Put me in, Coach! How much embarrassment would you be willing to endure to play major league baseball?

From ESPN - February 15, 2018

IF, BECAUSE OF an unintended loophole in the collective bargaining agreement, the Miami Marlins discovered they could save $1 million by letting you play an entire major league game, on the condition that you actually had to play, that you must start the game (at any position) and you must not leave the game (under any condition), would you play?

YOU WILL GET paid the same wages you get at your current job. You will be kind of very famous. You will have a page on Baseball-Reference. You will get to watch a major league baseball game from left field. You might get a hit. And you will know something about baseball that very, very few humans ever know.

All you have to do is get to the park five hours early, hang out awkwardly in a clubhouse where the players all try to avoid acknowledging you (your presence is actually quite shameful to them), feebly take batting practice in front of those same major leaguers, wear a uniform that looks wrong on you, strike out three or four times -- once or twice with runners on base -- against a major league pitcher in a game that counts, run out to left field nine times and stand out there while strangers yell weird insults in a melted gummy mess at you, attempt to catch a couple of cans of corn, periodically sprint (while trying to track incomprehensibly high fly balls) in front of a television audience, try to throw a baseball farther than you actually can, and perhaps cower at a line drive hit directly at you that at the last second you dive away from. You will have to turn and chase after the ball, and you will think about how television viewers are looking at your butt; after the play ends, the camera will focus on the face you are making, and this face will forever be the first return on a Google Images search of your name. Would you play?

Do you think you'd catch those cans of corn? Does whether you think you'd catch those cans of corn affect whether you'd play? If I told you that you definitely would not catch the cans of corn, would you still play?

(For what it's worth, I think you'd definitely catch the cans of corn.)

If you played, would you swing? If I told you that you have about a 4 percent chance of drawing a walk just by taking every pitch -- that you'd have a 1-in-25 chance of reaching base in a major league game as long as you do not do something stupid, like swing -- would you swing?

Would you tell your friends you were going to be on TV, or would you hope nobody found out about this?

Pal, they will obviously find out about this! It will be the most-watched regular-season game of the year. We will all want to see how awkward a regular person (you) look against major leaguers. I'd rather watch you bail out of the way of a major league curveball than watch Giancarlo Stanton chase 61 homers. You will be on SportsCenter, and the anchors will laugh the entire way through. You will be so nervous you wo not make a normal-human face the entire night. Your weird faces will be meme lighter fluid. Do you realize how funny all of us normal people look when we run? Your most awkward physical moments will be turned into GIFs and loop eternally on browser tabs left open overnight. But you'd definitely play, right?

If your team lost the game, 9-2, would you blame yourself? Your teammates would definitely blame you. But I would reassure you that you are not to blame: A normal person who plays baseball like a normal person would bat ninth and almost certainly go 0-for-3 or 0-for-4 with nothing but strikeouts, but even Mike Trout does that from time to time (and his team still wins). Those at-bats only cost your team about one run, relative to an average hitter.

Your defense, meanwhile -- how bad could you be? The average American League left fielder last year recorded fewer than two outs per game, so worst case you'd turn two outs into hits. But the worst case is not likely. There were about 10,000 balls hit to left fielders last year that were plausibly "catchable," including those that were extremely unlikely to be caught, according to the scouting service Inside Edge. Of those, more than 80 percent were classified by Inside Edge to be "certain" catches, and sure enough, major league left fielders caught 99.2 percent of those. You played baseball/softball/kickball/catch once. You can surely handle some of those "certain" fly balls. (Home Run Derby kids catch a lot of fly balls, and they are often way out of position and fighting with one another.) Would you catch half of them? I bet at least half of them.

So you miss the rest. But even if we do not assume that the center fielder -- whose coverage range overlaps a bit with the left fielder's, and who would presumably be shading way over toward you -- can bail you out, that's about one dropped ball, turned into a double, per game. About one more run you cost your team.

And, I guess, you'd turn most singles into doubles (lol your arm) or triples (whoopsie-daisy there the ball goes). Maybe every single one, in fact. That's still manageable: Only a quarter of hits inside the park go to left field, and after removing infield hits, that's less than 1.7 hits per game to the left fielder: 1.2 singles, 0.4 doubles and a smidgen of triples. Upgrade every single one of those by one extra base, and it will only cost your team about four-tenths of a run per game.

So, worst case, you have added two or three runs to your team's loss. The 9-2 loss is not your fault. Of course, your teammates think it is. The center fielder blames you for the ball he could not catch in right-center because he had to play out of position in order to back you up. The pitcher blames you for the walks he issued, because he had to pitch away from the parts of the strike zone where a batter might hit the ball to you. Everybody agrees you were a distraction. So maybe it was your fault.

So, would you play the next day?


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