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March 7, 2017

Short Relief

Opening One's Heart, Calculating Existence Odds, and a Correction

by Emma Baccellieri, Jason Wojciechowski and Patrick Dubuque


Welcome back to Short Relief, a place for sensible writing. If you missed yesterday’s inaugural issue, please click here for the lowdown.


Ty Kelly Cannot Advise You on the Subject of Rivers

By Emma Baccellieri

In the first game of the World Baseball Classic on Monday, Ty Kelly went 0-for-4, as Ty Kelly not infrequently does. (As he has done, to be specific, 121 times in his collective major- and minor-league careers.) A cursory glance at his game logs shows that most of these 0-for-4 outings happened in relatively small ballparks with smaller crowds, many after what must have been long bus rides, as you would expect from someone who spent eight years in the minors before finally getting his first chance in the big leagues last year. These 0-for-4 outings have probably not done very much to embarrass him, however, as he has a YouTube page full of the original songs that he writes for the acoustic guitar.

There are not too many things that are more awkward to discover on someone’s social media profile than original songs that they write for the acoustic guitar and then repeatedly record and upload to a handful of viewers on YouTube. There is no fun to be had in snarking on these or poking fun at them; they’re not like an old photo in an embarrassing outfit or a weird childish exchange with an erstwhile friend. They’re not so common or so casual or so universal as that—they are openly, deliberately vulnerable and earnest in a way that is so naked as to be, frankly, uncomfortable.

Such as this, for instance, uploaded in his sixth year in the minor leagues, recorded in what looks to be a modest apartment that is different both from the modest apartment he’d recorded in a month before and the other modest apartment he’d record from a year later:

“There is no way to tell

Which way the river flows,

I cannot tell you what your future may hold.”

Very earnest! Like, very nearly heartbreakingly so! The video has two comments and fewer than 1,500 views. There is maybe, then, somewhat of a reasonable instinct to cringe a little with a secondhand embarrassment at the fact that Ty Kelly’s original songs seem very much to be the musical manifestation of Ty Kelly’s baseball career. But that type of embarrassment overlooks the fact that you don’t have to come out and call Kelly out on that if he’s been earnest enough to get out in front and say it for you, and really, then, who cares so much?

Besides, to what standard are you, the person who cannot reliably play a B-chord, holding Ty Kelly? What baseline do we hold to him, in terms of clicks? How much aquatic wisdom do we demand, and why?

[EDITOR’S NOTE: On Tuesday night, Kelly went 3-5 with a double and a run scored. How this experience has changed him, from a songwriting standpoint, was unclear at time of publication.)


Being and Oaklandness

By Jason Wojciechowski

Hello, I’m the internet’s Jason Wojciechowski. As you may not remember, I follow the Oakland Athletics closely. I even have a blog. I also have, on the other hand, no personal, professional, or financial investment in the team's success. This combination of interest and disinterest makes me, by these figures, the world's foremost expert on the existence of the A's and their constituent parts. What follows, then, is a list of A's position players, in order of the likelihood that they do in fact exist, high to low, along with a brief explanation of just how it is they came into existence.

  • Ryon Healy: Not only certain to exist, but foretold by every well-respected soothsayer. Sprung fully formed from the forehead of Zeus.

  • Jed Lowrie: Someone at TED was reading page 128 of Amy Wilkinson's The Creator's Code while thinking, for bad reasons, about baseball. Next thing anyone knew: Jed Lowrie.

  • Matt Joyce: The spirit of Erubiel Durazo lives on and occupies the bodies of certain players. Nobody yet knows why, or dares to wonder how, but the who tends to be obvious.

  • Adam Rosales: Sid from Toy Story grafted a Starting Lineup figure onto a giraffe and Billy Beane decided he just had to have him.

  • Yonder Alonso: "GET ME JOHN OLERUD!" shouted Dave Forst. "I DEMAND JOHN OLERUD." The henchmen stared at each other, barely daring to breathe, their hands trembling. The phone rings.

  • Khris Davis: We were talking about John Jaha on Twitter the other day. There's not a second sentence here.

  • Jake Smolinski: He's actually an alpaca riding a Vespa.

  • Rajai Davis: Simulation #121,487,561 is the one in which the American League leader in steals hits a game-tying homer in Game Seven of the World Series against one of the best relievers alive, then signs with the A's. Rajai Davis is by, for, and of the machine.

  • Marcus Semien: Dreamed up by the A's coaching staff for the following analogy: Marcus Semien : Ron Washington :: the heavy bag : Tyson Fury.

  • Josh Phegley: Tom Prince bolted upright in his bed. It was all just a dream.

  • Stephen Vogt: Unicorns are known for peace and love and happiness, but some of them have killed and eaten the innards of a human and walk around in our world wearing that human's skin.

  • Jaff Decker: David Roth's Twitter bio doesn't say "Best American Sporpswriting"; similarly, there's no ballplayer named Jaff Decker.

  • Trevor Plouffe: the magic dragon lived by the sea / and frolicked in the autumn mist / in a land called

  • Chris Parmelee


Notes and Corrections, Vol. 1

By Patrick Dubuque

On behalf of the Short Relief collective, their families and investment consultants, I would like to apologize. Yesterday, as you may remember, the site concluded with the following animated GIF:

Words were written following this full motion video, but those words were an abject failure. Because while they may have been figuratively accurate, they failed to make note of, much less illustrate, the pure humanity in that fleeting moment of Kurt Suzuki.

Wearing both the physical and metaphorical masks of the baseball player, Suzuki’s soul is obscured from us. But his exaggerated, pantomimed presentation can’t be dismissed as random. There is no such thing as neutrality in life: all actions are statements. What, then, is he trying to say? Is he commenting on the quality of Pat Light’s pitch, as the latter’s guarded smile appears to reflect? Is it self-satire, a nod toward Suzuki’s own consistently negative FRAA?

Or perhaps there’s something more basic, more primal in that sweep of the hand. Something locked deep within the human spirit, the drive that rationalizes using the company printer for personal documents and rolling through stop signs, the force that makes children switch seats when there’s a substitute teacher, or ask for dessert even when they haven’t touched any of their carrots, haven’t even made the pretense of spreading them around to make it look like there’s less there.

Even in a situation where a strike does absolutely nothing to improve his team’s chances of winning, Suzuki can’t help but try. He has to take, just in case he is given. He’s the everyman, but not the everyman we want to pretend the rest of the world to be, not that anonymous middle reliever with the graceless eephus. Suzuki’s the one embodying rationality in economics, the collective action problem made flesh, the unchecked id. Kurt Suzuki is you.

Once again, for failing to make this truth evident to you, the reader, we humbly apologize.


Emma Baccellieri is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Emma's other articles. You can contact Emma by clicking here
Jason Wojciechowski is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here
Patrick Dubuque is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Patrick's other articles. You can contact Patrick by clicking here

3 comments have been left for this article.

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