Friday, October 23, 2015

October Magic

Whether baseball remains America's Pastime, here, halfway through the second decade of the 21st Century, I would not pretend to know.  Much has been written and spoken about the fact that America's best young male athletes have cooled on baseball and are, instead, honing their skills in sports including basketball, football, golf, soccer, and even lacrosse.  

Here, in 21st Century America, where the cost of an education has reached a level akin to indentured servitude, parents are less inclined to encourage their school-age son or daughter to play any and all sports that they enjoy.  Instead, youngsters are being herded towards devoting their time and talents to one particular sport, full-time, and year-round.  It is hard for a twelve-year-old to find time for a pickup game with friends with a three time per week commitment with both his or her strength and conditioning coach and nutritionist already occupying permanent places on the calendar.  

Baseball is a sport whose pace is an anathema to our "everything all at once and all of the time" society.  It shall be both the saddest and most celebrated day in human history when food scientists create food that passes through us almost instantaneously while providing us with the nutrition our bodies require.  The day on which we are able to eat and shit simultaneously shall be a red-letter day for us humans.  A modicum of efficiency we shall be...even as we are sitting in a meeting wearing our adult diaper and making that goofy face that babies make when they are dropping a deuce.  Do you smell that, son?  That, that is the smell of...progress.

Against a backdrop of "instant everything", baseball stands with its jaw locked and jutting outward, proudly holding firm against the relentless assault of those who wish to equate "newer" with "better" even in the absence of evidence to support the hypothesis.  And it does so with its most majesty, and its most splendor, in October.  

For it is in October that the magic with which any plot of land shaped into a baseball diamond is inherently imbued creates days of miracle and wonder.  We see things that we otherwise do not see.  As the air dries, the days shorten, and the evenings cool, October's magic often serves as a B-12 shot for those players who are mere mortals.  Thus far this October, the magic has laid within the bat of Daniel Murphy.   

Murphy is the second baseman for the New York Mets.  He is a solid pro, a very good hitter who has worked hard to elevate his defense, which has long been viewed as the weakest part of his game.   This season, with their captain, David Wright, on the disabled list for an extended period of time, Murphy moved from second base over to third base in Wright's absence and was a critical cog in the Mets' machine that captured the NL East title in a rout.  

Nothing Murphy did in the regular season explains his October.  Nothing he has ever done in his career explains it either.  

And therein lies the beauty of baseball. 

So far this October, Daniel Murphy and his Mets have played nine postseason games.  In those nine games, Murphy has batted .426, scored nine runs, hit seven home runs, and driven in eleven runs.  Along the way, he has hit a home run in six consecutive playoff games.  In the long, storied history of baseball, his is the only name that appears on that particular stat line.   Not Ruth.  Not Gerhig.  Not Mantle.  Not Bonds.  Daniel "Friggin'" Murphy.  In the interest of full disclosure, I know not whether anyone actually calls him "Friggin'" although I am willing to wager that right about the time he turned Rodney's 98 MPH fastball around in the top of the 8th inning in Game Four of the NLCS for his final home run of the series, more than one Cubs fan affixed that sobriquet upon him. 

The World Series begins on Tuesday night, either in Toronto or in Kansas City.  Barring a sweep, this year is one in which we shall have November baseball as Game Five of the World Series is scheduled to be played at Citi Field on November 1.  Game Four will be played on Halloween night at Citi Field.  Would it not be great fun if MLB allowed the teams to play the game while wearing Halloween costumes?  

Whether the teams are permitted to play in costume or not, Daniel Murphy will be there... Roy Hobbs.

No costume required. 


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