Fellow Reds blogger Drew Koch of Blog Red Machine does a pretty darn decent job of contextualizing the Reds’ recent loss (the recent loss against the Phillies on April 8, I mean; there are so very many recent losses already that we must specify to keep them straight.)

What I enjoy about articles like this is that they explore how close the win truly was while walking us through several what-if scenarios. I don’t have any patience for fantasy leagues, but I’ll sit right down for a “because of this/then this” dissection. It honors the game. It plots out an alternate past. It acknowledges the million and one decisions on which a contest can turn.

What I also like about these articles is that those who also watched the game then jumped in with a counter-counter-perspective to the counter-perspective. Whether or not you lay the blame for this particular loss at the feet of David Bell, the comments provide a reminder of the excellent game starter Nick Lodolo pitched, opinions on who was up next in the Phillies lineup, and suggestions for moving around the bullpen chess pieces that are such an inescapable part of 21st century baseball.

In other words, viewing the game as a whole, as well as the array of options available to Bell at that precise moment in the game, serve as an important reminder that every choice has a consequence, and every gamble is precisely that: A gamble.

Pausing the tape (shut up, GenX 4evah, all recordings are “tapes”) celebrates the richness of the moment– maybe you had a trash bag of kettle corn taking up the better part of your row, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you weren’t watching or listening to the game at all. And that’s a perfectly legitimate way to enjoy the game. With its lazy length and pauses between pitches, baseball is meant to be picked up and put back down again as needed. And yet…. it’s complicated.

Remember that while the final score tells a story, it’s only the barest minimum of a summary. Leaning too heavily on the brief tale of the outcome carries the danger of casting aside some of the best moments of baseball– the rally, the brawl, the verbal hills and valleys that accompany the Jumbotron (yes, Jumbotron, GenX, etc) replays. Sometimes it pays to search out someone else’s over-the-wall-grab or a particularly impressive series of pitches.

The irony of a few decades worth of losing seasons means that the affected fans are invited to love baseball for baseball, if they can stomach the wild pitches and the bizarre baserunning. Something tells you you’re mad to continue to subject yourself and your loved ones to this, but all the same, you cannot look away.

And I don’t mean in the train wreck sense. I mean in theΒ  one-single-wildflower-in-a-giant-field way. Taking the time to wander around major pivot points of the game– or just one seemingly inconsequential swing and a miss–invites us to appreciate the art of the game even if the museum housing it lies in ruins. Plotting out an alternate past is a free vacation to the playoffs, so we might as well learn to enjoy ourselves there.

11 Responses

  1. LDS

    Such a Zen take on decades of losing. While, at times, I can agree with this perspective, far too often the institutionalized mediocrity destroys my baseball induced satori. I guess my old mind just isn’t disciplined enough. Oh well, back to the zubaton to find my center.

  2. Rednat

    thanks MBE. my love for baseball has diminished through the years. i could tell you every world series out come from 1960- the mid nineties. but I don’t even know who was in the world series last year. I think the Phils.

    I do ponder on the main cause? is it because the game has changed so much is because the reds have been so bad? I wonder what an old guy like me living in NY or LA IS THINKING. I am sure if my team was winning 100 games a year I would be more interested in baseball.

    once again, good thought provoking article

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Truly appreciate this. I can trace my dissatisfaction to a lack of focus on actual baseball in favor of focus on… other things. But this season’s fairly dramatic rule changes have not helped.

  3. Mark Moore

    In my professional life, I often bring up the concept of “Hard and Complicated are different things and too may organizations hide behind the ‘complicated’ label when what they are facing is just plain hard.”

    Your article hear reminds me that this stands true. Hitting a MLB fastball or curve is “hard” and takes work and discipline. Managing a tight MLB game, especially in the late innings, is often “complicated” because (and you put it well) nearly everything is a gamble and all gambles/actions have consequences. In Philly and in Atlanta we’ve been underwhelmed by the decisions and frustrated by the consequences.

    Maybe I need to go watch some MiLB games and focus more on young talent trying to overcome “hard” as they seek to move up to the next level.

    Keep us grounded, MBE. For many of us, “Baseball is Life” still.

    • Jim Walker

      I think I learned this hard/ complicated stuff 30 years (and more ago now) when I was coding database solutions with dinosaurs called DBase3 and FoxPro.

      Complicated can actually be fun due to the sense of achievement from unraveling all the interrelated threads to create a desired solution. Hard is when there is no viable solution that accomplishes the goal within desired, required, or comfortable parameters.

      I think the Reds have a way of making things hard that should only be complicated.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      awwwwwwwww thanks! You know what you post made me think of? The Billy Bates pinch hit in the ’90 World Series.

      Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if that didn’t work out the way it did.