Super Joe: A photo analysis


Trying to make conclusions about significant baseball matters is a dangerous thing to do this time of year.  For example, this is Alex Rios’ spray chart from the four games.  Gaze upon it, if you have a mind to.

The primary issue is obvious; too many of these are outs.

The secondary problem is that there’s the same trend of fly balls to the right and ground balls to the left that haunted his previous season.  There’s also that huge home run that’s almost to dead center, and there’s also the fact that there have been four games, and what the hell kind of life is spent obsessively checking on Alex Rios’ spray chart after just four games?

What we can make conclusions on, are insignificant baseball matters.  We can make conclusions wildly and confidently, because there are no repercussions.  Still, on the topic of new 3rd base coach Joe McEwing, I feel there is adequate sample size anyway.

McEwing was lauded for his intensity upon being hired, and for his first four major league games as the White Sox 3rd base coach, there has been intensity.

The arrow is intended to direct your attention to the backswing of McEwing’s high-five to Adam Dunn after his Opening Day home run.  The size of the backswing–and the mere fact that there is a backswing–indicates that there’s an emphasis on force in McEwing’s high-five.  Many high-fivers emphasize contact, starting their swing as close as possible to the recipient’s hand to minimize the chance of error.  Not McEwing.  He bring his hand up to shoulder-height and the apex of his load is well behind his head.

It’s appropriate approach for Adam Dunn, a Three True Outcomes hitter who would not only appreciate this high-five attempt for its craft, but is also capable of absorbing the blow.  Would he be so aggressive with a smaller player?

Yes, he would.  Here is McEwing pictured high-fiving 2nd class lieutenant of the Lollipop Guild, Eduardo Escobar.  The backswing is still enormous, the impact is still violent.  It would seem that even if McEwing had a mind to suppress his excitement for the success of the team, he’d be overwhelmed by his happiness for the personal triumph for his player.  So naturally, we wonder: would McEwing be so empathetic toward an unfeeling cyborg?

Yes, he would.  Here is McEwing pictured high-fiving under-performing cyborg Alex Rios after his g0-ahead home run Saturday night.  Most people could never bring themselves to attempt to make an emotional connection with a cold, hard piece of metal, let alone a device as malfunctioning and frustrating as this particular model, but McEwing refused concede the vitality of the moment to the clutches of social normalcy as it pertains to human-cyborg relations.  It’s a bit blurry, but McEwing’s high-five is wound up well past his back again before making tremendous impact, while Rios is simulating a normal human high-five in accordance to his programming.

Small variances in high-five technique are not what first drew my eye about McEwing at 3rd base, however.  The first thing I noticed about McEwing is that he waves runners home from 3rd as if he’s guiding them out of a burning building that’s also filled with bees (and in this scenario, the bees are more irritated than usual on account of the the fire)

From a distance this could simply be an enthused, but normal wave home.  Perhaps a bit curiously enthused considering how easily De Aza scored, but McEwing would be far from the first coach to deem the force generated by a single windmill motion insufficient and opt for a double.

But a closer view reveals that McEwing is airborne; hopping rapidly throughout the entire process.  The his blurry appearance in still images is indicative of the speed at which he is streaking a path from the furthest recesses of the 3rd base coaching box to bag itself.  McEwing is not a mere 3rd base coach, he’s a speeding, contorting windmill of enthusiasm; the type that would be featured prominently if Lewis Carroll decided to re-write Don Quixote.

It’s not as if the White Sox have never had a unique personality on their coaching staff.  Perhaps no fan base in baseball appreciates exaggerated hand gestures from baseball coaches as acutely as this one.  But what separates McEwing from other spastic coaching personalities is timing; an element that is as is important in baseball as it is in public relations, or in selling online photo-sharing programs.

McEwing’s timing seems fantastic.  Not simply because he’s an ebullient personality on a coaching staff that’s otherwise demure and reserved, or stressing baserunning aggressiveness in a position where the rewards for testing the defense are great, but because his celebratory demeanor promises to transform every White Sox run scored into frenzied release of tension and jubilation.

Which is good, because there won’t be that many.