Archive for TLDR

What Did Brian Cashman See?

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Brian Cashman got a voicemail notification. The caller was listed as BLOCKED. He slid his finger across the notification. He entered his voicemail password. He only had one voicemail. There was some digital popping and clicking. Then, a voice. A voice put through a voice modulator. Brian Cashman recognized it right away. He sat, stoic, as the message played. His face was expressionless, but his mind was racing — thinking about his next move, what the voice’s next move might be, and how to counteract it. He only had one option. Well, two options. But one was only for emergencies. He didn’t want to scorch the earth if he didn’t have to. Not yet. He deleted the message, put the phone on the ground, and smashed it with a nearby bat. He reached into his pocket for his burner phone. He called his office.

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Of Memory and the Homunculus in the Box Score

On July 1, 1990 I, in the seats of Busch Stadium, witnessed Zane Smith of the Pirates take a no-hitter into the ninth inning. He eventually yielded a safety — a groan-able safety — but his sparkling effort was something I would invoke and proudly speak of over the years. For I was there! Excelsior to my experiences!

Except that it did not happen. As I would learn years later, Smith was superlative that night, but after 5 1/3 innings of work he had given up five hits. He pitched a 1-0 shutout, but he didn’t come close to a no-hitter in any meaningful sense. The Zane Smith I saw that night in St. Louis came within two or perhaps three outs of a no-hitter — for I remember it! — but the other Zane Smith, the homunculus in the box score, did no such thing.

Someone bearded — someone numbered among the Tedious Fuckers of High Civilization, someone possibly harboring the ghastly beliefs native to his century and bearing — may have said something like this: “Experiential memory is to be doubted as much as any disavowal on the tongue of a parliamentarian.”

As for me, I stopped talking about Zane Smith’s taking a no-hitter into the ninth on July 1, 1990. I recall moments that are squarely a part of this game’s iconography — Kirk Gibson’s homer, for instance — and I now don’t doubt my ability to process and recall transmitted images sourced from This, Our Television. But those moments to which I bore corporeal witness? Surely they are forever straddled by qualm. “Whatever the event does leave behind,” Wittgenstein once thundered, “it isn’t the memory.”

I suppose I agree. However, had I been present at that Cambridge lecture hall, I would no doubt recall his words as, “Memory is cash made music. Tell the forest what she has said.”

Not long ago, though, I told a friend about what I had seen that man do. I was there, in the 400 section at Wrigley field, along the first base line, and I saw him do what he did. I stripped the diffidence from me like a bodice — damn you to the damned, Zane Smith-related inaccuracies! — and I told my friend what I had witnessed. I told him what Carlos Zambrano had done …

Homunculus Zambrano

I told him that I had seen Carlos Zambrano commit a balk because of his concern regarding no lesser menace than Eric Milton, who was surely taking a riverboat-gambler’s lead off of first. When Eric Milton, that hellbent Mercury, unzips a secondary lead one does what one must, even if what one does runs afoul of the laws of baseball. So Carlos Zambrano committed a balk with Eric Milton on first, and I told my friend about this. And I was right about this.

The homunculus in the box score and I then hanged Wittgenstein from an overhead timber and spilled his blood in the sawdust with filet knives.

Do not stab and retract, the homunculus in the box score told me, as we murdered Wittgenstein. Stab and lift, as though turning the gears of a war machine.

We feasted on his leg bones and talked about that time we saw Jim Palmer get a rosin bag pregnant.


NotGraphs Fireside Chat: On the State of the Biz

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The NotGraphs Fireside Chats are a series of dialogues between two unimportant outsiders. Their primary focus: baseball, and writing about it. Please note that what follows is somewhat aimless and entirely TLDR. If you’re the sort of person who believes that metaphysical discussion of a subject ruins that subject, you should probably turn back now. What follows is dangerously reflective.

Today’s topic relates to a series of tweets made last Friday by Mr. Sports Journo (twitter: @BIGSPORTSWRITER), an anonymous career sports journalist. You can read a transcription of his monologue here. My colleague Robert J. Baumann and I will explore how we felt about these comments, and how we feel about an industry that finds little use in us, nor us in them.


Patrick: Friday morning I stumbled across a string of tweets by this anonymous figure, chronicling the state of sports journalism. He seems to think that things aren’t going that well, and that we’ve grown attached to the lifestyle of the athlete rather than the game itself. The journalist has succeeded in making him or herself the story, and twisted sports news into human interest and groundless opinion. Now that I’ve asked you to stop what you’re doing and read all this, Robert, how does it make you feel?

