Saturday, October 10, 2009

Not At-Game Recap: 2009 NLDS Game 2: Gameday Superstitions (Part 1)

It seems like only a minority of SoSG readers can appreciate this, but I couldn't share the joy of being at Thursday's incredible come-from-behind 3-2 victory at the Stadium. I was apparently the only guy in LA that had to work. And "watching" this game via mlb.com's gameday was incredibly painful.

What served as a reasonable substitute for television over six months this year, became a woefully insufficient medium to capture the majesty and emotion of this game. Adam Wainwright was pwning us, I could see that from Gameday. Matt Holliday's second-inning home run was matched by Andre Ethier's fourth-inning bomb, but the pitcher's duel appeared to have gone the Cardinals' way when Joe Torre left Clayton Kershaw in to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning (Kershaw having gone six innings of one-run ball with 97 pitches), and then Kershaw gave up a go-ahead run in the top of the seventh. I couldn't understand why Torre, who was so quick with the hook for 33-year-old veteran Randy Wolf in Game 1, was so slow to yank 21-year-old Kershaw in Game 2. But Gameday, devoid of commentary or answers, gave me nothing more than the cold, hard facts of the game.

Meanwhile, throughout this game, I was getting texts from my family and friends, all of whom seemed to be at the game and enjoying the festivities. I didn't need texts like "Time for the rally hats!" to understand the gravity of the situation, the progression of a game toward its apparent end which left the Dodgers' fates more and more precarious. A 1-1 split going back to St. Louis for two seemed certain, the way this game was going.

It would have been nice to see the emotion, even from a television broadcast, that mlb.com Gameday just can't possibly provide, not with its lengthy pauses in between pitches, its cel-shaded anonymous batters, its invisible pitchers who unleash red arcing streaks that end in a colored bubble at a small white rectangle floating behind home plate. This isn't baseball. This isn't even simulated baseball or BaseballMania.

Sure, you get more information like pitch speed and break and PFX (movement) and a bunch of other analytics on Gameday Premium for which I wouldn't shell out an additional $20 to access. But don't let the green checkerboard print fool you: that ain't grass, that ain't a field, and that ain't baseball. Like reading a teletype printout that stops every five minutes while you stop to decode a string of morse code signals, gameday's recap is devoid of emotion, absent any feeling whatsoever.

And the pauses of consequence, signalled by an interminable "In play, no out" or "In play, out(s)", are simply gut-wrenching. Like the point in time when your girlfriend of two years and intermittent breakups and epic albeit sometimes unprotected sex, ominously says to you, "Sit down, I've got to tell you something." A full menu of options race through one's mind like the beginning of the Pamplona bull run. What's happening? Who is on base? SOMEBODY TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???!!!

It's really almost too much to bear sometimes. Especially when you feel that you should be there at the game in the first place.

By the bottom of the eighth inning, I had had enough. I started packing up my stuff from work and as Casey Blake flied out and Ronnie Belliard struck out, and I was done. If the Dodgers were going to lose this game, I was going to be listening to Vin Scully on the radio, dammit. I left my desk to get some water.

But then, Russell Martin, hitless in the postseason and batting .207 since September, singled. And when I came back to my desk, there was a little red cube sitting on first base with two out. Okay.

So I went out to make a photocopy. And I came back, and Jim Thome had been hit by a pitch, adding another cube to the diamond.

Clearly, there's something going on here. I leave the computer, the batter survives. I stay and "watch" the rest of the batters, all game long, and we don't do very well.

The choice was clear; you don't mess with a superstition that works. I picked up the Wall Street Journal, went out into the hallway, and sat down in a couch outside my office to read the paper, away from my desk and out of range from my monitor. But I couldn't really concentrate on hedge funds and commodity prices. I really wanted to know what was going on with the game! But if I wasn't really reading and taking my mind off the Dodger game, was I betraying the fundamentals of the superstition in the first place? Am I trapping myself in a death spiral, like when you try and get yourself to sleep by clearing your mind of thoughts, but all you can think about is how you're consciously trying to clear your mind of thoughts? The Gameday paradox!

Wait, Rafael Furcal walks! Bases loaded! The superstition works! Get back out on the couch and read another couple of articles!

Oh no, Matt Kemp grounds out to first to end the eighth inning. That's it. I'm getting in my car to drive home.

continued later, in part 2...

11 comments:

Josh S. said...

Great, great piece, Sax. I think Vin himself would love it.

I had a similar in-car experience last year after FJL's grand slam. Too bad it was Steiner calling that one.

Oh, and...RANCHO CIENEGA!

Josh S. said...

Whaaaa? This got changed to Part 1 while I was commenting. Now my comment references a map that's no longer there.

Steve Sax said...

Josh S: sorry, I screwed with the space-time when I thought the post was too lengthy. Part 2, with Vin, now runs at 10:00 am. Hey, you're up early! Must be the baby!

If you have time, Josh S, I'd love to hear your Vin experience, either in a comment or email...

Neeebs said...

@Sax:

That's the beauty of the game thread. You get us fanatics describing the plays when other sources are inadequate.

Kinda like today when I'm going to be at a prog rock festival ALL DAY.

Steve Sax said...

Neeebs, you are so right; and as you know, I ask you guys for the updates frequently...

rbnlaw said...

Oh for Kemp's broken bat. Let's hope the Flat Brim Reaper holds in the 9th and Ethier and Manny can get things going in the bottom of the 9th.

Neeebs said...

The power of the SOSG Army.

Dusty Baker said...

Sax, now you've bent the space-time continuum! You know what happens when you mess with time. Oh, we're going to pay for this.

Weird things is afoot, I tell ya! *peeps through blinds nervously*

Dusty Baker said...

Think how Karina must feel many times, having to watch GameDay and filter out our b.s. to finally get some drop of what happened in the "In play run(s)" scenario.

Steve Sax said...

@rbnlaw 8:22a: you reminded me that Kemp's ground out to first broke his bat when he ended the eighth. See, Gameday doesn't tell you that, either.

Dusty Baker said...

So the Rox v Phiwws is postponed a day, officially. IIIIIFFFFffff we were to win today, that would put us on somewhat of a layoff. Hey, I'll take a NLCS any time I can get it. But just sayin', it would be a factor of some magnitude (probably minor).