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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NYT: In French Baseball League, the Feel Is More Minor Than Major

The setting, though a short drive from the cathedral painted in a series by Claude Monet, might as well have been a high school field in small-town America. There were no turnstiles; no admission fee. The spectators arrived for the long day with canned sodas, sandwiches (saumon et crudités, or salmon and raw vegetables) and cold chicken hauled in coolers.

These who showed up to watch were largely players’ friends and relatives. Kim Mezger, an engineer visiting from Albany, was there to watch her brother, Chris, a pitcher for Rouen. “I tell people my brother is pitching in France,” she said. “And they always say the same thing: ‘There’s baseball in France?’ ”

The Huskies, who have dominated the top French division for most of a decade, winning 9 of the last 10 league titles, including this year’s, play in a virtual vacuum in France, where soccer is ubiquitous.

Just because the excerpt mentions soccer, don’t start talking about it.

Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: August 29, 2012 at 12:08 PM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: europe

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: August 29, 2012 at 03:27 PM (#4221507)
Ok, I won't talk about the s word. Instead, apropos of almost nothing, I will quote the only song I know that has the word "turnstiles" in it. Neil Young's "For the Turnstiles"-

"All the bush league batters
Are left to die on the diamond
And in the stands, the home crowd scatters
For the turnstiles"
   2. Swedish Chef Posted: August 29, 2012 at 04:05 PM (#4221558)
play in a virtual vacuum in France, where soccer is ubiquitous

France is nowhere near as obsessed with soccer as most of the rest of Europe.
   3. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: August 29, 2012 at 04:16 PM (#4221581)
Now I know why everyone is complaining about the new submission form. Where did I go wrong?

But back to substantive issues: True that France isn't as soccer-obsessed as its neighbors, but le foot is still the biggest sport by far. Baseball must be making inroads, though. My father-in-law spends summers in the south of France (he lives the rest of the year in Belgium; he's not some kind of plutocrat) and reports back to me about a regional team. The son of a friend of his is post-college now and has been playing since he was in his early teens.
   4. God Posted: August 29, 2012 at 05:10 PM (#4221671)
For those who didn't RTFA, the talent level in the league can be nicely summed up by the fact that an undrafted pitcher who was a walk-on at USC is 11-0 with a 0.50 ERA.
   5. Shredder Posted: August 29, 2012 at 05:23 PM (#4221684)
Ok, I won't talk about the s word. Instead, apropos of almost nothing, I will quote the only song I know that has the word "turnstiles" in it.
"My thoughts lead me downtown
Change up at the turnstile
Go blind into traffic
If I go about it the wrong way, so what?"
   6. Gamingboy Posted: August 29, 2012 at 05:32 PM (#4221688)
For those who didn't RTFA, the talent level in the league can be nicely summed up by the fact that an undrafted pitcher who was a walk-on at USC is 11-0 with a 0.50 ERA.


He even says that USC would mop the floor most of the time with the French Leaguers. So it is definitely below elite D1 programs.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: August 29, 2012 at 06:02 PM (#4221723)
Gotta love the NY Times.

"Boss, I wanna write about the French baseball league."
"Who are you?"
"I'm the guy who runs the baseball blog."
"Shouldn't you be in your mother's basement? Why do you want to write about the French baseball league?"
"I want an all-expenses paid trip to France."
"Sounds good, you've got a future here son. What's your theme going to be?"
"How French baseball isn't very good."
"Insightful. Be sure to work in some painter or wine or Notre Dame or something."
"Great idea boss. Maybe I'll get lucky and there will be some ex-Notre Dame player there. Wouldn't that be ironic?"
"Your lips to Maureen Dowd's ears son."
   8. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: August 29, 2012 at 06:05 PM (#4221727)
“I tell people my brother is pitching in France,” she said.

I think I heard that line in a French movie I watched on Cinemax once.
   9. AROM Posted: August 29, 2012 at 06:07 PM (#4221729)
"He even says that USC would mop the floor most of the time with the French Leaguers. So it is definitely below elite D1 programs."

I think that's a pretty safe assumption. How does it compare to say, a slow pitch softball league?

