with a laugh. "I'm thinking, you know, he's really got it down."
"Oh, c'mon, sometimes I laugh at Puig and Uribe; the cameras just don't catch that,'' he said.
Guess not.

Even Mark seems to understand basic sampling.  If only Bill would learn that lesson.  
You could see The Stare in high definition Wednesday night in Toronto when Ellis calmly strolled to the plate in the 10th inning with no hits in his previous four at-bats to face a pitcher he had never seen.
Stare. Strike one. Stare. Strike two. Stare. Boom.

Bill is varying his sentence length, folks. That's a tip for you young writers out there!  The short sentences really heighten the drama.
Ellis launched a rocket off Juan Perez into the Rogers Centre second deck for a two-run, tiebreaking home run, then quickly rounded the bases as if hurrying back to work after a long lunch break. His teammates surrounded him in giddiness, but The Stare remained for another half-inning until the Dodgers had finished off an improbable 8-3 victory.
An excellent story. Except that Mark Ellis would never take a long lunch break, since he is busy working and staring and grinding.
"We still had work to do," Ellis said. "I have always been taught, this is only three hours of your life, and if you can't give it your full concentration for three hours, then maybe you should do something else."

I like the "maybe" in here, as though Ellis didn't want to offend anyone, like the guy with the fifth-most home runs in major league history, who doesn't have to give his full concentration even in the ninth inning of playoff games when there are bikini models in the stands.  He probably doesn't want to earn that guy's enmity.  Maybe he should do something else.  Actually, maybe he will!
Ellis, who is the oldest member of the regular lineup at age 36, did not start in Thursday's homecoming loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium because he was batting a career .091 against Reds starter Mat Latos.
Too bad, because the Dodgers are 37-23 when he starts, and that doesn't begin to measure his solid-as-South-Dakota impact on this year's team.
Oh man.  I don't even know where to start here.  Rather than recognizing that Ellis's .091 average is only 11 ABs, he mentions that the Dodgers have won a lot of games when he started.  It's the worst stat ever, and even major news outlets occasionally misuse it to a staggering extent.  
Also, what makes South Dakota more solid than any other state?  Mount Rushmore or something?  Is Mount Rushmore solider than the other mountains?  I bet Alaska is pretty darn solid.  Is he just looking for alliteration?  I guess South Dakota is a lot more solid than South Carolina.  Or the Susquehanna river.  Or San Francisco. 
Oh yeah, he learned The Stare while growing up in Rapid City, S.D., a place where the good people wear their stoicism like overcoats, a place where he didn't play high school baseball because it was too cold for a high school baseball season.
Oh, ok.  Mark Ellis is from South Dakota, where people are more morally solid than in South Carolina.  Well, I guess South Dakota's only institutional racism was against Native Americans, so that's half as many institutional racisms as South Carolina. And in South Carolina people can't wear their stoicism like overcoats, because they don't even need overcoats.
"That's the way we are up there, we never get too high or low,'' Ellis said. "Like those NFL players and those touchdown dances? We're not too high on that.''
Good old fashioned grinders. 
It is this attitude that helped Ellis endure an injury last season that nearly cost him his leg after he was hit by the St. Louis Cardinals' Tyler Greene while attempting to turn a double play. It is also an attitude that has helped him thrive this year in connecting when it counts.
Two bold stats: With a runner on third and fewer than two out, he is hitting .727 with 19 RBIs in 17 plate appearance. In tie games, he is .329 with three of his five home runs.
Last year, in 14 PA with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs, Mark Ellis scored a measly 36% of the runners.  His career number is 50%.  Sure makes his 2013 numbers seem like random variation rather than the results of The Stare.  Ostensibly, Mark Ellis has had The Stare since his boyhood in solid-old-South Dakota.  Maybe it only really takes effect and makes him clutch when  he is surrounded by a hysterical bunch of manic depressives.
"This game takes all kinds, and Mark is one of those kinds," said Mattingly, the Dodgers' manager. "He's solid … bread and butter … nothing flashy, just gets it done."
While the hitting stars such as Puig and Hanley Ramirez get the headlines, it is the guys paddling furiously below who have fueled this Dodgers uprising, guys such as the Ellis duo, Skip Schumaker,Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr.
Mark Ellis WAR: 1.9, AJ Ellis  WAR: 2.2, Skip Schumaker WAR: -0.4, Nick Punto WAR: 0.8, Jerry Hairston Jr. WAR 0.0.  I bet the "Ellis duo" feels like the just citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah who got lumped in with all the assholes and everyone went down together in a flaming destruction. 
OK, that analogy doesn't make a lot of sense.
The Stare symbolizes those guys. The Stare is what makes you think this hot streak can endure.
The Stare.  The Stare.  The Stare.  The Stare.  That's what makes you think the Dodgers will keep winning, not Clayton Kershaw's 1.87 ERA or Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig OPSing over 1 in over 200 PA.
Ellis eventually played Thursday, batting in the ninth inning, knocking a pinch single into right field against a zillion-mile-a-hour fastball from Aroldis Chapman. He was stranded on third base as the game ended, but at least he was there. He's pretty much always there.
Mark Ellis: always there.
"This is what we do, this is our job," Ellis said. "You just get it done."
That was a very meaningful insight, Mark Ellis.
Three hours, and one stare, at a time.
Two examples of Mark Ellis's late-game hits and a couple of misplaced stats and a facial expression.  BOOM.  Plaschke gold.  

5 comments:

Sir Happy Sac said...

Thanks for the free heads up on Plaschke. I always felt he was a moron on Around the Horn and this article didn't change my mind. Enjoyable read.

jacktotherack said...

How many sentence fragment columns do you suppose Plaschke has written over the years jacking off some sub-mediocre white middle infielder?? Fuck me, this was such a piece of shit. I almost punched myself in the face when Ellis made the "We aint too big on touchdown celebrations" comment.

dan-bob said...

Hey man! Let's be fair to Mark Ellis here: He DOES have the 34th highest career WAR of any active player!

Anonymous said...

It's not like Ellis would ever be hurrying back to work from lunch anyway, the sturdy lunchpail assures he can always be on site

Adam said...

If the grindy mostly white guys are fueling the Dodgers run, then why weren't the Dodgers, um, any good before Puig and Hanley?

Must be that they play hardest when it matters (clutch) or now the team has the right chemistry or something...