By: Matt Ellis
The colossal winter storm dubbed “Grayson” has been pummeling the East Coast for the past 24 hours or so. Yesterday I opened my door once to let my dogs out to do their thing, and both went right smack dab on the front porch like a couple of stupid animals. I can’t really blame them, though. It’s fun when you don’t have to go to work and wake up at 10 or so, and look out at 30 Days of Night happening without the vampire zombies. Cold, yes. Novel, of course.
Still, I nevertheless always come back to that famous Rogers Hornsby quote about looking out the winter window and hoping for spring, especially in a part of the country that seems to have more insane storms as the years progress, effectively suggesting that that magic-hour, green-and-yellow haze of early March might look quite a bit different in the decades after total global industrialisation.
Baseball games have been played in the snow before. Many are cancelled as if it were raining, others trudge on a few innings here and there until fingers turn blue and the ball disappears into the ground. But I’ve always kind of wondered why baseball doesn’t quite have the same no-holds-barred rule of Play Ball that football has–especially considering the climate is going to keep doing this thing deeper and deeper into the calendar year as we proceed into the twenty-first century.
So snow baseball: hear me out. It may be an anthropocentric inevitability. The Bills and Colts played a football game in a whiteout a few weeks ago, and the insane conditions which included well-trained athletes tripping over their own gloves counted for a good 1/16th of each team’s entire season. You don’t get this in baseball–162 games, no ties, play until the final out. Would that really be more dangerous than a 20-inning marathon that risks breaking countless elbows in the pen? Tell me this doesn’t rule:
1. No white jerseys, but the ball remains white. Come on, you want to see this just as much as I do. You don’t hit anyone with an errant throw, lost in the bright pale nothingness, but grabbing a grounder? Brad Miller, meet Andrelton Simmons.
2. You can only clean the infield as much as you would reset the dirt during a normal game. If anything, it’s way easier to slide in snow. Make the bases yellow and sources of light that bleed through the snow so the runner can see where they’re going. Teams also get five challenges, to mitigate digging into the powder to see if the base is really touched.
3. Two designated hitters. Manager discretion on which second position sits. There will be so many dingers–inside the park and otherwise–that you might as well run with it.
4. If no score by the seventh inning, a skills-off challenge determines the result. This can be held underground in the batting cages or up on the field, but it’s at least something to ward off cold-related injury with respect to the yearly calendar.
5. Last resort: Cancel the game. You tell me you want no baseball in our late twenty-first century climate apocalypse, or else you can live with these few rules in the interim.
Where the Offseason Went
By: Patrick Dubuque
Lyman Boucher fell wearily into his recliner and reached for the remote. The house was quiet; it was a Saturday and Pamela and the kids were off at Programming. The dog slept heavily on his rug. The storms were quiet today, a dull roar. Cracking open a can of whiskey pilsner, he flipped on some California League Hockey, a game between San Diego and Sacramento. It was tied at eight.
Lyman absorbed the silence around him like a painter measuring a landscape; he kept the game on mute. It wasn’t that he didn’t love the kids, it was just… he was old-fashioned. He missed the old Canada of his childhood, which was probably even then a child’s dream: maples, corn, automobiles. Life in the 21st century was fine, it had all the amenities, highway rail and Second Life and Alexa, synthetic bacon. Maybe he was just getting old. He remembered when there were only five hockey leagues, and teams only scored four, maybe five goals a game. Back when there were still cats.
His eyesight cut through the haze of his own nostalgia to see the game cut to the announcers in the booth, one holding a sheet of paper. They looked confused. Lyman found the mute button.
San Diego Padres? What were Padres? That sounded like a Spanish word… but Spanish hadn’t been spoken in California since the Canadian-Mexican War, a hundred fifty years ago.
“What do you suppose it means, David?”
“I… I don’t know. Excuse me.” He held a hand to his earpiece. “I’m sorry. I’ve just received word that Yu… Darvish? Yu Darvish is now a member of the Seattle Mariners. He’s a… I’m told he’s a starting pitcher.”
The other announcer chuckled nervously. The remote rang. Lyman answered it.
“Max. Yeah. I know. It’s looped,” Lyman grunted. “I think… what? What do you mean, Tim Lincecum signed a minor league deal with the Twins? Which twins, Dory and Gary? Who’s Lincecum? How do you know this? Did they flail up the Programming again? What the flail is goin’ on, Max?”
On screen, the announcers were still talking. A ticker rolled across the screen: dozens of names, teams, positions for a sport no one had ever heard of, names of cities that had never existed. San Francisco. Colorado. Third baseman.
Meanwhile, on television, with a growing murmur of the crowd behind: “What’s happening, David? Where do you suppose it’s coming from?”
“I don’t know, Jacques. We can only hope it slows down somehow.”
The Dye Vinci Code
By: Matt Sussman
One of my stocking stuffer gifts this Christmas was a book called “Baseball Puzzles,” published by Brain Games in 2010. It’s one of those variety puzzle books you get at the airport when you need three hours to kill and want some acrostics but not all acrostics.
I opened it and found a codeword puzzle, which is a modified fill-in puzzle where some of the answers were human baseball players on a team that finished 79-83, seven games out a playoff spot — a team of utter insignificance here in the year 2018.
First I stretched my memory, trying to think of random White Sox. Sale? (He didn’t debut until 2010.) Alexei Ramirez? Maybe Adam Dunn or Joe Crede? Perhaps Jermaine Dye or AJ Pierzynski (nah, too long) or oh my god I can’t think of any other pitchers because they traded them all last year.
“VERB” was the gimme word according to codebreaker. After filling in all the letters it took a while until B_E_ _R_E struck me as an odd partial word, then like his changeup, Mark Buehrle caught me off guard. From there it got easier. Gordon Beckham appeared, then his usefulness quickly subsided. Of course Ramirez was there. When wasn’t he? Paul Konerko (how did I forget him? When did I become an old?) was right there in the corner, like a good cornerstrone. Then came Danks and Jenks. I completed Rios before realizing what I had pencilled in — an utterly brutal waiver pickup at the time that still managed to make this puzzle. There was Dye, plain as day. But I needed a ninth. Aquifer? Steve Aquifer definitely sounds like a middle reliever. Woe, Gaff and Sewer were all appropriate for the theme, but then I finally had to look it up.
It turns out they omitted Bartolo Colon before he became the Internet’s father; an elder Jim Thome; one of Gavin Floyd’s healthy years; and Carlos Quentin before he knew how to play the field. Who else was left?
Nix! Heavens to Murgatroyd. Nix is such a good versatile crossword word, filling in gaps wherever you need to place an X. Jayson Nix was their utility infielder. Those puzzlemakers knew what they were doing, didn’t they.