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GOODYEAR, Ariz. – On the first day with their full roster at spring training, the Cleveland Indians, who last year came within one game of winning their first World Series in nearly seven decades, who fortified themselves this offseason with significant free-agent signings and doubled down after a spirited playoff run, made one thing abundantly clear.
They do not believe the earth is flat.
“The world is round,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said the day after the revelation that Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving denies the three-dimensionality of the globe. Irving’s contention that the earth is flat, first made in a podcast with teammates then reiterated to reporters before he slightly walked back his previous comments with a Saturday hedge, brought up a number of questions, chief among them: That guy went to Duke?
Irving did, albeit for one year. Indians reliever Dan Otero spent three years at the school, and when pressed for his thoughts on round vs. flat, he wanted to make sure he did not need to impugn a fellow Blue Devil.
“I can just give you an answer with no commentary after, right?” Otero said.
“Round,” he said.
OK. Guess that Duke education is worth something. Unlike Otero and Kipnis, who went to Arizona State, Francisco Lindor signed with the Indians right out of high school in Florida after growing up in Puerto Rico. Level of education, of course, does not matter when it’s abundantly obvious to anyone clear of thought over 3 years old that the earth is one shape and one shape only.
“Round,” Lindor said.
Lindor did not win a prize, other than maintaining his dignity.
“Why did [Irving] say that?” Lindor asked.
Well, 2,500 years back, it wouldn’t have sounded so silly. Until then, nobody, at least in our recorded history, had suggested the earth was anything but flat. Along came Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher whose theorem inspired Bill James to come up with a formula for expected winning percentage. Another of Pythagoras’ great theories was that the earth was spherical, which hadn’t managed to infiltrate sports until Kyrie Irving decided All-Star weekend would be a perfect time to dabble in alternative facts.
“I love Kyrie,” Kipnis said. “I respect him. He’s a good dude. I’ve met him. Ask him, if he wants to get somewhere and he goes on a plane and it goes to the right and another plane goes to the left and they both can get to the same location, how that can happen if it’s flat?”
This is a fair question, as are approximately eleventy billion others one could ask Irving to disprove the flat-earth theory that even other pseudoscience ignores at cocktail parties. Now, Irving wouldn’t be wrong if he said the earth is not round, because it isn’t, at least not perfectly so.
Irving was not talking about slight imperfections or bumps in the surface of the earth. It was, simply, is the earth round or flat? He said flat. When asked the same question, Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco paused.
For 10 seconds, he was silent. It was difficult to tell whether he was considering his answer or wanted it to be: What kind of stupid question is that, you dimwit? But Carrasco is a professional. And, as he proved, he knows things.
“The way you look at it right now if you’re walking around, it’s flat,” Carrasco said. “But it’s round.”
This is true. The earth is something of an optical illusion. It looks flat. It feels flat. It’s difficult to reconcile that with it being a sphere, even though one of the essential things that allows us to exist, gravity, causes the planet’s shape. Science is hard.
So difficult, in fact, that it looked like Irving and the NFL’s Stefon Diggs had found a partner in the bat-and-ball world to carry the mantel of flat-earth truthing.
“I heard it was flat,” one Indians player said.
Oh, no. Not this. Not here. Surely somebody in baseball cannot grasp one of the most fundamental concepts of reality and is just waiting to redpill the chumps that believe in foolish endeavors like science and facts.
Then center fielder Austin Jackson cocked an eyebrow, tilted his head sideways and let out a merciful chuckle.
“The earth is round,” Jackson said.
Sarcasm detection by reporters is hard, too, apparently, and with Jackson fully on board the round train, that made a five-to-nothing squash match. There may well have been a player on the Indians who was more piece of paper than globe, but he didn’t speak up, and that’s a good thing. Because if one did, he would’ve been told the same thing Kyrie Irving needs to hear.
If you really want to know the shape of the earth, just look at the ball in your hands.