Complexity and Adrian Gonzalez

PHOENIX -- Had a fantastic conversation with Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy on Tuesday -- then again, as Jack Nicholson once said of grave danger, “is there another kind?” Brandon is obviously one of the more fascinating thinkers in the game. I’ll have much more of our talk on Friday in my NBC Big Read on the Los Angeles Dodgers, but one little side road of the conversation was about the hopelessness of trying to quantify the billions of infinitesimal variables that make up baseball.For instance, Brandon was saying -- you have two baseball players of equal physical talent. He admits that this, in itself, is an impossibility -- if all snowflakes are different, obviously, all ballplayers are. But we’re talking about surface similarities, you have two players who scouts think are 65 hitters, have 60 power, are 55 runners and have 65 arms (remember the scouting scale tends to go from 20 to 80, with with 50 being about average, 60 above average, 65 well above average, 70 being perennial All-Star and 80 being Willie Mays).Those two players both have the same talent, at least as far as the eye can see.So, Brandon wonders -- as countless people have wondered -- why is it that one player turns out to be a superstar while the other drowns in Class AA? Why is it one becomes a reasonably steady journeyman in the big leagues, another becomes a four-time All-Star who opens a restaurant named after him in town, and another gets DFA’d after getting so many chances that the local bloggers have named mock awards after him? Is it something that we SHOULD be able to measure but can’t? Eyesight? Baseball acumen? Intelligence? Or does it come down to the countless little human things that we would never be able to measure? One had a caring coach when he was 14. One played on a winning little league team at 12. One had a selfless mother who made sure he never missed a practice. One had a knack for telling jokes and so was popular in school. One got bullied. One was a bully. One liked football better. One had home-cooked meals nightly. One went to a private school. One got dumped by his girlfriend one day before the championship game where 50 scouts watched him. One sings in the shower. One grew up where it rains a lot. One likes to read. One sleeps like a rock. One is accident prone. One listens to music constantly. One grew up without a father. One is the son of a pro ballplayer. One never watches baseball. One can do dead-on impressions. One gets horrible stage fright. One lost their 8-year-old championship game with an error. One collected baseball cards. One is a Democrat. One likes spicy food.You could go on like this until forever and you would never reach the end, never cover all the variables. Maybe each of these variables is entirely beside the point. Maybe some are not. We could never know for sure. Do we even understand the forces in our own lives? It is possible -- probable even -- that every player constantly has a secret reason why they are performing great or why they are not performing, something deeply personal, something they might not share with anyone. And it is possible they are wrong about themselves too.From Citizen Kane, this might be my favorite ever piece of dialogue in a movie -- this from Mr. Bernstein, an old man who was reminiscing about what people remember:

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