I Want A New Drugby John Brattain
May 19, 2006
I was sitting at my desk wondering what I was going to bore you with this week; David Samson—a generous source of material and hilarity—has been unusually quiet of late (the last worthwhile thing that came out of his mouth was “YOP”—but the ingrates of Whoville refused to build him a stadium out of gratitude), which narrowed down my options somewhat.
Then I realized something.
Now that the Washington Nationals have an owner and are breaking ground on a new corporate wel-park, I finally have closure on my Montreal Expos. They’re gone and not coming back.
Yes, it has finally sunk in. So I’m slow—sue me.
I now have no National League rooting interest. Throughout my baseball fandom, I have had a favourite team in both leagues. I had the Detroit Tigers before the Toronto Blue Jays came in 1977, and I was an Expos fan from the get-go.
So I’m in the market for a new NL team. I’m hoping my readers (people actually read this tripe? Go figure) might give me a reason why their club needs another fan—even a slightly twisted one.
Here are the possibilities available to me, and my knee-jerk response (what, you actually expected me to take time to think about this? Tough room):
Too new for my tastes. They were fun in 2001 when Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson were throwing gas out there, but they really haven’t cultivated much of an identity—at least not to me. Of course this makes me a first-class hypocrite, since I jumped on the Expos and Blue Jays bandwagons in year one, but I’m a lot older and crankier now, and really can’t be bothered with being consistent in my points-of-view.
It’s weird. Despite winning their division every year since 1991 (save 1994—Expos were up by six games when the strike hit … neener neener neener) when I think of the Braves I think of the jugger-nots that sported such names as Rowland Office (he looked more like a loo than an office), Dick Ruthven, Gene Garber, Barry Bonnell, Bob Horner, etc. Of course they were almost always ahead of les Expos and I’m not really a bandwagon jumper, so they’re out. Besides, they’re probably at the end of their success cycle anyway.
A big plus is their ballpark—built for the Federal League Chicago Whales, which just adds to the historical coolness. However, between Dusty shredding potentially Hall of Fame arms, fans helping the Cubbies snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (like they needed the help) and the fact that Lee Elia once described my family reunion makes it a little difficult to see myself rooting for them. Great park though—love the ivy.
A possibility: Was a huge fan of the Big Red Machine and Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Dave Concepcion. The early 1990’s featured a fun (if slightly psychotic) bullpen of Randy Myers, Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton (the Nasty Boys), and of course the incomparable Barry Larkin. The downside is the bad taste in my mouth left over from the Lindner years, when the Reds became welfare queens. Marge Schott had her faults but at least she wanted to win. Lots of fun history from baseball’s oldest franchise.
Too new, no clue. Stole Larry Walker (it’s how it felt at the time of the great fire sale). Pass.
Are you serious?
Another possibility. Rooted for them last year in the postseason. I really enjoyed the Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richards years. They’ve had a number of players I’ve been big fans of, such as Rusty Staub, Jimmy Wynn, the aforementioned Ryan and Richards, Jeff Bagwell, Jose Cruz, Craig Biggio, Cesar Cedeno etc. Of course some of their earlier uniforms used to frighten small children and animals, but I’m inclined to forgive and forget.
Los Angeles Dodgers
This would’ve been a slam dunk were they still in Brooklyn. However between pretty-boy super-progenitor Steve Garvey, the Murdoch years, too many Slim Fast commercials and sheriffs that turned to pudding around Scott Boras, I can’t warm up to the idea.
Another time and another place and this could’ve happened. I loved Harvey’s Wallbangers, was a big fan of Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas and Rollie Fingers. Bill Veeck got his start in Milwaukee when it was a Triple-A town. But in the early 1990’s they made the Blue Jays’ life miserable and in the mid-to-late 90’s to the aughts everything reminds me of Bud Selig. It’s a pity too; they’re about to become very good and should stay good for a few years. Enjoy them Milwaukeeans—you deserve to enjoy a good team again.
New York Mets
The funny thing about the Mets is the fact that my opinion of them has changed since I came online. I’ve posted with Mets fans on the Internet for years: one carried the Ark of the Covenant, another makes money creating new lawyers, and quite frankly they scare the hell out of me. When Scott Kazmir was traded to Tampa Bay I thought we were going to have a mass-suicide on our hands at Baseball Primer.
