Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dickey's Secret of Imperfection

June 29, 2012, 2nd inning

R.A. Dickey stands on the rubber. He knows Thole is there, 60 feet and a bit away, crouching for some reason. Behind him, an old guy wearing a mask. Funny old man, thinks R.A. I bet he wears mismatching socks on Tuesdays. All these peculiar fellows, Dickey knows they are there, but he doesn't see them. He sees that aggressive lad with the wooden bludgeoning object least of all. Sure, there are blurry forms whiffling and waffling in the air. Humanoid clouds, you could say. No, what R.A. sees are lines. They squiggle from the ball that rotates breezily in his hand and take a variety of lost-in-the-woods paths toward the white pentagon. Thole's dinner plate he calls it.

He selects one of the lines, yes, that will do splendidly, winds up and tosses. The ball follows the invisible line like it was on a train track arranged by a think tank of chaotic lunatics. R.A. feels a subtle breeze from that guy to Thole's left waving the stick. He had tried to study the various stick wavers, learn their particular dances, but there were so many dances with so few stories. Rarely a narrative solid enough to hang a hat on. Instead...

January 13, 2012

R.A. Dickey stands on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Winds that could break the sound barrier if they really felt like it lash him from all sides, but he does not mind. He's made it to the top. It's more charming than he ever could have imagined.

"The mountain," he says, dashing a little whiskey in his tea, "it's got a real charisma."

"Sure," says Kevin Slowey, "nice view."

"It really gets to know you. Each step, is like a step the mountain takes into your soul. We've taken twenty-eight thousand nine hundred and fourteen steps on this mountain. It was the least I could do."

Their guide pointed out various landmarks, such as the Sphinx and Norway, but Dickey couldn't hear. He was having a different sort of conversation.

"Sup?" said the mountain. Only R.A. could hear.

"I didn't expect you to be so..." said Dickey. Everyone could hear him.

"I get that a lot. So what brings you here?" the mountain asked. Like a bartender, it had some stock questions to get people going.

"Well, I was sitting in the dugout one day, trying to figure out some stuff about will power and quantum probability, and I got stuck, so I said, 'Shucks! I'm climbing the highest mountain in Africa!' Turned out that was you."

"Oh," said Kilimanjaro. "Easy 'nuff."

A mighty gust blew straight at R.A. He absorbed it completely, though it did sting. Mountain wisdom is not to be turned away from.

He opened his eyes. The people around him were fuzzy orbs, but all the paths down the mountain appeared to him as squiggled lines scratched into space. They hung there, definite and clever.

"Oh, Dickey?" said the mountain, "one thing."

"Yeah dude?"

"The magic will wear off if you ever use it to perfection. In every adventure, there must be one stumble, one error. Do not deal in perfect forms. I mean, I did once and look at me. Now I'm a mountain!"

Dickey and the mountain chuckled (which for a mountain means a small earthquiake).

"Nice one!" said Dickey.

"Sorry, a little cheesy mountain humor," it said.

"No, that was good. I'm going to tell that one to friends back home."

"Nah, it only makes sense if you're a mountain. And remember, at least one baserunner every game or you have to climb back up here to re-up."

"Cool," said Dickey. "Later."

Kevin Slowey stopped taking pictures for a moment. "Hey R.A., great view huh. By the way, who were you talking to?"

June 29, 2012, 3rd inning

Aaron Harang hits a catchable bing bong to centerfield. As Dickey watched it from the mound, he felt perfection welling up within him. The discoball of pure excellence rotated invisibly, threatening to reflect its beam directly into Dickey's forehead.

Just then, Andres Torres thought about his recent trip to a mushroom sorting plant. Well this is interesting, he recalled himself thinking. And then he realized that he had had that EXACT SAME THOUGHT about a falling palm frond that he had observed from a Los Angelos taxi cab. Ain't that somethin'. The ball dropped in front of him for a lazy single. Perfection averted.

R.A. Dickey took the ball again, ready to throw it perfectly straight and bend the world a few inches this way and that while the ball was mid-flight. Somehow Thole always caught them.

Mt. Kilimanjaro watches the game on its laptop.

