Existentialism on Game Night: Reminders that the universe is random and chaos reigns
Life is mitigated chaos. It's mostly disjointed noise and arbitrary action that we attempt to ascribe meaning to, often fruitlessly. But there are salves for the existential burning; structures we employ to navigate the static. Baseball, with its rules and order, is one of the good ones. It makes sense.
And then a chicken finger falls from the sky, flopping onto the pitcher's mound.
These are the moments of lapse in our carefully curated baseball, the moments when the universe's unerring will forces its way in to remind us of its vastness. This is existentialism on game night.
Giants starter Chris Heston readies himself to throw a pitch on April 8. It's biological: His brain fires neurons down the twisted rope of nerves connected to the muscles and ligaments of his right arm, signaling to lift the ball in his hand and hurl it 90-plus mph at a knees-to-shoulders strike zone, a pitch he's thrown thousands of times before. It all happens instantaneously inside him. Only, sometimes it doesn't.
It's as if something is pulling him to the left like a marionette, like there's a gravitational pull sucking him into the Earth's core. Heston is not in control. There is no control.
On April 10, Cory Spangenberg hits a ball foul, and it rolls fair. Maybe it was simple physics; the spin on the ball pulled it rightward. Maybe it was propelled by a subtle divot in the dirt. Or maybe the invisible particles holding the galaxy together that may or may not actually exist and may or may not have caused the dinosaurs to go extinct collided with the trillions of atoms that make up that baseball, and shifted its path.
Sometimes balls land fair and roll foul. Sometimes they land foul and roll fair. It is outside human control.
Jon Lester went 66 games without throwing a pickoff to first base. For 713 days, he simply chose not to. And then on April 13, he threw to first and this happened:
Pure, sweet, distilled chaos. One commonplace toss to first bursts the game into disarray. But it doesn't matter, because nothing matters. Zack Cozart was thrown out anyway.
Six days later, a pitch was hit right back at Lester. Holding potential for another throw to first, it got stuck in his glove instead. We expected chaos, and received this.
On April 23, Nori Aoki was about to be tagged out after Clayton Kershaw's pickoff throw. First baseman Justin Turner was solidly in between Aoki and the base. And then the universe ripped open a new dimension for Aoki to travel safely through to first, leaving both Aoki and turner sprawled out on the ground.
This is a reminder that the our attempts to set order to the universe are futile.
Baseballs vanish from sight in an instant.
Balls disappear into the depths of nature for the stretches of eternity.
You are not where you think you are, and neither is the ball.
Sometimes in baseball, chaos reigns.