Oddly enough, I'm starting to soften toward Julian Tavarez. Saturday I was igged out at how he was cuddling Daisuke, like he's adopted him as a pet or something. Sunday, though, they showed Julian explaining to Daisuke, through gestures, that he needed to pitch inside to A-Rod, possibly even hit him, and then A-Rod would be afraid of him. Either that or he was specifically saying to jam A-Rod on the hands, I don't know, he made this weird spazzy gesture with his hands that could have meant either.
It was then I saw how Daisuke was watching him, with mild confusion but unmistakable affection. Smiling and nodding as if to say, aw, bless his heart.
Sunday as Daisuke was sitting on the dugout bench between innings, Julian walked up to him again and patted him on the belly, looking into his eyes and speaking rapidly. Daisuke smiled and nodded bemusedly, and as I watched Julian grinning and babbling, suddenly I realized I was doing that same Daisuke head-tilt. Aww...he's a nutcase, but he's kind of an endearing nutcase right now.
Ever since then Julian's psychotic form of batshit craziness has taken a backseat to this newfound silly type, and I've found myself warming to him sometimes in spite of myself. There's just something funny about him when he gropes Daisuke or speaks on behalf of Manny or directs traffic around the infield. Something spazzy and definitely looney tunes, but oddly endearing.
So once I made that initial concession to his essential humanity, I started to wonder if at least some aspects of his behavior--his frequent rages after a bad performance as well as his reverence toward Daisuke--suggest something other than sociopathy. Maybe it's frustration that makes Julian flip out sometimes, frustration that comes from a desire to perform at a higher level than his actual abilities will allow.
I've started to wonder, in other words, if it's just that Julian knows where he stands on the all-time pitching charts--that he knows what kind of pitcher Daisuke is and what kind of pitcher he is, as he puts in his workmanlike innings on a spotty sinking fastball and a sloppy changeup, like Salieri to Daisuke's Mozart (Except he's not trying to kill him. (Yet.)).
I'm making this up, of course, but I make up stories for every guy. We all do. It doesn't mean he's a nice guy, or even particularly bright. It doesn't mean I'm going to be getting his jersey or drafting a Tavarez Sermon to go with the one I'm frequently heard reprising on Keith Foulke. But it could be part of why he stormed off the field the way he did in the third, snarling curses into his glove after giving up three runs. And if we can interpret Coco's madcap dive into the bullpen as a sign of crazed devotion, Tavarez's intensity should also count for something.
I guess I also want to take it easy on Julian because it doesn't seem like he's being obstinate like Beckett or a head case like Clement. He just is what he is. And that is a fifth starter who is going to lose some games. Especially on nights when there's plenty of tough luck in the field to go around (four errors!).
Every so often I saw some nice pitches from him tonight, a few wicked cutters or loopy sinkers, and I felt for him as he fretted nervously with his hat, grubbing it up with rosin from his fingers. Just as often I saw bad ones, borderline wild at times, which sent him into a solitary harangue, out there alone, kicking the mound. He wasn't good, but he wasn't Casey Wright, either. He knows exactly what he wants to do, I thought, he just can't do it. Not tonight, anyway.
Again, this is probably some kind of transference I'm making here, some kind of circumstance I've seen in real life that I'm mapping for some reason onto Rorsach Test that is baseball. But I've seen it firsthand so many times--there seem to be some people in life who can both do and understand, and many more who can do either, but not both. The ones who can understand but not do are a lot like Julian--the Quixotic ones, the ones who wait for their modest moments in the sun, even as the base hits fall in.
P.S. Tito just totally lost his patience at the press conference. More frustration talking...the feeding frenzy over it has no doubt already begun.