I watched very little of Saturday night's contest between the Mariners and Rangers and feel pretty good about my decision. It's a long season, and never too early to start rationing disappointment. The end of Jon's excellent recap caught my attention, however, and I can't quite seem to shake the play from my mind. I'm talking specifically of Franklin Gutierrez being robbed of robbing a home run by a certain overzealous Rangers fan. You know the one. Just what the hell are we supposed to think about that?
First, the play. It was the fourth inning and Brandon Maurer fell behind A.J. Pierzynski 2-0. Then he hung a slider. Then this happened:
There is video of the home run available at MLB.com but it's not doing us any real favors with replays or different looks or anything like that. I assume this play was discussed at length on the broadcast, and in the aforementioned recap, Jon wrote: "Other angles show that Guti would have had a glove on it if the fan hadn't been stepped in," which is good enough for me. Reasonable people can debate whether or not Guti would have completed the catch, with such a debate raging on for infinity, because we'll literally never know. But it's within the realm of fairness to say that he had a great chance, that his glove probably would have at least made contact with the baseball, or come close to it, and that this chance was taken from him by that god-damned Rangers fan.
That Rangers fan has done this before. Perhaps not in such close vicinity to controversy, but it's sort of his thing. His name is Trent Williams, and he has season tickets, and this is what he does. He hangs out next to that grassy hill and runs like a mad man after every home run that's hit there. Then he does a ridiculous dance move like The Worm or The Sprinkler or some other such nonsense. There are videos and GIFs out there if you'd like to see them, but I won't be including them here because I think they're stupid. He's just a kid, and this seems to have become something of a tradition in Texas, and I'm sure he's well liked in that "fans enjoy things that are predictable and repeat often at the ballpark" sort of way, but I'm not typically on board with these kinds of attention-starved spectacles. (He said, writing on the internet about baseball for free.) I don't understand the commitment, or the motivation, or why anyone would be looking to insert themselves so forcibly into the story of the game.
Or maybe I'm an idiot, because Trent Williams, doing what he does, was able to secure a home run for the home team and prevent the competition from the possibility of an incredible defensive out. He also didn't technically interfere with the field of play, and so technically wasn't in violation of any rules. In that sense, he's a true Texas Rangers fan. I believe had the tables been turned, and it was a Mariners fan in Safeco pulling a similar stunt, we would all be overjoyed. We'd be singing their praises for fulfilling their fanatical duty. Didn't some poor lady get killed on the internet last season for failing to do this very thing? I feel like that happened, but I drink a lot, so please forgive the failing memory. At any rate, this seems to be the way things go. When fans interfere with the game, the reaction to their interference depends entirely on the game situation, who the fan is rooting for, and how they affected their preferred team's chances of winning. Help your team and you're a hero, hurt them, and prepare to get booed. Or have a slice of pizza thrown at you. Or fear for your safety and retreat into hermetic solitude for the rest of your life.
The title of this post begins with the word "exploring," which means when I started writing, that I was conflicted, that I didn't have a strong sense of what I thought or how I felt about any of this. Seven-hundred words later, and I'm still not sure. Fan allegiance aside, we follow this baseball stuff to see things we don't normally see, and to feel things we don't normally feel. In the overarching scheme, which play is more interesting, more rare? The spectacular catch by the leaping center fielder, or the prevention of said catch by the attentive spectator? Free from the moment, with sober reflection, I don't believe fans should inject themselves into the game in such a way. I believe the players should be left alone to most fully exhibit their exceptional and individual talents, to do what they're paid millions of dollars to do because only they can do it. I'd like to think in a similar circumstance, were a home run ball hit towards me, that I'd pull back, get out of the way, let the play develop outside of my influence. And would I be able to? And what would happen? And how would I feel afterwards?