Baseball is a game. JUST A GAME. We know this in our hearts of hearts; we confess it grudgingly to those people in our lives who, for various reasons, hate innocence and justice and America; we hiss it at our haggard reflections, 60 or 80 or 100 times a year (or would, if we were pathetic, which maybe some of you are! Some of you who are not me!). But there are higher powers that seem not to have gotten that memo. For they continue to entrust our sport with characters and events of unmistakable cosmic significance. Doubt ye me? How quickly ye distracted minds forget the shattering tale of Roberto “Fausto Carmona” Hernandez Heredia. A tale that was on the lips of every schoolboy in those halcyon, mist-shrouded days of late January. A tale, in the end, that can only be told, and told fully, by desecrating a major work from the Western canon.
“She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.”
So spoke a certain Victorian critic, from beneath a mustache which the NotGraphs community will be well equipped to appreciate. He had Leonardo’s fair subject in mind, of course, and yet how aptly his words describe the man now before us. A man whose half-smile — caught between boyish spring and weary autumn, between the truth of pure Stuff and the lies of a fallen life, between the sweet taste of acedom and the bowel-wracking pain of, say, getting completely freaking obliterated on Opening Day — betrays not merely a double life, but one endlessly and timelessly multiplicitous. Is he 28? Is he 31? He is both, and neither; he is older than the rocks. Is he Hernandez? Is he Carmona? He has been dead many times, and thus has been both of these, and more. This is the smile of a man who has sold his soul a thousand times over, in bargain after Mephistophelean bargain, and at last bared those bargains in his very alias. A man of whom we were warned, from the time of our earliest acquaintance, that he was “not even human.” Are any of us? asks the Carmona Lisa. We ignore this question, as we ignore the sound of lyres and flutes, because we are unready.