Sunday, October 27, 2013


The World Series has always brought out the armchair, barstool, clamoring-at-home manager-type, drooling expectorantly at the foibles of those anointed ones who grab overly-exposed handfuls of intellectual jibbery that passes for "baseball strategy."

Raymond Queneau, the apostle of "Oulipian" writing,
contemplates the foibles of baseball...
Now that's a pretty artificial (actually, almost Oulipian) way in which to say that second-guessers just start crawling out of the woodwork when mass-media hoses down the Jericho-like walls of what used to be called "the global village."

--Hmm...we're not sure that the clarification was actually less opaque than the Oulipian butterfly-stroke in that first sentence...clearly we're swimming up-stream and against the current. (But, hey, you knew that.)

How about this--everyone's a critic, but it only becomes calamitous when the whole world is tuned in to the game. And in the World Series, the concentration of rooting interest increases in an odd kind of intensification, because people have to make second and third-order transfers of allegiance to reorient themselves--and, with the stakes at their highest, they become (temporarily) more invested than they actually are to their own team during the regular season.

And in a game like the one we just witnessed--an exciting, sloppy, overwrought, and slightly sordid affair (in need of the appropriate headline: "THE AMISH INVADE ST. LOUIS"...), we have all sorts of folk expressing themselves. The ending--unique to the World Series--generated a great deal of anguish in Boston (probably because having lost a close game in what might be a closely-fought series, the fans there are worried that they'll have to see all that facial hair again next season).

Anyway--it's hard to quantify where the greatest amount of criticism is directed. There are three primary targets for the "fans watching at home": the umpires, the managers, and the announcers. Our old pal C.O. Jones, armed with a team of semantic analysts (that's fancy lingo for a small harem of bar girls he managed to round up with a series of promises too cheesy to make public in these pages...), has preliminary data indicating that this year the managers are receiving the brunt of the criticism (44%), while the announcers are at 30%, and the umpires at 26%. (Just how do C.O. and his mascaraed mob gather this data? Say hello to your "friends" at the NSA...)

John Farrell, channelling Raymond Queneau...
And in keeping with that, we stumbled across the bibulous blog of Cardinal conquistador El Maquino, who apparently only wears his cape on the weekends and continues to be quite certain of his own certainty. (Don't get us wrong: we like that, even when--especially when, in fact--it produces unintentional comedy.) It was wonderful to see just how inept the managers were in Game 3--and we hope that "El" (we call him "El" for short...) will see fit to bestow the Bob Brenly Award at the close of the series to either Mike Matheny or John Farrell. (We also hope that, like Brenly, the winner of the managerial ineptness award will prove to the manager of the winning team...these are the paradoxes, of course, that make life worth living.)

Now, not all of El's critiques are directed at the managers, which is what produces the humor in what otherwise would be merely an exercise in armchair archness. He acknowledges that players can make mistakes, too. And he gets in a gratuitous slam of an umpire. Mostly, however, he's invested in taking down Matheny (no Tony LaRussa when it comes to flamboyant on-field maneuvering).

Mike Matheny, vowing to screw it up more than even a six-man
post-season umpiring crew...
The way we parse it from El's bromide, Matheny made five idiotic decisions last night; Farrell made four. (And it's odd to note that the final score was 5-4! For some reason, however, we suspect that might merely be a coincidence.) Cardinal players made six on-field mistakes (not counting fielding errors). The Red Sox made three.

That's a total of eighteen "deficiencies" in a a single game. (And this isn't including El's misguided idea that Allen Craig made a mistake in trying to score once he'd been tripped by the flailing feet of Will Middlebrooks. It's simply absurd to think that a player wouldn't try to score the game-winning run in that situation. To expect order to prevail in every micro-instance of a game is a feckless feature of the neo-sabe age, where mutually exclusive categories of criticism get tossed into the discussion indiscriminately.)

While it's fascinating to ponder just how many stupid things can happen in a single game, we wonder if all of El's items really fit. There's actually something worth working through here, though one has to be careful not to wind up chasing their tail (or, in El's case, tripping over his cape.) We think that quantifying questionable managerial tactics and odd in-game player decisions over the course of a season might tell us something, but it has to be done with some kind of truly systematic application or it will only measure our anal-retentiveness.

We have no Oulipian finish to these proceedings...besides, it's time for Game Four. Who knows how badly these two teams can play, especially if El Maquino (which, by the way, translates to "The Machine"...) is out there following in the footsteps of our old pal C.O., who at least has a bevy of beauties doing his beancounting. (And, by the way, C.O.'s comment about this when we spoke with him was: "Pish-posh...who needs El Maquino when we have El Kabong??")

A question that not only doesn't need an answer, but doesn't even
need to be asked...