Verlander sits at fifty pitches in the third inning. I sit at the Restless Wind, considering live-blogging the entire night of baseball, if I can find a plug.
Fifty-seven pitches and he’s still dancing on the corners, his utmost concern seemingly not to do something stupid. This is how I’ve been writing lately. Throwing a lot of words down, flirting with strikes but not committing. I don’t know what’s wrong but something’s wrong.
They tell me the nonfiction class is filled up for fiction writers. Presumably some poet spots have not yet been called. I wonder how many poets put on their second application to get back into the program that they wanted to co-major (if that’s a thing you can do in grad school) in nonfiction, too. I’m not bitter, just wondering. I’ve already taken the nonfiction problems course, and this is being offered as a lit course, so I would theoretically be able to take it. If someone drops the class.
Verlander finally guns a fastball down the middle. Some no-name Oakland chump swings right through, strike three, inning over. Everything ends well, is the moral, you just give it all you have.
This isn’t fiction but this is writing and this is the closest I can get right now.
Oakland’s pitcher whose name is Parker apparently is through two outs in his own third inning and is now facing two on with the Prince at the plate. He started the inning with twenty-seven pitches and has just thrown his forty-seventy. Fielder is a guy who hits home runs on accident. Shoulders as broad as a Nissan. And… he pops out to the second baseman. But the Tigres get a run out of the deal and lead 2-1.
My ex-roommate and still best friend Matt is a Tiger born and raised and I’ve taken to following them in his regard. He took the fun out of college football for me last year when he refused to root for my Buckeyes even though I’d been rooting for his Spartans, so much so that he cheered at the worst moment of the biggest game of the year when our guy threw an interception or the Cornhuskers got a touchdown or something. But that’s just the Buckeyes, whom he hates because most Buckeye fans are assholes and he’s stuck in Columbus. But the Reds he likes to watch, probably picked up my enthusiasm for these plucky underdogs from a small market, and I can in return, in good conscience, root for the Tigers.
Verlander walks the first batter of the fourth. Leyland’s between-inning interview reveals him to be as near-comatose as ever.
TBS is carrying the playoffs as they have done in recent years. They keep an ever-present computerized strike zone up in the corner, which feels like an insult to those of us who have watched enough baseball to tell a strike from a ball on television despite the catty-corner camera positioning standard in baseball (although newer stadiums have shown incentive to put the camera directly behind the mound).
Josh Donaldson, you will not catch up to Verlander heat in the top of the zone. Two high fastballs, both in the strike zone according to the computer, two swings, two misses, sit down, son.
I want to write a baseball book. I’ve put so much time into this sport now, analyzing, wondering, speculating, dreaming. Pop out to short, Verlander’s through four. I knew Grimes wrote a baseball book during his time at Iowa, among other years, but he finished it at Iowa and in his memoir the book was so built up, back wholeheartedly by his titular Mentor Frank Conroy and fought over by publishers, that I wanted to be better before I took a shot at it. Also Delillo’s Underworld, the opening chapter, fantastic baseball scene, what can I do that’s not been done.
I’m actually here for the Reds game. Cueto is going up against Matt Cain for the Giants, and though they have very similar ERAs, Cueto’s opponents are hitting a somewhat surprising .257 off him, while Cain’s held them to a .222 average. This first game of the series is out in San Fran, a big open ballpark with naught but dead air, where the balls don’t fly. Should be a low-scoring affair.
Oakland’s Parker on the mound has a cheek full of something. Hard to tell these days if it’s tobacco or sunflower seeds, or gum I guess but why would you jam that in your cheek. Full count, Peralta yanks it deep but foul. Peralta has a stupid first name. Jhonny. Who does that. Sticks an H in there like that. Don’t do that. Also don’t put on a hit-and-run three pitches in a row, as Peralta strikes out and Delmon Young is easily gunned out at second to end the inning. Leyland, you’re asleep at the wheel.
