As of this writing, I am eight days and 96 minutes into the 2008 baseball season. I have watched parts of 49 games. I have learned nothing.
|So what do you have there, Jake Peavy? (Getty Images)|
Who the hell knows? I can't draw conclusions based on seven or eight games. If you can, get thee to an ESPN broadcast booth.
What I can do, however, is pose the five questions that have traversed the dim corridors of my mind over the last eight days and 99 minutes (those last few sentences took a while, ellipse-packed as they are) and answer them as best I can. Rest easy, existentialists: I won't address any of baseball's cosmic imponderables, like "why is Derek Jeter still allowed to play shortstop?" and "is Barry Bonds really that much of a pain in the ass?"
1. What is a "Brian Bocock" and what is he/she/it doing in a major-league lineup? I can answer this one on a basic level: Brian Bocock is a 23-year-old shortstop for the San Francisco Giants. Despite having hit .220 with 105 strikeouts in 380 single-A plate appearances in 2007, he was pressed into major-league duty due to an injury to Omar Vizquel. Truly, the Giants are titans of player development.
Beyond that, however, Bocock is a cipher in an invisibility cloak lost in a hedge maze. Does he have something to hide? Is he a fugitive from justice?
Bocock's MLB.com biography reads thusly: "There is no biography available at this time. Please try again at a later date." His career-highlights section offers only "There are no highlights available for this time period." Then there's his bare-bones Wikipedia entry, which I resisted the urge to gussy up by adding, say, "He enjoys stew."
From having watched Bocock play over the past eight days, I can state with great certainty that he is no better prepared for the big leagues than your average fuzzy-chinned high-school kid. He looks so overmatched out there as to inspire pity -- despite the fact that he gets paid actual U.S. currency to play baseball for a living and I don't. If you see him on the street, be a mensch and offer him an encouraging word.
2. How does the MLB television blackout policy work? I am what is commonly described as a "fan." While I enjoy watching my hometown teams, I also enjoy watching teams from obscure backwaters that Northeast-based baseball writers do not believe actually exist, like Phoenix, Kansas City and Tampa. To this end, I shell out cash for both the "Extra Innings" and MLB.com packages.
The problem now confronting me is that, on any given afternoon or evening, I have no idea what I'll be permitted to watch. On Saturdays, Fox withholds televised access with the ferocity and unpredictability of a scorned first wife.
The rest of the week, MLB.com blacks out games based on everything from sales of ballpark tchotchkes to the lunar alignment. By way of explanation, the site offers convoluted nothing-speak: "NOTE: Due to broadcast restrictions, new MLB.TV and Condensed Game archives are limited to a playing time of five minutes in duration until 6 a.m. E.T. on the day following that on which the applicable game commenced play." Who's this about what, now?
I shouldn't complain too much. Growing up, my options were limited to whatever the local over-the-air networks deigned to broadcast. I'm just thinking that maybe baseball should remove the phrase "every game is available" and its variants from the "Extra Innings" and MLB.com marketing materials, is all.
3. What was that gunk on Jake Peavy's right hand on Saturday night? Pine tar? Snot? Butterscotch? Unless Jake Peavy hasn't washed his hands since then -- not as far-fetched a scenario as it may seem, given the creative grooming habits of some major-leaguers I've encountered -- we're never going to know for sure, just like we never got to the bottom of the "dirt" on Kenny Rogers' pitching paw and the miraculous resurrection of his fastball during the 2006 World Series.