By: Mike Carter
The other night, as I was putting my kids to bed my phone buzzed, which is unusual at that time of night, unless it’s my family texting the usual back and forth. After about 8 PM, I lose the ability to speak and to think coherently. So I basically shut myself off except for the “brush your teeth” and “feed your fish” commands to my children. I walk myself through my evenings, bone-tired and half-dead to the world around me, in the middle of a country that will choose between a narcissistic, reality TV star/liar and a narcissistic, career politician/liar for our highest office.
This buzz was different. It was my MLB app telling me that the Washington Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer was going for the single-game strikeout record in the ninth inning against the Tigers. He had a legitimate shot at breaking it. Scherzer had ground 19 batters into the ground with his effortless motion and potent mix of pitches. I watched him strike out Justin Upton, which happens very often these days, on a wicked breaking ball. Relying mostly on pinpoint control and his four-seam fastball (which he threw over 60% of the time this game), he was mowing a potent lineup down with ease.
I watched the sheer concentration on Scherzer’s face, his mechanisms closed to the outside world as he tried to strike out James McCann, which he had done three times earlier in the evening. McCann grounded out to third to end the game. He didn’t get the 21st strikeout, but it didn’t matter to me. It woke me to thinking about my favorite game, and probably my oldest friend, baseball. He ended the game with 20 punch outs. A stunning performance in a midweek game not many people were paying attention to in the moment.
This was a rarer feat than seeing a perfect game, friends; this was only the fifth time in history someone had struck out that many batters in a game. Scherzer, owner of two no-hitters, a guy who had been one out away from a perfect game, was further entrenched in baseball history. I was quickly reminded that he had gotten shelled in his last start, against the surging Chicago Cubs. Isn’t this a funny game? You can go from the outhouse to the penthouse, and the reverse, on a daily basis. You can have your worst game, followed by your best game. In fact, you can have a horrible at bat, a terrible inning, and still recover from it and win the game later, with a big at bat or a better inning. Do you see what I mean?
Baseball had just done it to me again. There are a dozen games on the slate every day, each team plays 162 in a season, and you just never know when something big is going to happen in the monotony of a long season. Most games are average. Singular moments reveal themselves over the course of a long season. No one knew that Scherzer would go out and do what he did the other night. We have no way of knowing when a huge, historic moment will enlighten the path. No one knows what baseball will give to us on a daily basis. Such is life; we think we know what each day has in store for us. We think we control time. We think we will always have time. We think that we can plan for everything. We think. And we’re usually wrong. We control nothing. Think Max Scherzer knew five days after his debacle against the Cubs that he would have one of the top pitching performances of all-time? Tens of thousands of games over more than a hundred years; he joined rare air and did something done only four other times in the history of the game.
Baseball is played by a patchwork of players from all walks of life, all countries, a menagerie of colors and creeds. Kids play it in the streets, in the slums, in playgrounds, on manicured diamonds. Like humans, baseball is perfect in its imperfections. It will surprise you on a rainy Wednesday night, when everything is gloomy and dark, with moments of illumination that refocus you on its greatness.
Think about it more deeply. On paper, the Cubs should never lose…yet they lost both games of a doubleheader yesterday to the at-best mediocre San Diego Padres, including a 1-0 shutout by “the” Drew Pomeranz. I went to bed on Tuesday night, blankets up to my chin, convinced that my beloved White Sox had the game in the bag with a five-run lead in the latter stages. I awoke the next morning to discover that they had lost the game. But that is the game of baseball. When you think you have it all figured out, well, just know that you don’t, folks. It’s the same in the game of life. Sometimes the mediocre team is perfect, despite their imperfections. Sometimes the perfect team loses. Baseball will keep you guessing, thinking, and wondering, even when you think you have it all figured out.
Baseball always reminds me to live in the current moment and enjoy things as they are, and not as I think they should be all the time; enjoy the game and the day in front of me. I control nothing but my attitude. Anything can happen even as it seems that nothing is happening.
Enjoy your weekends. Watch a game. You never know what you might see in front of you.