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“Hey, That’s Baseball”: On Joel Hanrahan and Tough Losses

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April 11, 2013 by Josh K

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This morning at work a fellow Red Sox fan and I discussed last night’s loss to the Orioles.  When we inevitably got to Hanrahan’s blown save he quipped “hey, that’s baseball.”

When you hear that, it stings your soul.  It’s a more specified version of everyone’s favorite “it is what it is.”  It’s Frank Costanza screaming “serenity now” with the fiery rage of a man sending back soup at a deli.  You can say it all you want, but it’s up to you to put the philosophy in action.

Last night’s game went the way it was supposed to; the way they told us it would have to for the Sox to be successful.  Dempster went 5 strong.  Tazawa, Bailey, Uehara got their outs.  Then Joel Hanrahan entered the game, and Red Sox fans took an Ivan Drago gut punch to the stomach. IT WASNT SUPPOSED TO GO THIS WAY.

Of course, it was just one game in April.  Sample size is everything. In Moneyball Michael Lewis pointed out that the A’s team he wrote about was designed to succeed based on stats for a 162 game sample.  And they did.  However in the playoffs, they barely made a dent.

In a small sample size like a playoff series, stats and their predictive nature go right out the window. That can be a great thing.  It can elate you, turning into you a cartoon character walking down the street whistling with birds singing around you.  Its how the Cardinals won in 2011.

But it can also be soul crushing.  It’s why the Yankees bats went silent in the playoffs last year.  The little sample sizes can send you under the covers cowering with a flashlight.  IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO GO THIS WAY.

But hey, that’s baseball.  You could argue that’s sports, and life, as a whole.  The plan looks great on paper, not always in execution.  How you react to it is up to you.

Does all this Tony Robbins talk give you comfort in the moment?  Hell no. Its not like after Steve Bartman reached for that foul ball, the whole near-riot would have been calmed down by Joe Pilarski from Avondale standing up and declaring “that’s baseball.”  But there’s value to the statement.

Closers specifically need that mantra, lest they go insane. Closers rank right behind hockey goalies on the “athlete crazy” scale.  The pure nerve and will required is incredible. It’s probably why both goalies and closers tend to be weird, twitchy creatures.  I  mean have you seen Patrick Roy at work?

Speaking of crazies, do you remember when, back in his Red Sox days, Manny Ramirez said “If we lose it’s not the end of the world” before a playoff game?  ESPN mouthpieces and fans alike DESTROYED Manny Ramirez for that.  It’s not what fans wanted to hear, but maybe it was what they needed to hear.  Perhaps that old kook was onto some next level zen philosophy.  (Probably not).

So next time you come out on the wrong side of tough loss, sip your beer shrug your shoulders and say to yourself “thats baseball.”  Then go laugh at yourself as you pick up the pieces of the TV tray you smashed.


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