Nationals Baseball: I would have been rooting for the Cards all along

Monday, October 31, 2011

I would have been rooting for the Cards all along

If I knew this was the end result.

Here's a Monday Philosophical Question for you folks.  What is the obsesssion with "going out on top"?  Like why is that such a good thing? I've thought about it and I can't wrap my head around it.

I can see how some people would want to go out at a time of their choosing.  Me, personally, if I was doing something that I loved and was getting paid exorbitantly for doing it, my "chosen time" would be when they kicked my ass out, but that's me.  I get some people are prideful.  But you don't have to go out "on top" to go out on your own volition.  A couple years later when you are still good but can admit that it's gonna take a miracle for you to go out as a star again would still accomplish that.  Think Derek Jeter, if he left this year.

No, the only reason I can see for wanting to go out on top is if what other people thought of you was so important that you wanted to make sure everyone thought of you as only a winner.  (I can totally see that being true for Tony LaRussa by the way) Don't we teach our kids not to worry about what other people think?  That it only matters if you're happy?  Why the disconnect when it comes to entertainers, in this instance, sports figures?

This is a pet peeve of mine, along with back hair and dates who only talk about themselves. Nothing makes me madder than hearing some talk radio idiot spout off about how player X should retire because they are embarrassing themselves. Tell me how I'm wrong here.  Tell me how Willie Mays should have stopped playing before he wanted to because some schmo 40 years from now will somehow still be focused on a dropped flyball and not 660 home runs over 20+ years of a hall-of-fame career.

Clarification : I guess I went a little off the rails in the middle there - but the question is more about us than them.  I don't see Tony LaRussa's retirement as any better timed than say Whitey Herzog or Frank Robinsons. In fact it may be worse-timed if he still wanted to manage some more.  John Elway's isn't better than Joe Montana's.  Michael Jordan and Brett Favre didn't "ruin anything" by coming back. What's the counter argument?  Win me over.  It seems like a lot of people, I'd dare say the majority, feel the other way. 


Hoo said...

It's easier to go out on top, because you achieved what you set out to achieve.

If you're a player who's bankrolled a ton of dough and just won a world championship, then it makes the decision to step aside and not endure another training camp much easier. And now you get to go out a winner.

I think if you're close to making a decision to retire, then feeling satisfied with one more huge victory or performance makes it easier to retire. And then you have "the don't be a spectacle" viewpoint as represented in "For the Love of the Game."

Anonymous said...

I think anyone who loves the game should play it as long as he wants and someone is willing to pay, but once you start slipping, the amount of abuse you receive goes up quickly. Look at Pudge as an example. Makes it more tempting to go out on top for many, but certainly not all.

Harper said...

Hoo - OK. Well I get that. If you are close to retiring anyway and you have the opportunity - then sure. (I kind of guess I'm imagining the player that leaves early because he can go out on top - not necessarily because he wants to - think Brett Favre retirement #1) But I guess I'm most curious about the fan/media take on it. Why would we care so much. Why will LaRussa be praised for doing this, when a great manager who ends with a lousy few years might be seen in a bad light? Hell I understand why - we're projecting ourselves onto these people. But why are we all so complicent in it? Why does it seem like 90% of everyone goes along with this idea that really is almost the opposite of what we want our society to be like.

Harper said...

anon - a kind of cost benefit analysis for the player. Is the scorn worth it? That only extends as far as the player is being improperly utilized. We didn't hate Pudge for playing, we hated the Nats for playing Pudge everyday. Of course I guess with a star player (the only types we tend to look at this way) they are more likely to be used this way.

Mike said...

I think the appeal of going out on top is that, as an athlete or coach, the game you remember most after you're done is the last one. It's nice to have the last one be a World Series win instead of the 85th or 90th loss of a season.

Froggy said...

I think it is an individual thing but you know when it is time to move on. I also think it takes a lot of guts to retire no matter if you are 'on top' or not.

