Amateurs
by Ken Arneson
2020-07-25 23:30

In our last exciting episode, we talked about how Matt Olson had envisioned a situation in his head. He imagined what he would do in that situation. The situation he envisioned happened. He did exactly what he imagined he would do. Everyone lived happily ever after.

It doesn’t always work out that way.

Before deciding to revive this blog to chronicle the unusual 2020 baseball season, my first idea was to dip my toes into podcasting. I had an idea that might make for an interesting format for a podcast. So in connection with the first A’s exhibition game on Tuesday against the Giants, I gave the format a rehearsal.

There’s a difference between envisioning something when you’re an expert, and envisioning something when you’re an amateur. An expert knows all the nuts and bolts from Point A to Point Z. When they envision a solution to something, their solution includes and accounts for all those nuts and bolts. When you envision a solution as an amateur, not only do you not account for all those nuts and bolts, you’re not even aware that those nuts and bolts exist.

All of which is to say, until Wednesday, I didn’t even know how little I knew about the process of editing a podcast.

Later that Wednesday, Baseball Prospectus held a roundtable discussion on Zoom about the upcoming season. It was an interesting discussion, but after spending half the day beforehand listening to and editing my own voice, I couldn’t help but feel like I was listening to a podcast being played at 1.5x speed. Everybody was talking so fast!

Of course, they were probably all just speaking at a normal speed for human beings. I’m the weird one whose everyday speech sounds like you’re listening to a podcast at 0.75x speed.

It was then I realized that even if the podcast idea was good in general, editing a podcast with me as the host would take more effort and time than I want to put into this. Information received, lesson learned, plans adjusted, blog launched.

When it comes to a pandemic, all of us are amateurs to some extent. None of us have done this before. Epidemiologists have thought about it the most, of course, but there are specifics about this particular virus that even they couldn’t have planned for. There’s going to be some learning on the fly, some adapting to do. The question is, how well and quickly do we learn and adapt to the new information that comes in?

The A’s lost to the Angels today, 4-1. And part of the reason the A’s lost is because they had never started a season with only three weeks of training leading up to it.

Sean Manaea started the game for the A’s, and he was perfect through the first three innings. His fastball was sitting at 89-90mph, and he was locating his pitches well.

Manaea gave up a solo homer to Justin Upton in the fourth inning. Then everything fell apart in the fifth. His fastball suddenly dropped a few mph in velocity, so that it was now 86-87mph. Manaea quickly went from unhittable to very hittable, and the next thing you knew, the A’s trailed by four runs.

Frankie Montas seemed to fall apart very quickly after about four innings the game before, as well. So perhaps there’s a lesson for Bob Melvin to learn and adapt to: in a season like this, he needs to have a quicker hook for his starting pitchers at the first sign of fatigue.

Meanwhile, Jesús Luzardo came on in relief and pitched three superlative innings. He looked ready for the rotation as much as anybody. Provided, of course, that Melvin is ready with the quick fatigue hook.

In a normal baseball season, in a normal year, an A’s loss would leave me feeling a little bit grumpy for the rest of the day.

To be honest, that same feeling crept into my head today. But at the same time, the pandemic is never very far from my consciousness. Being grumpy about my favorite team losing a ballgame was always a bit self-indulgent in any era. But today, recognizing in myself such a moment of grumpiness, quickly turned into a moment of guilt.

This season, being grumpy about the results of a baseball game is not just self-indulgent, but immoral. You have to have some perspective about all this. If that’s how I’m going to react to a baseball game, what the hell am I even doing? Why am I doing this? Why is anybody doing this?

I don’t know. I don’t even know what I don’t know. I’m just an ignorant amateur, among many ignorant amateurs, making up stuff on the fly, seeing what happens, hoping it works.

This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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