At this point in the Bisons’ season, what I keep coming back to is this: just how much do these games matter?
After tonight’s 8-6 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Bisons are now 54-83 and a downright depressing 28-42 at home. The year-end awards have been given out, the ThruWay Cup awarded, and almost everyone who will see the majors this year has been called up. There is nothing left to play for but, as they say in the movies, pride.
So why am I here, watching a bad team play meaningless baseball? What’s left to watch other than quick innings filled with indifferent players barely taking the bat off their shoulders? Are the individual goals of interchangable players really worth watching? More importantly, does a fan care if a guy’s batting average reads .300 or .297 in next year’s media guide?
Regardless of fan interest, Jesus Feliciano‘s batting average matters. The past two seasons Feliciano has hit well over .300 at the AAA level. After Tuesday night’s 1 for 4 performance, he sits at exactly .300 for the season.
It’s may be an arbitrary number, but it’s one that holds huge significance for a player looking to crack a major league roster for the first time.
“My job is to do my job on the field,” Feliciano said when asked about a possible September callup. “I can’t control anything off the field.”
With just five games left in the season, Jesus leads the Bisons with 143 hits and needs a few more to lock up his .300. His leadoff single in the ninth was big, but he has struggled as of late; going just 3 for 18 in his last four games. Feliciano admitted that he might be pressing a bit.
“Right now I feel I’m trying too much,” he said.
Still, it’s hard not to squeeze the bat just a bit more when his future is at stake. A third straight season batting over .300 might mean another year in the Mets’ system, and perhaps finally breaking through to the majors.
Despite being left in AAA the last few seasons, Jesus said he has enjoyed his time with the ‘Amazins. Having spent the last three years with Bisons manager Ken Oberkfell, he seemed unsure if a change of scenery would benefit him.
“I’d rather be in a place that people like me than going to another place where you never know what can happen,” Feliciano said.
Batting averages aside, the reason I’m still going to baseball games is pretty clear: I love baseball. On Monday I got to see Tobi Stoner throw a complete game five-hitter. He’s another guy slowly climbing the minor league ranks, and a strong finish to 2009 could carry into next year and make a world of difference. His 6-7 record and 3.93 ERA on the year hides the fact that his last four starts have been nearly flawless.
Tuesday night was a bit different and much rarer: a triple play. I’ve never seen one in any game at all, let alone live. It’s hard to describe, but watching that happen and hearing the crowd get excited really leaves a buzz that doesn’t dissipate for quite some time.
In fact, what was so special about it for me was that I wasn’t in the press box for it. All season I watched every inning behind glass windows and under relative silence. Press box chatter simply doesn’t replace the sound of a crowd, the crack of the bat, and the organ music you come to expect at the ballpark.
So after the second inning I decided to take my scorecard and hit the seats for a bit. I was along the third base line when Reyes turned the triple play, and the roar from the crowd was something I won’t forget for some time. The immediacy of a triple play is something special; it’s not often you expect one to happen and they develop so quickly that it makes a night something truly special.
There are stories and angles to every game, but I think what I’ve realized as this season comes to a close is that everything is arbitrary. Some fans care if Feliciano gets his .300, or if he and Stoner ever see the majors. Others want to cross “seeing a triple play” off their Baseball To Do List, and rightfully so.
However, those are not the only reasons to see a “meaningless” baseball game. For some, it’s just the chance to see baseball at all. Despite all the losses and awful games I’ve seen this year, I kept coming back because it’s baseball. You never know what can happen at the ballpark. For every rain delay and six-run loss was a pitching gem or great defensive play I was happy I stayed around for.
The score might not count, but I think we all have different checklists to cross off.