Game Theory

Quiet is like a zero-sum game.
The more I win, the more you lose
And I don’t know who you are
But I know you’re not a loser,
You oughtn’t be,
So it’s my job to fix the game.

Quiet is like a continuous function on a compact set
Where I know some minimum exists.
If it’s better to give than receive;
Then it must be better still to give more.
If it’s better to listen than to speak,
Better to keep even more still.
If it’s better to not be bothered,
Better not to ask for too much.
I can keep trying, keep looking for the minimum
But I get pushed even closer
Out to the edges.

Quiet is like a symmetric game
Where I could play perfectly
But you’re not smart enough
To infer the optimum strategy.
You taught me the rules, the scoring, everything,
So I won’t sink to your level,
Get pulled down by your loss.
But still, you’re unfit to be tied.

Quiet is like a group that acts transitively on itself.
I could get sent anywhere, could put up with anything,
Anyone’s interchangeable, as a set.
But as a group, there’s still an identity–
That’s me,
And the others aren’t like me,
They don’t see it the same way.

Quiet is like an exponential function.
If you put words in my mouth
Then what if you do it again
When I don’t understand?
What if, if I stand up for something,
They’ll ask more of me next time?
What if it’s growing without limit?

Quiet is like a chain of implications
That doesn’t allow everything.
It will not introduce an inconsistency.
But either it’s missing something fundamental–
Glimpsed from the outside, but that I can never reach–
Or it’s never going to get off the ground
And I’m too weak to say anything at all.

Quiet is like playing football.
I flinch, freeze up,
And then I punt.
But maybe, I’m just looking for dispassionate stripes
Where I can explain
That I really just meant to defer.

Irrational Sonnet: “Sigma”

Despite the otherwise-gripping baseball news, blogging’s been sporadic of late, obviously. Once again, I’m not sure what my long-term plans are for this site, but I’m hoping to keep experimenting with new forms. This is an “irrational sonnet,” invented by Jacques Bren and so named because the stanza lengths (3, 1, 4, 1, 5) are the first few digits of pi. I thought it would be only fitting to write one about studying math, or trying to! There might be more where this came from.

Another lecture through. I’ve not yet drowned
In waves of jargon, an unbroken sound,
But every talk’s a struggle for survival.

My rushing pen, if not me, grasps the proof.

Maybe I’m only fitted for archival?
Complexities increase. No upper bound
Can cap them off. At least that’s what I’ve found
And every sager peer looks like a rival.

Maybe I’m good enough, but there’s no proof.

Better to never ask, and stay aloof.
I won’t fake glibness through the steady terror–
There will be time to show I’m just a goof.
Till then, avoid the edges of the roof,
And round off sums, ignoring terms of error.


This wasn’t what I expected to draw me into blogging tonight, but life is funny that way.


The Giants climb down swiftly from the Rockies’ dizzy heights;
The Dodgers always flinch, still without trolleys in their sights.
The Mariners seek Marlins, but must fight Pirates instead.
The Diamondbacks rove underfoot; so do Sox White and Red.
Since the Royals give them power to preserve the public peace,
The Rangers delegate it, calling the PC police
Who, once alerted, start tracking down the Indians and Braves.
As the Angels sing their harmonies about power that saves,
The Padres cast out Devils from the now-more-blessed Rays
(The Cardinals don’t help, but fly with Orioles and Blue Jays.)
Both Twins make twice the trouble for the Brewers at their bars,
The Astros seem to seek a noun, but gaze up at the stars.
The Phillies, likewise adjectival, might just run like horses;
Though Cubs are hibernating, Tigers might gnaw them for courses.
The Reds in turn just burn with pride, unless they’re commie spies,
In which case the Yankees will deal with them, which could prove unwise.
The Nationals would help out, but they’re missing Montreal.
The Met(ropolitans) have found a city to play ball;
But only the Athletics look in shape to play some games.
Which is why it’s just as well that they’re just mascots, not real names.

West Coast Trip

The visiting scribes pass the last of their deadlines
And put up their feet to procrastinate headlines.

The fans before us all had to wait one more day
Till they folded the paper, finally read lines.

