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Baseball and the infinite sadness

The game is a vampire, sent to drain.

Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

First, some music, to set the mood.

Now, yes, on the subject of baseball.

The fans of only one team go home happy at the end of the season. The fans of the team that finish in second place, the team that outperformed 28 other teams, who made it so very close to winning, go home the angriest.

But don’t worry, the regular season offers plenty of these moments as well. Being on the short end of a walk-off walk. Watching Bryce Harper’s batting average slip as he gets fewer and fewer pitches to hit. Sitting back and observing in horror as your favorite team slips further and further into the mire of a mediocrity so droll that there aren't even many humorous blowouts, just one disappointing loss after another. CC Sabathia’s resurgent run of brilliance being ended in a hailstorm of Colorado hits. Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes getting hurt in the same day. The Rangers losing Derek Holland and Colby Lewis in the same day. Michael Taylor striking out five times, and then misplaying a ball that results in a walk-off little league home run.

Baseball is a cruel, cruel thing.

There are winners and losers in every game, yes, but at times it seems as if the game exists purely to break hearts. Rich Hill is having an unimaginable comeback streak? Groin strain and a trip to the DL. The Cubs and their fans are riding high on the extremely potent narcotic of the best season imaginable? Swept by the hated Cardinals. Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte are having breakout seasons? Andrew McCutchen is stuck in neutral and the Pirates are under .500.

Watch in abject horror as beloved reliever Koji Uehara shows his age and coughs up the lead. Sigh as Glen Perkins announces that his season, much like the Twins’ season, is over, and that the surgery he will undergo could threaten his career. Sit back and silently realize that the Mariners falling back to .500 feels all too disturbingly familiar.

There are some that seem to relish in the victimhood that sports can breed. For theirs is the experience of exercising their God-given right to call in to radio shows and scream, or to raid internet comment sections to give their opinions in ALL CAPS and use lots of exclamation points!!!!! {Editors' Note: Please feel welcome to comment beneath this article in all caps and with numerous exclamation points}

In a vacuum, there is nothing wrong with this, as annoying as it can be at times. When fans are mired in mediocrity for extended periods of time, it becomes an ethos and identity. Despite their most innocent of hopes and dreams, disappointment and anguish are as consistent as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west beyond the grandstand, as the fans watch the field and hold their breath, waiting to see how the home team will throw it all away tonight. Winning becomes a foreign sensation, one that is to be savored when it is offered, but to be feared when too much of it comes. There surely must be a catch, another shoe that will at some point drop squarely on one’s cranium.

Things are wonderful now, aye, but Taijuan Walker will get hurt. Jose Quintana will walk Sandy Leon of all people over and over again, as he did on Wednesday night. Jason Motte will give up a walk-off homer to Starlin Castro, and then the familiar taste of losing will once again fill one’s mouth with all the pleasantness of wet sand. The Phillies will remember that they are, in fact, the Phillies, and will be put in their place.

Look to top prospect lists and scouting reports for hope, perhaps. The present is grim, but there are shiny new toys on the horizon. Indeed, your favorite prospect was just promoted to Triple-A! He’ll be here soon, he’ll save the day! Or, at the very least, he’ll make things tolerable. But then he keeps striking out, over and over, and he just simply won't stop. He can’t stop walking batters. He ran into a wall catching a fly ball, and now he’s out for two months.

This is the malice of baseball in June. Or, perhaps, this is the madness of baseball in June of 2016. The true dog days of summer are setting in. There’s been plenty of time for injuries to set in, both at the major and minor league levels. The seventh-string starter is making appearances out of the rotation, and, if you're the Yankees, you're on your fifth-string first baseman, who isn’t even really a first baseman.

There’s a whole month (and change) until the trade deadline. Who will buy, who will sell? Who will get miraculously hot and fatally cold? Who will go down with an untimely injury, and who will come up from the minors and dazzle out of nowhere? Only time will tell, and unfortunately, the universe does not provide a complimentary bottle of gin when you take your seat on the train to crazytown.

Pain will be endured. Frustration will be vented. Hair will be tugged, brows will be furrowed, groans will be filled with exasperation.

And, yet... like a ray of light elbowing through a cloud, somewhere, somewhere along the line, something good will happen.

There will be a wild win, an unexpected hero, a dominant shutout. Whit Merrifield will remind the world that he does really exist, and he’ll hit like a star, because reasons. Didi Gregorius will emerge as a force of nature against left-handed pitching. Michael Saunders will be the best hitter in a lineup that includes Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. Jake Lamb will put it all together. Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall will suddenly be top-tier power threats. Ichiro will hit like it’s 2006.

Sometimes these moments and points of pride are few and far between. Sometimes they’re always just out of reach over the horizon. Sometimes you're the Cubs, and sometimes you’re the Braves.

Sometimes you get to find out that Syndergaard and Cespedes aren’t catastrophically hurt after all. Sometimes you get to watch Yasiel Puig run like mad around the bases and win a ballgame.

Baseball is cruel, and baseball is loving. Baseball will seduce and enchant, it will discard and take a sledgehammer to your spine.

There are twenty-eight losers, one winner, and one that is forced to look into a mirror and wonder what could have been. Along the road, there are pitfalls and celebrations.

For some reason, we wouldn't have it any other way.


Nicolas Stellini is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. He also writes for Baseball Prospectus and BP Bronx. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.