Perfection in an Imperfect Sport

by Ryan

Oh hey there, long time no see. We haven’t exactly been diligent in posting here over the last week or so, and for that we are sorry. Somehow the last few things you’ve seen here have been about baseball, which is a bit of a departure from what we usually talk about. We should probably discuss some hockey at some point, but first:

[via FlipFlopFlyBall]

Until last night, people knew the name Dallas Braden because of this: Yelling at Alex Rodriguez for breaking unwritten rules about baseball. Now he’s known as that guy who threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Everyone is going to talk about this game and what it means for him, how great it was that he did it on Mother’s Day and maybe even compare him to Mark Buehrle. I’m not going to do that. In fact I’m not going to lie to you: I was asleep and missed the entire thing. But to me this is a cool moment for a completely different reason: I really wish I was watching that game.

When great things happen in baseball, I always beat myself up for not seeing them. More than any other sport, special moments in baseball seem to stand out. Maybe it’s the history behind the sport, or maybe it’s the dirty secret that baseball fans don’t like to admit: Most baseball games are actually boring.

My favorite moment of the young baseball season came when the Red Sox and Twins opened up Target Field. Commissioner Bud Selig is in the ESPN broadcast booth and is talking about the sport. They talk about the usual cake questions you ask a commissioner on television, and things are going well.

It isn’t until they ask about speeding up the game that you realize just how long this half-inning has taken, and who’s at bat: Denard Span. Span has a career .387 OBP and is known as one of the best in the league at extending at bats. In today’s game he is valuable, and he also takes up a ton of time.

Selig says that the problem isn’t with guys like Span. It’s coaches visiting the mound, stepping out of the batter’s box, and pitchers and catchers changing signs during innings and all the other nonsense that isn’t throwing a ball to home plate. While he’s right, you can’t deny that to the ordinary fan baseball can be trying at times.

In a way, I think that level of tediousness is what makes great games really matter. Most baseball fans understand the tiring parts of the game. For example, on Friday I actually turned off the Yankees/Red Sox game, and not because of the score.

It wasn’t just me, Chris did the same and said something I completely agree with: that game was all the worst parts of Yankees/Red Sox games. Devoid of drama and full of bad pitching, long delays and ugly line scores. Even if your team is winning it isn’t much fun to watch, and takes far too long to finish.

Those games are as much a part of baseball as the gems, but I think plodding through games like that is a part of what gives those gems such magnitude. We always attend sporting events expecting something cool to happen, but I think baseball fans know that many of the games are less than special.

Still, hoping for the amazing is what baseball really is about. It’s why Rich spends $40 bucks to see a Marlins game last Tuesday just to see Tim Lincecum in Florida. The final score doesn’t show it, but a closer look at Linecum’s line justifies what Rich called “the most dominant no-decision I’ve ever seen.”

As fans we get excited about the mere flashes of brilliance, and so when we get to see the complete package of course we are downright giddy. Jiminez and Braden have given us something special already this season, and I’m honestly upset that I missed it. So maybe that’s why I like seeing and even R.A. Dickey pitch, and am excited to see what Strasburg can do in June. Guys like that give us a chance to see something special every night.

There are lots of ways to watch baseball. Some only watch their team, others only watch the playoffs and even a few watch just to see great players. But the one reason we all watch is to see something we’ve never seen before. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a no hitter happen in real time, but I suppose there’s always next game.

The search goes on.

One Comment

  1. “Most baseball games are actually boring.”

    I KNEW IT!