What makes good literature?
Perhaps it is that which inspires the best in mankind. Or it allows a person to consider ideas that had never before been considered. It could even be a work which takes the reader into the mind of the author and see the world through the eyes of the author.
Others will write about the baseball merits of new lineup from Thursday night's game. I, however, want to review the lineup card from a literary perspective.
And, as literature, Ned Yost's lineup card from 5/9/2013 is a stunningly brilliant work of staggering despair. Reading the lineup card took me into the abyss that the author, Yost, is clearly looking into. In just a few short lines I was brought to the edge of hope, only to have that hope crushed by the depravity of the human condition. No matter your criteria, Ned Yost's lineup card is supremely great literature.
It begins with Alcides Escobar and his .308 on base percentage batting leadoff. In this bold opening line Yost is foreshadowing the despair that will be so clearly evident later in this work. While some might insist on giving the most at bats to those who are the most successful at getting on base, Yost is critiquing conventional societal standards and their empty valuing of "success" and "scoring lots of runs". Like any good piece of literature, the reader is left unaware of where the rest of the work will go, but Yost clearly is warning the reader that default assumptions and values are going to be challenged.
This dark work then takes a brighter turn with Lorenzo Cain batting second. By placing Cain second, Yost is acknowledging that there is a place for for the rewarding of success, albeit on his terms and not on the terms that outsiders will attempt to thrust on him. With a .383 OPB and .455 slugging percentage, Yost is drawing the reader to a point of optimism for the future.
The optimism continues with Alex Gordon hitting third. A hitter who is slugging .500 with a .336 OBP? Very good and conventional for the number three hitter. Perhaps there is a better day in the future. Perhaps things will turn out in a good way.
Yost then plays a brilliant move by batting Billy Butler fourth. The reader instantly falls in love with this character's .380 OBP, but is conflicted by his slugging only .388. This conflict will set the stage for later developments in the plot line. After this fourth spot, Yost has achieved his goal by creating confidence in the human condition, albeit with a slight bit of uneasiness in the mind of the reader. At this point the reader is focused on the leadoff spot as contrasted with the success of the next three hitters. Why hit Escobar first? Why give Butler fewer at bats when he is so good at getting on base?
Then suddenly, Yost rips away any clinging to hope the reader may have. Any sense of optimism in the good that mankind may achieve is shattered in a series of successive blows, each worse than the previous. The author will conclude the work with an unrelenting avalanche of despair.
It begins with Eric Hosmer hitting fifth. A first baseman with no home runs who is slugging .330? The reader instantly recoils in horror. Things were looking up. What would prompt the author to deliver this blow?
Yost quickly moves the action along with Salvador Perez batting sixth. The initial reaction is one of relief, as Perez is a promising young player who many scouts love. However, a glance at his .279/.303/.375 line creates great concern. On the heels of the Hosmer blow the reader is left with continued, lingering doubts as to the condition we all find ourselves in.
At this point, it is as if Yost is unable to help himself. From here to the end of the work we see the true genius of this masterpiece. One is left with feelings of rage, hopelessness, despair. That is the mark of a great author. We do not leave this work with neutral feelings. Yost is clearly issuing a loud shot at the inequities of modern civilization. He is prophesying the doom that we all face if we will neglect the weakest among us.
The reader then sees Mike Moustakas at seventh. A corner infielder with a line of .219/.294/.333? Why? Is this all the author has to work with? Is there any hope of a good ending? Is he simply playing with the reader's emotions? What would drive a man to such depths of despair?
Those questions are answered by seeing Jeff Francoeur at eighth. The lid to the abyss has been opened, and the author has us staring into it. Questions that have haunted the human race for all of its existence are being asked. How did we get here? What is the meaning of this? Is there any hope for the future? By writing a major league lineup card that includes Francoeur, Yost is saying we can only answer those questions in the most negative way possible. A corner outfielder with one home run. A corner outfielder who is slugging .336 and getting on base at a rate of .274. We see the despair that is so clearly tormenting the author. We recoil in horror at the reality of his day to day existence. As we contemplate the choices that the author is forced to make on a daily basis, we ourselves are forced to deal with the reality of our own situations. Thoughts that we have previously tried to suppress come flooding to the forefront of our conscious mind.
And that, dear reader, is a mark of great literature. And not just great literature, but a stunningly brilliant work of staggering despair.
Yost then concludes his work with Chris Getz batting ninth. By this point, the reader is numb to emotion and barely notices Getz's line of .216/.247/.338. This is an intentional driving home of the ideas that Yost has been proclaiming from the opening of the work.
And thus concludes this work. The reader is left with a swirling cauldron of emotion. Tears fill the eye. Rage is then expressed at the author. Then sympathy. Is this all the Yost had to work with? Is it his fault? Is somebody else to blame? Is there any hope, or is this all there is? In ending how he does, Yost leaves these questions uncomfortably unanswered.
Epilogue: In the game that was actually played on 5/9/2013, the Royals somehow hit three home runs and scored 6 runs, thus initially vindicating the author. This is a brilliant epilogue, as at the conclusion of the work the reader was resolved to simply walk away and abandon hope, but Yost gives the reader a slight glimmer of light, thus drawing the reader back in and giving Yost more opportunities for future works of despair.