Some two years ago, a split-finger fastball thrown by pitcher Freddy Garcia stumped experts by seeming to defy the Magnus effect — the force that makes a curveball curve. Physicists eventually arrived at an acceptable explanation, and published their theory in a leading journal. The case, it seemed, was closed. But for Mr. Garcia, as it turns out, it was merely the beginning.
Reached at home on Tuesday, the 37-year-old free agent said that “things got really weird” during the spring of 2012. According to Mr. Garcia, it was around then that he noticed something odd while brushing his teeth one morning.
“The sink drained clockwise,” he said. “Everyone knows it’s supposed to go the other way around.”
Mr. Garcia was referring to the Coriolis effect, which reputedly causes water to spin in a clockwise direction when draining in the Northern Hemisphere, while having the opposite result south of the Equator. However, although the Coriolis effect is quite real, its ability to influence bathroom drains has long been controversial. If that had been the last of it, said the pitcher, he wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
That was not the last of it.
“So the next day I’m walking down the street,” continued Mr. Garcia, “and here comes a cop car, sirens and everything. You know how the sound gets higher the closer it gets to you, and lower when it goes away. Well, that time it was the opposite. And every time since then.”
In a phone interview, Dr. Waldrich Bluewenschwam of the University of Glormstadt, a leading authority on acoustics, professed amazement upon learning of the phenomenon.
“Is outright violation of Doppler effect,” said Dr. Bluewenschwam in comically accented English. “Is not possible, never possible, man must have bratwurst in brains.”
Since then, the befuddled Mr. Garcia has become a favorite subject of scientists from several disciplines, who have set up a sort of makeshift expeditionary camp on the pitcher’s front lawn. As of this article’s writing, they had documented some two dozen fundamental principles that have been violated at one time or another by Mr. Garcia. Some further examples include:
– Greenhouse effect: Familiar to anyone following the climate-change debate, this is the process by which carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” re-radiate the sun’s heat back to Earth. It’s happening everywhere — everywhere, that is, but in the neighborhood of Freddy Garcia. “I go out on a sunny day,” says the pitcher, “and the more I breathe out, the cooler it gets over my head. I go under the blanket and I break wind, and before long I’m shivering. Go figure.”
– Butterfly effect: Integral to the new science of chaos theory, this principle describes the sensitivity of large-scale processes to minute differences in initial conditions. As long as those conditions aren’t Freddy Garcia’s. “It doesn’t matter what I do,” says a visibly frustrated Mr. Garcia. “They’ve studied it. It makes no difference to anything.”
– Pygmalion effect: This less well-known psychological principle states that people tend to perform better under higher expectations. It’s been documented many times over — but never for Freddy Garcia. “Just look at these last few months with the Braves,” he says. “I was washed up. No one expected [anything] out of me. So what did I do? 1.65 ERA and [darn] near saved the Division Series for those guys.”
– Bradley effect: This principle was introduced to account for polling discrepancies in elections featuring a candidate of color. According to the effect, many voters will claim they will vote for that candidate, but ultimately opt for his or her white opponent. Mr. Garcia says the temptation has never affected him in the slightest. “I said I would vote for Obama, and I did,” he says matter-of-factly. “Hell, I said straight up I was voting for Al Sharpton way back when. And you can check my ballot.” Mr. Garcia’s freakish integrity has astounded political experts.
– Bystander effect: This refers to the reluctance of observers who are part of a crowd to offer help to a person in distress. Mr. Garcia suffers from no such weakness. This past August, he witnessed an incident on a crowded street in Los Angeles in which a careless cyclist struck an elderly woman. While other bystanders stood around uncomfortably, Mr. Garcia leapt into action, helping the victim to her feet and haranguing the cyclist in Spanish.
– Mozart effect: This well-attested principle states that listening to classical music will improve the listener’s focus and performance on the task at hand. Experimenters tested the effect on Mr. Garcia this spring by having him listen to the entirety of The Magic Flute prior to a start against the Red Sox. The results were conclusive: the pitcher gave up eight runs in 2 1/3.
– Ken Burns effect: More of a technique than an effect per se, this refers to a method of manipulating still images by panning and zooming to enhance viewer engagement. According to Mr. Garcia, however, it leaves him cold. “You can move the pictures around all you want,” he says bluntly. “I still don’t want to watch your [expletive] slideshow of your [expletive] trip to the Bahamas.”