A Farewell to (Impossibly Strong) Arms: Notes on the Evan Gattis Trade

El Oso Blanco

Right now, it is 11:49 PM, Central Standard Time, on January 14, 2015. I am trying to write the words “Evan Gattis is a Houston Astro,” which means I am also hoping desperately for a sudden moment of realization that this version of myself – the one that is trying to write the words “Evan Gattis is a Houston Astro” – has somehow traveled through The Great Wormhole in the Sky into a terrible and false reality. The true reality, which will present itself to me any second now, is one in which the employment of Evan Gattis as an Atlanta Brave is wholly and entirely unchanged.

The trade that sent Gattis to Houston was a good one for Atlanta. The Braves exchanged a player with only one discernible skill (i.e., to hit the literal shit out of a baseball) for three decent-to-good prospects. That the deal makes sense for Atlanta is of very little importance to me. Vastly more important is this: when I woke up this morning, the Atlanta Braves employed a folk hero; when I wake up tomorrow, they will not.

Here is a list of things Evan Gattis might do in 2015, ranked in order of certainty.

  1. Hit a home run
  2. Hit a walk-off home run
  3. Hit a grand slam
  4. Hit a ball in New York that lands in California
  5. Hit a ball in California that lands in New York, and puts a hole on either side of a mountain during the trip

The point of Evan Gattis isn’t that he’s a great baseball player – he’s merely an okay one. The point is that he’s a former hotshot-turned-janitor who stumbled down a path of insobriety and ski lift operation, and ended up hitting Major League home runs with his bare hands and costuming in bear pelts for magazine photo shoots. The love bestowed upon Gattis by his fans isn’t merited by the statistical consequences of his performance, but by the wonderfully strange beauty of the performance itself and the person responsible for it. It doesn’t matter that each home run adds another to his career total, so much as it matters that each home run adds another detail to his tall tale-like narrative.

The result of Evan Gattis is the rare opportunity for this author to distance himself from the usual analytical pros and cons, and embrace the fantastically irrational warmth of unadulterated fanhood. And it’s wonderful. What happens is you jump and cheer and slobber and celebrate each homer hit by the most unlikely hero, bald and without batting gloves. When he goes on the disabled list, you temporarily lose a little hope. When he gets traded, you lose a little more hope, and a little less temporarily.

Farewell to Evan Gattis. Farewell to his trademark thickness. Farewell to J.E. Gattis, the eternal cavalier.

May he hit a thousand home runs from Houston to the moon.

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