Double Switching is a year old!
(Well, a year and a few days—true to form, I forgot to write a post on the actual day. Of course.)
I started writing here on April 19th, 2012 on a total whim, after having watched baseball for just shy of a year. It’s been fun collecting all my longer baseball thoughts in one place, supplemented by Twitter, and I’m pretty happy you have stuck around to read them. So thank you.
Here’s some of my favourites from the past twelve months:
Eight Thousand And Twenty, about the Mets’ first no-hitter ever. (June 1)
Writing About Writing About Baseball, thoughts about playing catch-up. (August 12)
Rest in Peace, for the fan who passed away after a heart attack at the Rogers Centre. (August 16)
This game which matters least matters most, on the last day of the Jays’ season. (October 3)
Bandwagon in the Ditch, on not judging new fans. (April 8)
On top of those, there’s also While the Men Watch: Sports Sexism At Its Worst about the CBC’s Hockey Night alternative broadcast, and a guest post for Infield Fly called Baseball Is Boring, Baseball Is Not Boring.
Baseball’s the best! And so are you. Thanks for being the best. This is a lot of fun.
It was a rough day at the yard. R.A. Dickey had none of his usual mystifying stuff, instead allowing five earned runs before the first Red Sox out. (I can imagine some jovial Jays fans walked in with their beers in the middle of the first inning, laughed at the scoreboard error, and then realized with horror what was actually happening.) Dickey ended up lasting 4.2 innings, surrendering eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits and a pair of walks. He struck out five. Lester, on the other hand, gave up only five hits while striking out six, and neither he nor Clayton Mortensen gave up a run. The Blue Jays didn’t put up much of a fight in trying to bail out their starter, and the crowd started chanting “Go Leafs Go” in late innings … it was a mess.
This is kind of a third-hand commentary, but some time ago, Mighty Flynn posted some comments on something that was said on the Baseball Prospectus podcast Up and In. Boiled down, it was this:
If your baseball knowledge comes exclusively from reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts—even if you read and listen to all of them—you still don’t know much. […] To paraphrase Goldstein from an episode early this season, the knowledge gap between baseball insiders and outsiders is at least as great as the talent gulf between big leaguers and AAA players. In other words, it might not seem like a big gap, because baseball is a game measured in decimal points, but the gap is huge.
I’ve spent a lot of time in my life playing catch-up. I’ve always been the youngest in my friend group, so it’s common for me not to get references other people toss around. I have a full-time job in a field unrelated to my undergraduate degree, and the work I do was completely unknown to me until less than two years ago. I’m used to feeling like I’m just hanging on.
I spend a lot of time every day reading about baseball, listening to podcasts, trying to keep up. Every day it baffles me how some people — not much older than me — can recall all kinds of stats, facts and plays from memory, while two weeks ago I had to google Clay Rapada. As a hobbyist, trying to match stride with people who read about and watch and write about baseball every single day for a living seems like an insurmountable task.
Earlier tonight, I asked on Twitter how everyone who writes about baseball got started. The diversity of the responses was amazing. Some had been fans their entire lives, but hadn’t picked up writing about baseball until recently, whether through a career change or just a whim — content, until not long ago, to watch and love. Some, like myself, were very new to baseball (Ashley had just a month of watching the Giants under her belt, which is pretty brave!).
What was most interesting, though, is that nearly everyone cited having wanted to learn about some aspect of the game — how it works, why things happen, how to become more well-versed in sabermetrics. This is the key for me. I think it’s often assumed that when you write about something, especially regularly, you know more than the average person and are simply dispensing your knowledge to the masses. But maybe it’s a little different — while writers certainly have a more knowledge about the game than most, maybe those who choose to write are also those who are just curious about everything, and writing regularly provides an outlet for that curiosity.
It’s an encouraging idea. It isn’t any less difficult to keep up: there are still 30 teams with 162 games a year, and there are countless things that will fall by the wayside. But the idea that so many use writing as a way to understand is comforting. The knowledge gap may be huge, but the discussions and Twitter threads and communities that arise from trying to bridge it are truly great. In a way, I’m grateful that I jumped into this not knowing very much; when you have great people learning alongside you, it’s hard not to feel buoyed up.
Tonight is Matt Cain’s first start since his perfect game against the Houston Astros at home. Five days since this, among the nastiest of pitching lines: 9IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 14K. Cain threw 125 pitches, 86 for strikes. Six grounders, seven fly balls, 14 swinging strikes. What a night.
