With Spring Training now upon us, and with lab-tested and science-approved psychic John Edward having predicted the imminent onset of predictions, many of our most luminous luminaries are gracing us with their MLB preseason picks. Over at ESPN, Buster Olney has picked the Tigers to win what he is calling the World Series. Over at The View, the ladies have predicted that David Wright will be dreamy. And in a less televised, more transcendental sphere, the Lord Buddha has surprised many Western prognosticators by picking the Houston Astros.
“Well, picked them for what?” the Westerner asks, somewhat predictably, and with a fistful of Freedom Fries jammed inelegantly in his mouth hole.
To this unsurprising reply the Buddha responds not with a declarative but with another interrogative: “What is the sound of two hands clapping?”
And to this quasi-puzzling conundrum even the minimally enlightened Westerner responds, “Um . . . a midseason game at Minute Maid Park?”
“Indeed,” says the Buddha, nodding in the serenity that only spring can bring. “You have met the Buddha in the base path. Now tag him out.”
While that same Westerner gets arrested for climbing over the rail and rushing the field, the Buddha sits beneath the Bodhi Tree, or, if a such a tree is unavailable, any of several species of palm, and tells the ardent listener that the Astros are the pure embodiment of dukkha, or suffering, a phenomenon at the heart – “since there is no soul, because let’s be honest, our most popular DJ is Richard freakin’ Gere” – of Buddhist philosophy.
“I mean, if three straight 100-loss seasons isn’t suffering,” he says, “then I don’t know what is . . . apart from a summer in Houston, Texas. Amirite?”
The Buddha adds that not only will he “be here all week,” he will be here even longer because he is “forever existing and immortal” and also because he cut out gluten. Speaking of gastrointestinal distress, the Buddha confirms that suffering does comprise all four of the Four Noble Truths, and that the fourth truth pushed Jarred Cosart to the fifth spot.
Having studied the Astros’ 2014 ZiPS Projections – “Granted,” he says as an aside, “I’ve always emphasized that we as individuals have no fixed identities, but then again, I never claimed that our No. 1 comp should be Placido Polanco” – the Buddha proclaims that the Houston squad just might be experiencing a particularly painful form of samsara, or, the continual cycle of birth, death and rebirth into the same old suffering and the same old futility though not the same old ’70s uniforms, thank God.
And yet the Buddha, being the Buddha, is nothing if not a helpful figure. With the wisdom befitting a venerated sage, he points the Astros in the direction of their karmic liberation, their escape from this ever-turning wheel of hardship: “Yonder,” says he, motioning past the weight room and even the quote-unquote anti-aging clinic. “Yonder lies the Noble Eightfold Path.”
1) Right view: The Buddha says that as a squad of young players, the Astros often look into the stands or down the front of their pants while on the field. “Instead,” he suggests, “look at the batter if you are fielding, the catcher if you are pitching, the pitcher if you are batting.”
2) Right intention: The Buddha says that as a team accustomed to losing, the Astros often lose. “Instead,” he suggests, “try to win.”
3) Right speech: The Buddha says that as a team accustomed to underdog status, the Astros often quote Bill Murray’s rousing speech in the movie Stripes. “Instead, try Belushi’s speech in Animal House.”
4) Right action: “This might at first seem unorthodox,” says the Buddha, “but instead of always turning right at first base, try turning left.”
5) Right livelihood: “I just want to be sure you’re not actually bankers.”
6) Right effort: “If at first you don’t succeed, try to get traded to the A’s.”
7) Right mindfulness: “Remain focused on the body in and of itself – ardent, aware and mindful. Also, remain focused on the mind in and of itself – ardent, aware and mindful. Lastly, remain focused on that trade to the A’s, or, better yet, on free agency – ardent, aware and gainful.”
8) Right concentration: “Three cans water to one can frozen concentrate.”
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.