Will Mookie Betts be the first unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer? All signs and logic say he won’t be -- why him and not, like, Derek Jeter? Big Papi? -- but we can dream without getting too far ahead of ourselves. The Hall of Fame itself is obviously already a lock for Betts, along with a likely reality show and political career that just might bring untold prosperity to America -- nay, the world -- but attempting to divine the vote total now might be too much.
Still -- still -- let’s pretend it isn’t. When Betts gives his Cooperstown speech, the first play people will mention will likely be last week’s steal of third base following a successful steal of second, when Betts noticed that, because of the shift, he merely had to race the entire Washington Nationals' infield to the bag. It was a play that left Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy thinking that Betts was out not only at third base, but at second as well, but Mookie Magic meant that even after a replay, Betts was safe.
Betts will have a long career, the Red Sox will have a long season, but this play will live in the memory for a long time, even more than Betts’ home-run saving catch from earlier in the same game. This was a play made for being replayed over and over, but one you might not want to try again. The degree of difficulty was off the charts to the point that he might not have actually made it safely, but the home opener was about the absolute value of Mookie, so he was called safe and nobody cared.
It was a move that led Bryce Harper to call Betts a promising "‘kid" despite being 10 days younger than Mookie, though honestly, Harper’s forgiven for the mistake. He acts like a veteran, looks like a veteran, and plays like a veteran. So does Betts. In the past three seasons, we’ve been excited over supposed super rookies Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, and Betts; Betts has basically fulfilled all of their expectations by himself. He’s that good.
Because yeah, it wasn’t just that steal of third, even if that’s what we’ll remember. There was this catch, too, the one mentioned above:
Your reminder that, at this time last year, Mookie Betts had never played the outfield before.
How many years will we get this? However many it is, it’s not likely to be enough. There’s never going to be enough Mookie Betts, and that’s the point: we need gifs and words to fill the void the off-days and off-hours leave in our lives. Family? Love? Doggies? These things are nice, but they don’t fill the Mookie Void. Only Betts can do that.
And so he will, in Cooperstown, many years from now (unless the BBWAA just recognizes the inevitability of Mookie and makes him the first-ever active player enshrined), where we will tug our exhausted families, with our five children named Mookie, to see him speak. "That’s who you’re named after!," we’ll say, and the kids will know, because you’ve told them every day. "He stole third one time, and nothing was ever the same," you’ll continue, and they won’t care, and then you’ll show them the play, and, for a moment, their eyes will light up.
That’s allowed? They’ll think. People can do that? They’ll ask. In both cases you’ll say yes and for a moment, the whole family will be transfixed by Mookie Magic before going back to screaming that daddy loves the Red Sox too much, and why are we in Cooperstown for Betts’ Hall of Fame induction if it’s only May? What about school, and, like, mom?
You’ll know they can wait. Like Betts, you just take what’s in front of you when you can take it. The only difference, and it’s a big one, is that you are not Mookie Betts, and he is. You can’t outrun everything you need to outrun. The cops are probably on your trail, to be honest, and they’ll probably catch you. Maybe you took this Mookie Betts business too seriously, but after that stolen base on Monday, who could blame you?