Thursday, April 01, 2010

Faulty Intelligence

Most of us, boys and girls, play baseball as children, follow baseball, and think we have an 'understanding' of the game. We know when to take a pitch, when to think about the hit and run, when a pitcher is tiring, and of course, when to try to score the runner from second on a single.

So when the GM, manager, coach, fill in the blank 'screws up', we howl in protest. "Wow, they really botched the Lowell trade" or "how can they keep this guy"? Do we know what we don't know?

We're caught between "In Theo We Trust" and "I know what I see," and struggle to choose between believing and seeing. Baseball writers have incredible access, but not exclusivity when it comes to the power of observation. Old men labor under the prejudices of lengthy observation (if you watch baseball for fifty years, you think you've seen it all, from Mike Kekich to Albert Belle) and young writers suffer delusions of adequacy, not having the experience of the greybeards.

All of which brings us to the lengthening shadows of Spring Training, and the inevitable decisions of roster cutdowns, the veritable "life and death" career crossroads for the Alan Embrees, Tug Huletts, Joe Nelsons, and Scott Atchisons. Some will live on, others go into baseball purgatory, the minors, and others will see their livelihood simply evaporate. Others fall into another category, like Junichi Tazawa, betrayed by the frayed humanity of an ulnar ligament.

I know what it's like to live perilously "on the bubble" of a baseball roster, having treaded water on the banks of the Styx during a disagreeable college baseball career. Your food doesn't taste good, your sleep forsakes you, and a sunny spring day can afford all the joy of a wake, your own.

Who will 'win' the final and fungible roster spot? We know that it won't be Alan Embree, who was hit like a rented mule, and that Scott Schoeneweis, the specialist, apparently has won the job, as much because of timing as performance. Schoeneweis' three year splits have shown him effective against lefties with a limited track record against the Sox' nemesis the Yankees.

Who am I to dare to comment on the final sacred roster spot? Just another guy with no up close observation of the combatants with as much faulty intelligence as the next guy.

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