Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index -- a weekly undertaking that determines with awful authority which player or players are dominating the current zeitgeist of the sport, at least according to the narrow perceptions of this miserable scribe. While one's presence on this list is often celebratory in nature, it can also be for purposes of lamentation or ridicule. The players listed are in no particular order, just like the phone book.
Received wisdom has it that there are but two modes of human experience. The first involves honest duty -- that which feels better after it is done. One does not enjoy exercising; one enjoys having exercised. One does not enjoy writing this sentence; one enjoys having written this sentence. This mode is known as the Painstaking Deacon. Toil begets reward.
The second categorization is that which feels better while it is being done. One enjoys drinking from a keg while seeing if this dirt bike can jump the gulch; one does not enjoy having drunk from a keg while having seen if this dirt bike can jump the gulch. One enjoys volunteering for service in the violent revolution; one does not enjoy having volunteered for service in the violent revolution. This mode is known as the Sweaty Libertine. Bad-ass indiscretion begets yourself in a heap.
There is yet a third mode, and it is the Cody Bellinger Experience. The Cody Bellinger Experience entails taking the first component of Sweaty Libertine and pairing it with the second component of the Painstaking Deacon. The result? Consequences you can dance to.
Cody Bellinger has decided it would be fun to set the Christmas tree on fire while it's still in the house. Somehow, that act yielded a delicious pizza and the glow of having done 35 push-ups. Cody Bellinger has decided to see what it feels like to stick one hand in a running box fan while using the other hand to see if he can punch himself out. Somehow, doing so led to a fresh haircut and a balanced municipal budget.
Here's what this particular phenomenology looks like:
When Cody Bellinger is pictured at left, he's deciding to, say, try to sneak up on a Mojave rattlesnake. When Cody Bellinger is pictured at right, he's, say, emerging from that decision with double the hotel points.
The expressions look similar because Cody Bellinger has appraised the vast and growing collection of his lived moments and found that they all qualify as Pretty Good Times. This can be true only if you are Cody Bellinger, which he is and you are not.
The decision you just made? There's bad news coming about that.
One last score and Yu Darvish was out of the game for good. He'd been in the racket long enough to know business and pleasure mix like London Dry gin and Valvoline, but this time -- this last job -- was different.
Barbara Broadnax was the kind of lady who put on lipstick before talking to you on the telephone, but while Yu was in the joint after the jewel-encrusted barbecue tongs job went sour she left him and took up with Sebastien Chernobog, a local foreign-substances empresario.
Jailhouse scuttle had it that Chernobog's company, Sinister Materials, had developed a proprietary gunk that promised to be lucrative beyond his hopes. Chernobog's competitors -- meaning, mostly, Illegal Solutions and Applied Deceptions -- were willing to fork over seven to 10 brushed-aluminum attachés with sculpted concave ribs full of unmarked hundreds, payable on an airport tarmac, for a sample. Markets, black or otherwise, have yet to put a price point on the value of revenge, or the worth of proving to Barbara Broadnax that she belongs in your loving arms. That was enough for Yu.
He put on his only linen suit with matching fedora. He strolled across the square and sat, whistling with his legs crossed at the knees, at the four-top table of an outdoor cafe to which he had summoned the unwitting members of the crew he aimed to put together. They'd been beckoned to the cafe under mysterious auspices, and when Yu artfully lowered the morning paper to reveal his face to them they knew something was afoot.
"Nope, don't even start, Darvish. Whatever it is, I can't," said Hosea Stallard, underemployed safecracker and lockpick, before agreeing to the terms laid out before him.
"You've put enough lines on my rap sheet," pleaded Crabstick Novotny, permanently banned Formula 1 driver who now drag races in a luchador mask, before exasperatedly signing on for getaway duties.
"I'm listening," said poker cardsharp Eliza Gustafson, who was needed just in case the success of the job wound up hinging on one hand of fixed-limit badugi.
"On one condition," said Amos West, noted caper-financing bagman, before handing over seven to 10 brushed-aluminum attachés with sculpted concave ribs full of unmarked fifties. "You have to hire my nephew Chubbs Dozer to swap out the security tape at the warehouse after we're done so the cops aren't able to see anything when they review it."
"You know I like working with my own crew," Yu said. "Outsiders mean trouble."
"Those are my terms," said Amos.
Yu gave him a knowing nod. "The game is the game," he said.
Yu and Hosea cased the joint while posing as electricians, and then the whole crew did a dry run at a nearby storage facility to which Crabstick still had keys. Eliza had been a union carpenter before the poker money got serious, and at Yu's urging she built a perfect replica of the vault room within the oversized storage unit, wondering why the whole time.
Amos timed the dry run with a stopwatch. They were four seconds behind in gaining access to the vault where the sample was stored. "At most we have one minute and 20 seconds while the security guards do their shift change," Yu said. "We need to tighten this up."
"Yes you do," said Amos from the back of the room.
Yu regarded him. "Give me the stopwatch. I want to take the long view for this run. Put on this San Diego Padres uniform that, for reasons sufficient unto Sebastien Chernobog himself, is the mandated work outfit of Sinister Materials employees. I want you to play my role while I study from a more sensible remove."
"The game is the game," said Amos as he took the uniform from Yu's hands. This time they hit every checkpoint.
The job seemed to go off without a hitch. The fake employee badges got them in the front door, and Hosea picked the lock of the vault while the outgoing security guards signed end-of-shift forms in triplicate. Hosea then blew the doors off the safe with a jam shot of nitroglycerine moments after Eliza created a distraction by activating all 12 fire alarms. Yu dabbed the secret substance on the baseball he was carrying and walked out the front door to Crabstick, who was idling in a decommissioned ambulance.
Chubbs, Amos' nephew, passed him going in. "Going to get the security tapes, right?" said Yu.
"Yeah, that's right," said Chubbs. "Security tapes."
Two miles down the road, Yu and Crabstick saw the blue lights in the rear view. "Looks like we've got company," said Yu.
"Gun it?" asked Crabstick.
"Nah," said Yu. "Let it ride."
After they pulled over on the shoulder, the patrolman's flashlight went from Crabstick's panicked face to Yu's wry smile. "What took you so long?"
Back at the station, a detective leaned on Yu in the interrogation room. "We've got you on tape stealing the substance," he said.
"Great," said Yu. "Let's have a look."
"Yes, let's," said Amos, freshly darkening the doorway. "Great work, detective. I assure you, you've got the right man. Mr. Chernobog is quite pleased."
The detective was just about to pick up the phone to call for the tape to be brought down when a beat cop, curiously wearing a luchador mask, showed up with tape in hand. "Here's the one you're looking for," he said.
The detective, eyeing the cop warily, popped it in the VCR. All four of them watched on as the grainy footage revealed Amos retrieving the substance, applying it to the ball, and walking out.
"But how?" gasped Amos.
"It appears we have the wrong man," said the detective as he began to cuff Amos.
"At the dry run," seethed Amos, "you had me put on the uniform and go through the motions just for this, didn't you? You double crossed the double cross!"
Yu cut a faux glare at him. "The game," he said.
"Is the game," said the detective as he led the braying Amos to the holding cell.
At the tarmac, they loaded the cash in the cargo hold, and the charter taxied for takeoff. Drink in hand, bound for Turks and Caicos, and surrounded by his crew, Yu was about to say something to Barbara sitting beside him when Crabstick, luchador mask on, barged out of the cockpit. "It's time for our in-flight movie," he said with a laugh.
The real security footage rolled:
Yu smiled at his work. Everyone smiled at his work. "We anticipate a smooth flight," the pilot said over the loudspeaker.