The Wisest Old Fish in the Water

San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy, like some ancient, uncatchable catfish–the wisest old fish in the water–has, to use another aquatic analogy, skippered his ball club ingeniously through this post-season–at least until Game 7 of the Fall Classic, when he started 39-year-old pitcher Tim Hudson instead of a two-day-rested Madison Bumgarner, who, at 25, is perhaps the most dominant hurler the World Series has ever seen.

This opening sentence, written before the first pitch, I have decided to stick with. It seems to perfectly contain all the pre-game dread I had lugged around in the aftermath of the Royals’ 10-0 Game 6 blowout. Momentum, after all, was with Kansas City. Not only was the finale to be played in their ballpark–under American League rules–but it had been 35 years, since 1979, that a road team had won a Game 7 of the World Series. And Bochy was going with Hudson.

I would have gone with Bumgarner. Bochy eventually did, of course–and he was magnificent–but I question whether the Royals would have scored their two runs had Bumgarner pitched from the outset. It was a tense one-run game until the last out, although one had the sense, with Bumgarner on the mound, that–if Bochy kept him in–the game was, effectively, decided. Still, in the bottom of the ninth inning, with a two-out spark of heroics–or, if you prefer, some centerfield Keystone Coppery–the Royals’ Alex Gordon reached third on a two-base error by Gregor Blanco. Don’t let Giants fans tell you otherwise–even with the luxury of Bumgarner’s command, any time a runner reaches third base in a tight game it is cause for concern. Had Salvador Perez then simply made contact with the ball, the velocity at which Bumgarner was throwing it might conceivably have guaranteed a shot out of the infield. That was Kansas City’s only real hope of tying the score. It would have been something of an adventure for the immobilized Perez–who had earlier been hit in the left leg by Hudson–to even reach first base, and I was wondering where he could possibly hit the ball safely when he fouled harmlessly out to the Giants’ third-baseman, Pablo Sandoval.

This had not occurred to me, so transfixed was I by the idea of a strikeout. But now I’m consumed by another thought: The delicious irony that, in an American League park, the game-winning hit came off the bat of Michael Morse–our Designated Hitter–who dropped a fourth inning blooper into right field, an RBI single that held for the Giants’ eventual 3-2 victory. Here’s to the Senior Circuit!

I am not saying that Bochy was wrong to start Hudson, or that, after having done so, he then skillfully deployed his bullpen like some latter-day Duke Ellington conducting an orchestra. Pitching Bumgarner was, really, a no-brainer. And you can’t argue with success. But you can do things to keep your fanbase from suffering collective cardiac arrest. That’s what I’m saying.
I don’t think I’m wrong. I have been wrong before, countless times, and I’m old enough now to know the difference not between right and wrong–you don’t get out of childhood without that one–but between correct and wrong. In the 28 years I have been with my wife, for instance, I may have won a single argument.

Then there are the kids. We have five, and no two of them are truly similar in temperament. Or, while I’m at it, in talent. Here’s how I’ll pare them down: One is huge, athletic without demonstrating any eye-hand coordination whatsoever, and even-keeled. Another is volatile while being well-rounded in the arts. A third is boisterous and absolutely beautiful–a show-stopper who can perform on stage with the best that Broadway can muster. That’s no exaggeration. Neither would it be one to say that a fourth–while moody and quiet–has nevertheless been gifted musically, displaying a self-taught virtuosity on several instruments. A fifth is, well, 15 years old–so, to paraphrase Mark Twain and apologize to Sam Clemens, I suppose this one will be amazed by how much I will have learned over the next six years.

The thing of it is, though, that I remain myself. There is one me, and I am outnumbered–though reduced, ironically, to a solitary–yet evolving–role where the wearing of but one hat makes me all things to all people: Dad. Parents of an only child will never understand this.

Very narrowly, then, the following: To one, I am a bank account to make withdraws from when the rent is due or a medical necessity arises. To another, I am a cheerleader, supporter and scapegoat, an occasional ATM, and the usual suspect. To a third, I am now something of a memory, as marriage has eclipsed my influence. By this reasoning–to a fourth–I am a father-in-law. To a fifth, I am a procurer of equipment. And to a sixth, you can accurately figure I’m still everything–except Mom. She wears her own hat.

It’s not as if Father knows best anymore. These days, Dad is scrutinized–his every move as open to criticism as the stratagems of a big league manager. I can’t, anyhow, honestly claim to be the wisest old fish in the water. Want to know who can? That would be Mom.

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