Merely a brief glance at the animated GIF embedded here might compel the reader to conclude that Texas right-hander Yu Darvish performed last (Thursday) night — in his start against Tampa Bay — rather a commonplace (if aborted) pick-off move towards second base against the Rays. In fact, further inspection reveals that the video footage is depicting Darvish, a fixture among baseball’s avant-garde always, literally pitching backwards.
Said Darvish of the episode:
The dominant hegemony, if it mandates that I must pitch to the plate, it’s my obligation as an artist-pitcher to subvert that. One considers Warren Spahn‘s wisdom on the topic — namely, that ‘Hitting is timing, and pitching is upsetting timing.’ Is there a more effective way of upsetting a hitter than to throw 180 degrees away from him? I conclude not.
But why merely pretend to throw the ball towards second? To this question, Darvish has a response, as well:
Pitching is an act of perpetual mimesis. In the first recorded game, a Knickerbocker throws to a batter from the New York Nine. In 2013, Yu Darvish throws to a member of the Tampa Bay club. The intent is largely, if not precisely, the same — the motion, too. My decision not to release the ball is a commentary: a literal pantomime of what is, more or less, a metaphorical pantomime reaching back to the genesis of the game.
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