Try and think of the character death from a TV show that impacted you the most. Was it [spoiler]? Was it [redacted]? We’ve all had that one episode of Game of Thrones or Battlestar that made us watch a character we loved, that we had spent hours and hours of our life with, say goodbye forever. To say it’s like a friend member dying is stretching it; but it’s losing someone we’ve shared the heightened emotions of dramatic storytelling with over several years of our life.
So, think of the most depressing and hurtful one you’ve experienced. Now quadruple that. That’s how I felt when the Giants traded Matt Duffy to Tampa Bay.
How much time do we spend with TV characters every season? 16, 18 hours, tops? If we’re talking about a drama, that’s 44 minutes each episode, with between 16 and 20 episodes per season; 12 if it’s on HBO. So closer to 12 hours? Realistically much less, when you consider they’re not going to be in every minute of every episode.
You can easily spend that much time with a baseball player in 1 week of a season. I try to watch as many Giants games as I can; out of the 162 games they play, I probably watch some or all of at least 100 of them. I watch an average of an hour and a half of the 3 hour games. So that adds up to…a lot.
Now, the obvious difference here is that our time with TV characters is spent getting to know them, fictional though they may be. Baseball players are just swinging a bat or throwing a ball. Except that isn’t strictly true any more. Every athlete now has at least a PR person sending out vague tweets thanking fans; many more will be active themselves, offering glimpses of their personalities we’ve never been privy to before with athletes. Furthermore, all of their respective teams have accounts needing content, which is how we end up with Matt Duffy doing a Bob Saget impression for a Giants commercial.
Oh man, just seeing him back with the team is making me feel some emotions. Let’s move on.
So yeah, this isn’t just some guy I watch play baseball. I actually got to know some about him. He even wrote an article in The Players’ Tribune about when he was first called up, and all the Giants were so welcoming…and made him feel at h-….oh god here I go again.
This is all the flip side of a Faustian bargain many of us have made with the baseball gods. Since about the mid-2000s, the baseball crowd has tended towards the more analytical approach to thinking about baseball. Front offices across the league are staffed with Ivy League-educated econ majors that are trained to view players as assets, not people. That’s fine! That’s probably best for someone who needs to cut dozens of players a year.
But it can leak into fandom. When news of the trade first came down, I tried to soften the blow by thinking rationally. The Giants needed more pitching, and they were deep in the infield. It made fairly sound logical sense. There’s a pretty good chance Matt Duffy will never be worth more than a few wins per year, if that. They also picked up Eduardo Núñez as a pretty close replacement at 3rd base. They probably came out much better.
It’s not really cutting it for me. I still think your favorite team is more than just the collected WAR of each player. The Giants had an all-homegrown infield, with each one being worth at least 2 wins. Moreover, they all seemed like they really liked each other. And you liked them. After all, you guys are spending hundreds of hours together every year.
Matt Moore might have been what the Giants needed to win, but he doesn’t have a comically large cat named Skeeter.
Goodbye Matt Duffy. Goodby Skeeter Duffy. I will always love both of you.