Darkness at Noon
Date: Friday, August 10, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject: Darkness at Noon
It was a bright, sunsplashed day in Oakland, but the
funereal pall that has enveloped our beloved team helped make yesterday's
matinee embarrassment the darkest day of the year.
For much of this star-crossed season I wanted to believe that all we had to do was have a better record than either the Indians or the Twins and we'd make the playoffs. Now I suspect that we will have a better record than both the Indians and Twins and will still miss the playoffs.
Well, look no further than the
serious A's whuppin' we just took. Yes, that team that plays in white spikes
is now the scariest team in the American League. I already feel bad for the
Mariners, who will not reach the World Series despite 110 wins. How did the
A's do it?
For starters, they replaced the worst leadoff hitter in baseball (Johnny Damon) with the best leadoff hitter in baseball (Johnny Damon). No one seems to know why Damon goes through this every year, but the next team to sign him should seriously consider playing him at Triple A through June. He looks like he's going to make a run at his second straight second-half batting title.
Jermaine Dye will not post the All-Star numbers he did in 1999 and 2000, but when you consider the Billy MacMillon/Ron Gant platoon he is replacing, it is nevertheless a major upgrade. Eric Chavez and Troy Glaus will be the top two third basemen in the AL for the next eight years, or until Tony Blanco arrives. Miguel Tejada should have been an All-Star, 14 more homers and more RBIs than Jeter at the break. Oh, and there's that first baseman too.
On the hill, Barry Zito is back, Tim Hudson never left and Mark Mulder is suddenly Lefty Grove.
I keep hearing from certain corners of The Nation that certain diehards truly believe the Red Sox will make the playoffs. Although the two teams we must catch and pass have easier schedules and better ballclubs, these latter-day Candides possess an optimisme that makes Leibnitz look like Schopenauer. Delusions themselves are not harmful; unless they result in more at-bats for Jose Offerman and Darren Lewis. So I don't begrudge the deluded, for they have crafted a benign psychosis in which the infinitely precarious can exist as certainty until mathematical elimination bursts the bubble. Through the myopia of Pollyannaism the oasis on the horizon beckons with its promise of replenishment.
For Dr. Pangloss and Candide it is simple. Pedro will go 6-0 in September. That leaves 42 games. Nomo will shake off his split callous and two shaky starts and go 6-2 down the stretch. That leaves 34 games to account for. Arrojo will continue his mastery only from now on we'll hit for him as he goes 7-1 over the last seven weeks. 26 decisions left. Wakefield will rediscover his first-half command and finish with a 4-1 flourish. 21 to go. Frank Castillo is unspectacular, but Manny and Nomar hit .435 in his starts as he goes 5-3. Just 13 games unaccounted for. David Cone keeps averaging 1.8 baserunners per inning but manages to go 3-2. Eight games to go. Sabes returns from the DL and wins his only start before being Dravecky-ed in a modern reworking of A Farewell to Arms. Seven. Casey Fossum wins a spot start after a September rainout. Six. Shooter vultures one win and only blows up once down the stretch. Four. Pulsipher recaptures his early form and gets a three-pitch win. Three. Urbina is dominant in the last two innings of an 11-inning victory. Two. Guapo wins on a Trot bomb after pitching a scoreless seventh. One. Lowe hangs only one curve in the final seven weeks. And there it is, a 37-11 finish, AL East champs.
Now why do you suppose I might take a dimmer view? Could it be because...
1) We lost a one-run game when the ball passed through the webbing of our first baseman's mitt?
2) We lost a one-run game when our fastest player was thrown out at third for the game's final out as the tying run approached home plate?
3) We lost a one-run game on back-to-back home runs off our closer?
4) We lost an extra-inning game when our closer gave up home runs in the 9th and 11th?
5) We lost a one-run game when our closer couldn't protect a two-run lead with two outs and no one on?
6) We lost a one-run game we once led 4-1 with Pedro on the mound?
7) We got swept at home by the Toronto Blue Jays?
8) We got swept at home by the Anaheim Angels?
9) Pete Schourek was allowed to go 1-5 before being released?
10) Our best player missed 100 games?
11) Our best pitcher will miss three months?
12) Our catcher will miss three months?
13) After benching him coming out of spring training, our manager chose to bat Jose Offerman leadoff 60 times and counting?
14) We were just outscored 17-3 in a three-game sweep by one of the teams we must prove we are better than to accomplish The Quest?
The answer, of course, is all of the above.
A shapeless figure bent over him, he smelt the fresh leather
of the revolver belt; but what insignia did the figure wear
on the sleeves and shoulder straps of its uniform--and in
whose name did it raise the dark pistol barrel?
A second, smashing blow hit him on the ear. Then all
quiet. There was the sea again with its sounds. A wave
slowly lifted him up. It came from afar and travelled sedately
on, a shrug of eternity.
- Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon
It is all quiet now; our lives, our dreams, a shrug of eternity.