To your point about Herzog or Robinson, LaRussa knows that it is a fickle world in baseball, one day on top the next day traded to Miami. So he probably woke up yesterday and realized how lucky a position he was in: to retire on his terms. I mean what a storybook season, 10 games out at end of Aug, win the wild-card last game of the year, underdog team against Phillies and Brewers, game 6 ridiculous comeback, etc.

Why not leave as the only guy who gets to be the 2011 World Series winning manager?

Nattydread said...

Another angle: Consider why did Bill Wyman left the Rolling Stones. He didn't want to spend the next ten years of his life rehashing the same old songs on stage. He wanted to (and this is also what LaRussa says) "do something else".

Even for what a MLB manager gets paid -- 160 games, half of them on the road living out of hotel rooms -- gets old.

I take LaRussa at his word. If you're sane, doing something else has a good deal of appeal if you don't need the cash (But then Mick Jagger will NEVER get tired of playing the same old songs and getting his pick of the nightly backstage booty call).

Harper said...

Mike - I don't know about that. Granted I was never even close to a professional but I don't remember my last game above games when I performed well in anything I've done. I do think they'll remember that game - it is there career ender but there are going to be ones they remember more, I bet.

Froggym ND - since you answered after the clarification - I get what you guys are all saying. "I feel like I could retire - this is a good way to do it" makes sense. But that's not really what I'm asking. I'm asking why is it that we as an audience cares about this so much that we'll deify those that go out on top? (to the point where I do think it influences some retirements)

michael K said...

I'm with you that "going out on top" doesn't really appeal to me either, and that I'd rather decline somewhat and "go out still decent." But it doesn't really bother me that LaRusa has a different personal value than me on this one. Some things to consider:

1) You mention that if he loves baseball he should do it for as long as he can. Well, maybe he loves winning more than baseball, and knows he probably won't get another World Series (especially if Pujols leaves - side note: do you think the retirement means he knows Pujols isn't coming back?). Living winning more than the game is a shi**y value, but if it's HIS then I'll respect it. So, in this case, he really is doing what he loves - avoiding losing!

2) As was said above, he was probably going to retire soon anyway - might as well be now.

3) Managers have much less control over their "performance" (aka win-loss record) than a player does. So this isn't like a star player "going out on top" and foregoing what he knows to be good years. For all we know LaRusa might manage the best seasons of his life and still come out 210-276 his next three seasons.

Wally said...

I think for both the player and the fans/media, 'going out on top' is about preserving good images and memories. And maybe in the case of fans/media, there is a little bit of the American fascination with individualism and 'sticking it to the man'. For players, i think it is their self image that they want to preserve, not other people's image of them. Sure, Mays' legacy won't be tarnished by his Mets days, but I am sure that he remembered it, and it must be painful to remember that while also remembering how good he was. I'll bet that if he could relive that part of his life, he would end it earlier and avoid those memories. It sucks to suck, especially in front of a lot of people and recorded for posterity, and the person actually sucking isn't oblivious to it. They might enjoy playing, but to some degree that joy has to be linked to the success they have playing it. Not solely, but a big part.l

For us fans/media (who essentially feed off us), it gets to the same point but from a different angle. Whatever sports do for fans, the magic, the mystery, the ability to pretend we're them, relies on our heros being almost non-human in their ability to perform. When they start showing natural human frailties like age and slippage in talents, we don't want any part of it. it screws up our ability to feed into the magic, and brings us back to reality, which isn't why we're watching. We have that 99% of the rest of our lives. When they keep going, and become really bad, like Mays-Mets bad, well I think people turn on them quickly. So it is almost a relief when somebody goes out on top, it preserves the magic.

None of this applies to TLR, who I think was retiring regardless of what happened.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat on a tangent, but here's an interesting article concerning La Russa from a British soccer website I visit on a regular basis.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

I agree with you. It only makes sense to leave a job that you are still obtain satisfaction from if you are fired or care what other people are thinking or will think.

Deacon Drake said...

Brett Favre ruined a lot... he will not be remembered as "just out there having fun player" but instead as a calculating and manipulating individual narcissist, who only came back to the Vikings in 2010 for the money. The only reason he isn't on the field in 2011 is because nobody was stupid enough to throw $15 to $20 M his way.

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