Happy Thanksgiving

Surprise! It’s a special bonus post!

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Yes, it’s another baseball post. Heathens may flee now.)

Thanksgiving in the Baseball religious calendar is a protracted event, lasting most of the month of October, and marked by the ceremony known as “the playoffs”.

At the beginning of the month, two-thirds of us are consigned to the children’s table, a rickety affair set up in the rec room, where we can console ourselves with shared tales of “almost” and “next year”. All the time we’re eating, we can listen to the happy conversations of those who made it to the real table in the dining room.

Over the next few weeks, some of us will reach our limits, stop eating, and retire to the living room, where we’ll sprawl in front of the TV and occupy ourselves with football, stirring only to make room on the couch for new arrivals from the ranks of those whose teams have been eliminated from the playoffs.

The true faithful are in it until the end, be it bitter or sweet. The World Series begins today, and all true fans, even those with deep ties to the Cardinals or Red Sox, are rooting for the same thing: a seven game series. Sure, some, perhaps even most, of the fans of those two teams are rooting for a four game sweep, but the True Fan of The Game watches because it’s baseball. Even a game in which you have no rooting interest is preferable to no game at all, and so we cheer for Game 7 and hope it goes into extra innings; conversely we weep over a sweep. The end of the World Series means no more games until Spring Training rolls around. Naturally, we want to put that off as long as possible.

Wait, so where’s the “thanks” in “Thanksgiving”? Certainly it’s obvious for the fans of the ten teams who made the playoffs, but what about those sitting at the kiddie table? Well, the fans of the six teams that had 90 or more losses this year are giving thanks that the season is over and they’re free to turn their collective attention to the off-season trade and free agent news. Fans of the six teams that finished at .500 or better but missed the playoffs are thankful for having stayed in contention until the last few days of the season, for achieving a measure of respectability, and for the knowledge that they really are likely only one puzzle piece away from making it next year. Then there are the fans of those other eight teams that finished with records between .450 and .499. They’re thankful to have avoided the ignominy of 90 losses, that they’re not fans of the Astros, the Marlins, or the White Sox. In short, they’re thankful for the existence of schadenfreude.

Hang on, back up a second. I keep saying things like “we watch it because it’s baseball”. That’s not really a help, is it? Why do we watch baseball, even when we don’t care who’s playing? Thousands of writers have used millions of words trying to answer that question. As you might imagine, I have my own ideas on the subject. I’ll be rambling about that a couple of times over the next few months. I need something to occupy myself with during the long, dark winter.

In the meantime, it’s still Thanksgiving, and will be for another four-to-eight days. Pass the turkey, please.

19 thoughts on “Happy Thanksgiving

  1. You know, Casey, you may be writing with tongue in cheek, but every word is, pathetically, true. Although the A’s came close to glory this year, finally falling to the fell fling of the dread Verlander, Prince of Darkness, I have, as the politically incorrect saying has it, no dog in the fight this October. A friend and Red Sox fan gave me, years ago, shortly before his death, a pristine, official Red Sox cap, and I wear it, more to remember him than for any real desire for the Sox to prevail. What I do want is, yes, as much baseball as can possibly be squeezed out of seven possible games. One more game that is so exciting that I cannot possibly stay seated on my own couch, then……let the darkness take me. As I have written elsewhere, I am indifferent to football and actively dislike basketball (it NEVER goes away!) so, for me, sports go away until April- with the exception, of course, of trades, retirements, options and prognostications, already begun.
    One personal note: I have decided to relent and begin to include the Oakland A’s in the sphere of my consciousness, next year. Lew Wolff, the more visible of the team’s two owners, has been stymied, once again, in his despicable attempts to move the team out of Oakland, where it belongs. It is hoped, not without reason, that this time he may give up and sell the team to a local group who want only to keep baseball in the East Bay- and I don’t mean Fremont. I’ve been nicking my own nose for years, now, and it’s gotten silly. Maybe if I throw in with the A’s, I can actually find some baseball-loving friends to go to games with. That would be nice.

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    • What gave you the impression I was writing tongue in cheek?

