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The Enduring Redemptive Quality in Baseball

On Monday night September 9 in the bottom of the first inning with the Orioles trailing the Yankees 1-0 on an Alex Rodriguez home run off team ace Chris Tillman, Nick Markakis led off against CC Sabathia. It was a year and a day after Sabathia hit Markakis with a pitch in the first inning at Yankee Stadium, breaking his thumb and prematurely ending the Oriole right fielder’s season.

A lifelong Oriole Markakis had never come close to playing in a pennant race and Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s fierce consoling embrace of his veteran once the news was broken is etched in the memory of Oriole fans.

Redemption came to Markakis early on Monday night as he rocketed a ground-rule double to right center and ultimately scored the tying run on Adam Jones’ short sacrifice fly to center fielder Brett Gardner. In his second AB Markakis, no speedster, legged out an infield hit down the third base line, and in the fifth inning he stroked a single up the middle that gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead that they never lost in their 4-2 victory behind a great Tillman performance.

Markakis has had a perplexing season, recently going two months without an extra-base hit. One scout told me that he has power but doesn't like to use it. Yet he continues to play solid defense in right field on a team whose fielding prowess is virtually worth the price of admission. The less said about Oriole problems with RISP – Runners in Scoring Position – the better.

Today’s point, class, is the redemptive feature of baseball, one of its greatest attributes because it is built into the game. I believe it was Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk who once said that he felt for the fans in pennant races because they can do absolutely nothing about the fate of their teams. They can root, they can agonize, they can change locations in front of the TV set (and also increasingly at the newer ballparks where wide concourses allow fans to roam almost at will). But only the players and sometimes the managers with their moves can shape the fate of a game.

So I suggest look for redemption in every game. It happened for Yankee left fielder Alfonso Soriano last weekend against the Bosox at Yankee Stadium. He was picked off second as the potential tying run in the bottom of the 9th inning one night as the Yanks lost in extra-innings to the powerful ever-resilient Red Sox. But then the following night on his very first AB Soriano hit a long two-run HR.

Redemption doesn’t always come immediately in baseball and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. But it is a feature that makes the game ever so interesting and compelling.

We are in double-digit September, less than three weeks to go in the season and every game and every AB is important. Enjoy the agony if you can. And always remember:
Take it easy but take it.
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