Last week my wife, Karla, and I were in Atlanta to visit a close relative and to see the Yankees play the Braves at Turner Field. This was an interleague game between two teams in first place in their respective divisions. The fiance of our niece in Atlanta works for the Braves organization. So we had good seats behind home plate and access to the stadium club, the 755 Club. A few years ago my youngest son gave me a book entitled Tennis and the Meaning of Life. The implication of course is that there is a metaphysical connection between tennis and real life off the courts. The same could be said of other sports – maybe all sports – as well. Baseball is particularly interesting in this regard for reasons that we’ll get to shortly; but first things first.
The game was a classic. C.C. Sabathia was the starter for the Yankees, pitching against Mike Minor of the Braves. Sabathia is thought to be the Yankees’ best starter. I was not familiar with Mike Minor, but the program had his ERA listed at 6.98. Was this really a starter for a first place team? It seemed unlikely, but there it was. (I learned later that he had not won a game since April and that this might be his last appearance before being sent down to the minors.) Surely, I thought, the Yankees should be favored in this match up. Then the game started and Sabathia gave up 3 runs in the first inning and struggled through seven innings. It seemed that he had runners on base in every inning. He gave up another a fourth run in the 7th . Minor, on the other hand, in the first seven innings gave up only 4 hits and no runs. He was pitching what the Atlanta paper the next morning called a “gem”. After the Braves went up 4-0 in 7th and with the Yankees looking helpless, we decided to go to the 755 Club, have a drink, and watch from a comfortable table on a balcony high above left field. For us Yankee fans, this game was not looking good. Minor retired the first Yankee batter in the top of the 8th, and then gave up a hit to Derek Jeter. The Braves have a very good bull pen and Minor had gone longer than anyone expected him to in this game, so it was no surprise when he got replaced by one their good relievers. We had a man on base. But with the bullpen ace coming in and needing four runs, we’re wondering if we want to stay for the 9th. However 2 hitters later, the bases were loaded with A-Rod at the plate. This has not been A-Rod’s best year and there has been talk about how much longer he might play. But at that point A-Rod hit a the ball on a line into the left field bleachers just below us. It was his 23rd career grand slam which tied him for the record with Lou Gehrig. The score is tied at 4 all. I’m now thinking of the possibility of extra innings and another drink. However the next Yankee batter, Robinson Cano got a hit and then Nick Swisher hit a line drive into the right field bleachers. The Yankee fans around us in the club – and there were several – were going crazy. In the 8th and 9th innings, two Yankee relievers, Rapada and Soriano, gave up no hits and the game ended with the Yankees winning 6-4.
In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz says about his fourth agreement, “always do your best”, that your “best” is not going to be the same every day, It will vary from day-to-day because of a lot different things I think. Some of these are physical, some are probably mental, and some are not explainable. It’s one of the things that makes life unpredictable and makes it difficult to assess people’s true potential. No one would have expected the Yankees to get shut out by Minor and then go crazy against the Braves bullpen aces. Sabathia was not having one of his better days, but, to his credit, he managed to get through several innings with runners in scoring position without giving up a run (the Braves had nine men left on base). Nothing is ever easy, but sometimes good things can happen if you persevere through the difficult innings. “It’s not over ’til it’s over”. And sometimes your best is not good enough. Life in not fair. Minor pitched probably his best game of the year and certainly deserved to win, but through no fault of his, the Braves lost. One interesting thing about baseball is that on every individual play, a specific player is given either credit or blame for the outcome. Errors are given to specific players and Rodriguez gets credit for the home run that tied the game. But at the same time, the final outcome is dependent on the all the players “taking care of business”. A-Rod’s hit would not have been significant if no one had gotten on base ahead of him. And Minor pitched well enough to deserve the win if the bull pen had done its job. Sabathia gave up 10 hits and 4 runs and got credit for the win. But isn’t life like that? Many things are unpredictable (despite what we think we know or how many stats we have) We don’t always get what we deserve (and sometimes that is a good thing).
Postscript: A week after we saw this game in Atlanta, there was a re-match in New York. Minor after the game in Atlanta, didn’t get sent down and pitched against Sabathia a week later in NY. That game went more to form, Sabathia pitched better and Minor not as well and the Yankees won much less dramatically.