Friday, August 18, 2017

"Making Your Point (But Missing The Moment)"

Because I’m a pessimist. 

(Note:  In lieu of diminishing the print size of those words – which I do not how to do – please read them as if they were substantially smaller.  An unreadable confession:  The closest thing to no confession at all.)

Pessimists are what optimists call realists. 

… is what I truly believe.

If pessimists were to label themselves, they would say,

“It is a complicated concept, unlikely to receive a full accurate characterization.”

That’s why nobody likes pessimists – they take too long to say everything.  And their answers, although on the money, are generically unsatisfying.  “Go, Team, Go!” is exponentially more inspiring than, “Are you sure you are calling the right play?”  (Although inarguably less clichéd.)  

For provable evidence of “successful pessimism”, it is functionally impossible to point to the stack of mistaken decisions that were not carried out because cooler heads, thankfully, ultimately prevailed.  On the other hand, the proactive “Let’s just go for it!” mentality has given us the Panama Canal, a man walking on a moon

and a malevolent Stink Bomb in the White House.  (“Two out of three”, optimists would crow, ignoring planetarially imperiling President “Three.”  Anyway, enough of that electoral college faux pas.)

A Meaningless Matter of Transitory Consequence:

The Los Angeles Dodgers

A team that, as of this writing, won 85 games this year, while losing a miniscule 34.

My assiduous research – which involves picking up the sports section of the newspaper and looking at the standings – indicates that the next highest division leader in all of baseball, the Houston Astros, has 74 victories (and 46 losses.) 

The Dodgers are undeniably red hot.

They are, in fact, very close to having the best seasonal record in the history of the game!  Going back to the Civil War era, when they played baseball with cannon balls,  contests that were inevitably curtailed on account of explosions.
Returning from whimsical frivolity, the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers are, by all measurable standards, really, really good.

What practically is the committed pessimist to do with this sunshiny scenario, what partisan pessimists might refer to as “The Difficult Times”?

The pessimist looks – or more accurately, their natural proclivity directs them – towards the proverbial “worm in the apple”, in search of what might identifiably be “wrong” in a seemingly glistening sea of impenetrable “right.”

Which is exactly what I did.

I do not have the exact statistics on this but my experiential sense from watching a lot of Dodgers baseball this year is that, in a remarkable number of games the Dodgers have been behind in the late innings – sometimes up to the last at-bat, where failure to deliver meant winding up losers – and have instead thrillingly rallied to win.

Everyone’s excited about that – a team heroically “coming through in the clutch.”  Call them “The Miracle Dodgers.”  A team that never says “Die.”

It is in that ostensible “Pure Positive” that I unearth a demonstrable concern.

If, it occurs to me – because I am a natural-born pessimist – the Dodgers so often snatch victory from defeat in the subsiding innings of the game, the logical corollary to that “Success Story” is that they are consistently behind during the early and middle innings of the game.

What this troubling trend means is that the Dodgers traditionally – if you can take one season as a tradition – fare less well against “starting pitching” – which they face during the early and middle portion of the game and who are generally the more gifted of the opposition’s pitchers – than they do against opponents’ less talented “Corps of Relievers.”

It is true there is a longstanding baseball dictum that says, “Good pitching always beats good hitting.”  Still, in the case of the 2017 Dodgers, their habit of punishing essentially substandard pitching but not their superior brethren, to the pessimist? – That’s an unavoidably concerning “Red Flag.” 

During the post-season (including the World Series), a time knowledgeable observers proclaim is “a whole different kind of baseball” (because the television-friendly scheduling makes frontline pitching more readily available for service), the Dodgers would, as a result, be facing better pitching more often.

Based on their detectable weakness against other teams’ elite pitchers, despite their eye-popping 2017 won-loss credentials, the Dodgers could be surprising – except to devout pessimists – vulnerable casualties in the playoffs.  

Making the pessimists correct, and the hapless optimists lamenting, “Wait till next year.”

Score one for the “Gloomy Guys!”

Except that sometimes…

Last night, the Dodgers were down 4-2, with one out in the ninth inning.  Yes, there was a weaker White Sox reliever on the mound.  But there were only two outs remaining in the game, and the reliable “Law of Averages”… I mean, how often can the Dodgers pull a rabbit out of a hat?

Anticipating a presumed negative outcome, I sensibly turn off the television.

I check the paper this morning…

The Dodgers win, 5 to 4.

Demonstrating the “down-side of Pessimism”: 

Your prediction makes sense.

It just happens to be wrong.

“Look at that, Abner.  A pessimist, pessimistic about pessimism.”

“Whoopin’ ‘Duh’, Elwood.  What else would you expect?

1 comment:

cjdahl60 said...

I live in Seattle WA and this year's Dodgers remind me of the 2001 Seattle Mariners. The Mariners ended the year with 116 wins, almost setting an MLB record for wins. They also had many come from behind victories and their motto was "Two Outs - So What?"

But they lost in the playoffs, never even making it to the World Series. To this day, the Mariners remain one of only two teams to have never been the World Series (the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals being the other). Today no one remembers that 2001 Mariners team but we Seattlites.

Not that I'm wishing any bad luck to the Dodgers, but temper your hopes. Baseball hurts.