Add to the list of extraordinary sports accomplishments this recent performance by one Cesar Cabral, a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees. Last Friday, Mr. Cabral entered a game trailing by two runs, but lasted for only 23 pitches. Nine were strikes. The rest were hits (3), balls (8) and three batters hit by pitches.
Not many pitchers can hit three batters in one inning, and after the third plonking, the umpire ejected Mr. Cabral, not because he thought the throw was intentional, but on the grounds that he had better get Cabral out of there before he killed somebody. The Yankees released him the next day.
As unusual as Cabral’s outing may have been, it presents an interesting question. You would think that anyone sitting in a New York Yankee bullpen had overcome some stiffish competition before being handed a pinstriped uniform. Where in hell did this guy come from? Maybe he just had a bad Friday, or, perhaps more likely, a long Thursday night — but three hit batters? Just to put it in perspective, the last time anyone on record did that was in 1914, and that was one Earl Moore, playing for Buffalo in the Federal League (which sounds suspiciously like a prison division).
We suspect that the answer is simple: no matter how elite and discriminating an organization may be, the Cabrals creep in. They are sometimes statistical flukes — however grueling the competition may be for a position, a Cabral gets lucky, and postpones his reversion to a mean for just long enough to survive far longer than he should.
Nor is this confined to baseball, or even sports. The best universities, the best companies, the best anythings, all have their stunning failures. Fraternities used to call them “closet cases,” and did their best to keep them shuttered away where they could do no harm. Yet in they crept, and they do still.
Even in the highest circles of leadership, we find them. Who is the Cabral in the White House? Actually, we have a pretty good idea, and the pity is, no matter how many beanballs he deals, there seems to be no ump empowered to step in and say “Enough. Get this guy out of here before someone gets hurt.”
Can’t wait for his next pitch.