Tears In Heaven
I'd like to take this moment to point out what an absurd game baseball is.
I was thinking about this tonight while watching the game as they showed a batting average on the screen.
The batting average was .372. Highly respectable. Until you think about it.
That means that the player hits the ball into play a little less than four times out of every ten. That means that six times out of every ten--the majority of times he takes the plate--he hits a long yawner of a fly ball to the opposite field, or a slow little grounder to second base, or a pop fly to short, or any number of the other quintissentially banal moments that pepper baseball.
On-base percentage makes that number a little nicer. An OBP of .400 is good, as far as I can see. This means that exactly four times out of ten, rather than hit a fly ball to the opposite field, or a grounder to second base, or a pop fly to short, maybe the pitcher threw a bunch of curveballs that were "just a little outside" or one slider that was "just a little inside" and hit the guy, and now he stands on base, spitting, folding his gloves, and whispering conspiratorially with the opposing infielders. Yyyyayy.
Slugging percentage is usually up over .500. This means that one time out of every two that a player does not hit a fly ball to the opposite field, or a grounder to second base, or a pop fly to short, the ball clears the wall. But the other two out of two it manages to fall into the left-field gap, and the player will stand on base, spitting, folding his gloves, and whispering conspiratorially with the opposing infielders.
What a stupid game! The vast majority of the time, no matter which way you slice it, nothing is happening.
Statistics aside, baseball is still stupid. Just the concept of hitting--a man on a little hill in the middle of a field flings a tiny round ball directly at another guy. The other guy attempts to hit the tiny round ball with a round bat. Meanwhile, the guy on the little hill hopes to hell he doesn't, which, most of the time, is how it works out. But the guy on the hill keeps throwing it over and over and the guy with the bat keeps swinging over and over. Where's Darwin when we need him? Can you imagine an alien race descending to observe our species and the horrific conclusions they'd take from seeing baseball played?
What the hell, Quork thinks to Blonk (they're telepathic, of course). They're all happy because...wait, let me try to figure this out...because that guy there...managed to get back to the same place he started from?
No, Blonk will think back, smugly. For whatever reason, they're all happy because they sent the spheroid away, remember, when it flew out of their game-structure.
I don't understand that, thinks Quork. Was the ball their enemy?
Perhaps it was poisonous, Blonk replies.
And yet, obviously, we spend our time, money and energy on this exercise in futility. So it obviously has something incredibly special going for it.
If you want to know what that thing is, I hope you were watching tonight's Red Sox game, when Manny led off the eighth inning against a hapless Toronto bullpen pitcher. I hope you were watching as the poisonous spheroid went sailing toward the fans howling with joy high atop the great green wall, framed against the Citgo sign and the pure summer sky. I hope you were watching 35,000 people unified in loyalty and love.
If last night was Baseball Hell, tonight in a Dante-esque journey we have glimpsed the timeless gates of Baseball Heaven.