Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Box Score

Every April begins sublimely for me because of April Fool's Day. Then two days later, my birthday arrives. Usually the very next day, the blessed trifecta is achieved with the opening day of Major League Baseball. The fact that The Masters starts in the same week is just an embarrassment of riches. All of these happy things conspire to remove every dark cloud from my horizon. It's as if, for ten days in April I live in a world where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton don't exist.

But, the very best part is the return of that most hallowed and glorious literary form in the universe, a form of communication which is part ledger, part story telling device. In my 58 years of life, I have probably read at least 100,000 of them. I'm talking, of course, about...the box score.

Here, in one tightly compressed space, lies literally every possible detail of a game that I didn't watch, and yet a skillful reading can tell you everything that happened in this game because of this information packed record of names, abbreviations and numbers. From this one I see that former National, Drew Storen is having a rough time with his new team, having given up two runs on only five pitches, ballooning his ERA to a grotesque 13.50. Meanwhile David Ortiz, despite being at least 50 years old by now, is uncharacteristically off to a good start for this young season, hitting a robust .385. ( Ortiz' steroid provider must get some sort of shout out when he is enshrined in Cooperstown).  I also learn that 48,000 people were in attendance for the Blue Jays home the Canadians love their baseball. Also, Jose Bautista went 0 for 4, making me very happy...he's a show-boating, me-first bum. 

Over the next six months I will study over 2,500 of these beauties. They will do for me what other forms of journalism fail to do...tell the truth. There's no spin in a box score. If you went 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts, and committed an error, the box score will faithfully disclose every gory detail to me. My box scores have no liberal bias, there's no faux fair and balanced hokum to deal with. It's just the facts. Every pitch, every hit, every error, with no editorializing disguised as news. There are no moral victories, no momentum, no winning the expectations game. Just a winner and a loser, clean and clear. There's no escaping your record. You are who the numbers say you are. Excuses don't work as explanations. If a starting pitcher gets raked for 7 runs in 2 and 2/3rds innings, then there's going to be a big L  beside his name, not some dog and pony presentation about how he was distracted by the death of his favorite childhood dog the night before. There's no crying in baseball, and no hiding from the box score either. You are what you do...and what you do is all there in the box score. Deal with it.

There's a life lesson in there somewhere.