I'd like to see if my 70 mph fastball can play there.
   10. Greg K Posted: August 29, 2012 at 06:09 PM (#4221731)
Just because it's somewhat related, and because I enjoy telling people...

The Nottingham Rebels, for whom I play 1B, won the British Baseball Federation AA National Championship last weekend! Huzzah!

French baseball does sound like a step up from British baseball.
   11. AROM Posted: August 29, 2012 at 06:21 PM (#4221739)
Mezger had a mid 4 ERA in college. In high school, a 1.50 ERA and about 1 strikeout per inning. So this league might be less talented than a HS in the US. I think I might have a chance, I'd put my skills at below average high school level right now.
   12. dr. scott Posted: August 29, 2012 at 07:32 PM (#4221778)
“Baseball is culture,” Rolland said through an interpreter, adding: “It’s like wine. You can talk about wine for half an hour before you even taste it, especially in France. Baseball is wine, and soccer is beer. You just drink it, but you don’t talk about it.”



Im glad to see a Frenchman understand baseball, but clearly they still do not understand beer.... Its a shame as there is actually some good beer in the northern part of France (near Belgium of course).
   13. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: August 29, 2012 at 08:36 PM (#4221811)
To be fair to Monsieur Rolland, there's not much French beer worth talking about. A little, yes. I remember a Pelforth Brune that was worth drinking, for example.
   14. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: August 29, 2012 at 08:53 PM (#4221826)
He even says that USC would mop the floor most of the time with the French Leaguers. So it is definitely below elite D1 programs.

So roughly Astros level?
   15. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: August 29, 2012 at 10:22 PM (#4221879)

So roughly Astros level?


Have the Astros made a trade I wasn't aware of and pulled in some new talent?
   16. Walt Davis Posted: August 29, 2012 at 11:09 PM (#4221917)
Frankly I wish everybody would just stop talking about beer.

For f's sake, the last thing we want is for craft beer (which is bad enough) to go the wine marketing route but I fear it's already too late. Pisses me off almost as much as the brilliant idea of pitching jazz as "Amercia's classical music."

I want to drink good-tasting beer. I might even like to drink it in a crowd that isn't a bunch of middle-aged guys. I definitely would rather drink it without bullshit about hints of lemon and pomegranate and without every microbrewer thinking they have to find ways to squeeze in more chocalate, coffee, smoke, pears, cherries and hops.
   17. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: August 30, 2012 at 12:16 AM (#4221967)
Oh, yes, that's wine "marketing". Has nothing to do with a 500+ year history of modern winemaking (and many thousands of years before that of making more primative wine)
   18. JoeHova Posted: August 30, 2012 at 04:05 AM (#4222005)
Someone has their tastevin in a twist.
   19. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: August 30, 2012 at 05:50 AM (#4222011)
For the first time ever, after many years and over countless subjects, I agree with Walt Davis.

I'm scared.

Anyway, however douchey the craft beers snobs are, the insufferable hipsters who've ruined what few classic working class American lagers that still exist, by practicing a bizarro world version of prole drift, are even worse. Although their interest, I must concede, has caused at least a couple of those classic beers to be reformulated into better beverages than they were...still, I'd rather have green 1980s Schlitz and no hipsters than good 1950s/2010s Schlitz with a bazillion Portlandia clones run amok.
   20. Zach Posted: August 30, 2012 at 05:51 AM (#4222012)
This summer, I've been following the Dresden Monarchs American Football team (one of my friends plays running back). The mixture of players is interesting -- a couple of marginal NFL players, lots of homegrown amateurs. They played Tokyo (generally seen as the best team outside of North America) pretty well, but lost convincingly. I get the idea that one of the big economic drivers of the team is the cheerleading squad -- games feature three squads, ranging from eight or so to early 20s.

