The Los Angeles Dodgers Launch Event
By: Matt Sussman
Words can’t possibly express the innovation that Dodgers president Andrew Friedman unveiled at their much-anticipated launch event, so below is an audio transcript of his presentation.
Pride and Joy
By: James Fegan
My father’s favorite baseball player of all time was Emil Brown. He played parts of 10 seasons in the majors, but some of those 10 included game totals like three, six, and 13. He hit .258/.323/.398 in 2,508 career plate appearances. He had a couple of good years at the plate, and led two of the worst Royals teams in franchise history in RBIs. Fielding metrics and BP Annual comments would be quick to tell you he gave a lot of it back with his glove in the outfield. He finished his career with 1.4 WARP.
My father knew almost nothing of sports, but handled baseball better than the rest. He knew his cruddy eyesight–damaged at birth by forceps, because that’s how old he was–turned him into an opposite-field hitter at grade-school softball. He would play catch until his knees crackled like an empty plastic water bottle before slumping into a lawn chair and declaring that anything he could catch was a strike, anything out of reach was a ball, and anything that knocked over his Diet Coke ended the game. He would clip out White Sox scores from the newspaper and email them to me in college, so I could read the same story I read online two days earlier. I never told him to stop.
Emil Brown learned under my father at Harlan High School on Chicago’s South Side. Not for baseball, of course, but high-school English. He wore the googly-eyed, shocked expression of a teenager who has seen his English teacher in the wild when my father dragged him over to me and exclaimed, “He hit a home run at Wrigley Field! In the city playoffs!” to a young son he hoped would understand the significance better than himself.
That shocked expression was always my father’s favorite thing about him. He had more stories about Brown’s amazed reactions to his newfound stardom and the social circles it launched him into than observations from his games. By the time Brown got into his run with the Royals in 2005, the googly eyes were gone. At 30 years old, he was somehow on his eighth organization. He had bet on himself for a year of community-college ball to boost his draft position, trudged through a year as a Rule 5 player, and showed up in spring in a new team’s camp five years in a row. But my father still saw his student, even with the beard and thirty extra pounds of muscle.
He shouted “Emil!” for benign singles dunked to center field and routine catches in left during a stretch when Royals fans were rarely heard anywhere, let alone on the South Side. He dropped the crossword puzzle through which he watched every baseball game at home and let out a sincere “Wow!” at every update on the team RBI leaderboard of the 100-loss Royals. I don’t know if he was actually impressed or just thrilled that I cared about one of his students.
The last day of this regular season will mark a year since my father sputtered in his morphine-soaked sleep, the final stage of dying of leukemia, and sighed his last breath. He gave me a lot of things; one of them was loving Emil Brown, and knowing that every MLB journeyman could be someone’s solace, the walking proof that even if you teach 35 years in a neglected public high school on the South Side, you’ll live to see some of your kids win.
The Oral History of Kevin Pillar‘s Fourth-Inning Flyout in Last Night’s Game Against Boston
Devon Travis, Blue Jays second baseman: I took three balls, none very close, and then a strike. I fouled off the 3-1, and then walked on a pitch that was, quite frankly, a horrible call on a slider up in the zone.
Christian Vázquez, Red Sox catcher: Ball four to Travis was a strike.
Johnson: It was a strike.
Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays center fielder: Devon walked when he should not have. It was clearly a strike. But we’ll take it.
Johnson: It was absolutely a strike.
Pillar: So I’m up, tie game, runner on first. Fourth inning. Big … well, medium spot. Medium spot. Would be real nice to do a little something.
Chris Young, Red Sox left fielder: Pillar bats right-handed, lefty pitcher, so I figure, you know, hey, I might get a fly ball here.
Pillar: I’m just up there trying to do something.
Johnson: My thoughts, you know, I’m just trying to get the batter out. Keep the runner close. Maybe a double play. But definitely get the batter out, that’s the focus in that spot.
Pillar: So the first pitch is a called strike. Probably outside, but on the first pitch maybe you get a makeup for ball four to Devon.
Johnson: It was a strike.
Vazquez: I framed the hell out of it, honestly.
Pillar: The second one was way inside. Moved my feet a little. Or my knees. I moved my lower extremities generally is what I’d say.
Young: Those kind of pitches, you know, the way they move in on the right-handed hitter like that, I’m ready for anything. Ready for something coming my way.
Johnson: I didn’t want to throw something down the middle.
Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox third baseman: I was in my position. Adjusted my belt a little. Just prepared for whatever.
Johnson: I got one up but it rode in on his hands so he couldn’t get much on it.
Pillar: Pretty good pitch. Tough to do anything with it. I probably should have just eaten the strike.
Travis: The crowd made some noise but the ball wasn’t really going anywhere. You watch the left fielder, he didn’t have to go but a few steps, plenty of time to get under it.
Young: It was a nice medium fly. I took a couple of steps. Glove up. Ball in. Threw it back.
Pillar: Just flied out, headed back to the bench, started thinking about defense.
Johnson: Just a real easy fly.
A Short Walk About Baseball
By: Holly M. Wendt
Fifteen hundred miles away from Houston, and from Houston’s champagne-soaked locker room, lies Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve. In addition to being somewhere to experience pure autumnal grace—clear skies and golden light and all the leaves mid-change—the trail along Tucquan Creek offers an ideal place to contemplate the brink of the season.
One fallen leaf is as red as a baseball’s stitching, saturated scarlet. In this dry northeastern year marked by a cool summer’s end, it feels like you could count the leaves this color. Brown and gold dominate out of measure, loud and slippery beneath your feet. You pause, try to pick out more carmine examples—blackgum, sassafras, three shades of sumac—but stop before you get too far. Say you counted red leaves to some number, like 108—a baseball’s stitches—or 162—games for each team—or 4,860—games across each regular season. Eventually you’d still have to come to some kind of end. You can count the games left on your fingers, maybe even one hand, so you take a picture, walk on. The season, like these leaves, may not see November.
This is the way every season ends: one team better, one team worse—29 teams worse. It must be more complex than stacking rocks, seeing which is taller, deeper, more blessed with the necessary abundances of both talent and luck, but to measure is still to measure.
Atop the low shoulders of the Appalachians on a day like this, overlooking the Susquehanna River, slow and muddy, it might be summer were it not for the leaves underfoot. Inside your shirt, it’s as humid as Houston. Beside the creek, though, in the greener dim of rhododendron leaves that will not make a uniform change, the air bites crisp. The water murmurs quietly, like turning pages, like pencil on a scorecard, not much like music.
You think about 24 curveballs in a row. You remember why you’re watching.