Day 037: Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
There’s something about baseball that other sports cannot replicate. In basketball and football, scoring is abundant and seen as normal. The teams take their turns scoring ad nauseum until a victor is crowned. Hockey and soccer have much less scoring, but the game is always moving. Rarely ever are there moments to stop and draw out the drama. And when something big does happen outside of scoring, it might not be punctuated at all. In baseball, they don’t score much, nor is there much rapid movement. It’s a game of chess and it’s a game of waiting. But there’s always a payoff. It’s guaranteed. If you take in a baseball game, you’re going to eventually see something special. Something that’ll make your heart race. You never know when it’s coming, but it will. Whether or not you feel like that moment was worth 3+ hours of your time is entirely up to you.
Last night was worth all of the hours.
After 3 milquetoast World Series games, many pundits were complaining that the series lacked a certain pizzazz. The baseball gods gifted everyone with a game 4 that was a sheer roller coaster of emotions. Every time one team scored, the other shot right back. There was no lead that felt any sort of comfortable. Going into the bottom of the 9th, the Dodgers clinged onto a 1 run lead. Assigned to finish the job was Kenley Jansen, the fallen “closer” that hasn’t been right since 2017. Already with 3 blown World Series saves under his belt, no fan felt comfortable with him going out there. But we were powerless to stop it. He mustered two outs while only allowing a single to Kevin Kiermaier. And then up came Randy Arozarena, the most dangerous hitter in baseball. He already had two singles and a home run. He even took Jansen yard the night before. The logical thing to do would be to just put him on first and try to get the next guy out. But like always, Kenley’s pride got the best of him and he was convinced that he could get him out.
He could not.
He walked Randy on a bundle of garbage pitches. While you might think that it made no difference if he pitched to him or not, I would disagree. By actually pitching to Arozarena, it gave Brett Phillips more time to mentally prepare and it gave Kenley more time to mentally rot. So it was all up to Brett Phillips, the pinch-hitting 26 year old jobber that had yet to get a hit in the postseason.
Here’s that moment I was talking about.
Down to his last strike, Brett Phillips bloops a single to right. Kiermaier was already well on his way home when Chris Taylor got to the ball. But Chris Taylor outran the ball and bungled it. He throws to cutoff man, Max Muncy, while Randy actually trips and falls down the third base line. Muncy doesn’t realize this, as he hurriedly throws to Will Smith, who should have Randy dead to rights. But he doesn’t catch the ball. Arozarena scores. Ballgame.
This was likely the most memorable World Series moment of our generation. Baseball fans from around the world rejoiced in the weirdness and impossibleness of the moment. Fairweather fans were sold on the sport. Kids were inspired, elderly people were enlightened, the Rays pulled off something truly remarkable. The 2020 World Series finally got its defining moment and what a moment it was. When it ended, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t yell, I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t think. I was frozen. I took a long gulp of whiskey and let the darkness wash over me.
11 hours later, I still don’t know how to process this.
It all seemed like a sure thing. In fact, it felt kind of boring. The Dodgers were one strike away from taking a commanding 3-1 lead. For game 5, Kershaw would take the mound, have his redemption game and finally win that piece of metal. He could have the chance to rewrite his narrative. But now, the series is tied at 2 and it doesn’t even feel close. Facing a must-win situation, Clayton Kershaw has the opportunity to succumb to his self-fulfilling prophecy. He very easily could choke and the series could become out of reach. If only Kenley could’ve gotten that one last strike. Or maybe if he wasn’t so busy feeling sorry for himself, he could’ve covered the backstop and retrieved the errant ball. You know, like he was supposed to. But there’s nothing we can do about it. The Rays have the momentum now and it’s their turn to try to do something with it. It’s crazy how quickly a sure thing can turn rotten.
I didn’t sleep much last night. I spent hours doom-scrolling Reddit and Twitter. At one point, I got sick of seeing everybody demanding the head of manager, Dave Roberts. Although I entirely agree that most of what transpired was due to his inability to utilize the bullpen and that was why the last 4 seasons ended the way they did. But the Dodgers still need to lose two more times before it’s over. There’s no reason to demand he gets fired now. Not until the Rays are holding the trophy, at least. It’s a destructive and childish mob mentality. I made that sentiment known on Reddit and here’s a few responses I got:
Fuck off. You clearly have started to only watch this team for like 2 years.
Dave should be fired regardless of the outcome.
You’re an idiot. Even if we win I want Roberts gone. Fuck that stupid asshole and fuck you
That last comment garnered a response from a guy named BobbyBigDong69, somebody who just stopped by the subreddit to see the world burn:
Love your guys’ fanbase, great group u got here
You know things are going bad when I think I’m among peers but the only person who has my back is BobbyBigDong69.
To support a losing team, it takes a lot of grief and humility. It’s definitely not for everyone. Last night hurts in a weird way. This season, I didn’t miss a game. Last season, I might’ve missed 5. Factoring in Spring Training, I have probably dedicated somewhere around 885 hours of my life to the Dodgers in the past 18 months. That’s an awful lot of time to invest to get endings like these. On one end, I feel blessed that my favorite team is a perennial contender. But I think the yearly blow hits harder because of that fact.
But what happened, happened. There is nothing I can do about it, nor is there anything I can do about the next few games, except just believe. I can believe that the offense isn’t going to go into a slump. I can believe that Kershaw is going to spin a dominant outing. I can believe that a game 6 bullpen outing could work. I can believe that if there is a game 7, Walker Buehler will be ready for the spotlight and his MVP trophy with accompanying Chevrolet. All I can do is believe. That’s the fallacy of being a sports fan. You can invest all of your time and dedicate your entire life to a team and in the end, it did absolutely nothing to help them succeed. Just like humans want what we can’t have, we want control over the uncontrollable. That’s probably why we watch sports in the first place.
In closing, I feel the need to quote Dodgers reporter, Alanna Rizzo, who tweeted this last night:
Dear, baseball. You wreck me but you fix me. You floor me but you elevate me. You misunderstand me but you get me. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Game 5 starts in 8 hours. If you need me, I’ll probably be sitting in a corner with a thousand mile stare.