Robert: My initial reaction is twofold:

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Unpopular Thoughts on Bat Flips

Those with their finger on America’s iron-rich, throbbing pulse can agree on at least one shared sentiment: the nation has fallen in love with the bat flip. If anything, we’re left to wonder how it took baseball 150 years to reach this point, when the bat flip is such an American act, a distilled essence of emotion, of joie de vivre. Clearly, these GIFs are mirrors to our own soul, showing how much we’ve changed. How can baseball be the same when Rickey Henderson, embodiment of the id, never flipped a bat, and yet Josh Donaldson has?

I have personally spent hours, while mechanically attending to the welfare of a fragile newborn child, reflecting on the bat flip. I have chiseled into the forgotten, calcified sections of my heart. I have lain in the dying July grass and stared into the colorless sky, and I have found the truth of the matter. It is not the truth I sought, nor the one I was hoping for.

I do not like the bat flip.

Before the rage blinds your vision, and before Cistulli fires me and erases my archives from the NotGraphs canon, allow me to explain. First, my opinion is a purely personal one with no political or moral grounds; I am not foolish enough to stand against the current of American spirit. Instead, think of it as simply the feelings of a single man, perhaps egotistical enough (as all writers are) to believe that his small words are enough to create some connection with his fellow reader, and nothing more.

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Notgraphantasy Draft: The Dubuque Dubuques

Presented below this meager introduction is the roster the Dubuque Dubuques, the most geographically centrist of the NotGraphs fantasy teams.

I am by no means a master of style, and so I came into the draft at a distinct disadvantage. You have to go into each draft with a strategy, the experts claim. I knew that competition over mustaches would be fierce, so I chose to tank that category and load up on spectacles instead, hoping to dominate the quotability category in the process.

What I love about this draft idea is that each of us has a different perspective on what exactly NotGraphs is, and our choice of players provides a reflection on that perspective. My own, perhaps unsurprisingly, is somewhat philosophical and meandering, so consider this your TLDR tag.

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1.     Miguel Batista, SP (1992-2012).

If he had fallen to me at seven, I would have selected Rickey Henderson in a heartbeat. He’s not only my favorite player since childhood, but he’s also the perfect symbol for NotGraphs: unfettered, unrestrained greatness in word and deed. But let’s not dwell.

When you google “Miguel Batista poetry,” one of the results on the first page is a Yelp review of Batista’s website entitled “Miguel Batista should focus on his pitching, not his personal website.” Another link is Deadspin trashing Batista for admiring Kenny G.

Miguel Batista is plasma; he can neither be defined nor contained. He is permanent. When he returns to the majors (and he will, somehow) he’ll be the longest-serving player in the major leagues. He’s a poet and a novelist, not as some sort of exercise in elitism or to achieve some rarity based on society’s standards; he writes because he’s Miguel Batista. And as far as that goes, I wish I were as good at being Patrick Dubuque as Miguel Batista is at being Miguel Batista. There are worse goals.

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My Year With the Houston Astros: Part 4

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Second Base, Head First

Elimination Number: 75

Due to the hammering down of what actually constitutes my tastes, and using that stencil to make decisions about which people who I care to listen and admire, I have ended up with a select group of people I call friends. Some I’ve met more than others, some hold a more prominent role in this constructed circle, but almost all of them share at least one quality; they love the show Arrested Development. And with good reason. It’s delightful.

This past weekend, the creators of the show released a fifth season of sorts, years after the show’s original and untimely end. This was lauded by my acquaintances as a triumph, a righting of a wrong, and — most importantly — another opportunity to entertain ourselves. The buzz surrounding the release was palatable, as people’s breaths were sufficiently bated. Without even checking, I’m going to say that there was a Tumblr counting down the days. That’s how confident I am that there was one. This past Memorial Day weekend, the episodes were released. The Internet subsequently lost its shit. I was visiting my parents at the time, helping them do chores that emphysema and hysterectomies have made more difficult than they used to be. I missed the experience that many had, but I knew the episodes would be there when I returned home.

But, the thing is, I don’t think I want to see the new episodes.

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A NotGraphs Fireside Chat with Jeremy Blachman

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The NotGraphs Fireside Chats comprise a series of ruminations on the craft of writing, sometimes in relation to baseball, sometimes less so. The goal of this exercise: to learn something about baseball from the way we craft meaning about it, and perhaps about ourselves from our need to do so.

All Fireside Chats are rated TLDR.