Grant Brisbee’s recap of fifty great things about Matt Cain’s perfect game is great, start to finish. Full of joy, as a post after a perfect game should be. These things stuck out for me in particular - not having been a Giants fan, not knowing much history at all, coming into the game in the seventh inning:
2. Gregor Blanco’s catch. Of course. It wouldn’t be a perfect game without a crazy, mind-erasing catch. You’ll watch that one for the next 50 years.
7. Of course Matt Cain gets the most run support in the history of perfect games. You think you’re hilarious, universe. And the worst part is, you’re right a lot of the time.
16. Thinking about how there was a passage in Moneyball that laughed at the teams drafting high-school pitchers in the first round of the 2002 draft.
28. The idea that Gregor Blanco was a minor-league free agent looking for an organization this winter, and now he’s an inextricable part of Giants lore.
That last one: well, you know. It’s hard not to be romantic.
I heard the Blanco catch on the radio. Near the end of the sixth inning, around midnight my time, I went to bed. Like a chump. “Matt Cain is perfect through six, but whatever, I have to sleep.”
I’m not entirely sure why I thought that. Maybe it was that so many “perfect through six” alerts ended with “two-out single in seventh”. Maybe I was tired enough not to think about it being MATT CAIN. He’d already made headlines with that gem of a night against Cliff Lee, pitching nine shutout innings to an eventual 1-0 win in extras.
Or maybe it was that this year has made no-hitters less spectacular? But no, that part was still exciting. Because I couldn’t sleep at all. I stared at my ceiling, fumbled around for my phone and the At Bat feed, listened to the top of the seventh (Blanco’s catch woke me the hell up in a hurry) and finally turned the game on. Because Matt Cain was doing it.
We all know what happened. He did it. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been a part of, and I was only witness to about three innings. I saw the tweets coming in after the first few, getting a little bit ahead of themselves after five, starting to ramp up after six. But good lord, the eighth inning! I may not have been here today if I had been there in person - the adrenaline roared through every part of my body as I sat there in the dark.
In the aftermath, a lot of people frowned that no-hitters and perfect games are becoming less exciting now that there are so many of them all the time. This season, there have already been five no-hitters - two of them perfect games - and we still have three weeks to go before the All-Star break. Does the frequency reduce the excitement? Does it make Matt Cain’s absolutely unbelievable performance less, well, unbelievable?
In some cases, perhaps. Did I go to bed because no-hitters are no longer exciting? Probably not. I haven’t been watching baseball long enough for anything to not be a novelty. But it’s entirely possible I’ve gotten used to that possibility being thrown around so much. Six innings of no-hitter seems to happen every day.
To me, though, no-hitters and perfect games are islands in a season. There could be 15 of them this year. There could be six perfect games after the All-Star break. Matt Cain could throw another one. Or this could be the last one for three years. It doesn’t matter to me; I will still get truly excited about one, and I will still go through the same roaring adrenaline rush, the hand-wringing, chest-tightening, heart-stopping innings.
I am not everyone, though. And I can see why this might make these sorts of events less remarkable for the baseball fan who has been watching since no-hitters were one in a million. They should never be reduced to the level of “you can just go to bed and find out in the morning,” as I thought I could do (I’m glad I was wrong); no-hitters are spectacular, and perfect games are even more so. But if you see ten of them in a year, the tenth may not be so breathtaking as the first, or second, or third.
The other thing is that I came in in the seventh. People watching from the beginning watched it get to the point of “perfect game alert”, and I responded to that. I actually almost started watching the Giants, but turned on the Dodgers/Angels instead; I wasn’t really watching anyway, and I remember almost nothing about what happened to the Dodgers other than that they lost, but the one thing I do regret is not turning that Giants game on. It feels cheaper to have witnessed such an event after having been told it was in the process of happening, rather than having that realization come slowly. I don’t dislike seeing it happen that way — I’d miss everything if I tried to watch history happen only from the beginning! — but I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to be one of those who saw all 27 outs.
At the end of it, though, Brisbee’s final point is what we should be remembering:
50. That Matt Cain, a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, retired 27 straight hitters in a baseball game.
Twenty-seven up, twenty-seven down.
It doesn’t matter when it happened. It matters that it was amazing.