When you consider the emotions of defeat and the persecutory feeling of a tight circle of microphone-wielding reporters, a certain amount of leeway should be afforded to an athlete when he answers a question about his performance. Once you have afforded Kyle Kendrick this leeway, you may proceed to the nearest section of drywall and bang your head against it in a steady yet forceful manner. More than two hours after he trudged off the mound in the fourth inning with a 6-1 deficit on the scoreboard, and long past the time most of his teammates had departed from the post-game clubhouse, the right-hander emerged from a members-only section of the premises and fielding questions about the Phillies' 12-6 loss. He was asked about a second inning in which he threw 50 pitches, walking a light-hitting eight-hole hitter and then surrendering a two-run double to the opposing pitcher.
"I just couldn't find the zone," he said.
He was asked about his tempo, which slowed to the pace of a rush hour crawl, about a perceived lack of aggression, which pushed his manager close to combustion.
"When you are struggling to find the zone, that's how it is," he said.
And then he was asked about his security in the rotation, where he is 2-8 with a 5.01 ERA in 15 starts this season, and the potential that he might head to the bullpen, where he is 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA in 12 appearances.
"I guess that's how it is with me,'" he said. "It's, 'What have you done for me lately?'"
Whether Kendrick uttered the words in response to the media's constant hunt for a referendum or in response to his coaches' personnel decisions though out the season, the only response he will get is the sound of a record scratching to a halt. That, or a bug-eyed Jack Nicholson slamming his fist on a wooden table and barking in a homicidal rage, "You're (gosh) (darn) right it's what have you done for me lately."
You can forgive his exact words. Again, leeway. But words come from thoughts, and thoughts come from observations, and when you consider the observations required to get from A to B to "Woe is me," you realize that you are traveling a cognitive chain that is in serious need of reconditioning.
What Kendrick needs to understand is that the ability to throw a hard object with relative precision does not have any inherent value to a non-hunter-and-gatherer society. Kendrick does not manufacture a good, nor does he perform a service that is integral to the functioning of the American economy. A fastball does not refrigerate food or cure disease. A pitcher does not earn $3 million because he has a $3 million arm. He cannot call a 1-800 number during a commercial break on the O'Reilly Factor and exchange his sinker for gold bars. Investors are not transferring their money from treasuries to change-ups.
A human being's status as a pitcher does not entitle him to anything. He must create that value himself. He must earn everything. The value of a pitcher's skill is dictated entirely by the open market, and the open market is dictated by the decisions people make about where they spend their money. Kendrick makes $3 million because a lot of people have chosen to invest a percentage of their wealth in the ability to watch a baseball game rather than investing it elsewhere. Last night, one of those investors, a gentleman seated within earshot of the press box at Citizens Bank Park, yelled at the top of his lungs, "Give us our money back!" That, of course, is not the way markets work. But the gentleman's experience at the ballpark on Wednesday night can affect his future spending decisions. And since the game he watched was a pair of handcuffs away from violating the Geneva Conventions, it probably will.
If enough people have enough bad experiences and make enough changes to their spending habits, the Phillies lose money, which affects the earning potential of everybody in the organization, from the front office to the coaching staff to the players to the clubhouse staff. Which is why Charlie Manuel seemed so agitated after watching the second inning unfold on Wednesday night. The manager was so perturbed that he decided that his best course of action was to avoid saying words at his post game press conference. He didn't even bother with his nightly recitation of the pitching line. Manuel is a man who will excuse physical failure, because baseball is a game in which it is expected. What he cannot stomach, though, is a failure to control the controllable. And that, we can only assume, is what he saw in the second inning.
Me? I think the night was lost with one out, when a breaking ball in the dirt got past Erik Kratz and allowed runners to move to second and third. For a brief moment, Kendrick held a crouch, looking in at home, the wrong kind of emotion on his face. It was the kind of body language that Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee detest, the kind that is the arch nemesis of consistency. The consistent ones are consistent because they accept the results that are beyond their control. A failure to do so puts the whole operation in peril. That wild pitch -- a more agile catcher could have blocked it -- enabled a run to score on the ensuing groundout. And from there, the night spiraled out of control. A walk to Paul Janish. A double to Tim Hudson. A walk to Michael Bourn. And then a two-run single by Martin Prado.
One run followed by a quick third out would have sufficed. Instead, one run turned into four. What have you done for me lately? It is the essence of the sport.