Everyone has seen the posters. You know the ones: it’s a, like, an awful I Just Bought A DSLR And Found The Option In Photoshop To Blur The Background To Make My Black And White Photo Of My Girlfriend Pop Out (I Made Her Lips Be Red Because Girls Are To Be Looked At Instead Of People). Or maybe it’s a dumb stock photo with the shutter speed set real slow so it makes the water blur (blurry = profound, you see), and then you have a line like “Stay Focused and Let Your Inner Light Burn.” I wish I made that up.
Well, the good news is that Mariners Director of Player Development Andy McKay didn’t literally tweet such a thing today. But you know, in our wonderful postmodern media landscape, “literal” has come to mean both something that’s actually literal as well as those things which are simply metaphorical, but the adjective is too good to let up. I literally died when Dee Gordon caught that popup. I literally fell out of my seat when Mitch Haniger was doing a Cool Thing on instagram. And so on and so on. And so, cue, this:
A great player lives inside of everybody. The sculpture on the right is created from the block of clay on the left. No clay was added – only removed. Finding the greatness requires more subtraction than addition. It’s already inside of you. Just remove what’s blocking it. 👊 pic.twitter.com/KeAal9fVvA
— Andy McKay (@AndyMcKayHG) April 1, 2019
McKay has a job, which is more than you can say about me. But one thing I can say is that I have if not an expertise knowledge then at least an Ivy League postgraduate understanding of art history in concert with a deep skepticism of the way in which Silicon Valley bullshit has been used as a discursive blanket to elide deep structural problems in our economy (global capitalism) that can be smoothly mapped onto similar problems in the baseball world (also global capitalism, but with some ESPN faces defending it). I would also like to reiterate that I don’t think that it’s not for nothing that the Mariners are starting to treat things like mental health seriously (as, also, a medicated person suffering from a number of mental health issues), nor do I think that being less Just Play Through It is a bad development for the old boys crew or anything.
What really irritates me is that I know this kind of bullshit speaks to nobody, that it is a reassurance for the powers that be that they are Creatively Addressing An Issue And By Proxy Beating The Other Teams. What irritates me is that I know that this kind of posturing is not meant for an AA prospect who knows he’s never going to break into the bigs, that it’s meant for John Stanton and maybe even Jerry Dipoto to say that no, we aren’t like that last group who favored things like home runs and ISO (as if their options were that or a cool inspirational tweet that could be posted up on the office bulletin board).
I think, though, aside from the furor and the irritation that Mariners Director of Player Development is woefully misrepresenting art history, that what really bugs me about this is knowing full well that all this team literally has to do right now is say the following: “Hey! We might suck but also, guess what folks, you, like me, were so excited to see Tim Beckham–AL Player of the Week!–hit a bunch of dingers, and we know that this might not be sustainable but what an exciting thing to actually sell tickets on! It’s fun that some kids are outperforming their expectations, that this Mariners team is not beholden to draft lists and the franchise capital-D duty that tanked top prospects Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, and so on? Why can’t they just fucking say that?!?!?!
If none of that is good enough, let me put on my pretentious asshole hat and have a problem with the way that McKay is talking about art here. It’s absolutely laughable to claim something–as many do–like the fact that a big block of clay somehow contains the world-historical masterpiece of David inside of it or something, were only we were able to wait for Michelangelo to come free it.
Art is not a thing hidden in the parts waiting to be uncovered, it’s something that is called into being which did not exist before. An uncut big block of clay will never become David again, because Michelangelo is dead, and he can no longer paint or make sculptures for us to put in museums to raise tourist money for Montparnasse or whatever. This might sound like The Weeds, but the reality is that this is the approach the Mariners front office has taken to making sense of what these rebuilding years are, and to be honest, you should be extremely upset about it.
David never existed in a mountain of clay waiting to be discovered. It was made with some clay that happened to be available to a world-historical artist working with the materials given to him.
Not a single one of these prospects the Mariners are currently trotting out to Save The Franchise have a David in them, waiting to be uncovered. They are good baseball players who might be contributors to a good team someday, but that’s all they are. And that is all anyone–Mike Trout included!–ever are or have or ever will be. When we pretend that there is a secret Best of All Time hiding inside every Brendan Ryan we ignore the truth that what made Brendan Ryan one of the most adored Mariners of all time is that he was good at one thing, and that one thing could be slotted into an otherwise designed lineup. But he didn’t have that great talent waiting to be found, deep inside. That is not a dig on Brendan Ryan. It’s a realization that his talent was wasted by a front office who didn’t know how to properly utilize the one thing he was good at.
In the coming months the Mariners will build a series of clay tablets and out of them they will design some beautiful, sculpted men, some of whom can hit a baseball and some of whom can catch it. But the problem will be that at precisely the moment that this franchise should be excited to sign another Brendan Ryan–a bat-last infielder who can free the spots for the Tim Beckhams and the Mallex Smiths to learn how to tick their averages upwards to .300–they will turn every last person into the Michelangelo sculpture finally designed to save baseball for the Emerald City.
Of course, what I hope you realize is that what they are actually saving is not baseball but their own stupid jobs. And why in god’s name do you care about that?