"Hey Nile," it says, "I taught this guy everything he knows."

"What are you talking about?" gurgled the River Nile.

"This pitcher. His name's R.A. Dickey. I'm the reason he's so good."

"That doesn't make any sense," was the bubbling reply.

"Whatever. Hey, could you throw me a beer."

And then, Mt, Kilimanjaro drank a beer.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fact: Johan Santana Pitched a No Hitter

Johan Santana awoke. He was in a room: that much was clear. Little else was. There were pictures of...himself...and members. Him and family members. He looked out the window. Cars. Streets. Honk honk. Humans traversing, conversing, commercing. Fair enough. Foul enough too. Fair is foul and foul is fair. I really need to cut my hair, he thought, catching his reflection in a mysterious snow globe of a made up land called New Yorkci.

A phone. Well now isn't this interesting. How satisfying the plastic felt in the intelligence of his hands. So brassy. Clean jazz. An uncountable number of buttons gleamed at him with enough upward jut to catch the rays from the gigantic sphere of fire, so far away. Zero seemed a fine number. He pressed it. He examined the other numbers, wondering which to pick next, when the ear piece purred, and then said, "Morning Johan."

"Yes, that is who I am," he recalled. "Can you tell me where I am?"

"You are on the 57th floor of the Met Tower," said the voice. "And you shouldn't be for long. You are pitching tonight."

"Pitching? Pitching..."

"Johan, why don't you come down to the lobby. It sounds like you need some explaining done."

The doorman of the Mets Tower was mysterious, in that it was ambiguous just how mysterious he was. He was a scruffy old man they called "Pops." He read the paper. When a stranger entered, he said, "Be you Met or be you not? For only Met shall pass." But questions hovered. What was his real name? Where did he live? What plane did he arrive from?

The elevator door opened in the lobby. Santana stayed in it, examining the buttons, dissatisfied.

"Over here," said Pops, absentmindedly scruffling his newspaper in his hands. The consonants started to slide off, leaving a bunch of shapeless vowels, but Pops brushed the consonants back on, and most of them found their original spot.

Santana wandered into the lobby. "See this?" said Pops, holding up a baseball. "You throw these?"

"Do I?"

"You used to be the best at throwing these," said Pops.

"Was I?"

"Observe," said Pops. He stood up into an awkward pose, his legs too far apart, his arms an unmixing combination of ragdoll and robot. "See the wall?" he asked, getting a little trancy, "pick the spot you don't like."

Johan had no trouble with this task. There was a spot eleven inches off the ground that was grimy without grime, shadowy without shadows, cynical without sentience. Johan pointed to it.

"Me too," said Pops. His arms seemed to rotate in slow motion. Torque itself was visible. His legs jimmy-jambled with incredible precision. He released the ball. Somewhere in the world, at that moment, a match had begun to spark. It was in that impossible moment between spark and flame. The ball flew across the lobby and hit the worst spot on the wall. Only as dust erupted around the ball did the flame splash into existence.

"Now you," said Pops.

Johan Santana, his memory empty except for sprinkles of this and that, and the memory of the pitch Pops had just thrown, took the ball, walked back, jimmy-jambled his legs, flamble-rambled his arms, released the ball just so. It thunked the spot with a pleasing boom. He threw another that glammered upward before thunking into the spot. Another swooped to the side and then sashayed into the spot.

"Thanks Pops," said Johan.

"Call me Sidd," said Pops.

This way and that, the ball snarpled and dove against the Saint Louis Birds of Fire. They were under and over it like amateur bettors with too much money. Beltran was cool to fate's peculiar draw. Yadier of Doom waved his doomstick, but Mike Baxter became Achilles for a moment, knowing that he would succeed and then die, and was okay with that. If ends up on the DL, Odysseus will visit him and ask if it was worth it, and won't it be interesting to hear his heart beat as he ping pongs those cliches. To us, however, Mike Baxter is another fly in this non-ending Ninja Turtle drama. On the day that Johan awoke without a history, he changed all of ours. A fire forever unlit in all the backwards of time before Johan's 134th pitch now burns in our memories until infinity walks out or the buggers finally win one.