Day 020: In One Moment, Baseball Felt Real Again
While you were sitting at home watching an old man in a chamber try to become Brundlefly™, I was at my own home watching a moment of pure, unadulterated magic. Say what you want about the 2020 baseball season, it’s probably true. It’s been a weird, hollow experiment with its share of ups and downs. The Postseason has been no different. Seeing the Braves and Marlins stumble around an empty Minute Maid Park at 1 in the afternoon just screams Spring Training. The umps have been bad, the atmosphere had been nauseating and there are still players making their major league debuts deep into the throes of October. And then, in a moment of mercy, the baseball gods gave us a gift. For a few seconds last night, the sport felt real again.
There’s a lot to unpack here. You have Brusdar Graterol pitching to Fernando Tatis Jr, 22 and 21 years old respectively, in the most pivotal moment in the game, maybe even the series. In their own ways, they are the 2 most exciting young players in baseball. Brusdar is a freak of nature. He casually throws 99-102 MPH with a windup much akin to a dad playing catch. And unlike most closers that throw heat, he doesn’t have anger issues. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. He seems like the happiest dude in any room he steps in. His joy and exuberance has rubbed off on the team and it shows. He’s always the first to mark out for his teammates and seemingly always has a smile on his face. He is Puig 2.0, improving on every deficiency that he had. And then, there’s Tatis. There’s nothing I can say about him that hasn’t already been gushed about. The kid can do it all. He’s a dynamic shortstop, hits for both average & power and is an encouraging force in the clubhouse. He has quickly become the face of baseball, since he has the skill of Mike Trout but isn’t a lifeless robot. He dances, he wears pink, he hits dingers. He’s the easiest sell to the kids since Ken Griffey Jr. A true asset to the sport. And this isn’t the first time he’s excelled in a high-pressure moment. Brusdar threw him a 99 MPH missile and he launched it 407 feet with ease.
Enter Cody Bellinger. The reigning NL MVP has spent all of this year trying to find himself again. He’s been lost in space and management wasn’t afraid to knock him down to the bottom half of the batting order. The sport can humble you just as easily as it can lift you up. He got lifted up in the 4th inning, as an ankle-high golf swing garnered a home run, the first time the ball left the cavernous yard in this series. Riding off that high, he saw Tatis launch the ball and he kept his laser focus on it. He traversed 97 feet, perfectly timed his leap and made the robbery look easy. I can assure you it’s not. There to meet him at the wall was Chris Taylor, the man who defied physics to rob the Brewers of a trip to the 2018 World Series. He looked at Cody with knowing eyes and probably said in his head, “welcome to the club” or some other cheesy sentimental shit.
The game wasn’t over, but celebrations ensued. Brusdar, absolutely ecstatic that a miracle had happened, tossed his glove and threw his hat like a Frisbee. This didn’t jibe well with Manny Machado, the player on deck and card-carrying sore sport. Less than an hour earlier, he hit a home run and flipped the bat straight to hell, pounding his chest and everything. Nobody took issue with it, because that’s baseball. But it’d be hypocritical to think that when a run gets saved, the defense can’t celebrate. Brusdar had no bat to flip, so he used his other equipment. He laced F-Bombs in Brusdar’s direction. Eventually, he turned around and blew a kiss at Manny.
If the two teams hadn’t been festering a rivalry before, they surely are now. Historically, there’s always been a big brother-little brother dynamic between the two teams. The Padres and their fans hate the Dodgers. The big brother never sees him as a threat and pats him on the head, making the anger worse. We are now at a point where the little brother has grown up and is fueled by decades of resentment. This game was the moment where the Dodgers finally took them seriously. A rivalry has been born and considering the youth of both franchises, it’s going to be a bloodbath for years to come. And I’m here for all of it.
It only took a few seconds. It could’ve easily had been missed. But those few seconds solidified two young talents, signified the return of another talent, ignited a rivalry and treated us weary fans with tangible magic. If this doesn’t make you romantic about baseball, you will never be romantic about baseball.