The top German teams could probably play Division II, while Tokyo might do ok in Division I. Both would suffer in a competitive conference due to lack of true NFL prospects. On the other hand, beer is 2 euros, and you can sit at field level on the 50 yard line if you show up a few minutes early. All in all, a surprisingly fun experience.
   21. JGLB has the express written consent of MLB Posted: August 30, 2012 at 06:21 AM (#4222017)
::crosses Walt Davis off his Christmas beer list, writes in Retardo, and then cross him off as well::
   22. Flynn Posted: August 30, 2012 at 06:24 AM (#4222019)
Watching baseball or any American sport when you live in Europe is quite fun, though I couldn't help but laugh when the manager of Croydon Pirates talked to me for a few minutes while I played catch with their first basemen...and then asked me if I could pitch next week.
   23. Sylvain Posted: August 30, 2012 at 06:24 AM (#4222020)
Haven't posted in a while, just to offer my 2 Eurocents of insight on French baseball back from my playing days, though not in 1st division, so for what's it's worth:
* fastballs reach 80 mph even at lower levels, so 80-90 is not out of sight for the top league. A German guy I knew used to throw 95 and played in AAA, so there can be a few very good players.
* plenty of errors at lower levels, so ERA can be misleading
* ability of 16-18 years old French players in regional divisions was about the same level as 13-15 years old in the US (personal impression).

As mentioned, quite a few caveats though to jump to any conclusions...

Sylvain
   24. JGLB has the express written consent of MLB Posted: August 30, 2012 at 06:33 AM (#4222023)
My friend who coached American Football in Norway placed his teams right around a mid tier Div II team when he was there in the late 90's and 00's. I doubt they've improved much since then. Hearing him talk about his experiences coaching over there it always seemed weird to have native-born players and American NFL washouts playing together, although it seems from his stories the Swedish Adult Films went a long way towards bonding.
   25. McCoy Posted: August 30, 2012 at 08:24 AM (#4222039)
The Nottingham Rebels, for whom I play 1B, won the British Baseball Federation AA National Championship last weekend! Huzzah!

26-22! Were you playing football, softball, or baseball?
   26. Greg K Posted: August 30, 2012 at 08:54 AM (#4222063)
26-22! Were you playing football, softball, or baseball?

Baseball, though a pretty liberal interpretation of the word. It was a pretty stressful, excruciating game.

EDIT: I should say the league isn't normally that bad, but we had burned a lot of our pitching the day before. Ideally we would have won 26-8 or something. Our scores in the quarter-final and semi-final were something like 14-0 and 13-2. Working on getting promoted to the rarefied air of AAA next year. Though it can be a hassle. Promotion has more to do with finding teams of AAA calibre willing to make trips to Nottingham rather than how good your team is.
   27. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: August 30, 2012 at 12:02 PM (#4222394)
The Rouen Huskies lost in the semifinals of the European Cup. It'll be an all-Italian final, as the team from Bologna that knocked off the French will be playing Danesi Nettuno, the team Dirk Hayhurst was supposed to play for this season.
   28. dr. scott Posted: August 30, 2012 at 12:19 PM (#4222433)
Ive never understood the adverse reaction to analytical thinking. For years there was no reason to think about American beer, and now (and at least the least 15 years) the US makes some of the most interesting and wide variety of great beers in the world, and somehow the analytical thought that naturally accompanies new and exciting ventures is abhored by many.

It reminds me a lot of another subject where anaytical thought is considered taboo by many traditionalists, and those that do it are basement dwelling computer nerds who never truly experience the game.
   29. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 30, 2012 at 12:48 PM (#4222502)
I'm entirely in favor of beer creativity and diversity. I see nothing pretentious in it. I just think people need to realize that, for example, of the 800 India Pale Ales made by America's regional breweries these days, 790 of them are exactly the same.

Not sure what this has to do with "analytical thinking", though.
   30. McCoy Posted: August 30, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4222516)
I just think people need to realize that, for example, of the 800 India Pale Ales made by America's regional breweries these days, 790 of them are exactly the same.

Well, that can be applied to wine, Scotch, and virtually anything out there. For most people on this planet almost all of the choices are going to taste exactly the same unless the product practically hits you over the head with its differences.
   31. Swedish Chef Posted: August 30, 2012 at 01:00 PM (#4222533)
Ive never understood the adverse reaction to analytical thinking.

