We’ve all encountered it at some point in our lives: in little league, the playground at recess, during our short stint playing alongside Daryle Ward in independent ball. The situation: you’re running to first, and standing in your way is the first baseman, ball in glove, ready to apply the tag. As you run forward, you wait for the exact moment and then make The Move, also known as the Top Gun move: hit the brakes and watch them fly right by. A quick feint to our left, the fielder stumbles forward, chagrin already dawning upon him, as you sidestep and proceed down the line. You reach first safely, the crowd cheers and throws down roses, and a sandwich is named in your honor.
Of course, the move has never worked for you. Nor has it ever worked for me. The probable reason: you have never tried it against Miguel Cairo. From last night’s Reds-Phillies game, bottom of the ninth, man on first:
There’s just so much happening in those first ten seconds. To recap:
Kevin Frandsen bunts a ball that is heading straight for his face. The force of the pitch actually spins him around in a full circle.
The bunt is actually fairly well-placed, and rolls to the first baseman, Miguel Cairo.
Multiple people, at this point, arrive at an identical epiphany: Miguel Cairo is still playing baseball.
As a first baseman.
On a playoff-bound team.
Frandsen slows down, Cairo chugs over to the line to tag him. Everything is proceeding according to plan.
Five seconds after the bunt is laid down, and three after he has fielded it, Miguel Cairo inexplicably looks over to second base. One assumes that this is to make sure that Juan Pierre has not pulled a knife out of his uniform and stabbed Zack Cozart in the chest. Caring whether your teammates have been brutally and publicly murdered is an important aspect of team leadership.
Frandsen uses this opportunity to make The Move. To be fair, it’s a strong one; he actually backs up a step while Cairo is looking away, than makes a slide step to the right while still staying in the baselines. He doesn’t flail his arms out, or get too flashy. This should surprise no one; we’re talking about professionals. Frandsen has revealed through interviews that he practices The Move dozens of times a day, arriving at the stadium before anyone else gets there, juking an imaginary Ryan Howard. It’s a lonely existence, being Kevin Frandsen, but one that is occasionally worth .107 WPA.
Miguel Cairo attempts to tag Kevin Frandsen and, at the same time, the life that is running away from him. The desperation forces the ball from his mitt, and it rolls to a stop in the grass nearby. The ball looks so peaceful there, Cairo thinks. He almost doesn’t want to pick it up. Frandsen reaches first.
Returning to the base and prying off his gloves, Kevin Frandsen does not smile, even a little bit. I understand the professional attitude, trying to act like your success is completely unsurprising and that you’ve been there before. But you haven’t been there before, Kevin Frandsen. You just pulled off The Move. Allow yourself one fleeting moment of childlike joy.
Miguel Cairo complains to the umpire. It’s unclear what Cairo could be complaining about: the tag, Frandsen’s hideous beard-like face material, or perhaps the economy. All we can glean through lip reading is the umpire’s response: “No tag. There was no tag.” Cairo, defeated by logic, limps gamely away.
Dusty Baker climbs out of the dugout in a weary shuffle, cognizant that our identities are really just a collection of our obligations, and that Dusty Baker is someone who is obligated to climb out of dugouts and chat with umpires to cover for the failure of others.
The Phillies eventually win. Miguel Cairo goes back to his hotel, the game already forgotten. As it always does, his mind wanders to the oil paintings in his basement back home in Cincinnati, and when he can return to them. He still hasn’t gotten the foreground on his most recent landscape right. The mountains are too blue, he thinks to himself. He knows that they’re supposed to be blue, that air works that way, but they seem… too blue. Perhaps he should add some gray? What would it do to the tone of the piece? He tries to recapture the alpine hikes of his childhood, fix on the foothills from the corner of his eyes, but before he can his mind falls into slumber.
The next morning, fans of ten different organizations wake to the pleasant notion that they no longer have to root for Miguel Cairo.