In Arlington, Evan Longoria hit a home run and two doubles to force a deciding fifth game for his Tampa Bay Rays against the Texas Rangers in the ALDS. Rays fans should be very happy no one told Longoria that MVP voting occurs before the playoffs begin, because his heroic play with Tampa Bay’s backs to the wall is exactly what inspires old sportswriters to mark an X next to your name on a ballot.
Down two games to none heading to Texas, it was a foregone conclusion that the Rays would be eliminated, but on the back of Longoria and (what else?) young pitching, Tampa Bay is readying themselves for the series finale on Tuesday night at home.
Meanwhile in Atlanta, rookie second baseman Brooks Conrad allowed a grounder off the bat of Buster Posey to go through his legs and into center field, scoring the Giants’ winning run. It was Conrad’s third error of the game.
There’s a weird mix of blame and pity being sent Conrad’s way. On one hand, however clumsy it may be, Conrad is playing in the MLB playoffs. It’s more than fair to expect an infielder at any level to come up with the ground ball sent his way off Posey’s bat.
However, Conrad had already committed two errors in the game, and in that situation – eighth inning, protecting a lead, a better defensive alignment was available to Bobby Cox.
Trying to explain the thoughts going through either man’s mind is futile. As Hugh MacLennan wrote in The Watch That Ends The Night, “There is no simple explanation for anything important any of us do, and that the human tragedy, or the human irony, consists in the necessity of living with the consequences of actions performed under the pressure of compulsions so obscure we do not and cannot understand them.”
We’ve all been there. Perhaps not on a scale as large as the MLB Playoffs. But we’ve all experienced a time when, under extreme pressure, we blew it. Completely lost it and fell apart. We can all relate to Conrad’s flub, probably more easily than to Longoria’s heroics. And that’s what makes baseball so human and so watchable.
For me, the feelings of empathy come into play because the drama or tragedy of the sport had to come at Conrad’s expense. He’s a young player who will perhaps never be forgotten as the guy who lost the Braves the series and tied the record for committing the most errors in one playoff game.