Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Humbled Appreciation...

On Saturday, Zach Stewart recorded his first major league win as a member of the black-and-white. On Sunday, Josh Roenicke was recalled to bolster a decidedly Ubaldo-less Rockies' pitching staff. And also on Sunday, Edwin Encarnacion went 3-4 with two runs scored in the Blue Jays' customary series-victory-clinching win over the Orioles. Six months ago it would have seemed unthinkable, but as of yesterday all three of the players acquired in JP Ricciardi's final trade as a GM are in the major leagues, and Edwin Encarnacion is the only one still wearing a Blue Jays uniform. Crazy, right?

I've recently come to the shocking realization that I am a fan of Fiona Apple. Fiona Apple is someone I've never even considered listening to - partly out of some dogmatic masculinity complex and partly out of a general distaste for the kind of faux-hippie middle-aged socialites who put her music on at cocktail parties - and I only did wind up discovering her while perusing Pitchfork's top 50 videos of the 90s a few months back. But when I did, I was captivated. I watched the video for "Criminal" several times, but convinced myself that I was only interested in the frenzied gyrations of her body and her slightly eerie resemblance to a similarly emaciated acquaintance of mine. She was like every frail and slightly fatale girl I'd ever tried to write in my own fiction or watched in others'. Gradually, though, the video aspect of it grew into an appreciation for "Criminal" as a song - and later, the rest of her oeuvre. I'm still no obsessive Fiona Apple fan, having heard most of her songs one or two times, if that, but at least now I find them compelling rather than repulsive.

Watching Edwin mash reminds me of that. Like Fiona, he ways always there, kind of in the background, mildly distasteful. If I assumed Fiona was some weird Adult Contemporary pop diva, I thought Encarnacion was this decade's incarnation of Tony Batista - just a ubiquitous power bat with huge holes in his swing and glove. In other words, the respective symptom of the downfall of pop music or the Jays as an organization.

But after watching the game yesterday there's something beautiful in watching him mash fastball after fastball over the third baseman's head, isn't there? As awful as he was for the first two months of the season, he's now managed to drag his OPS+ over 100 for the year. That's nothing special for a DH/bad corner infielder, but it's light years away from where I thought it would end up early in the season when I was unapologetically demanding for his DFA. Now, I'm having trouble suppressing the idea that maybe - just maybe - there's a future for Edwin as a DH on this team. (Then I think about Mark Teahen, and then I think about the potential for an aging Hall-of-Famer to come in and hit .330 with 20 home runs, and think the better of it.)

Like Fiona, Edwin will remain in my personal purgatory. In the end, I'll never really embrace Fiona Apple's music as much more than chick-pop, and E5 will never be quite good enough to be a major piece of a championship team. But at least I can appreciate their respective talents in isolation.

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