Objective: Get drunk
Means: Beer
Relevant stats: Alcohol %, $/vol
Query: select name from beer_table order by (alcohol_pct/(price/volume)) desc
   32. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: August 30, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4222617)
But like with that other subject, "analytical thought" wrt taste in beer isn't pursued for its own sweet sake but rather as a means by which one may sneer at others supposedly less sophisticated.
   33. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: August 30, 2012 at 01:59 PM (#4222652)
The Rouen Huskies lost in the semifinals of the European Cup. It'll be an all-Italian final, as the team from Bologna that knocked off the French will be playing Danesi Nettuno, the team Dirk Hayhurst was supposed to play for this season.

Several years ago I spent about a month in Bologna, during which time I went to a couple of baseball games and played in a twice-weekly pickup basketball game. It's the American sports capital of Italy. The impressive thing was that there were a couple of Italian guys in the pickup game with better basketball skills than me (several who were more athletic), even though I'm a North Carolinian who literally had a ball and a miniature goal before I had learned to walk. It was impressive.

I'm entirely in favor of beer creativity and diversity. I see nothing pretentious in it.

It's not inherently pretentious, but it can and often is done with extreme pretentiousness.

Query: select name from beer_table order by (alcohol_pct/(price/volume)) desc

The worst thing about the craft beer booom is that there are bars and restaurants in which it's nearly impossible to get a beer that's below 7% alcohol. It's like they'll have Coors and Coors Light and then a bunch of craft things that are 8-10%. I like beer, but I'm not drinking an 8% at lunch, and on an evening out I might want to drink three pints at 5%, but I'm stuck having two pints at 8%. In the UK this spring I drank a ton of excellent 4% beers, and those are very difficult to find here. It's enough to make a man want to shout "KHAN!" at the top of his lungs.
   34. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: August 30, 2012 at 02:20 PM (#4222700)
I know you've moved on, but:

Meet me, meet me at the turnstile.
I never met him, I'll never forget him

   35. dr. scott Posted: August 30, 2012 at 02:51 PM (#4222758)
The worst thing about the craft beer booom is that there are bars and restaurants in which it's nearly impossible to get a beer that's below 7% alcohol. It's like they'll have Coors and Coors Light and then a bunch of craft things that are 8-10%. I like beer, but I'm not drinking an 8% at lunch, and on an evening out I might want to drink three pints at 5%, but I'm stuck having two pints at 8%. In the UK this spring I drank a ton of excellent 4% beers, and those are very difficult to find here. It's enough to make a man want to shout "KHAN!" at the top of his lungs.


I am totally with you here. When I was fatter and younger, this was not as much of an issue, but I really notice it after losing 25-30 pounds and aging 5 years. The good news is, many breweries are making great 5-5.5% beers by dry hopping Pale Ales and looking to the English Bitter as a starting point. Drakes, Hollister and Magnolia in CA all have fantastic Pale Ales in that range... the problem is that they are still hard to find. Porters used to be the place where you could get tasty low alcohol beer, but even those are in the 7% range now.

Not sure what this has to do with "analytical thinking", though.


Maybe its a bad use of the term, but Walt was essentially complaining about people dissecting and analyzing beer... so i used "analytical thinking".

Also, I was partially lying when I said "I don’t understand". It is common in our culture to associate intellectual or analytical thought with pretentiousness and therefore dislike it, and there are all sorts of good and bad reasons for it.

I'm entirely in favor of beer creativity and diversity. I see nothing pretentious in it. I just think people need to realize that, for example, of the 800 India Pale Ales made by America's regional breweries these days, 790 of them are exactly the same.



I think just as many people say this about merlots and other wines too. In the case of beer, most people have not paid enough attention to the different hop and malt profiles that distinguish many of those 800 beers. That being said with the proliferation of the craft beer movement, your statement has more and more truth to it.

As for French beer, id argue there is just as much quality French beers as Canadian beers... probably more. Both are pretty small though. If fact the best canadian beer is from the french part of Canada.
   36. Greg Franklin Posted: August 30, 2012 at 03:17 PM (#4222806)
@Walt Davis (#7): To up the comedy factor, you should have included the other infamous NYT journalism cliché:

"Hey, are there a lot of Jews playing baseball in France?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Well, play up that angle then."
"Sure thing, boss. By the way, what if I had told you there WERE a lot of Jews playing baseball in France?"
"Play up that angle. That would certainly be ironic!"
"Absolutely."
"Well, bon voyage!"

