Metaphor Hit by Pitch, Charges Mound

Baseball season is here again and it comes of no surprise that baseball metaphors are flying off the bats. And even the pianists seem to have a better shot of going all the way than the Giants.

Pianist hits home run with Mendelssohn

This one comes from the San Jose Mercury News and author Georgia Rowe, presumably a Giants or A’s fan. Now, I’m all for baseball metaphors, in general. Home runs are part of our collective American lexicon. So it saddens me when the metaphor becomes awkwardly stretched, to say the least.

Everybody loves a great pinch hitter, and [pianist Yuja Wang] was an excellent example of an artist stepping up to fill in on short notice...

I’m thinking Kirk Gibson, hobbling ‘round the bases, fist pumping, sleazy moustache (I’m still mad about that one). The problem here is, one, the assertion "everyone loves a great pinch hitter" is thorny. With the exception of one lousy, lucky Kirk Gibson at bat, I can’t think of another “great” pinch hit or hitter. (Any suggestions?) At any rate, there are simply no “great” pinch hitters for anyone to love. If they were great, they’d be playing everyday, not coming to bat in substitution for a pitcher in the latter innings.

Two, because of the improbability of there actually being great pinch hitters, I assume that Kirk Gibson was the inspiration for this sloppy metaphor, in which case, he was a Dodger(s), a hated rival of the Giants and victors over the A’s in ‘88. So why, oh why, would a Giants or A’s fan construct this metaphor around a glorious Dodgers World Series moment, if only to dump on this season’s futility (the Giants will stink with the best of them, the A’s are question marks), thereby dumping on Yuja Wang? Unless...

Unless Georia Rowe is a Dodgers fan, celebrating both Kirk and Yuja! Oh my!

Watch out Bay Area baseball fans! Georgia Rowe is the enemy.


Aaron said...

Great pinch hitters:

Dave Hansen.
Lenny Harris.


Well. How about that?

I have to agree with your criticism of the idea that "everybody loves a great pinch hitter." For one thing, the fans of the other team presumably aren't so wild about him. For another, there's nothing special about being a "pinch hitter" that makes them lovable. As you point out, they're probably pinch hitting because they're not good enough/don't do the right things* to play every day. It's hard to be "great" or "beloved" for not being all that great, I think.

Unless you're the Cubs, of course.

"Everyone loves a rookie called up for his first big-league at bat" might be a little closer to the mark, although I admit it doesn't quite have the snap of "pinch-hitter."

*Contrary to what you might think, sometimes managers will sit objectively better players. It could be out of spite or pique, or it could be that some other flaw in their game keeps them on the bench. For example, suppose you have a center fielder who's a good hitter but a poor fielder. If you've got a left- and right-fielder who are also poor fielders, you're probably going to play the slick-fielding center fielder instead of the slugger because your team can't afford to have three bad-fielding outfielders. So the better player rides the pine and is available for pinch-hitting for reasons beyond the control of anyone but the GM.

Empiricus said...

Still, the better hitter riding the pine is not a pinch-hitting specialist, just a victim of occasional circumstance.

Aaron said...


Anonymous said...

As a Braves fan: the greatest pinch hit moment (far greater than Kirk Gibson's HR) is Francisco Cabrera in the 1992 NLCS.

He's a complete nobody (unlike the MVP that Gibson was) who came through with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 9th in the 7th and deciding game of the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Absolutely my favorite sports moment of all-time.

Empiricus said...