Outfielder Joe Mather of the Chicago Cubs makes an appearance as a pitcher against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Brewers defeated the Cubs 15-4. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
NOTE FROM AL: Mike told me, during the disastrous ninth inning of Monday's defeat to the Brewers, that I could have the day off from writing a recap. Herewith his effort, with all apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., late of the Army Medical Department.
Sherlock Holmes and I reached the front door of our flat at #3 Baker Street later than usual that night, both of us sad and depressed. Holmes was unused to failure, in his leisure as well as in his professional life. As for myself, perhaps my gloom was aggravated by the dull throbbing of the Cheesehead bullet I still carried in one of my limbs as a souvenir of the northern road trip we had taken last summer, a tale for which the world is not yet prepared.
As we trudged up the seventeen steps which led to our lodgings, I reflected upon the circumstances that had led to this day. We had arrived in the States three years ago, on a longterm secret mission undertaken at the personal behest of Her Majesty the Queen, a summons neither Holmes nor I felt we could decline.
Seeking necessary shelter and anonymity, we had chanced upon this funky (both of us having made a special effort to adopt American slang) neighborhood in the middle west, and upon this flat, owned by one Ms. Ricketts, a genial landlady. On her assurances that, in this region, two adult bachelors sharing the same rooms would arouse no suspicion whatsoever, our last misgivings were overcome, and we took immediate possession.
It was Ms. Ricketts who drew our attention to the local professional team, and Holmes and I had both become smitten by their sad and futile history, so similar to the seemingly insoluble mysteries that had often crossed our humble threshhold back in London. I well remember the smile upon Holmes’s face as she described the team, an expression that I often saw when my friend possessed an understanding of a situation beyond my comprehension.
We opened the door to find that a marvelous cold epicurean supper had been laid out for us. "Ms. Ricketts exceeds herself," said Holmes, "perhaps this shall lift us from our gloom."
But even such a capital repast failed to improve our spirits. I settled onto the sofa, while Holmes took a helping of tobacco from the Persian slipper on the mantle, and proceeded to light the oldest and foulest of his pipes. He sat in the large armchair, fingertips pressed together, as he did when in judicial moods. Thus we passed several minutes in silence.
"So, Watson," Holmes said suddenly, "you do not propose to renew your season tickets for 2013?"
I gave a start of astonishment. Accustomed as I was to Holmes’s curious faculties, this sudden intrusion into my most intimate thoughts was utterly inexplicable.
Holmes wheeled about in his chair. "Now, Watson, confess yourself utterly taken aback," said he.
"I ought to make you sign a paper to that effect, for in five minutes you will say it is all so absurdly simple."
"I am sure I will say nothing of the kind."
Holmes began, in the manner of a professor lecturing his class, "Here are the links in a very simple chain."
"One, you attended tonight's game in a state of gloom. You had been encouraged by a competitive July, but this disastrous August has dispirited you. Even winning a series against Colorado last weekend did little to improve your outlook."
"Two, the game was well in reach for a long time, perhaps making the doom so much more wrenching. Indeed, the Cubs led three-to-one into the fifth inning, scoring thrice in the third, including three rare two-out base hits."
"Three, I saw the grimness of your mood as the Cubs lost the lead for good within three batters in the fifth, including a double by the despised Braun, then a home run by Ramirez, the erstwhile Cubs hero. Pitcher Germano has now lost twice to the Brewers this season. Milwaukee starter Estrada was as effective as he needed to be, and his bullpen did their jobs as well."
"Four, the game was still winnable into the eighth, after a Jackson home run in the sixth cut the deficit to one run. But Soriano ended that inning by grounding out with the bases loaded, three of the twelve runners the Cubs left stranded this evening. Again I saw your jaw set with stoic resignation. And I would direct your attention to the curious incident of the manager in the seventh inning."
"But the manager did nothing in the seventh inning," I said.
