Don’t Get Cocky, Kid
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-17 23:30

It’s a weird thing, but in this version of Catfish Stew I seem to have a hard time getting started writing these essays until I come up with a title. Once I have a title, it all flows from there. But if I don’t have a title, the words get stuck. I don’t know where to start, I don’t know where to go.

I don’t always stick with the title I start with. Sometimes I think I’m going to build the story around one metaphor, but then I discover a different one along the way that works better, and I change it.

The titles come from wherever a creative idea comes from: the subconscious output of the System 1 mind, taking in the disparate elements that I am trying to tie together– the game, the news of the day, what’s going on in my life, plus and perhaps most importantly, the emotions I’m feeling as a result of all of this.

So after a game, I kind of go around and let all this stuff stew together. Maybe I do the dishes, or go for a bike ride, or have a snack, and at some point while I’m doing this other thing that is not writing, my subconscious will assemble this data, find some pattern that connects these things, and a title will pop into my consciousness.

So today, I’m thinking about A’s losing the exact kind of game that they’ve been winning lately, and also the “scandal” of Fernando Tatis Jr. hitting a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch with a seven run lead, all while the Democratic National Convention was getting started. Somehow, the phrase “Don’t get cocky, kid” pops in my head, and I think, “Ooh, that could work, let’s go with that.”

That phrase is from Star Wars, the Original Film, or so I thought, until I googled it and found out that the real phrase that Harrison Ford actually uttered in the film is, “Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.” Which, IMO, doesn’t actually work as well as a title as the phrase that popped in my head. So the inaccuracy stands.

The phrase is, of course, a warning: that even though you may have had some success, that doesn’t mean you’ll have success the next time, or that any of this is going to be easy.

And that warning is why some old-school baseball types were mad at Tatis swinging on that 3-0 pitch. Of course, in that situation, you’re going to get an easy pitch to hit. Don’t think you’re hot stuff just because you hit an easy pitch.

But the phrase is also a warning in the other direction: just because you’ve had success in this game so far with a seven-run lead, don’t think the rest of the game is going to be that easy. I mean, did any of those people even pay the slightest attention to the A’s-Giants series this weekend? The A’s scored five runs in the ninth on Friday, four runs in the ninth on Saturday, and then had a nine-run fifth inning on Sunday. The A’s trailed in all of those games, but never, ever gave up, fought to the very end, and came back to win all three.

So why should Tatis and the Padres assume the game is locked up? What is wrong with the Rangers that they assumed they’ve already lost?

The A’s, by the way, fell behind 3-0 to the Diamondbacks yesterday. They were no-hit for five innings by Zac Gallen, who was absolutely brilliant. I’d never seen the guy pitch before, but I have to assume from this performance that he is an up-and-coming star. His changeup was simply amazing all day long, dancing along the bottom of the strike zone, sometimes just barely in the zone, sometimes dipping below it, keeping the A’s hitters mesmerized all evening long. Robbie Grossman managed to connect with one of his pitches for a solo homer, but other than that, the A’s did nothing against him.

But did the A’s give up? No, dammit! They fought to the very end. And when Gallen hit his pitch limit and the Diamondbacks bullpen took over, the A’s got to work. They immediately tied the game 3-3 thanks in part to a costly error by Nick Ahmed.

At one point during the game, Michelle Obama was giving her convention speech, so I switched the channel from the game to watch it. Her basic message was this: yes, our opponent sucks, yes, we have a big lead in the polls, but baseball is baseball, and politics is politics, and you can’t assume that your opponent will give up so you can’t assume any lead is safe. You have to do the hard work, every day, every play, to make sure you win that game.

In this game, however, it didn’t work out for the A’s. Arizona scratched out a run in the bottom of the ninth to beat the A’s 4-3. But even though the A’s lost, the fact that they came back to tie the game even against probably the best pitching performance against them all year, is a warning to the rest of baseball: never get cocky about any lead you have against the 2020 Oakland A’s.

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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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