So, here's the thing. This has been kicking around in my head for a while. Some people think that Jack Cust is a pathetic AAAA player, whereas I've got a room cleared out in my basement for when he retires and needs somewhere to live. He is that sort of polarizing figure. The stats say he's a valuable player, but the strikeouts frustrate the hell out of people.
I wanted to try to explain why he's an amazing baseball player, an American hero, if you will, without using ‘figures' or ‘math' to show how he helps the team.
For as everyone knows, these be the devils work.
Firstly, let me say that I get the frustration with him. The fact is, he's been one of the A's best position players for the last couple of years, and that's precisely the problem. He's been the cleanup guy, the big hitter on the team, the headline. This is the ESPN position, the guy that's meant to put the A's on the Sportscenter highlight reel; look around the league and see who else is there; that David Ortiz, Alex Rodríguez, Bengie Molina. It's no wonder that some people look at Jack, heavenly glow emanating from him or no, and feel a sense of envy. In short, he represents the failings of the A's over the last few years, and as such, no matter what records he manages to set, is the target of much frustration.
I get this, but I disagree.
Let's look at what baseball teaches us. Like nothing else in this country, baseball informs us that failure is a common occurrence; it teaches us to look at the long term outcome, that if work hard and hone your skills, stick to the plan, then eventually, sooner or later, good things will come. It's the blue collar dream, and quite unlike any other sport we have here - dominance is not for the heaviest, or the tallest, or the strongest - these are advantages, sure, but not definitive ones. Not for baseball the triumph of the strong that is football, or the organized traffic of NASCAR. Step up to the plate, and if you fail, as you most likely will, come back next time and do the same thing, and again, and again.
So, that leads us to some questions. Am I more in love with the concept of baseball than winning? Where does Jack Cust fit into this sepia tinged eutopia? And why doesn't Word spell check recognize the word eutopia?
Well, what does he do? Truth be told, not a whole lot. Let's not get into his fielding here, because not even his most ardent supporters would argue he should be in right field on a daily basis (short stop, on the other hand, I would pay to see, but that's a whole other story). Anyway, Jack's approach is entirely based on one thing - looking for a pitch to hit, and then swinging at it. If he doesn't get the pitch, maybe he walks. He has a great eye, after all. Maybe he strikes out. Maybe he's called out on a ball. Maybe he makes contact, and grounds out.
This really isn't the point. The crux of the matter is, Jack Cust is a paragon of the postmodernist methods of repetition, the Bauhaus school with a Bat, an example to all of us of how to marshal our (considerably more limited) talents into something that is useful in society. Maybe some of us will hit a home run; maybe some of us will ground out to short. I speak metaphorically, of course. But the point is, he'll bounce back and do the same thing again, and so will we. He tells us more about the human condition than any of these other flashier players with their triples, or productive outs, or whatever. Keep trying, and eventually you might go deep. Or just beat out an infield single (as I mentioned before, this, incidentally, a tattoo that I'd like to get, if someone wants to design it - a Jack Cust head first dive into first. I know it's not exactly realistic, but I think it would represent the determination of the guy. And it'd definitely get me laid. Well, probably.)
Maybe you don't want this from sports. You want to escape, rather than have to consider the drudgery that is our slow march towards the inevitable. That's fine. Jack Cust's not the second coming of Christ (but they do have a lot in common, if you think about it - they both have silly beards, neither has their genius recognized in their own lifetime, and they have the same initials. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. You'll look mighty silly if you start booing him and get struck by lightning), so you don't have to like him. I just think you're missing out on some of the fundamental beauty of baseball if you don't. Ignore the short term frustration, concentrate on the greater goal.
Here's the short version:
Jack Cust = Andy Warhol + Bruce Springsteen + Jimmy Carter.
Shit, I just used some math.