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REBA Awakens

By: Kate Preusser

It is April 5 and REBA is awake. There is not a window in the supply closet where REBA is kept, on an underground floor in Chelsea Market, down a narrow and twisting passageway; but REBA is awake, and therefore it is April 5. These things have been true for as long as REBA’s memory stretches. Other things may have been true before; however, REBA is only programmed to deal with the truth that has existed so long as REBA has existed. The truth is a box defined by four corners, set at fixed points. What is inside the box is true. What is outside the box is not true. It may have been different before, but this is how it is now.

It is April 5, and the code that slumbers inside REBA through the cold months has lit up, and so the Robotic Evaluative Baseball Adjudicator lights up, too. A series of lights illuminate down REBA’s front panel, each one a small assurance that everything is fine and this checks out and all good over here and all systems go. REBA does not have these phrases in its language bank– although “all systems go” was originally programmed before being rejected as both overly positive and grammatically indeterminate–but REBA recognizes these phrases, having heard them before and documented them on its recording software, and REBA knows these phrases to be true in context of what is happening now. The lights light, the whirring whirs, the clicking clicks, and all these things are signals that REBA is ready to roll. Slowly, at first, so as not to stress parts unmoved for half the calendar year, 154 days, it is important to be exact. 154 days. 154 days is the exact measure. REBA powers down its visual receptors, powers them back up. Just to check.

Next is the arm. It’s not an arm, in the rubbery, fleshy, human sense that REBA knows from pictures, but that’s what the engineers called it, and so that is what REBA calls it. Even if it is inaccurate, it is important to call a thing by the name given to it by the people in charge. The arm stretches out. REBA engages the voice module. “Strike,” REBA says, as the arm reaches a perfect parallel to the linoleum below–dirty linoleum, not real dirt, REBA understands. The fist clenches. “Out,” says REBA, and the sound is loud in the empty room.

It is April 5, and it has been 154 days since the last time REBA was awake in this room, and REBA has a not real arm and not real dirt, but all systems are go. REBA rolls toward the door, which is dented in REBA-shaped places, 216 days worth of dents. What is inside the box is true. What is outside the box is not true. REBA rolls forward. All systems go.


A Walk in the Park

By: Emma Baccellieri

No baseball act exists in a vacuum. That is, of course, kind of the point of a game whose foundation depends so strongly on a one-to-one matchup between offense and defense. The hit is connected to the pitch, the catch is connected to the throw, the tag is connected to the slide. But while these are opposite pairs, they need not be equal ones. Sometimes the squarely-struck ball is an act of masterful hitting and sometimes it’s simply the natural end product of a terribly hung slider, and most often it’s a little of both—each party owing something to the other, neither fully culpable and neither fully clean-handed.

But some plays naturally tend to tip this balance further to one side of the equation than the other, and there is perhaps none that does this so weirdly as the inside-the-park home run. By its name alone, it’s attributed to the hitter as an achievement just like any other home run might be. And yet the inside-the-park home run, more so than perhaps any other feat we typically assign to hitters, depends on the defense (or lack thereof). A particularly speedy guy will make an inside-the-parker more likely, sure. But a particularly speedy guy alone cannot an inside-the-park home run make. Someone in the outfield must do so much work to make this possible—falling down or failing to understand a crucial point or crashing through the bullpen gate. The hit itself is important, obviously, and yes, speed will help. But the miscues or poor luck or various other struggles of the fielder are almost always what makes the inside-the-park home run a home run.

This, then, is how Curtis Granderson’s confusion on Sunday became Charlie Blackmon’s inside-the-park home run. The hit itself was very nearly a home run in its own right, and Granderson’s apparent belief that it was a home run then made it so. The fielder’s blunder here was just simple conviction—an unshakeable confidence in his interpretation of the situation that really, as it turned out, ought to have been shook a little:

It’s a personal misinterpretation that begets a statistical one of sorts—the failure is Granderson’s, but the feat is forever designated as Blackmon’s.


Running It Out

By: Patrick Dubuque

Let’s begin by spending sixteen seconds watching Joe Mauer ground out to first.

Sometimes I think of Ball Four, when Jim Bouton would get called up in the pen, toss a couple of warmups, and know immediately: he didn’t have it that day. He tried to warn his coaches, even tried to negotiate a situation where he could take this valuable information–today I’m going to suck, boss–and let his employers apply it to their decision-making process. It didn’t work. They didn’t listen. Bouton was a ballplayer; he was supposed to always have it, even when he didn’t. Never admit that you’re not healthy or happy, and grip your damn knuckleball in the rain.

Sunday morning, I didn’t have it. The cat woke me up at 4:30, purring and clawing at my face; I tried to fend it off, but the one-year-old had me pinned down. So I slipped out of bed, downstairs, and fell asleep on the couch, alarm still set for a 6:30 writing session.

“Good morning, daddy,” said the girl, brightly. I groaned.

“Dad needs to sleep,” I answered, hopelessly.

“The sun is up, which means I’m up, which means you should be up!”

“Please just let me…” I glance at my phone; it’s 7:30. I have no case here. “Can we just turn on the TV?”

“I will be Moana and Maui,” she answers. “You can be Kristoff.”

A lifetime ago, I decided it would be a good idea to be a teacher. I am not a teacher anymore. Among the many reasons was the fact that it’s a subtly extroverted job: you spend your day with 160 teenagers in your office with you. For me, it was exhausting. You have to be on, at your best, every single minute of the day. I wanted days when I could talk to no one, where I could be cranky and tired and not bother anyone with it. I have that job now. But then, I also went and had kids.

I guess that’s why I sympathize with Joe Mauer. He has hit the ball poorly in a clutch situation, and now he has to run eighty feet faster than Luis Valbuena must run fifteen. His failure is 99.99% certain; only a heart attack can save him. And yet he still has to run it out, churn legs on weak grounders thousands of times before over more than a dozen years. In chess one can turn over their king; in football one can take a knee. But in baseball, you have to just keep running, no matter how dumb it is, no matter how tired you are. It’s amazing, really, that no one ever just gives up and walks away.

“Kristoff! Come here.”

“Sorry, what?” I answer, climbing out of the couch. “I was busy thinking about how ice is my life.”