Why I love Peter Gammons

A run of the mill notes column yesterday, with this thrown in:

The Reds have let teams know that they will wait and see whether they need to move Aaron Harang during the season. Harang is scheduled to make $12.5 million next season and $12.75 million with a $2 million buyout for 2011. After going 34-23 with a 3.68 ERA from the start of the 2006 season until he made his four-inning relief stint on two days’ rest on May 15, 2008, he went 4-11, 5.88. “Aaron’s been OK this spring, because he battles so hard,” one scout said. “But the life on the ball he runs in on left-handed batters isn’t the same.”

I just love the passing reference to the two days’ rest thing. It’s the sort of thing a lesser writer — like me and every other self-important overreacting blogger out there — would pound on for a week, casting all sorts of implied and not-so-implied aspersions on Reds’ management in the most intemperate of terms.

Gammons, though: cool and concise, and just passive aggressive enough to add some pointed commentary to the note. Indeed, that half a sentence, coming from a guy like him, is far more damning than all of the wind a guy like me could bluster. Gammons has seen it all in this game and knows that there’s no sense in going crazy. It’s that kind of thing, I suspect, that keeps a guy from getting burned out over the course of a seven month season and seemingly interminable offseason.

Of the wishes I have for my own writing, chief among them is to one day have the discipline and ability to make the necessary point with an economy of words and the perspective that is due. I doubt I’ll ever get there — I love these little set-off clauses and ego-driven verbal gymnastics far too much — but we all have to shoot for something.

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  1. Sara K said...

    Somehow, I suspect the label “Master of Conciseness” would not go a long way toward growing your blogosphere fame. Gammons’ status is so firmly established that he can communicate through what he doesn’t say about a subject.  Your audience has different expectations and demands, don’t you think?  Economy of speech is impressive, but its effectiveness depends a lot on your content and your goals (see counterexamples at Posnanski, Joe). 

    Still, I know that feeling. I read E.B. White and sigh audibly.

  2. MooseinOhio said...

    In regard to your desire to write more parsimoniously I think it is a worthy pursuit but not one that is for your everyday musing but for special occasions like notes to the spouse, letters to the editors of publications like the New Yorker or Atlantic or for the legal theories you will one day espouse.

    As for Harang, could this be a byproduct of Dusty Baker’s inability to get the most out of a his pitching staff.

  3. Doug said...

    If Harang can have a bounce back year, the Reds will be pretty good this year.  Not contending for the division, but they could break the .500 mark.  Next year I think they can make the playoffs, especially if Bruce and Votto keep getting better.

  4. Chris Simonds said...

    Always good to be aware of your tendencies and limitations, but the wisdom of Popeye is still wisdom: I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.

    Besides, “ego-driven verbal gymnastics” has an established place, at least in American writing. Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut……

    Now don’t go getting a swelled head….

  5. kranky kritter said...

    I am a bit confused to see Vonnegut and Twain cited for long-windedness, when they’re among the handful of good America writers capable of bringing a novel into the barn in under 350 pp. Surely there are much windier examples extant.

    Gammons taught me most of the stuff I learned about baseball growing up as young Boston Globe reader. It’s interesting to see him cited for concision, if only because it was driven by the need to cram all zillion pieces of worthy baseball info within the “confines” of the thousands of words available in his full-page weekly notes column.

    Gammons often when on at length in his columns. But in his weekly notes, concision is the rule. So IMO its more a function of format than style.

  6. Chris Simonds said...

    Kranky -

    The quality being considered was “ego-driven verbal gymnastics” which does not necessarily equate to long-windedness. All of these writers loved the unexpected analogy, the abrupt aside, the comic list of contrasting items – gymnastics – as opposed to what is often called the “plain style”, which they could also use when they chose. They didn’t think it was a bad thing to call attention to the act of writing itself. Neither did Shakespeare, especially in his early plays. By way of contrast, someone like E.B. White has a rather puritanical approach to writing, though he’s also excellent. Takes all kinds was my point.

  7. Richard Dansky said...

    Wait, it’s a post about Gammons and nobody’s called him a Red Sox homer? Is that even allowed on the internet?

  8. Thomas J Comer said...

    What I love about Gammons (Roger Angell is the only one who has written better about baseball in my lifetime and opinion) is that though he will write about the negatives, he pursues the positives. Though he writes baseball as a profession, he does so out of love.  He LOVES baseball.  It shows.


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