With the imminent advent of a new football season, it’s time for RSBS to explore areas where a brown, oblong ball and a small, white ball overlap. The basics are pretty clear in that they both include a ball and two opposing teams but beyond that, there really isn’t that much they have in common. Maybe the silly tight pants? However, there is one area where they bear a striking resemblance.
Baseball today subscribes to the adage that you can’t win without a dominant closer. He can be a finesse guy, he can be an overpowering guy but he has to be able to shut down the other team for somewhere between 1 or more innings at the end of a game. This ranks them right up there in the same category as field goal kickers.
Now, before you start complaining, I fully recognize that both field goal kickers and closers are gifted with incredible physical talents. There’s no way I could kick a 50 yard field goal. In fact, there’s no way I could kick a 15 yard field goal. Similarly, I probably can’t throw a baseball more than 60 miles an hour, much less hit that tiny little strikezone.
But that doesn’t change the fact that both kickers and closers are specialty guys who come in for very specific tasks that have evolved with their respective games. And the rewards for these thankless jobs are relatively miniscule. Except on rare occasions, their best hope is just to remain invisible while attempting to succeed. Because when they fail, you can be sure their picture will be splashed across the front of the sports section (or the front page of various blogs).
Closers come from different backgrounds, sometimes converted starters who just can’t handle the innings anymore or guys with funky deliveries who can’t last outside of 25 pitches. And kickers tend to be guys who got kicked off the soccer team in high school or who were just too small to play any other position. Seriously, can you imagine Martin Grammatica playing wide receiver? He’d die, simple as that.
I suppose everything in life these days is heading towards more specialization and it’s rare that you find a renaissance man who can perform more than one task (unlike the ubermensch pictured here). But it’s kind of a shame that guys like Carlos Zambrano and Micah Owings are more the exception than the rule.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no purist and I have no desire for things to go back to the days of Babe Ruth or Bronko Nagurski. If you think players get injured a lot now, just imagine if they had to do double duty. But, I think we can shed a single tear for the end of an era before we except our new, super-specialized overlords.
Yes, the sky is falling. Pitcher Micah Owings pinch-hit a dramatic, game-tying homerun; Reverend Wright seems determined to ruin his own agenda and the agenda of Hope politicians en masse; Ronny Cedeno joined Ryan Dempster in predicting a World Series appearance for the sCrUBS; Hillary is still in the race; Roger Clemens can’t get away from his tainted past; Bill O’Reilly is still on the air; the Cardinals — winners of an NL best 10 World Series championships — have won more games in April (18) than they have in any season previous and the media still ignores them; I have watched An Inconvenient Truth five times this week; Albert Pujols has reached base in every game so far this season — every game; and my MLBlog partner Allen Krause — a future ambassador for US Americans to the world — wrote something that the most seasoned grammarian could not even begin to understand:
“The closest thing I could come up with is that the enemy of the enemy
of my friend is my friend. But, that’s a pretty tenuous connection.”
— The Enemy of the Enemy of My Friend? April 29, 2008
Tenuous? Maybe, if we could understand it. Enemy of the enemy of my friend? You were watching a Cubs/Nats game. There was only one enemy (Cubs) of your friend (Me). The enemy of the enemy of your friend would be the Cardinals? But they weren’t even playing. The enemy of the enemy of your friend is your friend? Is this the type of head-spinning verbal ping-pongy misspeak my taxes are paying to teach you? Just for that, they should give me a $600 refund every year.
So since you brought it up, Al (or at least it I think you did), let me talk about the Cubs for a second. Please know that my purpose is not to turn Red State Blue State into an all-out Cub-bashing forum. I am smart enough (see Fulbright Scholar for more info) to realize that the Cubs have put together a solid team this year. But for Sports Illustrated editors to plaster “It’s Gonna Happen” on the cover and a tag line that says: “Fukudome can end the 100-year wait”?
Excuse me while I go puke.
Fukudome can do it? Really? All by himself? He’s the key? Really? What about shoddy defense and crappy pitching? That’s what usually loses it for the Cubs. They’ve been fielding big bats for a long time. Lee, Ramirez, Soriano. How is Fukudome going to come in and save a bullpen infamous for choking late in the game? How is Fukudome going to stop some guy in the left field line seats from going for a foul-ball? How will he then stop the lynching by drunken crazies? Fukudome isn’t the answer and he never has been.
And oh yeah, we’re only at the end of April, and the Cubs aren’t the best team in baseball right now so let’s start talking about them winning a World Series already. Yeah, that’d be prudent. Put it on the front page of a sports authority magazine and PRINT IT!
Even more unbelievable is the fact that Chicago Tribune writer Rick Morrissey finally acknowledged that Cub fans might just be as obnoxious as everyone knows they are in this titillating article. My favorite part is where Morrissey says: “It’s not always the family atmosphere the organization says it seeks.”
Really? You mean cornering a guy wearing the opposing team’s jersey in the bathroom and bashing his head on a urinal isn’t what the organization seeks? You mean Cub fans jumping the wall to attack their own pitchers isn’t desirable? What about throwing beer bottles at right fielders? Is that conducive to a family environment? Thank the gods someone in Chicago (other than me — who can admittedly be a bit overbearing at times) recognizes the ridiculous frat party that Wrigleyville becomes during games. I mean, these are the same family-focussed folks who brought us the “Cuck the Fardinals” t-shirts that show a Cubby bear performing sodomy on a redbird as well as the more recent Fukudome shirts that present a slant eyed Cubby bear donning Haray Caray glasses shouting “Horry Kow“. Wow. What a nice way to welcome the man who you say is going to “end the 100-year wait”.
Yes. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like racism.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right. Especially on this one.