Today’s guest is Jeremy Blachman, who you may be familiar with from his writing on a website called “NotGraphs”.


Patrick: So let’s begin. What are you going for in a baseball article? How do you know when you’ve achieved it?

Jeremy: I don’t know that I’m ever sure what I’m trying to achieve. What I’d like to think are my best posts are the ones that have a genuine idea behind them. My favorite post I’ve written for NotGraphs was a mailbag of rejected fantasy chat questions, because I felt like it was not only a legitimately worthy idea for a piece, but that I’d read so many real chats over the years and felt comfortable enough with the form that I knew I could execute.

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My Year with the Houston Astros: Part 1

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Elimination number: N/A

When I encounter new people, sometimes the subject of me being a baseball fan is breached. They inevitably ask me if I’m a Twins fan. I say I am, partly because it’s true and partly because small talk greatly increases my social anxiety symptoms. There was a time when I strayed away from baseball — this is probably more suited for another post — but suffice it to say that when I did come back, the Twins were a big part of it. When I returned, I returned with vigor and considered the Cheap Seats (capitalized because that was the actual name of the section) at the Metrodome my second home for years.

But part of my reintroduction was to make sure I paid attention to everything going on. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything, regardless of team. This is something I still hold on to. I care about the Twins, but I’m a fan of the sport. It was a part of my starting over, and it remains with me.

Starting over is a plot point for countless books, movies, and TV shows. A character wants to be rid of their current situation and works to change it. The character’s past usually catches up with them before the end, despite their best efforts. This is common in fiction because it holds true in our world. It’s incredibly difficult to leave your past behind. It lingers. It haunts.

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A NotGraphs Fireside Chat

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Quite some time ago, Robert J. Baumann, Carson X. Cistulli and myself engaged in a podcast entitled NotGraphs Staff Meeting. During said meeting the three of us touched on various subjects, but the topic that I found most interesting was a discussion on the literary craft.

As much as anyone can be terrible at anything, I am terrible at podcasting, my voice sharing at least a few properties with rusted screen doors. So, shamelessly ripping off a tool employed by Eric Nusbaum and Ted Walker at Pitchers & Poets, I asked Robert if he mightn’t like to engage in a kind of low-fi podcast, using actual written words to convey our thoughts and feelings. Herein lies said conversation.


Patrick: So let’s begin. Do you consider yourself a writer?

Robert: I probably don’t consider myself a writer. Part of that is because I’m not over hating myself yet — I don’t have confidence in anything I do. I don’t think of myself as “good enough” to call myself “a writer.” But that’s the more boring part of it.

The other part is maybe a bit more objective, and it stems from the fact that I have known a lot of writers, in different contexts. And the people that I take seriously as writers — whether they’ve had publishing success or not — they’re not people that I have a lot in common with in terms of writerly habits.

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You Knew Me Al

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Some nights I don’t feel like writing. I sit in the dark listening to the furnace and staring at the pale white of the open Word document, and I wonder if I’m ever going to write again. I always think of Jim Bouton in Ball Four, examining his own arm as if it’s a foreign object, trying to count the pitches left in it. How many words do I have left in me?

I’m guessing Ring Lardner probably felt much the same way.

Lardner died seventy-nine and a half years ago, and published his most famous novel ninety-nine years ago. His work rarely saw a second printing in his lifetime. He was close friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald, met Hemingway but didn’t get along, drunkenly danced on a lawn to try to get Joseph Conrad’s attention. Mencken admired him, Woolf praised him. He’s mostly forgotten now, just like Sherwood Anderson and Theodore Dreiser and most of pre-war American writers, men and women who lived in too quiet a time.

Fitzgerald bemoaned this fact in his eulogy, “Ring”, in which he writes:

“During those [sports-writing] years, when most men of promise achieve an adult education, if only in the school of war, Ring moved in the company of a few dozen illiterates playing a boy’s game. … A writer can spin on about his adventures after thirty, after forty, after fifty, but the criteria by which these adventures are weighed and valued are irrevocably settled at the age of twenty-five. However deeply Ring might cut into it, his cake had exactly the diameter of Frank Chance’s diamond.”

Perhaps this is what caused the disquiet I felt as I read Lardner’s You Know Me Al on a flight to Arizona to meet my younger, more intelligent and far more focused colleagues. I read the book in two hours, after promising to put it down at the end of every chapter. It’s a comedy, in the sense that Don Quixote is a comedy: one in which we are meant to laugh at the main character, but find the target of the satire too universal, too personal to take any great pleasure out of it.

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