The symbols of relevance, the things that transform a simple it into that proverbial “it” are generally born all in the timing, and since the Birds on the Bat are stuck in a Philadelphia this week, so too am I.
And I don’t like it.
No, this has nothing to do with Philadelphia being a backwards place (it is). It doesn’t have anything to do with the type of fans who cheer when the other teams’ star gets hurt (they do). And of course, this does not have anything to do with that ^sswipe Jim Bunning (he really is an ^sswipe, folks).
Indeed, my suddenly emphatic aggravation with Philadelphia is rooted in one fella and one fella only. His name is Ruben. Ruben Effing Amaro (that middle name is still surreptitiously unofficial).
Why? Why such distaste for one man?
Because he gave a mighty slugger who is notoriously awful against left-handed pitching the contract extension of all contract extensions — a mesmerizing $25 million a year… for 2012 to 2016 — causing massive migraine headaches for we Cardinals fans already obsessively worrying about Albert Pujols’ future with the team.
Yeah. Ryan Howard is good. But $25 million a year? He ain’t that good.
And anyone who has ever seen the game of baseball can tell you that Albert Pujols is LIGHT YEARS better than Ryan Howard, in all aspects of the game. All… of… them.
So if Howard is worth $25 million a year, then Albert is worth $30-$32 million a year, which means that if I want A.P. to remain a Cardinal for life, I and the rest of Cardinals Nation better be ready to pay $100 for a bleacher ticket, or imagine a world where Albert isn’t our savior.
(That would kill me by the way)
So thanks a lot, Ruben. Just a week ago, deep down inside, I would have admitted to having a strange yet pleasurable affinity for the Phillies. Dick Allen. Mike Schmidt. Steve Carlton. Pete Rose. Lenny Dykstra. Darren Daulton. Just the thought of those guys grindin’ it out with the “P” on their caps kinda got me excited… and I have no idea why.
They’re dead to me.
And so are you.*
Hate me ‘cuz I give it to ya straight, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
*You’re not really dead. This is what fancy writers like Al and I call “figure of speech”. It can be AWEsome. Like it is here.
This has been a week of upheaval in both the physical and existential sense of the word. We continue to be bombarded by images of Haiti and even today a new quake brought new fear. And in the US, both minor and major tremors shook us as McGwire admitted what we had always suspected and the Democrats lost what was supposed to be a sure thing.
In times of upheaval people search for solidity, for something they can cling to as their world is dashed to pieces. For Haitians this is an ongoing search as even their government and their public services have fallen apart. And for baseball fans, even though we knew what McGwire was up to, we go back to the basics and try to rediscover again why we love this game.
For the Democrats, they are in much the same spot as the Haitians. I remember standing on the lawn between the capitol and the Washington Monument a year ago as President Obama gave his historic inauguration speech. But a year later his star power has faded to the point that a virtual unknown was able to take the seat held by Ted Kennedy, the Liberal Lion, for nearly the past five decades.
The real question before all of us is what happens next? Is it possible for Haitians to go back to living a normal existence when even the ground betrays them? Can we trust any of our baseball heroes anymore or do we have to assume that they are all lying? And does the promise of a universal health care system fade away for another 20 years until we once again realize how broken and rigged the current system is?
Upheaval forces us to answer difficult questions. And whether major or minor, these answers take time. Me, I’m a realist and always have been. I expect people to take the easy route. In another two weeks, Haiti will disappear from the news and we won’t hear about it again until the next time a disaster strikes. Despite the nearly universally accepted realization that health care is broken, our leaders will shy away from making us taste the bitter medicine and unfortunate people (who, luckily for the politicians, don’t tend to vote) will continue to fall through the cracks. And Mark McGwire, a self-confessed liar and cheater, will continue to make an exorbitant salary as a hitting coach while Pete Rose is banned from baseball. That, my friends, is reality.
If you are one to eschew the daily fear mongering and perpetual bad news infecting our world today, then I highly recommend you avoid reading the Chicago Tribune first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, for me, the Tribune has become that thing I love to hate. My self-inflicted aggravation is just one of the many results.
But today, I came across a titillating article by Stacy St. Clair which boasted and celebrated the harmony, the togetherness, the complete reciprocal adoration between Barack and Michelle Obama — our nation’s first couple. Reading it made me feel good.
As the day went on, news broke of Alex Rodriguez — our collective fallen hero — and his stunning confession of guilt regarding his usage of banned performance enhancing drugs in 2003. The image of Rodriguez discussing the issue with Peter Gammons flickered on my computer screen. I was overwhelmed with sadness.
My thoughts immediately went back to the Obama article and I couldn’t help but ask myself: Is anything what it seems anymore?
Alex Rodriguez put on a great front. Despite Jose Canseco’s self-righteous smear campaign and associated agenda, I never once questioned Rodriguez’s proclaimed innocence. At no time did I suspect Rodriguez to be tainted in even the slightest of ways, for A-Rod was our hero. He was the one targeted with pulling us out of the steroid era forever. He was the one endowed with replacing Bonds as the all-time homerun king. He was the one who seemed like the most talented, most gifted, most touted ballplayer I have ever witnessed play the game.
