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On Andrew Moore and looking the part

Not all accountants wear capes

MLB: Seattle Mariners-Media Day Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to Andrew Moore’s major league debut against the Tigers, a beat reporter informed Brad Ausmus that Moore “looks like an accountant.” Ausmus, a skilled deflector even if he garners criticism for his management, replied: “I hope he pitches like one.”

Moore did not, as far as I can tell, pitch like an accountant in his debut, going seven innings of three-run ball, two of which came after a bad-hop grounder got past Seager for a double. But what would an accountant pitch like, anyway? For that matter, what does an accountant look like? Do they wear glasses? (Moore does not.) Are they slender? (Moore is.) Do they wear stiff jackets, carry slide rules, have sallow skin? What is the overall “accountant” aesthetic, according to this reporter? And why, in the year two thousand and seventeen, do people still believe you can assume someone’s aptitude based on their physical appearance?

Baseball holds on to its outdated ideas longer than most institutions, partly because it’s such rarefied air, professional baseball, immune to the puffs of change blowing across the country; and partly because this, the American pastime, has a system of written rules and unwritten ones, and belief systems are passed, man to man, in those sanctum sanctorums of the Major League locker room. That place was a decidedly different place after April of 1947; it’s a different place now, we’d like to believe, but not a different enough place that someone felt comfortable calling that reporter out over that comment, or challenging it in any meaningful way. There is still a prevalent, insidious idea of What A Baseball Player Looks Like, and while being compared to an accountant is a far cry from being excluded on the basis of one’s skin color, it’s a still a canary in the mineshaft signaling that no, we have not come as far as we think we have. We’ve thrown out phrenology as pseudoscience, but still use people’s outward appearances to judge their appropriateness, their aptitude, for a particular role.

The Good Face is one of those shopworn old scout cliches; it is recognized that it should be shelved alongside pitcher wins and RBIs as the dinosaur it is, and yet the trope persists. A strong jawline and high cheekbones are supposedly signs of high testosterone, and testosterone is supposed to help you hit a baseball further or throw it harder, or why else would it be a banned substance? So it’s only scientific, you see, to glow over the gap-toothed golem Aaron Judge, or sigh over “male lead in a teen movie where one or both of the main characters have cancer” Cody Bellinger, or just drool a little tiny bit over Kris Bryant’s Express ad. For science.

In a piece from this off-season, I noted that Andrew Moore doesn’t have the stereotypical pitcher Good Face, lacking the lantern jaw, the skyscraping height, the hyper-muscular build, the overall paperback-romance quality some seem to desire in their baseball stars. The human impulse, often, is to want our heroes to be bigger than us, better than us, so we can crawl into a tiny corner of them and feel nourished by the light radiating there. We do not, generally, feel called to crawl into the den of the accountant.

But the issue there isn’t with Moore; it’s what we’ve been conditioned to believe a baseball player looks like. (Or sounds like.) Or a baseball GM. Or a baseball announcer. Or a “seriousbaseball writer, or fan, or a show about baseball, or whatever gate it is that’s being kept at the moment. But just as phrenology was exposed as fraudulent pseudo-science, so too can we push back against these limits. We can amplify the voices we want to hear talk about baseball. We can demand accountability when qualified candidates are passed over for high-level jobs. We can reject the notion that someone who doesn’t look a certain way should have a different job.

So here’s who Andrew Moore, the not-accountant, is: a humble, hardworking kid who is universally beloved by everyone who’s spent time with him, teammates and coaches and front office personnel alike. This is Andrew Moore: taking time to help a teammate at Everett, recently arrived from the DSL Mariners, learn to chart pitches (“Your son is very nice,” he would later tell his mother, using the English Andrew taught him.). This is Andrew Moore: drinking out of a water bottle in the dugout instead of wasting a million paper cups, because he cares about the environment. This is Andrew Moore: driving his ‘94 Camry until his mother demanded he get rid of it because she was afraid it would break down in the Arizona heat during spring training and he wouldn’t be able to get parts for it. This is Andrew Moore: after the Jackson Generals won the Southern League championship in 2016, taking time out of celebrating—he had pitched a perfect game into the seventh inning in his start during the divisional round of the championship series—to ask Brandon Liebhaber, the team announcer and media manager busily documenting the celebration, if he’d like him to take his picture with the cup. This is Andrew Moore: Northwest born and bred, unique in baseball, uniquely ours.

The human impulse may be to want our heroes to be bigger and better than us, shadows around the fire looming larger than our fragile, fallible selves. Andrew Moore may not be bigger than some, but he is almost certainly better than most, and he is ours.