It tests you, baseball does.
It tests you, whether you’re a closer, or his manager, or the one with a bat in your hands and teammates in scoring position.
Or a fan.
It tests you, perhaps, more than most other sports do, because the swings are wilder (team-wise, that is; not the kind you might see unleashed with teammates in scoring position and the pitch a foot outside and at the ankles, or at eye level) and the matchups are more one-on-one and the key combatants regularly rotate and the games come at you — at them, and at us — every day.
In that way, I guess, it’s decent practice — without serious real-life consequences, for most of us — for the reality in our lives that things often don’t line up, and you just have to deal with it.
These aren’t the greatest tests we face (or the closer’s, for that matter), but they’re challenging nonetheless, and it wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun to invest our time and loyalty and passion in the Globetrotters, in a league full of Generals, and certainly wouldn’t help build character, not that that’s much of a consolation after a 16th blown save in 29 opportunities.
Players get better and players get worse and that’s not always a function of age or experience (reference: the third baseman and the second baseman), although Father Time is ultimately unbeaten, even if sometimes it takes extra innings.
And, resistant as we might be to accepting it, every win on the schedule means a loss on someone else’s.
That zero-sum aspect is the part that isn’t very real-life.
Sometimes the better team doesn’t win, and I mean over the long haul, not one night, because night to night the better team does win, because that’s how the game is measured. It leaves us to evaluate, especially after the results start piling up, who might be better than we thought, or not.
Well, not us.
But we go there because we care.
You will see Shohei Otani’s name reported on tomorrow — peripherally, even in context — because tomorrow is July 2nd, and because today was Otani’s first pitching assignment since October (one run on one hit [a homer], one walk, one hit batsman, and two strikeouts in one minor league inning), as he returns from an April hamstring injury.
The best baseball seasons keep J2 stories off the front page.
Not every baseball season is the best baseball season.
Sometimes your bullpen goes from a strength on paper to a liability on the field, with its two lead arms both requiring shoulder surveillance and tough decisions, and more question marks behind them than you’d like, and then you start tacking on failure to execute strike one and failure to execute defensively and failure to execute pitches that miss hitters’ bodies in two-strike counts and failure to execute with loaded bases and failure to execute pitch location in huge, decisive spots . . . .
It tests you. And you deal with it.
Or you don’t, though that’s not something I’d be all that interested in.