Where Is The Love For ... NAKED EMPERORS?
Dear blog readers: let me first begin initially by typing a small set of words regarding the struggles of my team. No, it is not looking good. Once, we were in the lead, and then the lead kicked us out for another team. Once, we were making crooked numbers with machine-like efficacy, and now we must be content to dally with straight lines and robust voids. Where our pitchers were once a source of pride, they are now the source of the wounds that our pride has endured. Still, we are racing, and it is arduous, and those of you that were eager to look in our mouths for horse-sense once we stumbled should note that studs we rode on both the hitting and pitching sides during our fat times have been put out to temporary pasture. No doubt Milton Bradley, set back with a finger injury, would gladly injure another finger to express displeasure at the speed with which certain reporters disbanded our wagon train.
I realize that I am part to blame for this swoon. Since my two-fisted pummeling of the Minnesota Twins, my play has been quite punchable. I went ten days without a hit, spanning 20 sad ABs. Worse, there was a fielding miscue that was given play where such things play well. (I imagine this was given more play than the play that achieved 6 home runs.) And yet again, Mr. Jim Tracy showed no hesitancy to pull the plug once my bulb seemingly flickered. That my struggles mirrored my team's struggles is no surprise, as we were missing both the aforementioned fingering of Milton Bradley as well as JD Drew - the team's two best hitters - during that stretch. It is no coincidence that JD Drew returned to the lineup on Monday evening, and we were successful. That I also tallied two hits is a pleasant surprise. As for my supposed lack of patience at the plate of late - yes, I have been more aggressive, yet what does it say that I am tied for 3rd on the team in walks, even with Mr. Jim Tracy's undue jerking? Consistency is not achieved through sporadic activity - it is borne of regular repeated action. And as any ball player will tell you, it is hard to replicate facing Major League pitches from beside the bat rack.
I am not passing the buck to another, but am merely hinting that perhaps the buck is not mine to bear. I only wish Mr. Jim Tracy was as trusting of my sporadic failures as he was of the repeated failures of a Mr. Scott Erickson, a man whose performance to date only inspires nausea, vomiting, and the occassional episode of homicide. I am awaiting the disembarkment of Mr. Scott Erickson to pastures consisting of tumbleweed and crabgrass and poisonous wildlife, for I do not doubt it is only his wife's effervescent and soothing personage that keeps Mr. Erickson buzzing in our bonnets. (Mr. Paul DePodesta, I implore you to step to the plate and make hard contact with this point!) Anyway, to you fans of the Los Angeles team in Los Angeles, take heart that we are still in fine spirit and in a state of play for our ultimate goal. Once these wrongs become right, we will be ready to assume the position. Keep up your chins!
One would hope that our Baseball is a strange sport - it is tied strictly to math, yet numbers rarely add up. A pitcher of skill and gifts can lose a game just as easily as a soft-shooting pea tosser. A hitter can get many hits, yet still be poor. And a team can be outscored, yet be in first place. To that end, here are some numbers concerning a group of Canadian expatriates currently assuming the squat rights of both the capital of the Americans and the National League's eastern quintet:
44 wins, 31 losses (310 runs scored, 316 runs allowed)
No doubt readers with some forthright sight notice a discrepancy. The Nationals, as they are now called, have allowed more runs than they have scored. Yet, they have won 13 more games than they have lost. Indeed, numerologists would say that this 13 is a sign of completeness. A WikiPedia article subjected to this topic will tell you the following: "While thirteen foretells new beginnings, it also signifies that outmoded systems must come to an end to make way for much needed transformations." No doubt such an unlucky deficit is signs of something portentous. Here is another statistical grouping from a team from the American League:
33 wins, 41 losses (317 runs scored, 329 runs allowed)
Note what the WikiPedia says about 8: "Huge reversals in life are common for the eight." This is the path walked in shame by proud people like Adrian Beltre and Jamie Moyer. Yes, the Seattle Marines have allowed more runs than their National brethren, yet they have also scored more runs. So how is this team's failure an all-but-pristine reflection of the Nationals' success? Some people out there - including a good number employed by my employers for this enterprise - will offer such good words or phrases like "knowing how to win" or "doing the little things" or "leaving it on the field". They will point to their surprising 18-7 record in games decided by 1 run as a sign of these truisms' veracity.