Speaking of which, you could be talking about the Black Sox, ticket prices in Arizona, the temperature of beer at SkyDome or Expos minor league relief prospects and invariably the discussion would swing to the Mets. Fortunately the administrators at BTF gave them their own section and now when you discuss the Black Sox, ticket prices in Arizona, the temperature of beer at SkyDome or Expos minor league relief prospects, you end up discussing Barry Bonds’ hat size. It’s a shame, since they’re every bit as looney tunes as me. Mark them down as “possible.” (Be very afraid guys.)
You’d think 1993 would’ve nixed this as a possible destination. Not so. I have a lot of terrific Phillies memories: Tug McGraw (on the short list of my all-time faves) tapping his chest after nearly giving up a home run in the 1980 post season, Mike Schmidt’s amazing career, the “Wheeze Kids” of 1983 etc. I’m a big fan of Bobby Abreu, and I regularly get to talk Phillies baseball on the Mike Gill Show on ESPN 1450 in Atlantic City every Wednesday, which has enabled me to keep a close tab on the Phils, and I can see myself becoming a huge fan of Cole Hamels (who is mowing down the Brewers even as I write this … oops I must’ve jinxed him; he just gave up a two-run shot to Chad Moeller).
On the downside they edged the Expos for the 1980 NL East title, which broke my heart and of course we all know the reputation of Philadelphia fans—they’d boo breakfast if given the chance. Regardless, another “possible.”
Not gonna happen. Why? The “We are fam-a-LEE!” Bucs that did in the Expos in 1979, the wasted Hall-of-Fame talent of Dave Parker (oh what might have been), the Pittsburgh drug trials of the 1980’s, etc. Granted, they have a lot of plusses (in no particular order): Bill Mazeroski’s glove, Willie Stargell, the goofy Andy Van Slyke, Jason Bay, and the funky pitching motion of Kent Tekulve.
However the team is in hands that make David Samson look like Branch Rickey, and they seem to like it that way; sign a few mediocre vets, trade good young talent before they become expensive, get a free park, milk the revenue sharing system and count the profits without having to actually earn it. I’m a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and was a fan of the Montreal Expos from their births to their deaths—that’s more than enough pain thank-you-very-much, and I’m not interested in adding more. Pirates’ fans deserve better, and my not joining them is my contribution.
St. Louis Cardinals
I like the Cardinals. The Gas House Gang, Curt Flood’s courage, giving Roger Maris’ career a somewhat happy ending, Bob Gibson, Bob Uecker, the Wizard of Oz, their three exciting World Series in the 1980’s (the 1985 team was a blast to watch), the fun we had watching Mark McGwire (hey, we all enjoyed it at the time), Albert Pujols in general, I could go on and on. Other plusses include classic uniforms, turning a cookie cutter stadium of the 1960’s into a nice looking ballpark, and financing a good chunk of their latest park.
At the same time, part of the problems we see in the owner/MLBPA relationship was fostered by the Cards. Anheuser Busch gave the Cardinals tremendous clout within baseball and when Augustus Busch was running the club, he stampeded ownership into confrontational stances against the MLBPA, creating problems where none existed. Perhaps a lot of the labor problems that have faced the game would have been less severe had somebody less Neanderthalistic than Busch been in charge of the Redbirds. Ultimately it was the seeds planted by Busch way back then that played into the management/labor dynamic of 1994 that did in the Expos. It’s tough to overlook for me. Still, a strong contender.
San Diego Padres
Although the Blue Jays' memorable swap of Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter propelled the Jays to their amazing three year run of 1991-93 the Padres have never really blazed into my consciousness. They were basically an NL afterthought, never finishing higher than fourth until they won the pennant in 1984. Both of their World Series appearances, against the Tigers and the Yankees, appeared to be foregone conclusions even before the first pitch was thrown. Although seeing Tony Gwynn so thrilled at being with Ted Williams at the All Star Game in Fenway Park a few years back remains a terrific memory, it’s just not enough to put fire in my belly.
San Francisco Giants
Believe it or not, this almost happened. When the Giants were struggling in the 1970’s, it looked for all the world that they were coming to Toronto. The Giants have a colorful history: John McGraw, Horace Stoneham, the Polo Grounds, Bobby Thomson, the Willies (Mays and McCovey), the Bonds's (Bobby and Barry), the rivalry with the Dodgers, the earthquake, BALCO. However that was then and this is now; besides like the Padres and Dodgers they play on the other coast and developing a rooting interest with any of them would seriously disrupt my sleep cycle.
The Washington Nationals
Hey, this is what caused the problem in the first place.
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.