by Hart Seely
The Sportsline odds looked awesome for the Mudville ten that night.
The Twitterverse was raging, Google trends were out of sight.
The Fox announcers struggled to express their full regard
For the team FiveThirtyEight had picked to win the Wild Card.
And in the first, Ed Barrow poked a single just past third.
When Cruz followed with a double, not one doubter could be heard.
For up strode mighty Casey, the team’s icon of success,
With a Fangraphs’ WAR of 10.6, and league-best OPS!
“Time out!” the shortstop waved a hand, his smirk quite unconcealed,
As his teammates relocated to the far end of the field.
Now a thicket of defenders on the right side slowly spread,
“Lay down a bunt!” a young boy cried, but Casey shook his head.
“They won’t fool me,” he muttered, as he sauntered to the plate.
“They want to rob my power stroke, but I won’t take the bait.
“I’m paid to hit home runs, ‘cause bunts won’t make the yokels happy.
“My name is Casey,” Casey said. “Nobody calls me Slappy.”
So hard into the floating orb, he swung with all his weight,
And if he’d undercut that ball, it would have left the state.
A laser shot into the gap; it looked like certain trouble.
The only question: Would he merely settle for a double?
But as the Fates are known to do; they conjured up the worst;
The shortstop caught it on one bounce and threw him out at first.
He kicked the ground, he spat some spit, and huffed some angry air.
“It ain’t my fault,” said Casey. “Fielders don’t belong out there.”
And then, two innings later, it was Casey up again,
His team down by a couple runs, sacks full of Mudville men.
Again the defense shifted place; to bunt became a dare,
Again, he swung with all his might, and this time hit just air.
In the sixth, he reappeared . . . a hero, still divine.
Two outs, two on, a two-two tie, the Wild Card on the line.
The fielders moved, and Casey grinned, completely self-aware,
A routine pop to left would drop, with no one standing there.
“Just bunt!” the young boy pleaded. “There’s no need to crush the ball.
“A grounder to the shortstop hole will roll straight to the wall.
“Just check your swing. It’s easy. You won’t suffer mock disgrace.
“You needn’t send each ball deep into interstellar space!”
But Casey grinned with menace, as he leaned into the pitch,
And swung clean through the cowhide, no suggestion of a hitch.
A fearsome drive roared out to right, the ball was soundly hit,
It might have killed the man, had he not caught with his mitt.
And so the game continued, as the final inning loomed,
Down by one, with one last out, the outlook now looked doomed.
But Barrow beat a drag bunt on a replay-challenged call,
And Cruz, splitting a splitter, laced a double off the wall.
Now up stepped mighty Casey, with a chance to clear his name,
With a million thumbs a-tweeting, “OMG! This is the game!”
“Choke up!” they Twittered. “Lay 1 dwn! U’ll never feel regret.
“A walk-off bunt by Casey? That will break the Internet!”
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
And now the Jumbotron explodes with fireworks, on cue,
And half the world erupts with joy; the other half yells, “Boo.”
Oh, somewhere in this favored land, our sluggers show restraint,
And like Wee Willie Keeler, batters “hit them where they ain’t.”
Yes, somewhere, children laugh, and not one soul is cast adrift.
But there is no joy in Mudville: Casey couldn’t beat the shift.
Hart Seely operates the indispensable Yankee blog, It is High, It is Far, It is . . . caught.
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