Two stories. First, a Simpsons joke. In the past, I'd have thought very little of just making the "blurst of times" reference without a thought, but after teaching 18-22 year olds the past five years, I've learned that basically no one has watched the things I've watched. So here we are. In an early episode of the Simpsons ("Last Exit to Springfield"), while Homer, as union representative, is being shown around Mr. Burns' house, they come upon a room filled with monkeys. Mr. Burns explains that he's putting an old maxim to the test: if you fill a room with a million typewriters, and at each typewriter, place one monkey, then one day, one monkey will write Hamlet. Picking up a page, he begins to read: "It was the best of times, it was the...blurst of times?!" Burns kicks the monkey and scatters the sheets.
The joke is of course that the monkey has screwed up Dickens' classic intro to A Tale of Two Cities. But the deeper joke there is that the hypothetical scenario that Burns is concocting is, at its core, insane to begin with. That the monkey even came that close, we'd say, is pretty damn impressive. Random events do not always produce an infinitude of possibilities, even if, theoretically they should. Sometimes -- most times -- randomness will not produce the same document that intention will. (And even then, it's not the same; but that's a story for another time).
Second story. Tonight, while I was ferping about on twitter, I wrote that my recap would just be basically about the ninth inning tonight. The mothership twitter -- all praise be to the mothership twitter -- rightfully chastised me:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Hegelbon">@Hegelbon</a> Or just talk about Cole Hamels knocking in the only run and pitching 8 scoreless, as that was pretty alright.</p>— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheGoodPhight/statuses/363110783695065090">August 2, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Totally fair point. So when you have a game that is so wildly perfect as Hamels' game (eight innings, five strikeouts, one walk, seven hits, zero runs, and an ERA finally under four) and an inning that is so miserable as the ninth (Papelbon with two earned runs before his first out, and an inning without one strikeout; the Phillies loading the bases with no outs and still blowing it in the bottom of the inning) in the very same game? Well, on one hand, you have a tale of two games.
You have a game where the Phillies' pitcher -- the one signed for the pricey long term deal -- kept hitters off balance all night and dazzled with the stuff that we all knew he hadn't lost. Despite baserunning miscues by Ryne Sandberg; despite botched stolen base attempts by Hamels himself; despite defensive wizardry by Pablo Sandoval of all people, the game always kind of felt in hand. It was vintage Hamels. 2011 Phillies. Hamels even hit his own RBI! Brilliant pitching and timely hitting; we all want that back.
And you also have a game where the Phillies' pitcher -- the one signed for the pricey long term deal -- just utterly could not miss a bat if his life depended on it. Where the one run lead not only felt unsafe, but radically unstable -- destined to be undone. With a retired Brad Lidge in the stands (ostensibly), Jonathan Papelbon nauseated tonight. Yes, he was the victim of batted ball luck. Yes, he didn't pitch as badly as you'll hear on sports radio the next few days. Yes, there are shades of the 2011 Red Sox here, where he was unfairly scapegoated. But come on, let's be real -- that was awful stuff. And the hitting on the bottom half of the inning...well, let's just say that if you can't get sac flies deep enough on two consecutive tries, then you're not fielding a very good team. That it was Laynce Nix and Carlos Ruiz that killed it for the Phillies was a double-shot in the gut. At least Cody Asche got his first hit! ...on a terribly lucky bunt. Hrm.
So, on one hand, you have two competing feelings and, thus, two opposed games. But on the other hand, you still really have just one game. Baseball's like that: it turns quickly. And the Phillies, at enviable advantages at two separate moments in this game -- the top of the ninth and the bottom of the ninth! -- wrote "blurst" instead of "worst" and here we are. Baseball is random as life is random, and just as often as we expect things to fall into place, we should remember the humor of Mr. Burns' endeavor: there are all these random bits just firing everywhere. How can we expect them, with a straight face, to line up every time? Tonight they didn't. And it sucks.
But hey, there's this:
Have a good night everyone.
<iframe src="http://www.fangraphs.com/graphframe.aspx?config=0&static=612297&type=livewins&num=0&h=450&w=450&date=2013-08-01&team=Phillies&dh=0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="450" width = "450" style="border:1px solid black;"></iframe><br /><span style="font-size:9pt;">Source: <a href="http://www.fangraphs.com/livewins.aspx?date=2013-08-01&team=Phillies&dh=0&season=2013">FanGraphs</a></span>