It’s Only Baseball

It is very clear that the youngest team in major league baseball this year gives absolutely no shits. 

From the start, the Cleveland Guardians were an odd bunch. Rookies. More rookies. Just hit the ball. Don’t strike out. That was the idea. Be young. Run. Hit singles and more singles and don’t strike out. Just hit singles. Line drive singles. Pop up singles. Bloop singles. Infield singles. Bunt singles. Go first to third on a single. Force errors. Just put the damn ball in play and see what happens. 

Turns out good things can happen. Really good things.

This year’s Cleveland Guardians is like no other Cleveland team of my lifetime. It seemed from the beginning of the season that someone said to them, Fucking Run and Run Hard Always, and for whatever reason they agreed and did. All season long. I mean, why not run hard to first base on a routine play? Isn’t that the job? To show up and play? To give it your all? To buy into the credo of old that if you hit the fucking ball somewhere and just run your ass off, sometimes it’ll land and you’ll be standing on first base before your opponent realizes they didn’t make the play.

This Cleveland team is extraordinary for this reason. And you can talk about the odds of them making the playoffs at the beginning of the season and everyone seeming to think it didn’t look good. I disagreed even then, let that be known. We should for sure recall that this team was hitting grand slams in April. Lots of them. But they were either putting up 8, 9 runs a game, or getting shut out. Youth entails growing pains we know. But they got good. I mean very very good. They constantly strung hits together. They rallied late. They won almost 30 games in their last at bat and just kept winning. It didn’t make sense in April and it doesn’t make that much sense now. Unless you look at the big picture. The team as a whole. Because after the kind of season we’ve just witnessed, it’s just life: odds are so closely scrutinized, every statistic so carefully recorded, that one can forget that playing a game is just playing a game. If you play to win, if you play as a team, you just might end up doing it most of the time. And the Guardians? They’ve been doing it. They’ve been doing it all year.

To me, it’s the epitome of what this season is that Steven Kwan – a guy who should win rookie of the year honors – hit a grand slam today. The kid who went the first 116 pitches of his big league career before swinging and missing put a well-earned exclamation mark on an historic first act. It is absurd that he should hit a grand slam. But fitting when you look at what this team has become. A guy who owns one of the lowest hard hit ball percentage in baseball is hitting almost .300 and has downright led this team to a pennant. He is 25 years old. There is Jose Ramirez –  of course he is the leader of this team and his 100some odd RBIs speak for themselves – but Kwan is the heartbeat of this offense. Kwan-Rosario-Ramirez- Naylor-Gonzalez-Gimenez suddenly looks like a first six in a lineup that could succeed in postseason baseball. It is very very strange. No one expected it. No one but themselves.

This world after all is a strange place to live. And we all know that, or at least the thinking people do. We wake up some days and however you define life is in a right shambles for god’s sake. We are evolving before our eyes and we are not up to the task. But the proverbial underdog is fucking pissed even as it looks like it might not matter. Fuck, the Russian government is up for War. Italy is choosing a Fascist to lead them. The Queen of England is dead and either way Britain is also under far right control. Women in every corner of the globe are screaming that they are human and can make their own goddamn choices better than the common misogynist who for some reason rules the world…about what to wear, about what to do with their bodies, about who to be. All the while, the US is clinging to a semblance of righteousness but fascism is rampant here too and we are not as Good as we claim to be, and there very much is still a pandemic, whatever the President whispers.

All in all, we seem royally fucked. As a species, I mean. Many are hellbent on their personal, political, and business dealings regardless as to what they mean for the greater good. The greater good is not an issue. These people couldn’t care less.

But that really does lead me back to the Cleveland Guardians and the most beautiful sport in the world. The Guardians were very much not supposed to win this year. They were rebuilding. Not giving a shit somehow made it make sense that to be young and passionate can win you some ball games. The underdog is the most beautiful thing. And it is always beautiful when a group of young people don’t give a shit and they do it loud enough that anyone who’s paying attention can hear them clearly. One must believe in youth. And not just on a baseball diamond.

There are, of course, no victims in baseball. There are losers, but losing can so often be as beautiful as winning. When shit stops being important and you’re focused and ballsy, the tremendous part of the life we have that’s worth living is just as powerful as those bastards who are destroying everything for their own gain. These Guardians are men, after all. Men are not the future of this plane of existence. They are causing the pain. But when what you destroy are simply the odds, not giving a shit – playing hard, trying to make something happen regardless of what it looks like – ends up being the formula by which the game is over and done. The odds, I’d like to think, are very much in the favor of the people everyone counts out.

In the end, the problems of humankind leave us with grim possibilities. I can sit here and hope for the best, but the fact remains that most of the ways to destroy life are in the hands of the oppressor. Russia and its threat of the Bomb hangs over our every day. Radically fundamentalist men are in a last ditch effort to assert their dominance and for some reason they’re allowed to. Earth is getting considerably warmer. We can only drink stolen water; live on stolen land; live by stolen principles of power and greed. People must give a shit in order to stop it. But to give no shits is to hold another’s power hostage. When all you’re doing is hitting the ball and running hard always, the ways in which winning once looked impossible start to come around. 

Get up. Just hit the ball. A thousand little paper cuts will at some point bleed the sucker dry. Fists of fury, friends. Rope-a-dope. Give ‘em all you got.