The graph presented above — which depicts all the pitches at which A.J. Pierzynski offered during yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) game at Baltimore — is unexceptional insofar as swinging at baseball pitches is, like, one of A.J. Pierzynski’s main responsibilities as a sporting professional. “The undersigned,” one imagines Pierzynski’s contract reading, “agrees, in exchange for $8.25 million, predominantly to swing at and also to catch baseball pitches.”
What is exceptional, however, is the graph above considered in context of the graph below — which graph depicts all of the pitches at which Pierzynski didn’t offer on Wednesday.
Nothingness, is what one finds here. A great deal of it, really.
This sort of behavior isn’t unusual for Pierzynski. Last September, for example, the very curious Jeff Sullivan documented a streak of 14 consecutive swings recorded by the catcher at the beginning of the summer. Pierzynski produced the highest swing rate among all qualified batters last season, and appears intent on revisiting that accomplishment in 2014, as well.
While there are perhaps many theories as to what compels Pierzynski to offer so early and so often, there is only one irresponsibly wild supposition being offered by the present author — namely, that Pierzynski is motivated by a fear of nothingness, and that he operates under the assumption that his constant swinging will save him from that torpor which is the liminal stage between life and death. “A body in motion stays in motion,” argues Pierzynski’s unconscious, “while a body at rest is probably a dead body.”
By way of providing a lexicon with which to discuss Pierzynski’s anxiety — and also by way of illustrating that a liberal arts education isn’t entirely a waste of family resources — I’ve presented below Wallace Stevens’ own meditation on the idea of Nothingness, his poem The Snow Man, (bold is mine):
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Stevens’ last stanza provides a pair of images, each more impossible than the other. On the one hand, Stevens’ “listener” beholds a nothing that isn’t there — a curious distinction to make, considering that nothing is, by definition, the absence of things. On the other hand, the listener also beholds a nothing that is there — a suggestion which raises nothingness to a discrete and extant thing-ness, as opposed merely to a sort of placeholder for the absence of things.
However paradoxical, Stevens’ acknowledgment of nothing-as-thing illuminates the ontological crisis which afflicts Pierzynski. Precisely how it does so, I will refrain from addressing here — partly because to do so would be tedious and also because the present work has already tread far enough into the absurd.
Graphs courtesy Texas Leaguers.
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