On Progress; or, The Duality of the Post-Modern ThangPosted 27 May 2011 by Wee Bey
I love Time-Zone-Inappropriate baseball.
Allow me to explain.
My evening doesn’t begin until your morning newspaper (heh) is running on the press. Thus, my options for an afterwork ballgame are something that’s already finished (and something about which I already know the ending) or the ass-end of a West Coast ballgame, if I am lucky. For all the technological advancements in the world — and if this starts to sound like a commercial for MLB.TV, fuck it, I love that shit — watching my Twins suck ass when I already know how they lose is a little like Coors Light. It’s a beer. Sort of.
But then there are nights like Wednesday.
Now, the concept of Time-Zone-Inappropriate baseball seems a little post-moderny, even to me, but here’s what I mean: When I can come home at night, fire up the Macbook and see there’s still a game being played on the East Coast, or even in the Midwest. Back in the day, I’d never have known about this game, unless I happened to check the late boxes — and I did — a day later. But there I was, watching the Phillies and the Reds play, tied at four, in the 17th.
It’s fun because it’s strange. The fans who have toughed it out at Citizens Bank Park know this. A four-hour baseball game bores; a six-plus hour contest thrills. Such is the duality of the Post-Modern Thang. And you don’t need me to recap the contest except to say it made me channel my inner Tim Gunn — What is that thing on Wilson Valdez’ chin? — my inner Tim Kurkjian — He went 3-5 playing second and he GOT THE WIN IN RELIEF — AND my inner Drunk Samuel Beckett, which goes a little something like this: Only in baseball can a guy pitch relief in the 19th inning, with a damned batting glove in his back pocket, for feck’s sake, throw one test curveball — which plunks Scott Rolen, mind ye — and still be standing tall out there, calmly shaking his catcher off when THAT poor sod puts down the sign for the one bloody pitch he can throw, an 88-mph straight ball. At that point, folks, we’re all Molloy, every last one of us.
And when that war was over, my night with bonus baseball wasn’t, because Raul Ibanez’ sacrifice fly came just in time to flip over to Fish-Giants, where a late San Fran rally — they scored four in the ninth — sent THAT game, eventually, into the 12th frame. Which was absurdist theater all its own.
We got two frames of Brian Wilson’s Beard. And let me just say, I’ve come around. I used to think he looked like a kid trying out to be Abe Lincoln in the school play. But he has let that shit run wild. Apologies to Sebastian Washington, but Brian Wilson’s Beard IS the Tsar of All The Russias. Brian Wilson’s Beard will one day successfully draw an Israeli-Palestinian border. Brian Wilson’s Beard taught your girlfriend that thing she likes. Brian Wilson’s Beard writes better Brian Wilson’s Beard memes than I do.
But, alas, Brian Wilson’s Beard only had two innings in it, and the Giants would lose this game in 12, ending the second extended game in a row with a sacrifice fly and concluding a night of free baseball with a play at the plate — the best play in baseball and the second-best play in all of sports, behind hockey’s penalty shot.
With the bases loaded and one down, Emilio Bonifacio clipped a fly ball to right-center off Guillermo Mota. It was medium-deep. The Fish runner at third, Scott Cousins, is medium-fast. And the Giants rightfielder, Nate Schierholtz, has an above-average arm. It was all happening, in its hyphenated, compound-modifier glory.
By now you know what happened. Schierholtz got the peg there in time, but Giants catcher Buster Posey fumbled it, braced for the Cousins collision late, got trucked and is out for the season with a broken ankle and torn knee ligaments. And just as that play at the plate was predetermined the moment that ball left Bonifacio’s stick and headed for a spot in medium-deep, right-centerfield, so impending reactions and calls for elimination of contact at home plate were destined, sure, the moment Posey’s leg got caught underneath him.
The baseball rules surrounding plays at the plate remain fine. That the calls for a no-contact rule at home plate are wrong does not absolve us from understanding them. I will say that I knew Posey was gonna get hammered the moment that ball left the bat, and my immediate reaction to the play was a lot more simple-minded than most. Buster should have held that ball. As a grizzled old Legion coach told me once, “If you’re worried about getting rolled, you’re gonna get rolled. Squeeze the sonuvabitch.” That was, of course, before Legion ball went to a must-slide rule at home plate and effectively ruined the best play in baseball.
Posey’s agent and his manager have called for Major League Baseball to change the rules regarding home plate contact. And they are wrong. They are not wrong, despite the assertions of those who more than likely watch a lot of Fox News, because of the “pussification of America,” or some such nonsense. They’re mostly wrong because the rules already account for the situation to the best of human systems’ ability to account for such things. They’re wrong, but I understand why they’re wrong.
Hypothetically, Buster Posey could take two big steps forward, give Cousins the backside of the plate and attempt to apply a sweep tag after he acquires the baseball. Hypothetically, that could happen. And, hypothetically, British troops could leave Northern Ireland today, never to return. Buster Posey was never going to do that. He blocked the plate — like he should — and took the hit. Because he’s a catcher. There was destined to be a collision on that play, and he knew it, and he was going to give up that area to the left of home plate about the same time Israel gives control of the Western Wall to Hamas. Buster Posey’s a catcher, and catchers block the plate because they are catchers, and anyone who thinks that’s a tautology has never squatted behind home plate. This is also, incidentally, why the people who think Joe Mauer should move to another position are as wrong as Bibi Netanyahu. Shark gotta swim, you feel me?
When I was growing up I loved baseball and got to see one game a week, on Saturday afternoons, sitting on the floor in front of a huge-ass television that got three channels. On Wednesday night I got to see the ending to two fantastic games being played on opposite sides of the continent on my laptop while guzzling a six pack of Yuengling and discussing the action as it happened with friends from across the country who were doing the exact same thing, and could tell me about it without waking up the dog. We tacitly understand this progress and yearn for more. Surely, our mind says somewhere, in an age where all this is possible, we can make a rule so that Buster Posey doesn’t get hurt, and we get to keep watching him play all season long. Surely we can square that circle and allow two people to occupy the same time and space simultaneously without any collateral damage. We want it to be one way. But it’s the other.
There will be a workable border between Israel and Palestine when Brian Wilson’s Beard decrees it, or when being an Israeli no longer means occupying Gaza. I hope I live to see it. There will be no injuries on plays at the plate when being a catcher no longer means blocking the plate. I hope my grandchildren never know a world where this is possible. Wilson Valdez coming in to pitch from second base seems a thing of beauty, because it’s a throwback to an earlier age, but Buster Posey’s broken ankle seems awful for the same reason. Moments of tribalism seem triumphant and anachronistic, all at the same time, when viewed on a laptop at 2 a.m.
Such is the duality of the Post-Modern Thang.