The Washington Nationals had never won an elimination game in the National league post-season. They were 0-6 in such games going into last might’s do-or-die single Wild Card play-off at home against the Miracle Milwaukee Brewers. Following the script many Nats fans dreaded, the team’s Hall of Fame-bound ace, Max Scherzer, quickly gave up three runs while the Brew Crew’s storied bullpen kept the offense at bay save a solo homer from National shortstop Trey Turner. Heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Nationals had to face closer Josh Hader (he of the Hader Gotcha), who gives up hits less often than some pitchers give up runs.
Then, as they say, fate took a hand. With one out, uninspiring Nats pinch-hitter Michael Taylor reached first illicitly. A 3-2 pitch from Hader hit the knob of Taylor’s bat and immediately ricocheted onto his hand. It should have been called a foul, but the umpires ruled it a hit-by-pitch, sending Taylor to first base. Hader struck out the next Nats batter, then aging Nats slugger Ryan Zimmerman was called upon as another pinch-hitter. He barely connected with a pitch out of the strike zone, breaking his bat, but his weak “dying quail” bloop dropped in just over the head of the Milwaukee second baseman for a cheap and fortunate single. (On TV, Zimmerman could be seen smiling and shrugging sheepishly.) That meant the tying runs were on base for the Nats best hitter, MVP candidate Anthony Rendon. Hader gave him what is known as an intentional unintentional base on balls in order to face 20-year-old Juan Soto, a left-handed batter. Lefty Hader allowed left-handed batters to hit .143 this season. But young Soto lined a pitch into right center, and Brewers right fielder Trent Grisham, one of the heroes of the late-season Brewers play-off drive, did a Bill Buckner. The single got past him (he was charging the ball in what would have been a futile effort to throw out the tying run at the plate) , and all three runners scored. Incredibly, the Nats now led 4-3. After the Brewers went down in the top of the 9th without scoring, they, and not Milwaukee, moved on to the next round of the play-offs.
Lesson: In baseball, as in life, it is as important to be lucky as to be good. Chaos lurks in every second, and the illusion of control is just that, an illusion. A bad call, a fluke hit, and a horribly-timed fielding botch that the same outfielder avoids 99 times out of a hundred, and so much changed for two cities, two fan bases, and the 2019 post-season, affecting jobs, careers, reputations and commerce.
This is why we should never give up, never despair, and never get cocky. It is also why we should strive to live as ethically as possible. We can’t control whether we win or lose, but we can control how.
1. Again we must ask: when did the Democratic Party decide to abandon freedom of speech? Yesterday, we learned that Joe Biden’s campaign wants the news media to censor adversary commentary from Rudy Giuliani, while claiming that no one who isn’t a public official is qualified to opine on TV regarding public policy. Now Senator Kamala Harris, who also aspires to be President, says President Trump should be banned from using Twitter because he uses the platform in an “irresponsible” way. Harris, in an interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper, also called for “other mechanisms” to make sure Trump’s words “do not in fact harm anyone”—you know, like harming her party’s election prospects by exposing its Big Lies and open coup attempts.
I wonder if the public sees how ominous the repeated Democratic calls for censorship are. Maybe the President will tweet about that.
Of course, the President’s use of Twitter is often irresponsible, but also a necessary end-around media propaganda aimed at unseating him and undermining democracy. It is remarkable that Harris, a Senator and a lawyer, somehow missed that the First Amendment proclaims the importance of free speech to our society. It doesn’t only endorse the right to engage in responsible speech. I think, for example, that advocating censoring the speech of the President of the United States is irresponsible, but I’ll defend Harris’s right to do it—and my right to conclude that because she does it, she is an ignorant, dangerous fool. Continue reading