Jesse Jarnow

notes from the upper deck

o CitiField is emerging a few dozen yards from the outfield fence, a superstructure that looks not unlike the half-completed Death Star in Return of the Jedi. It’s certainly ominous. With nobody working on it during the weekend games, it looked like it could either be a construction or demolition project. Like a first trimester fetus in a sonogram, bits of what I imagine will be the first base bleachers are the only part currently recognizable as a ballpark.

o I’m deeply suspicious of the asymmetric layout of the new field. I dig Shea Stadium because it is Platonic: what a baseball field should look like in the best of all possible worlds. Allegedly, CitiField is to mimic old-time ballparks, with its facade imitating Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. But old fields’ dimensions were idiosyncratic because they were often forced into the confined footprint of a city block. It just seems false.

o Aha, another reason baseball is unique: its complete system of elegantly nested units. (Huh-huh, “nested units.”) It can be broken down into formal segments, growing larger and more complex: single pitches (their motion over the plate), at-bats (the full drama of how to work a batter), plays (individual sets of action), innings (slightly larger sets, with dramatic unity), games (the most basic currency of baseball), series (how two teams stack up during a given few days), and seasons (ultimately, determining who is best, and starting over). Matt commented about the micro-macro qualities of the game at this point last year, and he’s totally right. The relationships between the levels are unbelievably dynamic. As above, so below. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

o Likewise, there are all kinds of different levels one can pop back and forth between when talking during a game. Besides the formal elements, listed above, there’s also the matter of lore: individual player narratives, team rivalries, and the like, as well as the even grander arc of baseball history.

o One can employ any one of the elements to figure out why the fuck the Mets melted in the 7th this afternoon. For example, one can blame Shawn Green’s misplay of Scott Thorman’s drive into the right field corner, which should’ve been the third out. Or one can blame the evolution of relief pitching into righty/lefty specialists used for one or two batters, even if they’re clearly in the groove — Willie Randolph having pulled Ambiorix Burgos so Scott Schoeneweis could face Kelly Johnson (walked) and Edgar Renturia (three-run home run into the Mets’ bullpen). Or one can blame Schoeneweis for bad pitching, or anybody or anything else. Really, the Mets lost, another unit completed.

1 Comment

  1. Randy Ray says: - reply

    I like the mention regarding ballparks inserted into available city blocks. I never quite thought of it like that although, I used to devour any book with text and photos about those old parks when I was a kid. What was also surreal–beyond some of the unique architectural diversity and weirdness–was seeing thousands of men in hats and suits attending those games as if the world was all white, all 45 years or older and all women and children were indoors tending to the ethereal whatever of their commonplace existence. Nice work, Jesse.

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