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Sometimes You’re Tyler, and Sometimes You’re Yairo

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In which I make a poor metaphor for life out of a baseball play.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, life can feel like catching a routine fly ball. You go about your day, secure in your comfort zone, and do a bunch of things you feel capable of. Maybe you’re in the zone at work, or at home reading a good book. You know what I’m talking about. Here’s that day in a baseball photo:

Sometimes, life can feel impossible. The project you’ve been working on gets changed after you’ve already done weeks of work, and none of what you’ve done is helpful for the new goals. Your favorite lunch place is closed; something about a water main, you don’t want to get into the details. That book you were reading? It’s missing a page in the last chapter. Here’s that day in a baseball photo — the little white line on the left is the ball:

Now, astute readers might have noticed that these are the same play. Let’s see this one in real time:

I… I mean… what? It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around this play, because it mostly doesn’t look like any baseball I’ve seen before. Yairo looks like he’s on a slip-and-slide, maybe, or diving out of the way of a swarm of bees just off-screen. Let’s see that one again in slow motion:

Look, I don’t like piling on anymore than the next guy. Well, maybe I do — but not a lot more than the next guy, at least. I’m not pointing this play out to be mean-spirited. I don’t think Yairo was fake hustling, or anything of the sort. If anything, he was slipping a little while trying to make an impossible play. It probably wouldn’t be as fun to me if he wasn’t so clearly in on the joke:

Still, whether Yairo is in on the joke or not, this play speaks to me. There’s the dichotomy of two players making the same play look alternately very easy or impossible. That alone, stripped of all other context, would almost be worth the price of admission. If you’re prone to taking metaphors from your baseball, which I definitely am, it’s a commentary on how difficult it is to understand someone else’s perspective. The event is just a fly ball. To O’Neill, it’s barely even worth remembering. To Muñoz, it’s an exceptional challenge.

Maybe I’m just an over-metaphor-ing sort, but that resonates. I’ve had days where, to me, nothing out of the ordinary happened. I woke up, did some work, got dinner, maybe played a board game with my wife, and went to bed. None of that is really memorable to me. Who’s to say, though, that I didn’t pass someone at the grocery store who was having an exceptionally difficult day? Who’s to say that the woman I walked by on the street wasn’t in the middle of a personal crisis?

So, I read this play to mean we should be nicer to other people. There’s no telling whether you’ll have a Tyler day or a Yairo day, and there’s no telling what kind of day the person next to you is having. Why not be nice? Yairo could use a laugh.

Now, maybe you’re not in the mood for taking a baseball play and stretching it, far past the point of absurdity, to be some kind of commentary on life. It’s hard for me to fault you. This doesn’t need to be some grand commentary on the world — it’s just a guy who failed to catch a baseball. If you tried to turn every baseball play into meta-commentary, you’d be at work a long time. This play was just an F7 in a mid-season game. That’s pretty far down the list when it comes to significance. Let’s try, then, to just think about this as a commentary on baseball.

If you’re looking for a pure baseball interpretation of this play, well: maybe Yairo shouldn’t be playing center. That’s no fault of his, obviously: watch this play and it’s clear he’s doing his best, and is as bemused as I am that it didn’t work out. He’s not a major league outfielder, and that’s no slight: he’s a major league utility infielder, and that’s very impressive in its own right. It’s hard to just play center at an acceptable level out of nowhere, though.

Ah, but let’s say that you want to look at this play as a metaphor, but a baseball metaphor. Well, right now the Cardinals are Tyler. They’re winning the games they should, hitting dingers against bad pitching, and just generally playing at their potential. The post-All-Star slate of seven with the Pirates, three with the Diamondbacks, and four with the Reds? That’s a good time to bank some wins, and the Cardinals are 11-3 in those games. Good for them!

Sometimes, though, the Cardinals are Yairo. In their previous 9 games leading up to the break, they had an enviable schedule: three with the swooning Padres, three with the whatever is past swooning Mariners, and three with the surging but bad Giants. They went 4-5 in those games, which were supposed to be an easy stretch leading into the break.

For the next few weeks, Being Tyler is going to involve playing around .500 baseball. A slate of Astros, Cubs, A’s, and Dodgers in a row is fearsome. Win two of three against the Cubs and Astros, and you might have the bullpen doing this:

Lose four or five of those six, though, and it’ll feel like:

I guess my point is this: this team has been Tyler for stretches this year, and it’s been Yairo for stretches. What happens next will determine the outcome of the season.

Oh, what’s that? You wanted a real article for your Saturday instead of some medium-at-best musings about an inconsequential play? Good news — John LaRue has the real Saturday article, the conclusion to his excellent trade deadlines piece, coming later today. Maybe go read that instead of this nonsense.