Let The Games Begin!by John Brattain
April 06, 2007
Bang the drum and hold the phone. The sun came out today…
Okay, it was a few days ago but the major league season is upon us at long last. I wish somebody would give Mother Nature the memo.
It’s too early to comment extensively on much of the season thus far; sample size issues and all that. However, some story lines tossed around this winter are starting to be played out.
I’m gonna do what I do best here: Jump around on topics like an ADHD kid after a hearty breakfast of Cocoa Puffs with chocolate milk washed down with a hearty drink of Jolt Cola to celebrate his flushing away his entire prescription of Ritalin.
Yankee fans: To begin with—one, you do have the right to boo and two, I do realize you cheered Alex Rodriguez later on in the game on Opening Day.
Yankee fans are passionate about winning. As for myself, I’d be thrilled with the Jays getting swept in the LDS as the wild card team (not at that particular moment of course), however many fans of the pinstripes—like their owner—view anything less than a World Series championship as a failure.
Imagine: During the 2007 ALDS and ALCS, the Bronx Bombers suffer the longest string of freakish injuries ever, so much so that they have to assemble their World Series roster with mostly minor league guys. Despite that, they manage to extend the Fall Classic to a Game Seven, 21-inning affair. They fall only after a windblown popup in gale force winds grazes the outside of the foul pole in the bottom of the inning. A lot of Yankee fans will still brood all winter about how they let it slip away against an inferior team.
You get the picture.
You know how this guy is wired. You want to win and A-Rod is a guy who, under the right circumstances, can help you do that. Why on earth would you pull a Steve Bartman and get in the way of your team trying to win? Bartman’s mistake was inadvertent. Yankee fans know how Rodriguez reacts to negativity but still insist on making it easier for him to fail.
They say the average fan roots for laundry. Fair enough. Focus on the laundry; forget the 252, the slap, the recent playoff failures, the attempts to look more like the cover of GQ than SI, etc. There’s Yankee laundry at third base; forget the body inside the laundry and give him what he needs to succeed. Play a drinking game and take a mouthful of beer whenever the urge to boo hits you. Everybody will be happier and you'll be creating work for New York cabbies.
Hey, don’t forget that I’m a Blue Jays fan and am tickled pink that you’re hamstringing your best player. I want the Yankees to lose, I want A-Rod to fail, I want to see on Sept. 23 the 48-108 Yankees hang A-Rod in effigy. After the last out, I want to see him run to the pitcher's mound, rip off his uniform (revealing a Dodgers jersey underneath), throw it to the ground, stomp on it a few times before burning it, then go fetal and blubber uncontrollably until Scott Boras comes out and tenderly puts him in an oversized baby carriage. As he is being wheeled out, I want to see him give Yankee fans a double-fisted schoolyard salute the entire way.
As a baseball fan, however, I do like to see the best the game has to offer do what they do best as long as they are not doing it against Toronto.
How about a compromise? Save up all your vitriol plus interest for Rodriguez and really let him have it, no mercy and no hold barred, as only New York fans can, on the following dates: April 25-26, July 16-19, Sept. 21-23. To show you what a nice guy I am, I might even help out a bit.
Call it Barrynoia: Right now the media are readying their poisoned pens and stocking up on Hulk Hogan tear-away t-shirts (to make it easier to rend their garments) while $14.5 million dollar man (AKA Bud Selig … this wouldn’t happen if baseball executives worked under a salary cap) is wondering what he is going to do should Barry Bonds launch home run No. 756. Right now he’s pleading to his deity of choice—which may or may not be Hall of Fame pitcher and Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky.—to give steroid super-snoop George Mitchell subpoena power so he can actually get some answers from people who might actually know about its involvement in baseball.
After all, Selig is hoping that someone, anyone, can get him out of the pickle his inaction has put him in. Selig has hemmed and hawed, tugged on his ear and fiddled with the loose change in his pocket and taken no official action against Bonds (or any superstar player involved with performance-enhancing drugs) and has allowed him to play in sanctioned major league contests. Now he really hopes that nobody notices that Bonds is approaching the all time home run record.
Of course he has tons of precedent, but is between a jock and a hard place. On the one hand, then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn didn’t follow Hank Aaron around waiting for him to slug 715. That ticked off Mr. Aaron to no end. On top of that, Selig counts Aaron as his friend, so there’s reason No. 2 to stay away. However Aaron, class act that he is, would never suggest Selig do to Bonds what Kuhn did to him and most likely would have told him so (although I'm using my gut as the primary source for that supposition).
However the ever press-conscious Selig knows that Kuhn was treated rather harshly for not attending when Aaron topped Babe Ruth. Of course the press feels a lot different about Bonds than it did Aaron. The media may applaud Selig for taking a stand, except it really isn't a stand at all if you don't formally stand up and state it clearly and unequivocally at some point—which of course Selig is loath to do. Creatures of consensus rarely take unilateral stands.
The simple fact is that Selig doesn’t want to make his feelings known on 756 any more than a husband would when visiting his parents and his wife asks him if she’s a better cook than his mother (the easy answer to that question is this: Fake a stroke). If Mitchell, a grand jury or the Underpants Gnomes can get to Bonds before 756—problem solved. If nothing transpires before then, Selig may wish to fake one himself once Bonds clubs 754.
He gets paid more money than Vlad Guerrero to not do this kind of thing.
Speaking of which:
The $14.5 Million Man: Next time you hear an owner weep and gnash his teeth because player salaries are forcing him to eat an expired can of Fancy Feast with his fingers while living in a rusted-out 1972 Ford Pinto under a bridge, just remember this one point: You don’t pay a CEO that kind of coin for losing you money. Heck, if your finances are that bad you cannot afford to pay your CEO that much. For that matter you wouldn’t pay your CEO that much if that was your financial condition—you’d be too busy preparing to have him hanged by the neck, drawn and quartered, then beheaded.
Selig gets that kind of jack because MLB is rolling in the green, my friend.
I realize that a lot of CEOs make a lot more than Bud, but don't forget: Those CEOs don't have a labor force pulling down eight-figure salaries.
Getting back to Selig/Bonds for a moment: I think a way for the commissioner to handle this is to send a kindly worded letter to Don Fehr to act as major league baseball’s representative for home run 756. Although not a member of management, he certainly is a key individual in the game. This accomplishes several goals:
- It gives Fehr a terrific platform to continue this plea:
"You get to the Hall of Fame mainly through the voting of baseball writers. I just hope that the writers judge the players on what they did on the field. It's a shame what happened with Palmeiro ... I think the owners and the players' union are making every effort to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. The program we have in place is really good." (italics mine)
- A major figure within the game is on hand to commemorate the feat.
- Fehr had more to do with Bonds’ achievements than Selig.
- It gives Selig an unofficial way to make a stand “The use of performance-enhancing drugs was not approved by baseball’s management” while not completely ignoring the achievement.
And finally two quick hits before we say goodnight...: First, we got to see Daisuke Matsuzaka for the first time: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1BB, 10 K. Yeah, it was against K.C., but it's still a heck of a debut. Second, an underrated transaction: Phillies pick up righthander Francisco Rosario from Toronto for cash. I hated to see him go, but he was out of options. Rotator cuff problems slowed his progress somewhat but he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and still throws heat. I predict that he'll be a terrific addition to the Phillies' pen. You heard it here first.
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.