Wherever the Chicago White Sox fan-in-chief goes, you can be sure that some part of the American polity will find a reason to complain. And so it has been over the past couple weeks as President Obama visited England for the G-20 summit and then headed to Trinidad and Tobago for a sit-down with his Latin American counterparts.
The funny part about these dust-ups with certain personalities, though, is that they have little or nothing to do with the President’s actual policies and everything to do with his actions. Actions, I might add, that were very open to interpretation.
First, we had the apparent broach of royal protocol when Michelle Obama put her arm around the queen. But is it really a faux pas when the queen is the first to break with tradition and put her arm around our First Lady? I’m going to have to go with a big fat no on that one.
And then some people called foul on what looked like a bow as the President approached King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Was it a bow? Possibly. Probably. Does it matter? No. In fact, I don’t really think it’s such a bad thing if we show a little respect to our “special” partner of the past 50 years. There’s a reason we pay less than three dollars for a gallon of gas and the rest of the world pays over five.
And speaking of gas, the event that really has the punditocracy up in arms and ready to revolt was a handshake between Obama and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Yep. A handshake. Imagine that. He actually attempts some sort of rapprochement with one of our top oil producing partners, a country with whom relations have been very strained lately, and the response is derision and cries of treason from the chattering class.
Seriously, I think the only thing worse than being President would be managing a baseball team. Can you imagine being Joe Girardi as your team gives up 14 runs in one inning? Or Manny Acta every day of the season? How about Grady Little after you left Pedro in the game in the 8th? Nope, none of that sounds like fun to me.
In fact, he only way it would even kind of be worth it to have such a high profile position is if you could just go a little crazy with it. Like Mark Cuban. Or Isiah Thomas. Or how about the President of Iran? You have to be someone special to make Mel Gibson seem sane by comparison. But even he has his problems. Don’t tell anyone, though. It’s a secret!
“huge gamble.” Of course, you could argue that an even bigger gamble
took place when Pete Rose threw down money on games or when Tim Donaghy
decided to just throw a few games in the NBA. What do you think is the
biggest gamble (legal or otherwise) that has taken place in baseball
recently and how does it compare to McCain’s?
Gambling, throwing all you’ve got behind one decision, taking a risk… these are paramount aspects of the game of baseball. Without them, the game would be boring. When players and managers break from the norm and go out on a limb, we get excited: distancing oneself from the same old thing causes excitement.
And there has been no shortage of temerity nor bold decision making in our most beloved game over the last several years. Of course, as a Monday morning quarterback, it’s easy to call these moves audacious, ill planned, unrefined after the fact. Sometimes, as in the case of the GOP’s pick of one Sarah Palin, the decision need not be analyzed over and over again to find sound reasoning: there just isn’t any.
Like Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS after giving up three straight hits with only five outs to go and a three-run lead. That was dumb no matter how you look at it. And if it weren’t for 2004 and 2007, Sox fans would still be teeming with angst.
Like scores of players (McGwire, Bonds, Giambi, just to name a few) cheating their fans and cheating themselves by altering their physiology in order to make an extra multimillion or three, break records, tarnish the game. While I understand the desire to perform at the highest level possible, I tend to admire the natural approach over the Frankenstein method. With information regarding the rigorous side effects of performance enhancing drugs being as known as ABC’s — these guys took a big, dumb gamble and now — for the most part — we despise them for it.
But in my opinion, the biggest recent risk sure to backfire on the gambling party was the cave-in decision made by the Red Sox to ship Manny Ramirez out of Boston for Jason Bay. The baseball pundits have spoken, and I have to agree: Jason Bay — no matter how good he is — is no Manny Ramirez. The Red Sox may squeak into the playoff picture, but they are not near as good now as they were with Manny in the lineup and I expect they won’t make it too far without him. The whining and crying of Ramirez was nothing new to Boston’s brass and erasing him from the team not only left a hole in the four spot, it also diminished the impact of one David Ortiz.
And losing Ortiz at-bats to walks sure does make a difference in the wrong direction.
Of course, there are always those gambles that seem ludicrous yet turn out to be smart in the end as well.
Like Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa batting the pitcher in the eight hole to create more opportunities for Albert Pujols. Though seemingly odd because it was such a staunch break from the norm, essentially what TLR has done is make sure AP gets up in the first inning, then contributes as a clean-up hitter for the remainder of the game. It’s hard to argue against that logic and I’m surprised more managers haven’t followed suit.
TLR isn’t the only NL Central manager who has gained notoriety for his arduous risk-taking skills. “Sweet” Lou Piniella, when faced with an ailing Kerry Wood, had nothing but faith in a young rookie call-up from Notre Dame. He threw Jeff Samardzija in the limelight and hasn’t looked back since. With Samardzija pitching as well as he has in recent months, the Cubs bullpen, for the first time that I can ever remember, has suddenly become an asset rather than a liability.
But no gamble in recent memory has turned out as splendidly as that taken by White Sox GM Kenny Williams in trading Chris Carter to the Diamondbacks for Carlos Quentin. Sure, one could argue that giving up a relatively unknown minor league first baseman for the once considered underachieving Quentin was hardly a risk. But put in perspective: trading Garland for Cabrera and Linebrink, cutting Podsenik, resigning Uribe, demoting Josh Fields, putting faith back in Joe Crede while giving a young Alexei Ramirez a shot at second base… Kenny Williams has been a very busy man and the moves he’s made — while controversial — have all turned out for the better. The White Sox have rediscovered their grinder swagger and as I predicted at the beginning of the season, have made a case for winning the AL Central and beyond.
I don’t know what political affiliations Kenny Williams has, if any, but I do know that the GOP’s decision making skills pale in comparrison to the Sox GM. The invasion of Iraq, the atrociously late and unorganized response to Hurricane Katrina victims, the gross misspending of our inflated tax dollars… and now putting Palin — a woman so unqualified to lead a nation that I can’t help but tell myself this is all just a big joke (punchline to come?) — in line for the highest office in the land; all I can say is:
That was dumb.
And let me tell ya, you can go on and hate me for my wordy rhetoric, my inspiring the people, my loose analysis of managerial decisions, but you shouldn’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.