      You method of memorialization seems eminently sensible to me, and I will recommend it to others as seems appropriate. I too will be rooting for the Red Sox for socio-emotional reasons (Hi, Maggie!), but a well-fought seven game series would make it more palatable.

      Don’t forget signings in your list of off-season events. The dump truck of cash I mentioned earlier has arrived at the Lincecum abode, so that’s another piece of 2014’s puzzle set in place for the Giants — and robs me of a blog post. I was going to suggest that the Mariners take a serious shot as him (as everyone expected them to do anyway) and then bring in the Grand Master of Deceptive Pitch Selection, aka Jamie Moyer, as a special mentor to assist him in making the transition from fastball specialist to control maven. Ah, well. Maybe in 2016.

      My own cynical take is that Wolff is merely biding his time until Bud Selig retires, and then he’ll try moving again. In the meantime, though, I support the notion of attending As games. A spike in attendance in Oakland would make it a lot harder for him to claim hardship and an inability to draw fans.

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      • I admit to a sigh of relief, when I heard about Lincecum’s signing. It’s that “business/sentiment” thing that we’ve talked about. Timmy was part of the Glory Days, in 2010. The orange and black pennant hanging on my wall from that year, shows him being hoisted by his team mates. I’m sure the idea of cutting him loose was seriously considered, and, from a business standpoint, I’m not sure it wasn’t a good idea, but……Timmy!
        I could never be a General Manager.

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      • You would fit right in with the Mariners’ front office. I keep expecting them to announce that they’ve signed the entire starting lineup of the 2001 team to provide some “veteran leadership” in 2014. I’m sure Freddy Garcia would be delighted to have another shot at being the opening day starter, but I suspect they might have some trouble getting Dan Wilson out of the broadcast booth…

        I don’t know that it was a bad idea to pay what they are for Timmy. It would definitely be an overpay for any other team, given that his remake is a work in progress, but the Giants probably would have had to pay almost as much to replace him if they had let him go. It looks like starting pitching is going to be at a premium this off-season, and the Giants need at least one more even with Timmy nailed down. Better to spend the money and have that piece of the puzzle taking care of.

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  2. Well, we are getting our basic wish, aren’t we? All even after 4 games, a 7-game series a real possibility, and such games they have been, 2 in a row ended by weird plays like an obstruction call and a pinch-runner (ouch) picked off first base. (Can anyone recommend a good counselor for that poor young player?) Well, you asked for turkey, didn’t you? And in deference to Maggie, Go Sox. But not in just 2 more games.

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    • Yeah, this one’s a blessing of a series, one of the best I can remember. The fact that the teams are so evenly matched means that games are more likely to be won or lost by errors, mistakes, flukes and acts of the Baseball Gods. A catcher and pitcher watching a pop fly fall between them with what looked like mild interest. A pinch base runner taking a lead that is just six inches too far, and, of course, the now-famous “third base tangle” that looked unavoidable to me (once the runner got there; whether he should have been there is another matter), but was called a game-winning (or losing) obstruction. It just gets crazy out there, given the amount of pressure on everyone. My favorite moment from last night? Big Papi, after pounding a double, shouting at his team to get off their asses and hit the goddamn ball- “There! Look! Get up there and do that!” He turned the game around in that moment- not just hitting the double, but exhorting his team to wake up and do likewise. What a great player!
      Three hours until game five. See you there.

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      • I’m there — or rather, I’m here, it being the bottom of the first as I write this.

        Perhaps the best part about the way the series has been going so far is that in three of the five games so far, there’s been absolutely no need to root for either team. A pure baseball experience. And if today’s winner loses Wednesday, then we get our Game Seven.

        Whenever there’s a pitcher’s duel during the season, you can be sure an announcer is going to say “The first team to make a mistake will lose.” Seems like more often than not, one team will make a mistake, then the other team will, and next thing you know, you’ve got either a comedy of errors or a joint session of batting practice. The cliche really does seem accurate in the playoffs, though.

