Buster Posey has never been one to give in willingly to his whimsical side. Well, publicly, anyway. Privately, he could be incredibly madcapzanywacky, but thats the problem its private.Thus, his winning the National League Most Valuable Player award is in keeping with his general persona. All the fun-filled arguing, finger-pointing, recriminations and irrational threats happened in the other league. Mike Trout, Defender Of The Logarithm, vs. Miguel Cabrera, Unwilling Proponent Of The Old School why, you can just feel the judgmental hate.Posey, on the other hand, won in something of a walk. He received 27 of 32 first place votes and was in the top three of all 32 ballots.BAGGARLY: Buster Posey honored with NL MVP AwardHe had all the math on his side, all the logic on his side, all the valuable on his side. To not vote for him to win the award required a localized stubbornness or a refusal to reconsider ones ballot after August 1.And whats the fun in that?Posey is already well on his way to being a Carlton FiskThurman Munson type of catcher. True, its early to extend his career and get there, although through age 25 Fisk and Posey are similar players. But personality-wise, he is an amalgam of the two flinty catching stars of the 70s and 80s. In short, he knows what he wants, he states fairly clearly what he wants, and he gets what he wants.And he says it, though in a way that makes you work to understand the meaning. To our knowledge, he still has yet to fully bygone the bygones with Scott Cousins, and he didnt mince a single syllable in discussing Melky Cabrera either. You want Posey, you get Posey, unalloyed.RELATED: Baggs' NL MVP ballotIn exchange for the freedom to have a personality when prudence suggests the mute button, he delivers everything the Giants want. Offense, pitcher wrangling, nucleus-of-the-franchise stuff. He is the teams gravitational center after only 3 12 years, and his total earned salary of 1.657 million is roughly one tenth of what he could legitimately ask for in his next contract discussion.And thats including the fact that he broke an ankle last year.But the lack of debate over his worthiness for the award due entirely to the fact that he had demonstrably the best year of all the candidates is so very Posey. None of his doing, we grant you, but entirely his idiom.It would have been more amusing had there been a more compelling reason to vote for Ryan Braun, or Yadier Molina, or Joey Votto. All had worthy years, but in rarefied air like an MVP vote, the worthiest get defined by a different standard. And at the risk of failing to bore you to tears with all the mathematical and metaphysical reasons why Posey was the best choice, just take our word for it. Posey won because he was that much more comprehensively better.Put another way, Posey deserved the AL Cy Young vote that was cast for Fernando Rodney. Thats how good a year he actually had.Put yet another way, he would have had a hell of a hypothetical case for AL MVP against either Trout or Cabrera.But he screwed up. He ended up in the wrong league, and is on the cusp of becoming the highest paid catcher not named Joe Mauer. Molina signed a five-year, 75M deal that kicks in next year, but Poseys next contract ought to shame that, at least a bit.And when he signs it, he will handle it in that understated yet subtly edgy way of his, as though he were too polite to say, Well, what did you expect to happen?In that way, he is so Fiskian, with hints of Munsonality. And he neither sees reason nor impulse to change. Who he is, is plenty good enough now, to the point where debate for debates sake is essentially pointless.Somewhere, Carlton Fisk doubtlessly nods with approval. And trust us, he doesnt nod easily.
The apparent cratering of the Draft Kings/Fan Duel phenomenon is largely a tale of greed gone wild, with coatings of arrogance and bullying through advertising, not to mention naked avarice, raw cupidity and what the Greeks used to call “pleonexia,” which is Greek for greed, avarice and cupidity.
It is a tale of what happens when you try to game a system that’s bigger than your own without cutting the people who run the bigger system in on the goods. It’s alleged wise guys finding out that it’s easier to skirt the law when you make the law. And it’s very definitely guys who got out over their skis trying to dominate a market that was doing fine on its own.
And hey, what’s better than smart guys getting theirs?
But there is actually a greater lesson in this for all of us, and it is this: Fantasy sports leagues are best left as small, interactive tribes whose competitors see each other, talk with each other, exchange money with each other and socialize (re: drink beer) with each other. The phenomenon began as an entirely holistic and communal idea in the 1960s in Oakland surrounding the still-larval American Football League, and grew on the ground level in other sports, in bars, rec rooms, bars, office break rooms, bars, vacations, bars, taverns, and ultimately, bars.
It was a way for friends to gather and ignore the bigger issues of living (like, say, families, which are far too time consuming, expensive and always end up with the parents battling desperately for a tie in a game once it becomes clear that they cannot win).
It was not meant to be mass-produced, let alone dominated by the guy with the best algorithms. That’s not sports, that’s math, and when was the last time you said, “Honey, I’m going out. Some math teachers are getting together to raise a little hell, and I don’t want to miss it”?
So never mind the “The DraftDuelers and FanKings tried to pull a fast one” angle, even though they did. Ignore the “They got too big and too grabby too fast” narrative, even though they did that, too.
What happened here was a perverse monetization of something that didn’t actually need improving or enlarging, because it was perfectly good the way it was. And perverse monetization is the path to perdition, I think we can all agree.
The fantasy industry also made a fatal error by trying to say for legal reasons that it wasn’t gambling, which it clearly was – except in one very granular way that nobody ever addresses.
Gambling, as in finding a bookie who will let you bet on games in any manner of exotic fashions, is meant to be a solitary pursuit left best for quiet brooders. If you have Seattle plus the 1½ when everyone else is bitching about the evils of a 6-6 overtime tie, you quietly accept your incredible good fortune and start to handicap Broncos-Texans, which you probably lost.
Fantasy sports, on the other hand, are meant to be shared, but only with those in your particular fantasy league as opposed to all other people, who do not give a steaming chalky damn about your made-up aggregation of athletes and actively hate you for breaching their worlds with your relentless yammering about your alternate-universe imaginings.
Put another way, people who tell you about their fantasy teams are people who need to be taken into the desert and abandoned. And people who commit these crimes should be allowed to avoid hypothermia, dehydration and coyote dinner only by making regular offerings of alcohol and foodstuffs to those whose peace and quiet they have thoughtlessly breached.
And the industrialization of fantasy sports was the last frontier of that obnoxio-hateful social development. It used commercial television to beat us all to death with something only a few of us cared about, and it reminded us that our culture loathes two things above all others – people trying to pull a fast one, and people telling us repeatedly about things we’re not remotely interested in hearing.
In other words, even if you were planning to be saddened by the collapse of the first wave of industrialized fantasy sports, don’t. They were people trying to cut themselves in on action that wasn’t theirs, and make a national phenomenon out of a social development best confined to a single room with six-to-20 people, all of whom had the good sense to bring wine and snacks.
I mean, seriously. Why would you want to screw with that setup?
You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:
“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”
You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.
But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.
And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.
And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.
In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.
That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.
They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.
And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”
That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.
They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.
It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.
And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.
Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.