There’s a memorable scene in Eight Men Out (a great baseball movie, with John Cusack before he became insufferable, and The One True Chicagoan Studs Terkel. Though John Mahoney, also in the film, would have taken that title if Studs weren’t around). Anyway, there’s a scene where Shoeless Joe Jackson covers one eye and stares at a candle with the other. He explains to his teammates that it’s how he strengthens his eyesight at the plate, and they smile and nod at each other about this incredibly talented rube with methods they dare not question, given his importance.
Seeing as how the movie was set in 1919, it’s a quaint look at how players tried to create ways to improve, no matter how arcane or silly or incomprehensible. Staring at fire, of course, wouldn’t do much for your eyesight. Not much good anyway.
But if Trevor Bauer says something equally as stupid, you can bet baseball media will lap it up because he’s so willing to talk about anything having to do with Trevor Bauer, which is his main job. Except when it’s uncomfortable to talk about Trevor Bauer, at which point he’ll sprint and dive for the “All Lives Matter” shelter.
Bauer couldn’t wait to tell the assembled press in Arizona yesterday how he pitched with one eye closed, in yet another celebration of the genius he is in his own head. After every start, he opens up his modernized medicine show tent, and basically says, “Aren’t I a genius? I must be because no one else does this, and more importantly, no one else talks about how much no one else is doing this as I do! Step right up and don’t be shy!”
Oh, sure, pitching with one eye closed must be vital to training a pitcher’s location, because Bauer says so. Even though professional marksmen will tell you to keep both eyes open when aiming a gun. So why would you want one eye closed when aiming a pitch? This is dumber than shit, and just a carnival act to attract more attention.
Bauer is constantly under discussion, and I fully admit I’m not helping, adding to the cacophony by commenting on the commentary, because of baseball media’s fascination with any player that’s willing to do more than just offer cliched answers, or just use their own social media, even if all that player is spewing is utter horseshit. And the more analytical bending, at least in the past, were willing to amplify Bauer’s musings because he was one of the few players talking about things they talked about, like spin-rate. Any hold that wasn’t outright rejecting them as game-ruining nerds was one they were happy to claw, though that’s changed as Bauer has revealed himself to be more and more of a tool.
Bauer has been doing this for some five years now, constantly talking about his constant battle with himself on how to find new ways to be a dickhead while just pursuing the same thing as every other pitcher — improve his stuff and approach to get hitters out. He’s not after some loftier, spiritual pursuit despite his claims. Which, of course, led him to basically admit to using foreign substances last year in his contract drive, pretty much like every other pitcher does. It’s a practice he had previously criticized.
Bauer isn’t some miracle story who had to craft something completely new to make it to the nearly impossible level of Major League pitcher, and then the even more rarified air of being one of the better ones. He’s a 3rd overall pick out of one of the bigger baseball programs in the nation, and all the window dressing he makes a pyrotechnic show out of around it doesn’t change that.
With reporters and MLB.com and whoever else flocking to put his latest quackery on their front page and their Twitter feeds only succeeds in cementing Bauer’s sense of entitlement and genius, which is where the truly ugly (and actually important and worth discussing) behavior springs from. Because Bauer thinks he’s so important due to all the attention he gets, he can harass women online or be a dickhead and never think he’s done anything wrong, which he doesn’t (and also baseball media’s lack of motivation to hold his feet to the fire on it for more than a question or two doesn’t help).
Bauer’s antics don’t improve his game, they only serve to keep his name in the headlines for the sole purpose of him celebrating himself. He is the advertisements come to life in the Simpsons’ Treehouse Of Horror. Sadly, we’ll never get enough people to stop looking.