More than anything else, the career of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez is a reminder of the subjective nature of truth, the impossibility of correctly identifying anything using only the metrics derived from our rational experience of the world. Blinded by his arthritis, and hamstrings, and disputed birth certificates, we had forgotten that El Duque was also a ferocious competitor, possessed of a devious wealth of baseball savvy- an unquestionable asset to the team.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no reason to believe that last night was any particular indication of how the season will go: the Cardinals played terrible defense again, and were pretty bad over all- and until the Mets win the World Series or are eliminated from contention I’m not going to stop having nightmares about El Duque going down for the rest of the season. But the thing is that you just never know with El Duque. At one point last night Ron Darling said that it almost seemed as if El Duque would invent new pitches in the course of an inning- slightly altering his delivery, tinkering with the velocity, searching for the perfect pitch and keeping hitters perpetually in confusion. Of all the athletes in baseball, it is perhaps most fitting that we don’t even know when El Duque was born, because there is simply no way of quantifying or predicting what he brings to the game. Outside of the fear of injury, the only constant with El Duque is some sort of Faustian sympathy that he has with the game of baseball, perhaps most strongly evidenced by his occasional offensive contributions: the fact that he had never done it before was no reason to believe that he would not steal a base, the fact that he was a negligible hitter over the course of his career was no protection against last night’s two RBI double.
Anyway, it does seem silly to attribute much predictive merit to last night’s game, but, whatever happens over the course of the season it seems a reasonable assumption that El Duque is going to help keep in interesting.