What you see is not always what you get.
John Edwards seemed like a family man.
Pete Rose seemed like the consummate all-American baseballer.
Eliot Spitzer seemed like a hard-nosed crime-stopper.
The Wizard of Oz seemed like an all-powerful wizard.
And it turns out they were all just… like… us:
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
You know, I could sit here and cry about how my favorite player from my childhood is on the Hall of Fame ballot but won’t make it in just like my friend Mr. Lung. And the thing is, I really could. I mean, not only did Alan Trammell play for one of the best Tigers’ teams ever back in ’84, he also has the same first name as me(!), even if he does spell it incorrectly. But, it’s just not in me.
It really all comes down to what Mark at MLBlogs had to say, “These plaques go next to those of
Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Walter Johnson, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial.” As much as I loved watching Trammell at shortstop, turning those sweet double plays with Lou Whitaker and as great as his ’83 and ’84 seasons were, I can’t really say that he belongs next to those names.
Now, I’ll admit that it’s a little more difficult to say the same thing about McGwire. Even if he is a juiced up steroid junkie who probably can’t touch his hands together over his head, he was exciting to watch. More than that, McGwire rewrote the record books until Barry Bonds came along and really started flexing his PED-built muscles. And like Mr. Lung says, there are definitely some incorrigible characters in the Hall.
However, the one thing you don’t see in the Hall are cheaters. Shoeless Joe Jackson has the third highest career batting average in the majors but you won’t see his name in Cooperstown. Same goes for Pete Rose even if it is the result of something that didn’t happen on the field. If you’re going to bar these guys and their amazing records, I don’t have a problem with keeping Mr. McGwire out, too.
This whole debate is ridiculous, though. We all know that Rose should be in the Hall and, even if he was a cheat, there’s no dismissing McGwire’s ability and contribution to the game of baseball. In the end, it’s just sad that a no-talent ^ss-clown like Michael Bolton, uh, I mean Bud Selig should be able to keep people from even coming up for a vote. Let Rose on the list and then let the sportswriters decide if he merits entry. Same goes for Bonds when he becomes eligible. The Hall of Fame does not exist to serve the whims of the Commissioner. It’s there so that fans can celebrate the greatest players to ever step on a baseball diamond. That means you, Rose. You too, McGwire. And what the hell, get on in there, Bonds.
Instant replay may be here for good but that doesn’t mean I have to like it; nor does it mean I have to support it. Because I don’t.
And I won’t.
Before you get all sassy (Mr. Krause), let me just say that my basis for detesting this technological intrusion is not rooted in science. It does not rely on tangible evidence. It is based on one simple cosmological principle:
The baseball gods are pissed off.
For it is my strong belief that in baseball everything happens for a reason and eventually the inequalities of umpiring decisions (though visible and often game-altering) will be settled at a later time, when appropriate, when it’s most necessary. This is how it has been for over a hundred years — or in other words: a long friggin’ time.
Had the argument against instant replay in baseball not been so stringent in the past perhaps I wouldn’t be so upset about it now; but to maintain the party line for so long only to crumble under the pressure of a few whiny millionaires is quite embarrassing. Baseball is not football. It is not basketball. It is not hockey.
It does not need instant replay — at all. Ever.
Of course, now people like my colleague Mr. Allen Krause have embraced this technology because it will supposedly ensure that each homerun call is made correctly. And though they say it will be reserved only for homerun calls, we all know that you can’t just have one cookie. Before long everything from close plays at first to suspected trappings in the outfield to balls and strikes will soon be up for review by some Geek Squad reject in the New York main office, thus eliminating the human umpire element entirely, not to mention extending what many already consider a game that goes on too long.
This is not good, folks. It’s not good at all. And Mr. Krause, you’re completely wrong in your steadfast embrace of this electronic eye-in-the-sky Pandora’s Box.
You will be sorry. You see, the baseball gods — now raging in their defiance towards this atrocious innovation — have myriad unfinished business in equalizing the poor calls of the past. But now, since MLB has gone against its purist principles, all those yet to be righted face the harsh and difficult reality that they may never see justice on the field again. Fate has been tested and one ought to know better than to mess with fate, or the supernatural.
Just ask Pete Rose.
Ever wonder how a barely-above mediocre Cardinal squad won the 2006 World Series? Ask Don Denkinger. He knows. He took it away from them 21 years earlier.
Ever wonder how a pompous autocrat like me got to write a hit blog? Ask Greg Altmix, my high school baseball coach who sat me on the bench because I couldn’t hit the ball to the opposite field. He knows. I was a pull hitter. You can’t change a pull hitter.
Dear readers, for every wrong there is a right and the baseball gods know exactly what the hell they’re doing.
Call me a purist, call me old-school, call me Suzie… I don’t give a s***. Go ahead. Hate me if you must.
…but don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
“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.