Objective: Get drunk
Means: Beer


And here is the design error. That's like the Kansas City Royals deciding to win the World Series by stealing tons of bases.

To save your valuable time and bladder, consider spirits. Chicks dig the highball.
   37. just plain joe Posted: August 30, 2012 at 03:28 PM (#4222825)
And here is the design error. That's like the Kansas City Royals deciding to win the World Series by stealing tons of bases.

To save your valuable time and bladder, consider spirits. Chicks dig the highball.


Everclear baby, boogie till you puke. Ah for the days of yesteryear when a night of serious drinking didn't take me two full days to feel human again.
   38. Flynn Posted: August 30, 2012 at 03:36 PM (#4222836)
As for French beer, id argue there is just as much quality French beers as Canadian beers... probably more. Both are pretty small though. If fact the best canadian beer is from the french part of Canada.


Considering France has twice as many people and borders Belgium and Germany, that's damning with faint praise I'd say.

Those good beers from Quebec are definitely not French-inspired, but clearly borrow from Belgium. Blanche de Chambly is the best white beer I've ever had, and I've been to the Low Countries.

American craft beer is really great, I don't know why anybody would rip it. America makes some of the most interesting beer in the world now. Beer heads trying to turn beer into wine is a bit pretentious, but the real hardcore beer heads are way more appreciative of classic mass-produced American beers than the guy who doesn't really know much about beer and still operates on imports = better. At least a beer head isn't going to hand you a frickin' Heineken and say it's real beer.
   39. The Good Face Posted: August 30, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4222871)
The worst thing about the craft beer booom is that there are bars and restaurants in which it's nearly impossible to get a beer that's below 7% alcohol. It's like they'll have Coors and Coors Light and then a bunch of craft things that are 8-10%. I like beer, but I'm not drinking an 8% at lunch, and on an evening out I might want to drink three pints at 5%, but I'm stuck having two pints at 8%. In the UK this spring I drank a ton of excellent 4% beers, and those are very difficult to find here. It's enough to make a man want to shout "KHAN!" at the top of his lungs.


Absolutely. There's a bar I'm fond of that has a tremendous, constantly changing selection of U.S. microbrews, but the heavy hitters (7-10%) are always grossly overrepresented on their list. There are a ton of great U.S. craft beers, but the obsession with massively hoppy IPAs and sky-high alcohol content is really self limiting.
   40. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: August 30, 2012 at 04:06 PM (#4222879)
but the real hardcore beer heads are way more appreciative of classic mass-produced American beers


I'd argue that their appreciation is almost entirely political, and therefore worthless. In a lot of ways the beer snob and the indie music snob share the same fallacy with American English Departments regarding literature: the utter conviction that obscure = better and exotic = best. The populists are forced to react to this accordingly, and the whole process leaves "analytical thinking" thrown out the ####### window.
   41. dr. scott Posted: August 30, 2012 at 04:06 PM (#4222882)
Absolutely, Canada is not a high bar for beer, but France has a much more variety of good beer than most people think. Also most of the good beer in France is Belgium like (some would claim that the Saison/Farmhouse beer has its origins in France rather than Belgium). I have no clue if that influenced Unibroue (who make Blanche de Chambly) but Unibroue is one of the top breweries in Canada, if not the top.
   42. Flynn Posted: August 31, 2012 at 06:29 AM (#4223298)
In a lot of ways the beer snob and the indie music snob share the same fallacy with American English Departments regarding literature: the utter conviction that obscure = better and exotic = best.


Not really, some of the classic craft beers like Sam Adams, Anchor Steam, and Brooklyn Lager are hardly obscure. You can find those in the vast majority of bars in San Francisco. People in SF drink craft beers all the time, and I'm not talking chi-chi yuppies, I'm talking workinmen.
   43. dr. scott Posted: August 31, 2012 at 12:57 PM (#4223707)
Flynn, im afraid the rest of the country thinks even the "working men" in SF are chi-chi yuppies...

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