Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bad Knowing, Good Knowing, and a Consolation Prize

As soon as Guerrero stepped in to face Timlin in the top of the seventh yesterday, I knew we were looking at a tie game. Things had been going a little too well for Timlin, a reliever admirable and effective but far from bullet proof. Things had been going a little too poorly for Guerrero, this year's MVP. Beneath the crowd noise at Fenway Park, beneath the hopeful cries of tadpole fans too young to have developed the hard-earned instinct that grants the dubious boon of bad knowing, beneath the whoosh from Vladi's swing on that first pitch, there was this sound.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

Then, as sure as the thunder follows the lightning, we had a tie game.

I used to beat myself up about bad knowing. I worried that I was one of those perverse fans who helps make bad things happen to his team through sheer lack of faith. As you grow familiar with the mystic practice of rooting, though, you realize that there's a difference between bad knowing and a failure of confidence. Bad knowing is like the ache old timers get in their joints when rain's coming. It doesn't cause anything. The front's already gathered and on the move. You've just been clued in a little early. Lack of faith you can work on; bad knowing just is.

Besides, there's also good knowing.

As Cabrera fielded Chone Figgins' high chop and put a merciful end to the Derek Lowe Experience in the top of the tenth, I actually spoke to the television. I do this hardly ever. No one can hear me, especially not the umpires. As Cabrera whipped a throw to nab Figgins by a running step or less, however, I found I had this to say: "That's the out we needed, boys!" Good knowing isn't as emphatic as bad knowing. We don't brace for sunshine; we just assume it's going to be there, and appreciate it when it arrives. I wasn't convinced, but I was pretty sure there would be no top of the eleventh.

Heroes galore from yesterday's tilt. David Ortiz, walk-off artist. Keith Foulke, wrenching check swings from Angels hitters bent on glory. And, though his effort gets lost in the limited book-keeping of history, Bronson Arroyo. His six innings will be fondly remembered, but he gets no victory. There will be no replays of the guy staring down his first playoff start, and leaving with a better line than either Schilling or Pedro in the previous two games. In lieu of the victory that he should have had, I propose that Bronson Arroyo has earned a nickname.

Think first about that leg kick, high and then perfectly creased. Then consider that breaking ball, the way it loops like a balloon and then finds its spot like it's got a point. Finally, take into account that other breaking ball, the one that looks like you've got a whole wing to swing at as it crosses the plate, when really all you've got is a pinprick nose cone you can't make yourself wait on long enough.

After careful inspection of his application for a nickname, I hereby dub Bronson Arroyo the Paper Airplane. He doesn't blow you away, he just keeps nicking you tiny, leaving that disproportionate sting. Ow, quit it. Ow, quit it. Ow, quit it.


At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just found your site. Wish I had been reading it all season. Your comment about 'good knowing' is dead on. There was a certain sense of calm this time around. Not like Game 7 last year when you were just waiting for the inevitable. Just having the feeling and knowing they would come through is something I can't put into words. Let's go Sox...


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