Fourth Outfielder, First Poet

Fernando Perez is the kind of player I easily fall in love with. He is one of the fastest humans you'll ever see, plays incredible defense, and is one of those marvelous slap hitters with little power that scamper all over the place to get on base. 

Of course, until today, he was more the kind of player I'd fall in love with and nothing more. After all, I haven't actually seen him play since last year's playoffs.

Now, as a baseball player, I think he actually might be pretty good and worth going after from the A's perspective. He's already the perfect 5th OF, the way Rajai was at the beginning of the year, and he's shown enough OBP ability in the minors that he could be a younger version of Rajai or maybe even the next Franklin Gutierrez. He does after all have a career 94.5 UZR/150 in 120 innings in CF--no regression necessary! And, after all, with uber-prospect Desmond Jennings coming up next year, and Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, the Gabes and Zorilla all capable of play RF too, it's not like the Rays are in desperate need of another speedy, great defensive outfielder. 

But that's not the point of this fanpost. No, I want instead to tell you why, today, I fell for Fernando. Start by taking a look at this. (H/T Neyer.) That, my friends, is a wonderful prose poem written for the Poetry Foundation by Mr. Perez himself. I quote: 


I write from Caracas, the murder capital of the world, where I’ve been employed by the Leones to score runs and prevent balls from falling in the outfield. At the ankles of the Ávila Mountain amongst a patch of dusky high-rises, the downtown grounds of el Estadio Universitario packed beyond capacity are ripe for a full-bodied poem. A mere pitching change is an occasion “para rumbiar,” and the purse-lipped riot squad is always on the move with their spanking machetes swinging from their hips. The game isn’t paced necessarily by innings or score. It’s marked by the pulsating bass drums of the samba band that trail bright, scantily-clad, head-dressed goddesses strutting about the mezzanine. The young fireworks crew stand mere feet from flares that don’t always set out vertically, sometimes landing in the outfield still aflame. “The wave” includes heaving drinks into the sky.



It was exciting to learn that Doug Glanville could write well thought-out op-eds for the New York Times, and even more so to discover that Brian Bannister reads and understands Bill James, but none of that, for me, approaches learning that Perez is a poet. 

I like baseball very much. It is not my passion. The A's are far lesser influences in my life than the writing of Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy, and their work is a lesser influence still than my own writing. Perhaps it is surprising to learn that someone so consumed with literature would be so statistically inclined when it came to game of baseball, that most poetic of American pastimes. Am I strange? I won't argue.

And yet I have been at times that stereotype of the stathead buried in his computer, who won't pull his head out and WATCH THE GAMES. In a lost season such as this one, I take more pleasure from reading asyouwish's minor league updates than from watching the games themselves. I do not apologize for this. 

But still, reading a baseball player write poetry about the game, I was reminded of all those beautiful accidents and beautiful routines in a baseball game that I have been missing. When I watch soccer, my favorite sport, I never forget that I am watching a beautiful game. I watch for that flowing Barcelona move that starts with Xavi and ends with Messi, or that fairytale, laces-out half-volley by Steven Gerrard almost as much as I watch to see Liverpool come away with three points. 

I don't watch baseball the same way. I fade in and out. I read on my computer at the same time. I fall asleep. Perhaps I will always do these things one way or the other. But baseball is beautiful too.

Today, because Fernando Perez has unknowingly asked me to, I will turn myself to the moments that make baseball worth following. Of course it would be a fourth outfielder, slap-hitting pinch-runner that would remind me that there is more to even sports than winning and losing. 

Today, I remember Ryan Sweeney's home-run and game-saving catch against the Rangers and am grateful that he is an A. 

I remember Eric Chavez's perpetual honesty. The Rajai Davis Experience. Gio's orbital curveball and Mark Ellis' quiet excellence and Trevor Cahill's flat-brimmed hat.

Today, I remember Michael Wuertz's slider, the most unhittable pitch in baseball. Mazzaro World. The joy of watching Brett Anderson grow into a star. Discovering that Chris Carter is black :-)

Today, I am grateful to be an A's fan.

Baseball. It's a beautiful thing.  

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