The manager picks up his clipboard and counts down.
His options are dwindling, crossed off in lead lines.

The base coach remembers all that he used to steal;
His mind had been blank. On his face now instead: lines.

Our rookie sensation is blaming the jet lag,
Looks at the coach, silently pleas to be fed lines.

Ember Nickel knows it’s a long way to get home
Beyond this construction problem of the Red Line’s.

Knuckle Knews: Local outfielder takes signs from base coach, charitable compass

Local outfielder takes signs from base coach, charitable compass

Sources report that a local outfielder was engaged in considerable deliberation as to whether he should take the pitch or swing away at a 3-1 delivery from the visiting pitcher. “It’s tough, you know. Am I going to get a double? Or am I going to maybe draw a walk?” he admitted. “There’s so much pressure on me.” To advise him in this matter, the batter caught a glimpse at the first-base coach, whose complicated pattern of touching his cap and uniform indicated the advised strategy. However, at the end of the day, the final decision was the outfielder’s alone.

The stakes are very high. Should he draw a walk, a giant footwear retailer will donate $50 to Socks Walks for Jocks And Blocks Lox for Pox, a charity that provides children suffering from contagious illnesses with brightly-colored building materials as well as fresh bagels. However, if he could launch an extra-base hit, he would instead incentivize a donation of $100 to Hubble Double Bubbles Against Rubble Trouble, a fund from an philanthropic astronomer to provide entertaining soap bubbles to children whose homes have been destroyed by natural disasters.

“It’s so hard to decide,” lamented the right-handed hitter. “There are only so many children I can indirectly benefit per day. Is it more important to just provide them with toys to take their mind off rough conditions, or do I also need to ensure they’re guaranteed a hearty breakfast? No matter how much work I do in the offseason for the foundation I have halfheartedly allowed my name to be plastered over, this cannot alleviate my moral uncertainty.”

The first-base coach, for his part, noted that despite the signals, he sympathized with his batter. “It’s a hard job, having to keep track of all these charities. I know our pitchers have to walk batters on occasion, just so our infielders can turn enough double plays for the double play fund. Times were less stressful in the more self-absorbed days, when all we had to worry about was making sure they all hit home runs in the fourth inning, so all our fans got free low-quality Mexican food.”

At press time, the outfielder was limping to first, having been hit by the pitch.

Knuckle Knews: Jackie Robinson Playing Right Field For Hypothetical White Sox

After going to “New Comiskey”/”The Cell” a couple weeks ago, I got struck by a bunch of parodic news articles I could write. Now that real life has settled down a bit (after some exciting transitions!) I thought I’d write some of these up. Not sure they’ll become a regular feature, but I think it’s time to try a little new direction on the blog, for now.

Jackie Robinson Playing Right Field For Hypothetical White Sox

THE ETERNAL COMISKEY PARK, ELSEWHERE–As has occurred countless times before and will occur countless times again, Jackie Robinson, famed civil rights pioneer, is busy playing right field for the Hypothetical White Sox. Robinson, ageless, has once again been pressed upon to make the third out of the first inning in the “How To Keep Score” box within the White Sox’ scorecard.

“Would I like to see Jackie go up there and get a hit one of these times?” said the Hypothetical Sox’ manager. “Sure I would. Just like I’d love to give him a chance to platoon a little with Nellie [Fox] at second base. But such things can never be, for lo, here is the scorecard, and behold, such example games must always play out the same way.”

“There are no rainouts in the Eternal Comiskey Park,” he added.

Robinson has struggled since joining the Hypothetical White Sox, and yet he is still penciled into the fifth spot in the batting order despite an 0-for-eternity slump. “I think he’s doing a great job, personally,” said cleanup hitter (and well-known first baseman) Minnie Minoso. “Ever since his number was retired and he joined the ranks of the historic Hypothetical White Sox, he’s been proud to contribute his talent for us.”

The manager expressed his hopes that Robinson appreciated the nuances of the Hypothetical American League. “I love having a DH on my team, so I don’t need our pitchers to bat,” he said. “Not that we’ll ever get to the bottom of the order, because Robinson is always ending the first inning. But the DH provides an opportunity for, you know, maybe some of these hard-slugging guys who can’t quite cut it defensively to stay in the game. Isn’t that right, Luis [Aparicio]?”

