I’d like to take a moment, if I may, to sing the praises of defense and its superiority over the offensive side of baseball.
The best part of the game is when a favorite team is in the field. The pitcher controls the tempo as much as the opposing batter will allow and, if he puts it in play, it’s in the hands of the fielders. When those hands are as delicate as a field hockey club tied onto some brute first baseman’s forearm, watching the ball be kicked and muffed and dropped can be a frustrating experience. Typically, the guys who play at the major league level are sure-handed enough to have fewer errors than games played, at least.
But when a fielder transcends mere capability and approaches something else, something approaching art, there’s little as exciting in baseball. And reading about the ficticious Aparico Rodriguez and his zen-like student Henry Skrimshander in Chard Harbach’s The Art of Fielding let me with memories of Alex Gonzalez, who enjoyed a remarkable career (and may well again in the future), but truly found a place in my brain when he anchored the Red Sox’ infield in 2006. (more…)