No doubt the more astute of these rose colorists will also employ the word "luck" in regards to this falling wind in Washington. Luck is an unquantifiable aspect of this game. It is the fudge that factors into the slow decay of baseball's rock hard statistics. Talent will undoubtedly out, in ideal situations, but only if luck allows the outing. And luck, like my erstwhile (and irksome) manager Mr. Jim Tracy, is a fickle fumbling fleet-footed bum. Surely a team self-saddled with prickers like Vinny Castilla (of the rapidly decreasing 721 OPS) and Christian Guzman (of the nearly infinitisimle 522 OPS) will start to eventualy buck this upward trend of success, especially when Jose Vidro's heavy lumber is replaced with the Guzmanian tinder that is Jamey Carroll. And if the combustible state of their starting pitching - 9 different starters used through late June! - doesn't catch, then perhaps the dangerous sparks thrown off by their bullpen (aside from the inflammable Chad Cordero) could ignite a scorched return to Earth. Far be it from me to be the one that cheers on yet another scalp for the Braves' swelled heads, but it is quite possible Atlanta will once again rise from the south and overtake their current oppressors.
Less likely, though mathematically possible, is the graceful fall of the Chicago White Sox. Only they are more lucky than the Nationals in contested tightness, with a 20-8 one-run record. Yet their record - already 50 wins! - is quite reflective of their play to this point. Here is what a numerologist would say regarding the sum of the digits in that win total: "This number governs our ability to think clearly and our intellectual capacity. Five represents openness to new experiences as well as new ideas." They are 6th in the major leagues in runs scored, and (most importantly) 2nd to only those nomadic Angels when it comes to allowing runs. The key to success for the White Sox, when not given to their quote-doling manager, was supposedly shaped by a trade made in the offseason, where Chicago swapped a powerful bat, and power in toto, for a fleet of feet helmed by one particular pair.
Scott Podsednik, if your hearing is believable, is the catalyst that charges the electricity within the White Sox. He has a .290 BA, and has stolen bases 38 times. Three plus eight equals eleven, which allows me to quote the following: "Because eleven contains many gifts such as psychic awareness and a keen sense of sensitivity, it also has negative effects such as treachery and betrayal from secret enemies." Again, good words are offered - he "disrupts the rhythm of pitchers" with his "heady baserunning" and his "hustle" and "sparks the offense". Of course, no mention is made of his "lack of power", or his "one-dimensionality", or the simple fact that, had the White Sox kept Carlos Lee, they might actually be a better team. But I digress. Much is made of getting into the head of a pitcher and stealing bases. There is an atavistic thrill attached to thievery. Breaking the law is, understandably, not kindly seen, yet watch how fiction and even non-fiction romanticizes law-breakers and vigilantes, and see how common folk buzz and shiver with glee when given a chance to even minutely flaunt authority in a clandestine manner. This love of seed translates easily into baseball, where deception is treasured, and burgling is encouraged. Yet this "small ball" that the White Sox are credited with is a misnomer, even if their superficial signifiers point to such beneficial miniaturization.
Their high run totals obscure the fact that they are in the middle of the pack in both batting average and OBP. Such middling success at reaching base actually speaks highly of the team's ability to drive the few runners they have towards the plate. Five of the nine White Sox starters have slugging percentiles over .450, and this doesn't include the small-but-powerful taste long time Sox darner Frank Thomas has provided since his return. First base is often not stolen, they say, and it is true here. What is also true is that the greatest distraction to offer a pitcher is to score runs. Extra base hits provide such a distraction, and Carlos Lee has been providing many extra base hits for his new team. Distracting the pitcher in such a fashion while your pitcher distract hitters is a fine way to succeed. I have no problem asserting that if those hits Carlos Lee made this year were for his former team, in place of Scott Podsednik's speedy singles, then Chicago would possibly be legitimately worthy of such a fantastic record. Indeed, this is the grandest deception of all - a supposedly small team playing large, hiding their strength within a lithe and wiry frame. That this smokescreen was manufactured by a franchise best known for their failure to successfully deceive is yet another appropriate piece of poetry indicative of the fugue many baseball thinkers allow to cloud their judgements. Fool yourself only if you can live with the shame of it all.