What was it Jim Bouton said about baseball – something like – here and you thought you had a grip on baseball and all the time baseball had a grip on you?
Like the old song (almost) sez:
I Can’t Quit You, Baseball,
and I cain’t put you down for awhile.
Said you know I love you, baseball,
my love for you I could never hide.
Oh, when I find my self at a baseball game,
I know The Game’s my one desire.
When you hear me moaning and groaning,
you know it hurts me deep down inside to be gone.
(apologies Robert Plant and Jimmie Page)
Mo Ensberg looked for a job in baseball, couldn’t find one, so decided to spend his time (free) talking baseball WITH fans. So far, so honest. But, you know, I hope that his wanting to talk, to teach, isn’t breaking some kind of Omerta with The Powers That Be. Baseball people always talk in cliches, boring BORING stupid sounding cliches, never explaining, just engaging in endless circuitous “logic” if you can even call it that.
And now is the time of year that we get to hear some of the baseball writers and their usual outpouring of dislike of and resentment to those people who play with baseball numbers – both fantasy and professional statisticians (such as Tom Tango and Dan Szymborski.)
I’ve always wondered exactly why so many media baseball writers and columnists are so all fired eager to insist that absolutely NOTHING of any value WHATSOEVER could possibly be learned from stats or any sort (except for the old ones – RBI and batting average) and that anything that any baseball team could possibly want to know is already known by Those Infallible Scouts. And, of course, by implication, the BBWAA.
Is it just one of the endless manifestations of the “Back In My Day Ever Thang Was The Way Things Were Supposed To Be” syndrome? When didn’t nobody but Us Baseball Writers get to know anything? Or, perhaps, WRITE anything? When the baseball players, unless they were supadupa stahs had to kiss Writer butt to make them look good in the paper?
I’m sure that plays a part.
But after the Olympics, I got to thinking bout something somewhat different. I love watching the Men’s figure skating. Perfect bodies, skin tight costumes, graceful athletic movements – can’t beat it. But, these magnificent athletes (oh YES they are) are not participating in a SPORT, but rather in a competition that is judged. A great deal of the final score is the “artistic” component, which is determined ONLY by what each judge FEELS. There is no safe/out, there is no in/out of bounds, just opinion based on experience and personal taste. There is absolutely no absolute meaning of “artistic” or “graceful.”
Perhaps the translation of “artistic” in the world of baseball is our old friends, Mystique and Aura. Perhaps the fear is that numerical determinations of players, positioning, pitches, everything else, will make The Game too computer-like, with no place for the artistry, which is our other old friends, “Intangibles”, “Clutch”, “Grit”, “Knowing How To Play THE Game THE Right Way” and even “Makeup.” Too many stat-ists insist that if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. But truth is that we really NEED our friend “Magic” in The Game.
And truth is that the saber haters really have nothing to fear. No matter how many cameras, no matter how many formulas, no matter how many dorks playing fantasy ball, no matter how many empty idiotic Bull Durham remarks, baseball will ALWAYS be the game of youneverknow because you can’t have mathematical certainty about any event which, by their own definition, MUST always carry an element of Luck.
And no computer geek can possibly remove the magic of gazing on the baseball field, that field of impossibly perfect, beautiful grass with its perfect diamond, its perfectly positioned bases, guys who look like the kid who sells you computer parts (Lincecom) or models in GQ (Sizemore) or is the BBQ wizard at your local rib joint (Ray King) or is the kid who mows your lawn (Wandy) or is a cashier at the Kroger (Wesley Wright - and yes he DOES look just like one of the sackers at a Kroger I go to) – and that if you brought your glove and even your Mama’s old baseball and said – you wanna play catch? – they would smile at you and say – sure there gf, just throw that puppy right here….