Thursday, July 05, 2007

Postmodern Baseball Analysis

If there's one squad in baseball this year that narratively deconstructs the sport of baseball into its constituent parts of base and ball, while at the same time reacting to and critiquing extant modernism, it has to be the 2007 Seattle Mariners*. While pitcher Felix Hernandez satirizes the conventional pitching wisdom of "establishing" the fastball by disestablishing the "fastball," while José Vidro (mis)informs the pre-conceived notions of the designated "hitter" by "slugging" .358, and while manager ex-officio Mike Hargrove expands the meaning of "managing" a team to include, "resigning amidst an eight-game winning streak," the Mariners continue to defy the heretofore rigid constructions and socially-accepted norms of baseball teamness.

Before the current baseball season had yet begun, certain members of the blogosphere brought forth scorn and derision upon the men responsible for constructing (or should we say deconstructing?) the Mariner roster, in particular for making two specific trades. Now, at near mid-season, with the Mariners unexpectedly hanging in the midst of playoff contention, a mere game and a half out of the wildcard spot, and three and one half games out of the division lead, perhaps these specious and ill-informed bloggers are ready to eat their words, to admit that they critique without basis of knowledge or fact. After all, it's not as if starting pitcher Horacio Ramirez, acquired for Rafael Soriano (now sporting a 3.03 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 8 walks in 35 innings for the Atlanta Braves), pitched so poorly for the Mariners that they finally placed him on the disabled list with a made-up injury. And it's not as if the only thing preventing their newly aquired designated hitter from being the worst regular batsman on the team (not to mention that the backup catcher and backup first baseman/outfielder are both nigh-literally spanking his ass with the bat, and that his presence is blocking the promotion of AAA phenomenon Adam Jones) is the fact that their shortstop is in a terrible slump at the plate. No, clearly those who predicted doom based on these two trades are mindless, prattling incompetents who...what? Sorry, I've just been informed that those things are actually all true. Sorry to have mislead you, if only for a moment.

So then how are they doing it? To be sure, the Mariners have the greatest center fielder and leadoff man in the known universe in Ichiro Suzuki, and find themselves endowed with a relief pitcher who, while his name is literally "Putz," possesses uncanny attributes of unscorable-upon-ness, they had these attributes last year and the team, in the words of Jaques Derrida, "sucked complete crap." Clearly, the answer can only be found through postmodern analysis. The very existence of the Mariners, the very fact of them, can only be parsed in a context that abhors established norms. They will hit well against good pitchers and poorly against bad ones. They will sweep three games against the Red Sox, the best team in baseball, and lose two of three to the Royals, the single most inept club in all of team sports. They cannot be understood with existing metrics of baseball goodness. Attempts at scouting them or predicting their future through rigorous statistical regression shall surely fail. Only laws of lawlessness may dictate what lies in store for your 2007 Seattle Mariners, Postmodern Major League Team of Baseball.

*it is technically possible that no team in baseball is doing these things in this or any other year.

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