Strange thoughts can strike you at very strange moments. Case in point: I experienced what I guess you could call a pseudo-existential crisis yesterday, one that really had very little to do with pondering the deepest questions of life and a great deal more to do with -- what else? -- baseball.
As I tried to maintain my faltering pace during my early-evening run and cautiously eyed a tornado-warned cell that occupied much of the southwestern horizon, the thoughts began to flow freely and unencumbered for a change: Why do I really write about baseball? In what way does this endeavor add gratification and fulfillment to my life? Why should I care all that much about any individual regular-season game, given how many of them have to be played in a single season? Why did Toni Braxton have to break up the mid-90s Dallas Mavericks? Okay, that last one actually has a concrete answer. I blame Jim Jackson. Jackson and Tony Dumas. Yeah, that's it.
This stream of consciousness subsided once I finished up my run, dashed back indoors, and inhaled a muffin or three, but the questions that had been conjured to mind continued to gnaw at me throughout the evening, and I guess still do this morning to some extent. They're certainly good questions, ones demanding of equally good answers -- and make no mistake about it, I'm struggling right now to come up with all of the answers. Even fleeting moments of introspection tend to bring about that effect. To bring this all around to a possibly even stranger point, though, Colby Lewis helped solve at least part of my inner conflict last night. The manner in which he provided those answers no doubt irritated and bewildered many a Rangers fan last night, but that too plays into what I'm talking about.
I don't want to spend too much time rehashing the sordid details of last night, so here's a basic synopsis: Lewis rolled through his first three innings against Toronto looking better than he has all season, with the previously missing ticks of velocity creeping back into his repertoire (sitting at 89-90 mph is definite cause for encouragement, given what had transpired in the weeks prior), followed by a fourth inning that was definitely rougher around the edges but miraculously still scoreless, followed by a disastrous fifth inning that saw Corey Patterson launch an eyeball-level fastball into the home run porch and an equally flooring homer-walk-homer sequence that put the Blue Jays up by a 6-0 margin and ultimately buried the Rangers for good. If you're of the it's-not-how-you-start-but-how-you-finish mindset, Colby's big finish probably had you reaching for the barbiturates in your nearest medicine cabinet. Nah, you wouldn't own those, right? Right?
I could say that I write about baseball today for the pure, unadulterated "love of the game" and nothing more, but doing so would constitute dishonesty towards both you and myself. It's a big part of why I started in the first place and still a significant factor even now, but it doesn't completely sustain me in the present. No, there have to be other factors that motivate me to do this and I've sort of deduced that one of them is analogous to present-day Colby Lewis -- the puzzle-solving aspect. Lewis, at this point, is a puzzle. The Rangers outwardly insist that he's healthy, that last night's meltdown was just an innocuous blip on the radar screen, and that everything is otherwise okay in Mayberry, but I'm not ready to fully buy into that after what has transpired of late. He deserves the opportunity to figure it out, and maybe he will figure it out, but what if the meltdown was indicative of something deeper and nastier hiding beneath the surface?
And though Lewis is a puzzle in himself with no readily apparent solution, there's a larger-scale, still-hypothetical puzzle here that intrigues me, and probably you as well if you're taking the time to read this. If there actually is something not right physically with Colby (and it won't shock me if that proves to be the case), where do you turn for your No. 6 starter until Tommy Hunter returns perhaps 10-14 days from now? For that matter, how does this modify your thinking about the Rangers' chances of succeeding in the playoffs -- and their thought process at the trade deadline -- if Colby ends up not being right for a long period of time and nobody can quite figure out why?
Some might call this doomsaying or defeatism. I prefer to call it "covering every base," and I find that I do derive some genuine enjoyment from doing it. Speculating about an uncertain future is exciting. Dangerous at times, yes, and ultimately about as filling as a cream danish (read: not at all), but exciting nevertheless. If I was prohibited from doing so and allowing my imagination to run free, I'd probably quit doing all of this on the spot.
On the other hand, what if Colby is still granted a clean bill of health, but he's simply trapped in this state of malaise for an extended period of time? It would, after all, hardly be the first time that a starting pitcher lost a measurable amount of his feel for pitching between one season and the next. If he repeats this act a couple of more times during the lead-up to Hunter's return, what happens then? Is it really as simple as swapping one out for the other? And what of Alexi Ogando, whose innings will have to be capped by means of a move back to the bullpen at some indeterminate point -- and with the bullpen seemingly lacking a fully functional Darren O'Day (his hip is bothering him), it's basically down to the two geriatric lefties and however much trust you're willing to place in Pedro Strop and newcomer Cody Eppley. When Hunter does return, does he replace Lewis, Ogando, or end up parked in Round Rock?
This is the kind of post that unfortunately supplies more questions than answers, and I'm usually not too keen on writing those. That being said, there comes a point when you have to use the platform you have to get some things off your chest, and this has indeed been a cathartic exercise. I'm hopeful that at this same time five days from now, we'll be able to talk about how Colby is serving up legitimate answers to the growing legion of the skeptical, and about how I won't be writing any more posts quite as strange at this one for the foreseeable future.
But for a whole myriad of reasons, I'm not counting on either happening.