Years ago before I got into an MFA I had the idea that I could join the Reds organization as their official creative writer. This would take some convincing, but, I felt and still feel that if these players had someone paid to collect their stories and write them with the appropriate amount of skill and artifice and release them to the public, it would be an enormous weight off their shoulders and they could play the game without their adult worries preventing them from remembering it’s just a fucking game. How primed can you make a body, how much film can you watch, how well coached can you be, any more than all these athletes are. Almost every problem I see a baseball player have is mental. Basketball players too, to some extent, although most football players avoid this predicament by simply igniting the nuclear bomb in their guts with every snap. But baseball is a mind game more than most other games. Perhaps only golf is more. Also I want to be Tiger Woods’ official creative writer. I can’t tell you how pissed I was at him for mentally falling apart. I always thought he knew more than anyone else how the conventional rules of society didn’t apply to him, and I was surprised when he got married but then I just assumed that maybe his sexual drive was clipped or displaced, all of it finding its way down into the golf ball. When it came out he was trying to fuck the whole planet, as of course he was, I was retroactively pissed at him for ever getting married, or if he insisted on having a marriage, marrying a woman to whom he couldn’t make it clear who he was. You need a writer for these things, I tend to forget. Only writers know how to tell the secrets no one else can tell.
Verlander gets a call on the outside corner. Good for that batter, but don’t start dancing the lines again too much, buddy. You won’t get the calls all night.
By conventional rules of society, I don’t mean laws, or even common decency. But you are perfectly free to attempt to conquer the world with your wiener should you choose, only, most men don’t have a shot at it, and those who do don’t all necessarily feel the urge to try. Tiger did, and did. So why pretend you are who you aren’t? Endorsement deals? Please. If you play a sport where you regularly make six figures over a single weekend, don’t try to justify your greed to me. Forget being on a Wheaties box and go get your pork on, son.
Alex Avila takes a first pitch high fastball opposite way and out. Tigers up three to one. The dugout is feeling pretty good at that, like a two-run lead is good enough to win, but here’s the thing: even if Verlander is willing to pitch until his arm falls off, he’ll stop being effective at around 130 (okay probably 140), so he better start hitting the zone with a little more frequency and let these Athletics get themselves out. At least he’s in the American League.
That’s probably at the core of my want to write a baseball book. The designated hitter. What better example of the intricacies of the game than that travesty. I don’t think I could properly address the situation here, but it’s got something to do with that adult world barging its way into the simplicity of a sport. And though paradoxically you could make the argument that the DH is more in the spirit of game than not, that letting hitters hit and pitchers pitch allows these men to have more fun, this isn’t fucking football, okay? Or weightlifting, or drag racing, or grenade tossing, there is a finer texture to the mental element. And don’t even start to tell me how complicated defensive schemes can get in the NFL, that’s one fucking guy responsible for the positioning and then everyone on the field just gets turned loose. That’s why Matt can design and operate an eleven-man defense and be successful with the scrub team he always starts with, San Diego State or whatever, and he has so much trouble laying off the change-up in his baseball video game.
Verlander strikes out the side. He might get them through eight, at this rate. But that still leaves Valverde to close it, and that guy’s about as reliable as Dell with an Intel Core Duo trying to run Windows 7.
Somebody just turned up the air in here, and I’ve already got a sweatshirt on. My hands are creeping in closer towards fists, clenching, tightening up in the cold. I might not make it until the end of the game. Where’s my basketball.
Cabrera’s up in the bottom of the sixth. Cabrera the motherfucking triple-crown winner, holy shit, I only heard he was in contention for it the last day of the season. First triple-crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski back in 1967. Holy shit, dude. That’s some serious game. People said it wouldn’t be done again with all the computers and the hitting charts and the pitch-arounds, but he did it. More RBIs, more home runs, higher average than anyone in his league. That’s insane. That’s dominance. And nobody was talking about it, when every year they try to talk about it with whoever is leading in one category or another. Cabrera flies out to right, put some good wood on the ball but just missed it. Like Prince, he can hit with power in his sleep.
Okay. As it turns out, live blogging is hard. My hands are cold. My computer is dying. Time to wrap this up. One last pithy nugget of wisdom?
“This is the age of taking action. Talk to your doctor. Viagra.”