"That was the curious incident," replied Holmes. "Reliever Corpas was not allowed to warm up until the pinch-hit at-bat that inning was nearly complete, thus entering the game unprepared, and perhaps indirectly leading to the home run by Gomez in the eighth that increased the Milwaukee lead to two runs."
"Five, the horrific ninth inning, a concentration of all this season’s foibles in pathetic parade. The first eight batters reaching. Three home runs in succession, all off the tragically inadequate Hinshaw. In all, eight base hits, three walks, nine runs. And a final insult, outfielder Mather came to the mound to dispatch the final two batters, a strategem unused by the Cubs since, if memory serves, 1999; a period covering the full tenures of four managers. On this blighted night, four hits and five driven in for the suspected Braun, two home runs and four driven in for the formerly-beloved Aramis. I pitied your obvious distress."
"Six, I knew the die was cast after the second Ramirez home run, which came to rest a short distance from where we sat. Retrieved by a comely female Cubs fan, who promptly sold it to a youthful male in full Brewers regalia, bearing a beer in one hand, and a double-sawbuck in the other. I saw your hand steal toward the old wound in your shoulder, and an expression of contempt for human nature overspread your countenance such as I had not seen since our encounter with Charles Augustus Milverton, of infamous memory."
"Seven, it is your habit at this time of year to reserve rooming space in Arizona for the upcoming spring, your predictable first investment in next year’s team."
"Eight, your checkbook is in the locked desk drawer, and you have not asked me for the key. Conclusion: you do not intend to renew."
"How absurdly simple," I said, more in melancholia than humour.
"I understand your despair," he replied, "but think of the poor uneducated fan, who could not tell an All-Star from his WAR, or an effective reliever from his WHIP? What would you be able to tell him?"
Just then I heard the tinny, muffled strains of "Rule Britannia," the ringtone of Holmes’s cellular phone, one of several modern weapons of detection he had adopted since our arrival in America. With an air of anticipation, he withdrew it from the pocket of his waistcoat.
"Halloa! Halloa!" he eagerly shouted into the fragile, overmatched device. It was difficult, at such times, to separate Holmes the man of action from Holmes the fan. He was still apt to behave as though pursuing hell-hounds across the northcountry moors. I was later told that, on the floors below, Holmes’s cry had raised the sleepers from their beds.
But Holmes quickly adjusted his tone, and I heard the now-familiar, clipped, half-conversation:
"You gotta be bleepin’ me!"
"A thousand pardons, Watson," he said as he thrust the contraption back into his pocket, "I forget myself at such times. That was Capricorn, one of my new Baker Street Irregulars. He stations himself in local coffee-houses in order to eavesdrop upon front office personnel. His information has on many occasions been of value to me."
"And his news?" I asked.
"Is no news," Holmes replied. "No new callups or trades are foreseen."
"Is there no hope?" I raved. "With all your great powers, can you offer a glimmer of comfort?!"
"My dear fellow, will you never learn to apply my maxim?" said Holmes, irritably.
"‘That when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’?" I said.
Holmes did not reply to my query, but took the small key from his vest pocket and strode to the secret drawer within the desk. From there he withdrew the tooled morocco case, and its dreadful contents.
Many times I had witnessed this performance, which Holmes claimed saved him from mental stagnation, and the ravages of ennui. He was in the process of preparing yet another dose of his infamous "seven-percent solution" of cocaine. Already the syringe and needle were assembled. My greatest regret regarding our relocation had been that Holmes had encountered a reliable supplier amongst the "funkheads" almost at once.
As Holmes’s medical adviser, I had for years struggled with my conscience, balancing my concern for his health against the possible loss of the friendship I valued above all other things. But then the force of Holmes’s maxim came into my mind: the hundred-loss seasons to come, the years yet to wait, the all too real chance of utter failure and despair. I found a courage and resolve I had never thought I possessed. I rose defiantly from the sofa and confronted my friend.
"Holmes!" I cried, as the vial slowly filled, "save me some of that shit!"