"On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero." -Tyler Durden
Last night, as another weekend drew to a close, the summer air cooled off, and I decided that it was finally time to liberate the first cigar from the recently released Art of Craft pairing put out by Maryland's Flying Dog brewery and CAO cigars. I lit up a CAO Brazilia, sipped on Flying Dog's Gonzo Imperial Porter, and decided that life was good. As I bragged about my exploits on social media (because, as we all know, an experience isn't real unless you immediately put pictures online), Camden Chat's own Matthew Cleveland reminded me: "Smoking kills, man."
I quick-wittedly and unoriginally responded by aping Tyler Durden's thoughts, which of course were not even original to Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. Depending on who you believe, such musings go back to the Bible, or the gladiators, or Dave Matthews, or the Epicureans, or whoever first said, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
This all has something to do with the Orioles, I swear. You see, if you haven't noticed, eight of the Orioles' last nine games have been decided by exactly one run, and in that stretch the team has gone 6-3. Many of those wins were not just decided by one run, they were won by scores like 1-0 and 2-1, the result of the team's pitchers going lights-out even as the offense has gone lights-off. The result of which has suddenly taken the Orioles from being roughly in line with their Pythagorean winning percentage to exceeding it by several wins, which is generally a hallmark of good luck, which generally leads statistically-minded baseball fans to believe that a team is due for regression.
Ordinarily, I would count myself among those fans. The Orioles massively exceeded their Pythag record in 2012, and while it was amazing and magical and wonderful, it wasn't necessarily built to last, and the team missed the playoffs in 2013 (even though many of the critics of the 2012 team missed the actual improvement that happened during that campaign, and the 2013 team was still well above .500, far exceeding most statistical projection models in spite of a fairly pedestrian record in one-run games).
Nonetheless, during the Orioles' recent run, I've found myself thinking, "If this team doesn't start scoring some runs, they're going to start losing again really soon." Surely the Orioles' fairly ordinary rotation can't keep putting up ace-like numbers while the lineup only puts up a handful of runs (or fewer) per game. Which is true, as far as it goes -- but maybe that's not very far.
Just like every life, every baseball season and every baseball game has a defined endpoint. Wins that the Orioles get during a strange stretch, where a powerhouse offense goes dead and a mortal rotation goes ace-like, are wins, and they count the same in baseball's grinding 162-game marathon just the same as triumphant 12-run drubbings do.
Sometimes it's hard not to get wrapped up in the statistical nuance of baseball, a game that naturally lends itself to counting and analysis. Maybe this team is simply going through a stretch where the bats are down, and the arms are picking it up. Where they've found a way to scratch out wins and stay afloat atop a resurgent A.L. East, even while Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce all scuffle.
If Chris Tillman outduels Hisashi Iwakumi to a 1-0 victory with nothing but a Nick Markakis leadoff home run, why should you as a fan worry about the statistical ramifications of the way the team won? You shouldn't. It's a mark on the right side of the ledger for the good guys, no matter how it happened.
Have a cigar. Have a one-run win. Don't overthink things.
Every life has to end; make sure it was worth living. Every baseball season has to hit game 162; don't be upset if it doesn't conform to a helpful but incomplete statistical model, and if the aberration works in your favor as a fan.
Get out of your own head sometimes and enjoy the ride. It's worth it.