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      • That’s an interesting comment, about not needing to root for either team. I have only the flimsiest reasons to be rooting for the Sox: something like, they used to be the perennial underdogs (though, they’re not anymore), and I feel like the Cardinals have become the new Yankees, so who can root for them? That, plus the fact that a baseball loving friend, who died several years ago, gave me a regulation Red Socks cap, that I’m wearing every day, so I must be a Sox fan. As I said, pretty thin.

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      • I think we could all come up with some reason to root for one team or the other — I’m mildly rooting for the Red Sox since Maggie is a fan (she has the excuse of having grown up in New England) — but when the main thing you’re rooting for is for a game seven, then it really doesn’t matter who wins the games when the series is tied.

        I suppose one could argue that one team coming back from a deficit is more exciting, but I disagree. I’d rather see a tight battle to take a 3-2 series lead than an apparently over-matched team struggling to turn 3-1 into 3-2.

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      • Of course, given any excuse at all, my instinct to root for the underdog kicks in. Red Sox score two in the seventh? OK, I immediately start rooting for St. Louis to come back with a couple of runs of their own. Curse that instinct to cheer!

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      • You know what it really is, Casey? It’s those beards. Those scraggly, mountain-man beards that many of them are sporting. Sure, I’m partial to facial hair, as you know, but it takes an unusual amount of dedication to walk around looking like you’ve jist rid yer mule into town after tending yer still fer a piece. And, they affectionately yank on each other’s beards! That’s not something you see every day- not at this elevation, any way. (Big Papi, although he has a beard, is notably well groomed. Just as well. Hard to imagine anyone yanking on his beard. A couple of the Sox couldn’t reach that high!)
        In other words, it’s the “misfit” thing, all over again. Characters. I loved it ten years ago and I’m still a sucker for it. The Cardinals are just too neat and well groomed, like that makes them play better baseball. What other team demands their players be clean shaven and neatly coiffed? That’s right. I’m just rooting against enforced good grooming! Works for me.

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      • As a beard-wearer myself, and one that leans toward the “mountain-man” school of beard grooming, I have not choice but to agree. Though the beard-yanking is something I could do without. It’s bad enough when Kokoro tries to eat my beard; I’d prefer to avoid the whole tugging thing.

        Clearly, the next iteration of the rooting rules will need to add “misfit” status along with “garments with sentimental associations”.

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  3. Funny, I did the same thing last night, rooted for the Cards to pick up a couple of runs in the bottom of the eighth, then again in the bottom of the ninth. I guess tomorrow night,I’ll root all out for the Cards, but hope it’s a close game with satisfactory amounts of weirdness. (Though it’ll be a bit harder to follow some of it: we have theater tickets. On the other hand, the show is “Anything Goes,” which might be a good omen). Then Thurs, it’d be go Sox, yay Maggie.

    As to beards, is there any chance we could bring back the House of David Team to play the Sox? What a sight that would be.

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    • A dangerous omen to invoke. Consider how many of this series’ oddities have involved the end of the game. Consider as well that there hasn’t been an unassisted triple play in the World Series since 1920. Could we see the first game-ending unassisted triple play in World Series history tomorrow? Sure, why not? I’ll vote for Kozma to pull it off to preserve a 2-1 victory for Wacha-Wacha.

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      • People, just stop that talk. This is serious business, and you’re making me nervous. I want to go into the offseason thinking that there is some logic and, well, reason behind all this. Some simple cause and effect, permitting predictability and the satisfaction that comes with seeing the laws of physics obeyed. One more “I can’t believe what I’m seeing”, game-changing (or, God forbid, game ending) play and I’m going to become a golfing fan. Or, maybe curling. Texas hold-em. I love unpredictability, but only when it’s more predictable. Feel me?

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      • We’ve been talking about this in terms of religion all season. Since when does religion have anything to do with predictability and the laws of physics? Besides, can you honestly tell me you don’t want to see an unassisted triple play?

        Curling, huh? There’s a lot to be said for any sport that requires multiple brooms in the game play, but I just don’t see it becoming the kind of multi-billion dollar industry that gets an entire season on TV.

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