Monday, October 3, 2016

Falling Out Of Baseball

Tell Your Statistics To Shut Up
Not very long ago, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez lost his life in a tragic boating accident. Fernandez was an iconic, dominant player, and his loss reverberated throughout sports. In the Marlins' first game after the loss, power-free leadoff hitter Dee Gordon took the first pitch right handed, because Fernandez hit that way. Then he switched over to the more appropriate left side, and hit his first and last home run of the season, the only one he'd manage in 325 at bats, and just his ninth in six years of play.

Gordon was very emotional afterward, and wound up having a 4-hit night in a year that was mostly a wash, with the second-worst on-base average in his six years, and a massive steroid suspension eating half of his year. In the post-game, he said he never hit a ball that far in his life, not even in batting practice, and that he felt that the ball had help from Fernandez's spirit. It was, in short, one of those moments that only baseball can be said to provide, where special things happen that attach themselves to narratives.

I missed the game, have Gordon on my fantasy league team, and wound up reading about it the day after it happened. So I went to MLB's web site to learn more about it, and wound up watching a Statcast video of Gordon's home run... that went into mindless detail about exit velocity, distance traveled, arc, amount of time in the air, and what the batting average for those types of hits usually produced.

No, seriously. If you've ever wondered why people hate analytics people, watch that video and wonder no more.

Yesterday, broadcasting legend Vin Scully worked his last game for the Dodgers. The sports world covered this with all due gravity, and we all got extended exposure to Scully's classic solo coverage of his last few games, including a heartfelt and moving speech to the Dodger Stadium faithful.

I can tell you from painful and poignant experience, first with Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas in Philadelphia, then with the equally wonderful Bill King in Oakland, that once you lose a voice like that in your ear, you never get it back. And in baseball, given the time spent, that matters more than just about anything, honestly.

The Dodgers are in the playoffs, but Scully won't be working those games, because MLB always bigfoots the local announcers in the playoffs for no good reason at all. If you can find a single person who prefers Joe Buck in the booth to Scully... well, I'm glad you know Buck personally, in that he makes a lot of money, and maybe he picks up the bill at restaurants for you. Otherwise, we all lose, Dodger Fan most of all.

This is where I'm supposed to pivot, talk about the matchups in the upcoming playoff season, discuss the possibility of a nation-changing run by the loaded Cubs, pray to all that is holy that Boston Fan doesn't get yet another parade in a month-long festival of David Ortiz worship, and so on, and so on.

But to be honest, there's almost no part of me that is into it. Some rando team will win the rando play-in game, because there's no such thing as long-form pennant races and a deserving team getting their hearts broken in the regular season any more. Boston will beat Cleveland, because there's no way that Cleveland Fan didn't sell their entire soul for that Cavs win last June. The whole thing will wrap up in a month, and if we are very, very lucky, keep America somewhat sane from the presidential madness that's going on.

And I'm going to take a miss on the whole thing, because the entirety of this year has been a miss for me.

Here's the thing; baseball is a local game played nationally. If my laundry (Oakland) isn't involved, the height of my rooting interest is to hope that some other fan base that I loathe (Boston) doesn't win, or maybe that specific players don't get a ring (none really anymore; I'm getting too old to hate players, especially in the morally compromised world of fantasy leagues, assuming they are smart enough to keep their terrible politics private until retirement).

I have a very good friend who would be happy if the Orioles won. I know people from old start ups who go for the Giants. One of my poker regulars lives and dies with his Mets. Toronto has the ex-A's player I miss the most (3B Josh Donaldson). A good friend of over 30 years is all over his Dodgers. If the Cubs win, that's one more fan base we don't ever have to hear from again, and Bill Murray is happy. Bill Murray is a national treasure, so Go Cubs.

But here's the thing -- I don't really have a team that I'm rooting *against*, save for Boston. Sure, Texas has had Bush overtones, and DC is a terrible place filled with dubious memories, but it's not as if I know anyone that will have their day ruined by their baseball team not going the distance.

There's also this. I probably watched less baseball this year than I did "House of Cards" episodes.

That's how uninspiring my A's were. That's how un-competitive my fantasy team was (a pitching staff built around David Price and Sonny Gray; plus Gordon's siesta and subsequent death in steals; I was doomed by May and knew it).

I have no King and no Kalas and MLB has repugnant leadership and wildly overpriced tickets, with no franchise terribly close by, and the NBA just keeps taking more of my life, and yeah.

I spent many years, as an adult, not caring at all about baseball. It was timed to match the period where the Phillies (my first laundry, and the first that I ever gave up) stopped trying to win games until they got a new yard, then the game went on strike and killed Montreal, and I just let it all go. That entire Yankee era was missed, and amen to that. I only got back into the game as a lark, with the A's local to where I lived, and some luck and fun in fantasy. It's honestly been years since baseball has been fun for me.

I'm sure that it will be again some day.

Just not now, and I don't really know, well, when.

So... Cubs to win it all, I guess. Enjoy the games.

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