Lost in all the hoopla last night over a New York athlete doing something fairly well, the intrepid and occasionally clammy Jason Vargas tossed a proverbial gem last night. Facing the feared Royals of Kansas City, The Mariners’ #2 starter allowed a single hit through eight innings, striking out five. Loyal and fictionalized reader Thorwald Fenton called in a request this morning for an encapsulation of Vargas’ kinetic, relativity-inducing fastball. And because Carson was too busy sipping chamomile and grooming his collection of prize Shetland ponies for the Jubilee Morgan Regional Horse Show next month, I stepped in. Granted, my computer is hardly the technological marvel that his is, but I can’t imagine you’ll have any complaints.
Vargas faced Jeff Francoeur to lead off the top of the third:
(Side note: it’s a little-known piece of history that, before the advent of action photography, young boys would watch their heroes through a process similar to the animated GIF. Newspapers, in the bottom right corner of their publications, would create flipbooks out of ascii art, and young boys would flip through the newspapers endlessly by lamplight. Of course, the heavy mercury concentration in the ink of the era sent many of these boys into madness, trapped in their own three-second baseball universes. Those were hard times.)
Some people consider the swinging strike to be the mark of dominance, but this image plainly shows otherwise. Francoeur, in a 2-2 count, knows the fastball is coming in low. His muscles know it; they have acted the same way thousands of times before. The act of swinging at the low fastball is instinctual, animalistic: it is the act of being Jeff Francoeur. And yet despite a life built for that exact moment, all at once, he fails. He is broken. Vargas has not only defeated Francoeur, he has undone him, destroyed his identity. This is the mark of a good pitch.
As he wandered back to the dugout, contemplating what remains, the man who was once Jeff Francoeur was seen wearing this dazed smile as his veneer (click to embiggen):
Patrick Dubuque is a wastrel and a general layabout. Many of the sites he has written for are now dead. Follow him on Twitter @euqubud.