At press time, Robinson was unavailable for comment, because he needed to check in with his retired-numbers comrades for 29 other clubs.

Love Sonnet

This one’s for you, my terror and my shame
In bronze abstractions of our nuclear waste,
Unending traffic, pressure I can’t name–
“Be safe, but see it all!”–with which I’m faced.

Wisdom received; deep pizza, deeper lake
Deep hidden bookstacks. Best, the rooms I’ll find
By train or small quick foot, for their own sake
Each in their way enlivening the mind.

All of the platforms that I’ve walked among,
The bell towers, their views from climbing fire.
The whiteboard with hellos in every tongue
The soccer fields and hockey rinks afire.

I loved you first after I left you first.
I’ll leave and love you all the more, uncursed.

Defensive Indifference

Looking down at the stars, I know it’s clear
That, for all they care, I might not be here.
Defensive indifference follows errors,
Take a base in stride, not dread or terrors.

The stars may have their burning flame
But not because they know my name.
There need not be a true connection
For me to have this strange affection.

Admirer as I think I must
Be for these losers who’ll go bust,
I cannot now, I see them, say
I regret that I watch them play.

Should the stars disappear, being sold,
I’ll watch the backups and behold
This same affection, you would find–
After all this time, I can’t mind.

One or two of these lines is about baseball

I am the silence in between
All of my inadequacies.
I say little I do not mean:
Of what I mean, little of these.
I rarely am the first to poke
You and begin a fingered war;
I cannot take a simple joke,
They blame me for what came before.
They do. I don’t know who they are,
They do not deign to show a face
But this makes the most sense by far,
I’m in the wrong time and/or place.
I cannot scoff (if I’d have cared)
I can’t speak faith (for some will scoff)
I can’t be brave (if I’d have dared)
I cannot turn the message off,
I care too little, or too much
I start six lines by saying I
And that will never do, as such
And I don’t know if I should try.
If I am small I will not cross
The threshold of the things that matter.
I look back on each win, each loss,
Deaf but to calls of “hey, swing batter.”

Houston and Simplicity

Houston is this cohort’s Wisconsin: swapping circuits (and now divisions too). Changing this instills junior/non-junior parity, obviously, and forms six divisions without any big or small. But this also disrupts parity, as (barring lots of off days), a circuit can’t pit all its squads up against similar squads.

This Astros gang has many distinguishing marks; a circuit jump, a low payroll, and swinging and missing. A lot. So much that it almost got no-hit (and no-walk, no-thing at all, and so on) by Yu Darvish to start out this campaign. But a hit with an out to go would stop that goal.

So thinking about that, I thought, any string of at-bats is a rarity. Looking at pitch counts, balls and fouls, hits and outs, you will probably not watch many pairs of twin innings. Any play is particular, not always part of a broad class.

But so what? Just saying “a run, two hits, strand two” is jumping to conclusions. Simplicity of a notion–”wow, no hits at all!”–is what allows us to pin down cool honors. “This guy got a hit and this guy did and four in a row struck out and, following that…” is still an unusual thing, for most days will not show that particular of at-bats. But “cool occasion to honor and brag about” is not just “unusual.”

Might this play into stats? To bat in a run is a straightforward thing to do–obtain hit, push run in. Accomplish mission. So you can tally up RBI and say “look, this guy had this many,” and fans will nod and say “uh-huh, cool.” OBP should look similar. “How many occasions did you try to bat? How many saw you find your way to first? Now do a fraction.” So straightforward! I would say this is not as much a complication as BA: “what, hits slash at-bats? What’s an at-bat? You can’t count walks? Why? This is so arbitrary.” I would think a fan who’s not so much up with SABR’s doings could quickly go “Okay, OBP has a lot of simplicity going for it…I know what this is. I might not know what’s a good, bad, or outstanding mark, but I can grasp it.”

But what about WAR and VORP? This is hard. It’s so hard to pin down, that major blogs did not work from a common calculation to find such a statistic. How surprising is it, that not many fans catch on to this?

Simplicity is not a trivial notion.


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