Rizzo v Freeman

Baseball is ridiculous. Sport, actually, when you think about it: ridiculous. Aren’t there better things all these super-fit men and women could be doing with their time and their gifted mastery of their own bodies? Surely. But the beautiful things human beings create are rarely useful, they are made for different reasons.

There are plenty of people on the internet this morning expressing their frustration at the Chicago Cubs' recent performance. I get it: the team has lost five straight games and hasn’t scored a single run in the last 20 innings of play; 24 games into the season they’re last in their division, and only two teams in the majors have a worse record.

But there’s still a lot of beauty in this game. Take for example the storyline that has been playing out between Cubs' first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, and his Atlanta Braves counterpart, Freddie Freeman. Drafted one year apart, both Golden Glove winners and multiple-time All Stars, their respective performances on the field have been inspiring comparison for years. What’s more, they’re both eminently likeable people who happen to be friends. So, when the former caught the latter in a rundown during a game last week, it was our good fortune that he was wearing a microphone.

That moment inspired a t-shirt, which Freeman naturally ended up wearing. And then, last night, when another game was beyond the reach of the Cubs' silent offence, manager David Ross gave his first baseman a chance to pitch to his friend. Freeman had hits in each of his four prior plate appearances in the game, including a home run in the previous inning. But his red hot bat was no match for Rizzo’s… checks notes… 74mph fastball. It’s worth watching the battle in full, but the joy of the moment is hard to miss.

And yet many people seem to miss it. [1, 2, 3, 4]

For those to whom the final score is everything, it seems as though reading the box score would be as good as watching the game. If you can’t take joy from moments like these the whole enterprise of sport is completely lost on you. Despite his embarrassment at the plate, Freddie Freeman gets it:

That’s one strikeout I’m okay with. That’s what baseball is; that’s what sports is: it’s to put smiles on people’s faces. I was on the wrong side of it tonight, but I’m okay with it. I’m sure a lot of people got some good smiles and laughs, ‘cause that’s what sports is about.