The Mendoza Line


You like baseball?

I didn’t think so.

This is the age of short attention span.  People don’t think they have enough time for something that lasts more than a few minutes,* and they certainly won’t devote a couple of hours to anything that is not fast-paced.

I’ve heard the arguments.  Boring.  Not enough action.  Too slow.  Who has that kind of time?

That’s a shame, really.  Because baseball is anything but boring if you know what you are watching.  It is an intellectual game.  Baseball is chess.  All other sports are checkers.

More importantly, baseball is a metaphor for life, and if you stop by here often (and read between the lines), you may have noticed that I love metaphors.

The game is hard on the ego.  No place to hide.  All eyes are on you.  You can’t “take a play off” or you may be publicly exposed.

Those who love the game have a measure for success.  We call it the Mendoza Line.

Mario Mendoza was a professional baseball player from Mexico with a career batting average that consistently hovered around .200.  That’s two hits for every ten at-bats.  It is recognized as the minimum batting average for a starting player, no matter how good his glove.  Any player with a batting average below .225 is said to be “approaching the Mendoza Line.”

Consider that for a second.  Twenty percent success.  Eighty percent failure.

But also recognize that three hits per ten at-bats over a career places you in serious contention for the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Four per ten and you will be immortalized by a statue outside the stadium.

Baseball is a game of failure.  Which brings me to the “what if?”

What if Mendoza could have just managed to hit something to take that two-out-of-ten to three-out-of-ten?  A slow-roller down the third base line.  A dying quail.  Ground ball right up the middle.  Just one more hit here or there and his name would not be the benchmark for failure in a game of failures.

Sometimes I think about old Mario when I believe I’m knocking everything in life out of the park.  Other times, perhaps more often, I get out of bed hoping for that bloop single that will allow me to play another day.

Either way I just keep swinging.

I think Mario would like that.


*Metrics show that you will not likely read this if it is over 500 words.  This one came in at 409.

6 thoughts on “The Mendoza Line

  1. I have so many baseball stories to tell you wouldn’t believe it. My first husband (short marriage – we were way too young) was a high school baseball coach. I like to watch baseball, especially high school baseball. Anything can happen – the plays aren’t as automatic as they are in pro ball. You have to understand what you’re watching and, you’re right, it’s like chess.

    But, OK, here’s one. We had two kids, a son who is a very good athlete, played football, basketball and baseball. Our oldest is a girl. When she was little, she would go with her dad when he was working on the field in the summer and to keep her busy he let her use the pitching machine in the batting cage. She spent a lot of time in that cage over several summers and she got REAL good at hitting balls off a pitching machine. Cut to many years later. She and her boyfriend are at a country bar and across the street is a batting cage with a pitching machine – you pay money to try and hit balls. One of her party says it’s impossible to hit off those machines. My daughter says it’s not so hard. The guys all laugh and one guy says I’ll bet you a hundred bucks you can’t hit anything off that thing. My daughter says she’s not betting a hundred bucks (she didn’t want to take his money. He had NO idea …) Beers had been consumed – he keeps pushing. She finally agrees to a twenty-dollar bet.

    If you have already guessed that she stood in that cage and hit every single ball that was flung at her – you would be correct. 🙂

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