Roger Angell, when recalling the famous Carlton Fisk home run, once wrote:
It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look– I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring– caring deeply and passionately, really caring– which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete– the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the hap-hazardous flight of a distant ball– seems a small price to pay for such a gift.
And with one final twisted motion toward a distant pentagonal piece of rubber, the final pitch of the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season was thrown. As sports fans, we understand it’s completely nonsensical to be so attached to such things, but as Angell so beautifully describes above, there is this deep innate desire to care about something which always brings us back. The day an unfulfilling season- like the Braves this year- ends is like the day of a breakup. You both know the last two months were long and tortuous, but in that singular moment, as your body falls into the seat of your car and your shaking hand reaches for the ignition switch, you want it all back. The bad parts seem like a distant memory, and all you can recall are the things you miss. You think back to Jason Heyward making a diving catch to rob a line drive’s potential identity as a hit. You remember the perfection of Justin Upton’s swing when well-timed as it launches a pitch 470 feet. Even thinking of Gerald Laird brings back the thrill of 8th inning go ahead hits that instantly warm your soul.
Ok, maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch, but you get my point. The regular season is over, and I’m sad. As we pick our teams to cheer on in October, let’s have a look back at who had the best final weekend in baseball.
RAW PERFORMANCE PLAYER OF THE DAY
As much as I hate the GNats, I have to give credit where it’s due. Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals defense (not just Zimmermann, lest you be mislead by less competent “journalists”) combined to go 9 innings against the Marlins on Sunday, with only one walk keeping it from being a perfect game. Zimmermann supplied the firepower- striking out 10 in only 102 pitches- while the defense supplied the flash, including a jaw-dropping play to finish it off. Every no-hitter has some sort of incredible defensive play, and this one didn’t disappoint.
CONTEXTUAL PLAYER OF THE DAY
As of Sunday morning it was extremely likely the Athletics were going to make it to the “post season” (if you consider the wildcard play-in game the post season), but it was not yet set in stone. If they lost and the Mariners won there would be a tie, thus it would require two 1 game play ins for them to reach October baseball. Luckily for them, sophomore sensation Sonny Gray was dealing. Sonny allowed only 7 baserunners in his complete game shutout, striking out 5 in 103 pitches against the recently-hot Texas Rangers. It’s dominant, young pitching like this that salvaged their season, so it’s great to see that be their way into the post season mix. Here’s hoping they can keep it up and make a run at the World Series.
I had planned on this being my last Player of the Day post, as I don’t want to just do post-season game recaps. I think what I’m going to do instead- per suggestion from my
dictator editor- is player of the week for the post season. These will run on Mondays to fit in with the rest of the regularly scheduled sports #content on here.
I hope I was able to capture in these posts some of the things I enjoy most about baseball. First, it’s fun to make a big to-do about something that is truly meaningless. All of the ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek introductions were a daily reminder for me to never take baseball, life, or myself too seriously. Second, in a 162 game season with 30 different teams, any given player could be a hero any given night. We’ve had superstars make appearances on these posts, but we’ve also had random bench players you’ve likely never heard of. I like to think of this as a metaphor for why it’s so important to do good for others in life. You’ve likely got around 25000 days to live, and any given day you could make some sort of difference in somebody’s life. Just as Rougned Odor will never be the baseballer that Clayton Kershaw is, you’re probably never going to be the sort of charitable giver that Bill Gates is. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a real impact today, and that’s a thing of beauty we should never forget.
Was that outro serious? Was it just another line of BS to fit in with the theme? Who knows! It’s best not to put too much thought into the words in these posts, because God knows I sure don’t. Either way, look for the first POTW post next Monday, and until next year, Go Braves!!!