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Media Meltdowns

Someone, Please, Explain To Me What This Sentence Is Trying To Say

Some Baltimore Orioles crash into each other
Pictured: Implication, Introspection, and An Environment In Which collide while attempting to field A Stretch Like This.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Baltimore Orioles lost on Sunday, 3-1, to the Atlanta Braves. It was the Orioles’ 18th consecutive loss. No big-league baseball team has lost more than 18 consecutive games since 2005. The longest losing streak in MLB history is 26 games, by the 1889 Louisville Colonels. That record seems within reach of this Baltimore team, which is by every measure and a wide margin the worst in the majors.

Establishing these facts up front seems important, like paying careful attention to the first few chapters of an Agatha Christie murder mystery novel, before the murder happens. Here is the murder, of the English language:

In an environment in which the implication of how dire the organizational infrastructure was when executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias took over what he called a “historically challenging situation” is that it didn’t produce good enough players, there’s plenty of introspection in a stretch like this on whether the players who have been handed the chance to make themselves part of a winning future have done so.

That’s the Baltimore Sun‘s Jon Meoli, this morning, performing an act of terminal sportswriterese that has left me staggering around my home as though concussed. What … is this sentence? What is it trying to say? The Defector staff spent a chunk of the morning trying to sort this thing out in our internal chat room, and got basically nowhere. Barry and I, individually, attempted to diagram it, but neither of us can even identify its subject, much less which verb that subject is doing or to what. Please help!

So we’ve got an implication. The implication is in an environment. The implication is “of how dire the organizational infrastructure was when executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias took over what he called a ‘historically challenging situation.'” Who is doing the implying? Implying requires a subject. The subject implies, and then there is an implication. Is Mike Elias doing the implying? Is the environment doing it? Let’s guess yes. In that case how did he imply it? Unclear.

The implication of all that direness is that “it didn’t produce good enough players.” What is “it,” here? Is it the organizational infrastructure? The historically challenging situation? The implication? The “environment” in which the implication, uh, is? Also unclear! Whatever it is, it didn’t produce good enough players. In the environment in which the implication is that.

Also in the environment, “there is plenty of introspection.” Who is introspecting? Introspecting, like implying, is an action; a noun does it. Or … maybe not? Is the introspection ambient, like weather, in this case? It’s there, in the environment, all on its own, and abundant; “there’s plenty” of it. You walk amid the Baltimore Orioles, and introspection settles upon you like a fog. You can’t escape it! Perhaps you are the subject, you being Jon Meoli; you cannot help but do introspection, in the environment in which the implication is an unacceptably low rate of good player production.

Ah, but there’s more information about the, the introspection. Perhaps it contains clues! The introspection is “on” something. It is on “whether the players who have been handed the chance to make themselves part of a winning future have done so.” Who can introspect on this? I certainly cannot: My own thoughts and feelings have had no bearing either on the handing (to the players) of a chance (to make themselves part of a winning future), or on whether they have done so (made themselves part of a winning future). If I am thinking on those things, in which I have played no role, then by definition it is not “introspection.” So that rules me out, at least, as a suspect.

So maybe Mike Elias is doing the introspecting, since he is the hander? Maybe the players are introspecting, on whether they have done so. Who can say? All anyone can know is that the introspection is there. In the environment in which the implication is that, and in the stretch like this.

A really terrible idea is forming in my mind now. The really terrible idea is this: Maybe the subject of this sentence, the noun, the thing doing the verb, is “plenty of introspection […] on whether the players who have been handed the chance to make themselves part of a winning future have done so.” Introspection is the subject of the sentence. In which case the verb is “is,” and “there” is the modifier. So, ultimately, the idea of this sentence is:

Introspection is there.

So the meaning of this sentence is directional: It is telling you where to find introspection. Were you looking for introspection? It’s over there. There it is!

Ah, but where is there? Why, it is “a stretch like this,” which you will find “in an environment.” What environment? The one with the implication in it. Which implication? Why, the implication of how dire the organizational infrastructure was when executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias took over what he called a ‘historically challenging situation,’ which is that it didn’t produce good enough players, of course. If you go there, you will find introspection. Possibly on some players? Or perhaps on a guy named Mike. What am I, Google Maps?

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