I’m currently watching the Rangers play the Tigers in the American League Championship Series. As a longtime baseball guy, I’m mildly embarrassed to say that I don’t even know what game it is, but I think – I think – that the Rangers lead 2-0.* I could look it up, but I don’t trust Wikipedia.
Unless I’m on a book deadline.
In my defense, I was traveling this weekend, and simply lost track of the series. Plus, the Rays and Braves may or may not have already been eliminated.
So I’ve got the game on in the background, and they just posted a stat in the ninth inning as Jose Valverde, the Tigers closer, came into the game to pitch.
It was a non-save situation, and his stats for the year were along the lines of:
50 appearances in save situations**: 0.53 Earned Run Average
26 appearances in non-save situations: 6.95 ERA
Leaving aside the argument of my law school buddy, John, who provoked a decades-long debate one night over tempura in Harvard Square that a save was no big deal, and he could complete a save 50% of the time despite not having pitched in years, I was shocked by Valverde’s stat.
What does that stat say? Maybe nothing about Jose Valverde – I’m going to take liberties – but a great deal about a lot of us.
I mean, how hard is it to perform well in life when life is going well? When it’s smooth sailing, can you hang on? Can you build on your lead?
Maybe nobody can relate, but it seems like I went months without dates in high school and college (pretty much until I got married, to be brutally honest). And those rare times when a young lady couldn’t find anything else to do, and did stoop to go out with me? Inevitably someone else who had previously turned me down would show up at my door with a change of heart and want to go out.
When it rains, it pours.
But what about the rest of life?
What about the times when you can’t catch a break? When you’re pitching from behind? Can you just hold your ground?
Sometimes the little Dutch boy is the best we can hope for – keeping your finger in the dyke until the tide heads back out.
When I was working for the Bucs, Jon Gruden kept searching for guys who were “mentally tough.” I’m not sure that the guys always knew what he was looking for, other than they were supposed to have scowls. My thought is that he was searching for players who could set adversity aside and press on as if it had never happened.
“…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…,” wrote Paul in Philippians 3:13.
Even as life bangs your around, and it will, keep pressing on.
By the way, after a leadoff double, Valverde escapes the non-save situation and kept the Tigers alive.
You never know.
*It was only 1-0 Rangers for the series, but Game One had a rain delay of more than two hours and finished long after I went to bed, so it’s fair that I thought it should count as two games.
**There’s more to it, but basically, a save situation is defined as one in which the pitcher comes into the game with a lead of three or fewer runs and finishes the game or the tying run is one base, up to bat or about to come up. In other words, you come into the game when your team is ahead.