I’ll tell you why the result of last night’s game bothered me. It did not bother me strictly because the Orioles lost. It did not bother me because the O’s lost a 2-1 lead with one out in the 9th inning. The fact that Jim Johnson gave up his second game-changing homerun in three games wasn’t even all that worrisome to me. No, what really got under my skin was the way the events played out – with Raul Ibanez hitting two homeruns after pinch hitting for Alex Rodriquez – seems so wrong, so unjust, and so unfair.
In a scripted universe, last night’s events would never have happened. When the team with the high payroll and all the World Series championships potentially loses one future hall of famer to injury and is forced to pinch hit for another one due to poor performance, it isn’t supposed to get a boost from its unheralded, veteran pinch hitter. It is supposed to crumble and succumb after those things occur, allowing the underdog – the team without the big contracts, egos, and 27 championships – to rise up and shine. In a Hollywood script, the game would have ended with Miguel Gonzalez, Ryan Flaherty, and Manny Machado – a 29 year-old rookie pitcher who wasn’t even signed until March, a Rule V draft pick, and a 20-year old shortstop moonlighting as a Major League third baseman – as the heroes. No writer worth his weight would ever have the rich-beyond-their-wildest-dream Yankee team simply replace a struggling future Hall of Famer with a 40 year-old pinch hitter and have it work out. That’s not how things are supposed to end.
In the Bible, David slays Goliath. It is the underdog slaying the giant, just the way it should be. If Goliath were to have won, however, I can ensure you that he would have done so by simply overpowering poor, little David with his massive size. The first readers of the Bible would have understood that on a very basic and human level – sometimes, the giant is just too big. What never would have happened is for David to go toe to toe with the Giant and overcome the giant’s massive size advantage, only to see the giant grab a slingshot of his own and use it to do-in David. Last night, with the Orioles taking it to the Yankees and all of their major superstars for 52 outs, in the end the Yankees used a slingshot named Raul Ibanez to slay their underdog foe. That just does not seem right.
Look, I get it. I get that baseball is real life and real life is a far cry from scripted entertainment or fairy tales. Most of us – myself certainly included – look to baseball as an escape from our daily lives. Baseball is a game and games ultimately matter little. What they do provide – what we feel they should provide – is a nice diversion from the rest of our lives, much of which also ultimately matters little but we are stuck with nonetheless. When it doesn’t go according to script – when baseball ceases to be a pleasant diversion and becomes all too real – it can be crushing. Last night was crushing.
I’ll get over it. I almost am. Besides, the last chapter has yet to be written on this particular fairy tale and as emotional as last night’s loss was, the Orioles still have life. This giant hasn’t won yet. A win tonight and anything can happen. Maybe – just maybe – there is still a very, very happy ending to this story after all.