Tuesday, April 3, 2007

What separates 1-0 from 0-1?

100 percent. That's as wide as the chasm gets, never wider, even if the 1-0 team wins all its games and the 0-1 team loses all its. Just so you know, you of the 1-0 team: relish this mount, because you're never getting higher.

Baseball is filled with worthless observations and flawed prognostics, many of them exposed in Moneyball, but I'll add another one for the hell of it: of the 13 teams that started last season 1-0, only Baltimore, Chicago (NL), Colorado, Atlanta and Milwaukee failed to finish the season with at least a .500 record. On the other hand, only Oakland, Los Angeles (NL) and Philadelphia lost its first game and finished over .500.

This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Royals' 7-1 win over the Red Sox and subsequent 1-0 record, but I thought I'd point it out anyway.

The surest way to convert a pagan is not to sit him at a high stakes poker table or direct him to message boards that argue the existence of the paranormal (don't blame me if you click on that link... there, there's your fair warning), but to watch a ballgame like yesterday's in 80-degree weather with 41,257 in attendance, an ace pitcher cruising (Jon Miller, sixth inning: "Meche is just toying with the Red Sox right now") and the home team slugging. If the pagan doesn't believe then, just call him hopeless and sell him into slavery.

The look in Gil Meche's eyes said he was not ready to take his leave, not after a measly single that his centerfielder almost caught, but the crowd, still 40,000-strong, was already rising, and Buddy Bell, who sensed a moment in the making, was already congratulating, and so the manager patted his ace on the shoulder and sent him towards the adoring partisans who applauded with the intensity of skeptics paying penance for their disbelief. With each stride the ovation must have hit him anew, like ocean waves that start as a ripple but grow to frightening heights. What goes through a pitcher's head at times like these, when, after two and a half hours of painstaking work, he returns alone to his dugout, small like a marble rolling in a great glass basin, suddenly stripped by the noise of the stoicism that has enabled him to get this far? He seemed unsure of what to focus on, so he kept his eyes down, unsure too of what he might see. Then, awkwardly, though perhaps more endearingly because of the shyness of it, he lifted his right hand, the same one that had thrown fastballs that made Mike Lowell curse and power curves that made Julio Lugo freeze and changeups that made David Ortiz whiff, and acknowledged those cheers that grew only louder. And then he disappeared into the cool shelter of the dugout, where he reflected, and here I would not be so brazen as to speculate on what, or to where his eyes could see.

And then, faraway, you see it, but barely: a higher peak, a truer pinnacle. And then the upward journey continues.

1 comment:

  1. Huzzah for Gilgamesh, the conquering epic hero!