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John Jaso, Las Vegas, and Choice

By: Kate Preusser

I am sitting at my desk, trying to write about John Jaso, who, at age 34, is contemplating retirement. Jaso has recently cut a unique figure in baseball, looking like he wandered onto the field from a nearby music festival: a little bit Spring Breaker, a little bit Clopin Trouillefou. The news is on in the background, because it feels irresponsible not to have it on. Last night I fell asleep and when I woke up, the death toll had more than doubled. I am reading an article about John Jaso written yesterday, but can’t stop thinking that when this article was written, the shooting in Las Vegas hadn’t yet occurred, that yesterday the world was one way, and now it is another. I read the same sentences over and over again.

“I can't really tell you what the future holds or whatever… Honestly, this is probably it for me, as far as baseball goes.”

John Jaso has been in affiliated ball for over 10 years, which is not an especially long time to work at a regular job, but in the world of baseball is getting into gold-watch territory. Either you retire from the game, or it retires you, and I think about understanding where that line is, the gift it is to be able to see to the end of something and choose your point of egress. The gift it is to have the choice to opt out.

“But I don't know, my mind is going elsewhere and everything like that.”

I am on my fourth read of the Jaso article, but I can’t stop listening to firsthand accounts of what happened at the concert in Las Vegas. One man, trained in crisis situations, describes how his training kicked in: Save those who can be saved, he says, and pass over those who can’t. Another says he was rescued by a stranger who threw him into the back of his truck and drove him away from the scene, and says he hopes he can get in touch with him, somehow.

“Traveling, living simply, being anonymous, that sort of stuff,” Jaso said of his post-baseball plans. “Really I just want to live a simple life.”

I learn that the shooter had 16 rifles in his hotel room, and hundreds of rounds of ammo. I learn the difference between a clip and a magazine. I learn complexities about guns that I never knew and don’t want to know, about binary triggers and gat cranks and bump stocks and belt feeding devices.

“I have a sailboat, so I just want to sail away.”

Me too, John. Me too.


Baseballus Novus

By: Trevor Strunk

Walter Benjamin, da morto

Welcome to the postseason!

Well, mathematically speaking, welcome to the offseason. More likely than not, you have just noticed in the past couple of weeks, if not in the past couple of months, that your team of choice is not going to make the big dance. You’ll have to wait another year (probably multiple years) to see your team win it all (maybe they never even will! Who knows).

In the end, it’s all a matter for the historians because that’s what your, and my, team is: history. And while the future is written by the survivors, we’re left picking up the pieces of our shattered seasons to try and find a meaning.

German philosopher Walter Benjamin had a theory about this, though he thought at the time he was writing about the Paul Klee painting Angelus Novus and not, say, the Milwaukee Brewers. Observing Klee’s painting, he speculated that it was all about living in disastrous times. To wit

This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed [but the] storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

In other words: You can only look back at the bad seasons and be propelled into the next unbroken one as you watch the bad memories pile higher. It’s bleak!

But the positive side is that you get to start in on the reality of the future so much earlier than any of the teams that happened to make it in. Watching the bad memories pile up in the past while rocketing blind into the future is a bit more honest than living in the past, and there’s nothing truly more exciting than the idea of a fresh slate and future glories.

So don’t worry about it: you didn’t want that playoff berth anyway! Be like the Angelus Novus: Fly headlong into the future with a clear view into the past. When you run backwards into success, you’ll thank me.