Tim Stanley is a writer for the Telegraph in London. He went to his first baseball game the other day. Even though he referred to home plate as “fourth base,” he shows a far greater understanding of what baseball is all about than that dude who slammed it in his football blog yesterday.
And not just because he says smart things like “the rules are simple and any confusion is cleared up by more beer.” He understands the zeitgeist of the thing, and makes some interesting parallels between baseball and the American psyche, at least as we like to believe it to be:
At face value, baseball’s an individualist sport because it’s all about the man at the bat. He swings, he runs, he’s in command of his destiny. But he’s also playing for the team, and sometimes sacrifices have to be made. If someone’s already at third base, the goal of the batter is to hit the ball far enough to allow his teammate to get to fourth – accepting that he’ll probably get taken out himself as he sprints to first. It’s a reminder that a necessary ingredient for the flourishing of the individual is the health and the wealth of the people around him. For you to succeed, others must succeed, too – and as with baseball teams, so with nations. We’re all in this together.
I don’t think our society always works that way. But I think we’d like it to. At the very least it has before and will again. And I think baseball reflects it far more than the other sports do, even if other sports reflect how our society works in practice from time to time.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.