PnP Conversations: Of Men and Supermen

Ted: The best part about making predictions is praising the ones you got right and pretending the ones you got wrong never existed. That said, what hasn’t surprised you about the World Series so far?

Eric:You mean besides the fact that the Yankees are up 3-1? What hasn’t surprised me is the way these teams have won and lost, and the sheer randomness when it comes to which players have driven those results. Sure, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher were having lousy postseasons. But is it really a shock that they have hit for power in the World Series? Sure, Brad Lidge has walked that tightrope successfully so far in the playoffs, but wasn’t he doomed to fall off eventually? If anything, the World Series has been kind of a regression to the mean. Cliff Lee’s performance in Game One withstanding, the Yankees have just flat outplayed the Phillies. But speaking of pitching performances, I want your opinion on what Cole Hamels said after his start:

“I can’t wait for it to end,” Hamels said, referring to his wildly inconsistent 2009 season. “It’s been mentally draining … It’s one of those things, a year in, you just can’t wait for a fresh start.

Sons of Steve Garvey wonder if if Hamels is the anti-MSB. Is that the case? Or did a frustrated dude just misspeak a little?

Ted: It seems like less than coincidence that a fellow who has appeared in more creepy ads than the Burger King king has also spoken out against wanting to play any more this year. And it’s an odd time to say that you want the year to be over, in the midst of a World Series in which the end is in plain sight. What does he gain by saying such a thing, when he won’t even be pitching again this year as his mates battle it out on the field? Anyone capable of such a statement at such a time is clearly a bit self-centered. No MSB would find satisfaction in but a single World Series ring.

As I watched Nick Swisher swish his way out of a slump during the game from two nights ago (it was a simpler time, before the Phils had to win three in a row), my buddy Dan turned to me and said, “He told everyone he was gonna end his slump tonight and he did it!” I don’t know if that’s true, but assuming it is, then you can see the difference between a Swisher and a Hamels. Swish’s clubhouse presence has been hammed up all year, but when it comes down to it, I’ll take a guy who’s constantly talking about how tomorrow is a new day over a guy who sulks it out in the showers. Every team has to have that positivity freak who, even if he’s annoying, rubs off on the more stoic ones in the group. I think Rollins has been that for the Phillies in the past, and Swisher’s on it this year. He’s the guy who skews up the median optimism up past mid-range through sheer force of will.

It’s always easy to cite this mojo-type thing after the fact. But is it more a case of what Dan said later in that game, about Swisher bringing the team closer?: “Winning brings a team closer.” Cliff Lee’s game would suggest that a great starting pitcher is more valuable than a bragadocious, faux-hawked right fielder, but you’d have to check the numbers on that one. Though given one mediocre player vs. another, I’ll take your Swish any day. Is it too late to bother with these questions, since the Phillies seem doomed anyhow? Are they doomed?

Eric: I like how our answers in these conversations are by themselves double the length of the average post on many other baseball blogs. I’ll just skip all the stuff about optimism because well, I’m not really optimistic. As to your questions about the nature of this exercise, no I don’t think it’s too late. The Phillies may have been doomed from the start, but if they were/are then that’s beyond our control. We have discussed the role of fate/religion/aliens/robots in determining the outcome of this postseason. But all along we’ve had to just accept the fact that if these things actually do matter, actually do have an impact, we don’t know what that impact is. We speculate because we’re ignorant as to exactly what factors will affect the outcome. Is it sheer force of personality a la Swisher, or is it sheer force of hitting the ball really hard a la A-Rod? Or, once again, is it aliens?

From a purely baseball perspective, I think the Phillies are done. We’ve seen teams come back from 3-1 deficits. But The Yankees. Are. Just. So. Damn. Good. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. I still want the Phillies to lose, but the sheer awesomeness of the Yankee lineup is starting to annoy me. Looking at a Yankee box score is like standing at the bottom of Mount Kilimanjaro and staring straight up. You feel so insignificant. Any inkling of affection I had a few days ago for the Yankees has now been replaced by nerves and fear. They scare me a little. They are not of this planet. So I ask you — bearing in mind that to disrespect them is to risk your life — how can anybody actually like the Yankees? Is there anything sympathetic about them at all?

Ted: Every superhero has his weakness, and his/her endurance as a compelling figure hinges on the audience’s capacity to fear their falling, or their failing. It may be that the Yankees flashed their vulnerability in the first game of the World Series, and games two through whatever are merely this plot’s symphonic crescendo. Maybe A-Rod’s early whiffs were like the Incredible Hulk taking that blast from the sound cannons before stepping up and hurling a Hummer into the fray, and Brad Lidge is General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Then again, Cliff Lee’s up again. Perhaps the Phillies have got themselves an Abomination-in-the-hole.

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