Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index -- a weekly undertaking that determines with awful authority which 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.
It is not custom in this space to devote allotted bandwidth to umpires -- we are nothing if not generally contemptuous of jurisdictional authorities and the tyrannical intrusions for which they are known -- but the first game of this year's College World Series provided us with ample cause for departure.
Please witness what befell home plate magistrate Travis Katzenmeier during the recent NC State-Stanford tilt:
That's a bounced offering from Wolfpack lefty Evan Justice that, we are chagrined to report, caromed directly into Mr. Katzenmeier's Dangerous Cobblestones. The working assumption is that Mr. Katzenmeier was shielded by industrial-grade plastics, but at certain angles and velocities such measures are but a parasol in a Nor'easter.
However, it takes more than merely being struck in the Nectarine Chimes to merit SPI treatment. As such, we honor Mr. Katzenmeier for his guttural yawp that, lo these many days later, still rings among the bluffs of the Missouri River and shall until the continents drift all the way to the moon.
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In case you were distracted by the grim visuals the first time around, let's roll tape again so you can hear what throbbing torment would say if given a human voice:
Note the distinct timbre. An umpire with freshly assaulted Sonny Boy Globes or a single blast from a flugelhorn trumpet known as Agony? Yes, is the answer.
He was ok.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 19, 2021
Note that "OK" can also mean "plainly diminished" and also "alive but changed."
For a long time the working assumption was that emojis were found in the Magna Carta and later the Bible not because they perfectly replicated the human visage but rather because they functioned as totemic delineations of human emotion. Emojis were the symbol, not the symbolized.
This remained in the realm of verifiable fact until 2021 Anno Domini, when moundsman Blake Snell became an emoji and thus razed the foundations of Western thought. Please regard:
Mr. Snell is a hitter in the sparest, most benignly requisite sense of the term, and when he's confronted with the likes of Jacob deGrom oblivion bubbles over. He has become skin upon an idea. He has become the grimace emoji made human.
A side-by-side comparison will prove illuminating, harrowing:
As you can see, there is absolutely no perceptible difference between the two images -- none. That the image is pixelated is not owing to the fact that the author cannot be bothered to purchase proper photo editing software; rather it is crude in presentation so that you can see at a granular level that there is absolutely no perceptible difference between the two images -- none.
Throughout the sprawl of human history, we were told -- via cave etchings and oral tradition -- that emojis were not people, were not our brethren in blood and feeling. They were but paralyzed instances of our experience not unlike ancient Greek theater masks of stiffened linen. But then Blake Snell became one and thus rendered meaningless the suppositions of all who came before us. To that we respond only with mute stupefaction: 😱
Watch enough live sports and you become numb to the finer points. Toxicity is dosage, and the technicolor waves of sports television drunken as reliably as a vast toddy of vodka, gin, tequila, rum, mezcal, whiskey, scotch whiskey, tonic water, and whiskey. We scoot around on the floor and yip like a hound with worms at sports outcomes. We stomp and shout unifying slogans upon viewing a standout play. But we do it so much sometimes we forget what we're watching or fail to realize that we're facing the wrong direction and instead staring at the tasteful wood paneling of the sunken den walls while lost in a waking dream of sports.
You thought you saw Jose Ramirez earlier, so perhaps it's a team from Ohio playing some sport or another. Further details are buried within the numberless hours of programming forming a gummy and crippling plaque upon the machinery of cognition. But then a sequence of images registers, somehow punctures the fugue and parts the fog. The cerebellum is tickled by an old knowing:
Ah, yes, you think. José Ramírez seems to be competing against a semblance of a squadron put together by Mike Elias. "Who else could be responsible for such a thing as this," you say but do not ask. Even if you cannot summon up the name of the 2021 Orioles, you --- even in this compromised state from lethal levels of sports intake -- shall recognize their author and the odors of his work.
Thank you, José Ramírez, for reminding us that that team's name is ... whatever that team's name is.