Saturday, June 09, 2007

Pedro and the Tools of Ignorance

Crazy game last night between the Giants and A's. It ended in the 10th on a Shannon Stewart hit to left that scored 2 for the A's. The Giants lost another tight one, and they did it after loading the bases with one out in the 9th and not scoring. But that is not the story.

The story is also not about how much the Giants are stinking up the joint these days. It becomes obvious in a baseball season pretty early that some teams are not going all the way. When this happens in basketball or hockey, it turns the season into a rotter ... a long boring slog where even the faithful lose focus. When it happens in football, it becomes a kind of apocalyptic public meltdown ... football is far too close to war-mongering for most fans, and the paucity of games leads to a volcano of breast-beating. If you like football, or basketball for that matter, the best games are in college.

No, the Giants are going nowhere, but the dramas and side plots of the baseball lifestyle are sufficient to keep the faithful watching. And I am among the faithful. So Bonds' sad long slide into obscure and infamous destiny is compelling if sorrowful. I hate to see him hobbling around, and he seems to have lost the bit of power he had at the beginning of the year ... as if the start of the season provided just enough testosterone for a dozen home runs, and then he ran outta gas. Sad. There is also the ongoing sweet work of the incomparable Omar at short. And the Lincecum story, and Matt Cain, the tough young bruiser with hard luck losses. And there is always a hard biting curveball to make your heart jump.

And then there is Pedro ... this is the story ... happy Pedro, I call him, because his name is Pedro Feliz, and because his face projects a beatific and unmoving solemnity. Pedro is a great third baseman with a spectacular throw across the diamond to first ... that throw is one of baseball's gems. He's a big puppy dog, one of many Dominicans in the game, who struggles at the plate, and seems doomed to be swinging forever at garbage off the plate down and away. Still, a persistent career .250 hitter with pop ... and those incredible moves at third.

But last night, we had two catchers go down, so Pedro was pressed into service as the emergency catcher. It was a hoot watching him put on the tools of ignorance, as catcher's gear is popularly known. He did a creditable job, saving one ball in the dirt and missing a wild pitch that no catcher could have caught except by pure dumb luck.

It's not so bad rooting for a losing team in baseball as long as the subplots have some interest. The beauty of the game is in its curious oppositions, the subtle relationships of distance and angle and conjuncture. People say baseball is boring ... by people, I mean non-baseball fans. Non-sports fans like to say that baseball is boring, but soccer is the good game. I swear, you'd be surprised at how many different non-sports fans have sagely averred that the only sport they would watch is soccer. Needless to say, they have never watched an entire soccer game. I do find soccer boring, but I grok why a soccer fan love's its beauty, because it shares with baseball similar subtle relationships of distance and angle and conjuncture. But it's not my game. (On another occasion, I will tell the story of watching the European Cup in Java, and trying to translate the English commentary into Indonesian ... this my only memorable soccer involvement as a fan.)

In basball, the plot lines are long and slow to develop. There are pauses in between every play where you get to draw up the conjuncture in your head, and try to predict both the moves and the results. The tension builds slowly, and its release is explosive.

And then you have the absurdities. A giddy Noah Lowry, athletic pitcher, suddenly playing right field. Randy Winn, outfielder, pressed into action at the hot corner (third base for the unwashed). And happy Pedro gamely placing life on the line as catcher, that position which combines thinking, plotting, strength, quickness, and mortal danger.

He did okay. Since we're not going to World Series ... no way ... I enjoyed the loss by reason of that weird, unlikely to be repeated, sight.

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