Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Everything Contained in Anything

If I had arcane knowledge of 11th century Turkish lutes or was an aficionado of bird-life…their nesting habits, mating dances and migratory patterns I might find the whole universe there. As it is I don’t know a sparrow from a swallow. But I do know my baseball, this confluence of stick and orb. It is bred in my bone, in my mother’s milk. In a previous incarnation I was probably a great swatter of flies.

The current state of the game reflects divisions in our society. More and more we see youthful exuberance and flamboyance contrasted with the old virtue of containment.  The pull of Caribbean players with their bat flips and joyful antics against the push-back of the stoic traditionalists.  

Baseball has always been a draw for statisticians. The new generation has taken it many steps beyond batting average, fielding percentage and pitching metrics. Sabermetrics is the new analytics. Enter the nerds with their algorithms and fractals. Every move is measured, weighed and assigned a numerical value.

The unintended consequence is that the once hunch-filled, seat-of-the pants, character-driven sport is moving inexorably toward a bloodless exercise in probabilities and prognostications.  The human factor is being factored out or at least consigned to the margins in the equation.

A case could be made that the Dodgers will not contend in the World Series because of it. Having charted the batting patterns of certain hitters the new front office out-thought themselves. They shifted the infield leaving a single man on the left side and the opposition won the day using a tactic unknown to the sabermetricians. It’s called common sense.

I know, it is time to go back to Bible class starting with Ecclesiastes which tells us to put away childish things. But it is in my bloodstream and besides what is more childish than the Bible.

No, I must learn to live with defeat, that field of littered dreams. Baseball is a lesson in failure. It has been said that the hardest thing to do in all sports is hitting a baseball (with authority). The best fail 2/3 of the time. Not unlike our elected officials.

The season is, for me, an essential diversion from that other reality where avarice, ignorance and deception are rewarded. In fact the hedge-fund statisticians long ago figured out how to rig the system so 1% are born on 3rd base and rest of us never get past first.  


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