It was only two days after Eloy Jiménez sustained what could be a season-ending injury when White Sox rookie Andrew Vaughn entered a video chat with reporters and spoke the quote of the year.
One of the contingency plans for replacing Jiménez was moving Vaughn, a first baseman by experience, to left field. Vaughn said he hadn't played the outfield in eight years, when he was the left fielder on Team USA's world champion 15U squad. Vaughn said he would be eager to make the transition. Of course he was. Anything to help the team. Rookies only need to ask "How high?" when the team says to jump.
But there's an age-old baseball axiom about not taking a batting slump to your position on defense. Well, it works the other way, too, in theory. What if playing left field were tough enough for Vaughn that it affected in a bad way his offense, which is why the White Sox made him a bonus baby (or whatever is allowed these days in the draft slots) in the first place?
When reporter Cheryl Raye-Stout asked him about this possibility in the Zoom Room, Vaughn was ready with perhaps the greatest answer in the history of hitting or the world:
"Church and state," he said. "You've got to keep the outfield in the outfield and your batting in the batter's box. And if you keep those separate, I think it'll be very beneficial."
"Church and state!"
Noted baseball fan Thomas Jefferson could not have risen from the grave and put it better.
Ron Shelton didn't put that in "Bull Durham," did he? Well, why didn't he? There's "There's no crying in baseball," and then there's "Church and state." It's that good. It should be a cliché by now, it's so good. Long ago, when "Take it one game at a time" was new, they wondered how long it would take for the phrase to wear out its welcome (to coin another phrase).
Someday, we could wonder the same about "Church and state." Not yet. For now, it lives forever in the pantheon of great baseball utterances. "Church and state." Hot side hot, cold side hold and never shall the two meet. Like the old McDLT. Only, this one will last.
Speaking of being tutored by Crash Davis, Vaughn was obviously prepared to be a major leaguer during the last week of March, when Jiménez went down, because he could pull "church and state" from his cerebral cortex. Vaughn saying this alone should have been enough for White Sox manager Tony La Russa, reputed intellectual, to realize: "OK, this guy's got left field."
As Sox fans know, Vaughn has played left field on some days. Other days, seemingly too many other days, someone else has played left field, and it hasn't really worked out that well for the Sox. Leury Garcia, Billy Hamilton, Nick Williams. Nephew after Millennial nephew of the White Sox manager.
Vaughn hasn't hit much yet, either. But he's going to. They can't all be Yermín Mercedes. But his slow start could have something to do with not just letting him run out to left every day, or at least when there's a game, and catch the ball if it's hit in the air, and return the ball to the infield if it's hit on the ground. Stay away from Luis Robert in center, if he'll let you. Vaughn has shown competence in left field so far, and he's even made a couple of really nice plays, including this one Thursday afternoon:
Holy smokes! Holy cow! Holy schnikes!
Do you see what the separation of church and state does? Do you see? It's one of the pillars that made this country great (or at least made it all it could be). Now, if only La Russa would make like the U.S. Constitution and specify that "no more defensive tests for Andrew Vaughn shall ever be required as a qualification to playing left field for the White Sox." If the skipper did, we could all sleep a little better. At least until the ball is hit to Adam Eaton.
Andrew Vaughn: White Sox left fielder. Do it, Tony. For your love of country and the Chicago White Sox, just do it.