Maybe it was the crummy weather, the depressing state of the world
economy, the slew of late withdrawals or the increased workload for
those us in editorial, but as the World Baseball Classic drew nigh, I
grew increasingly disinterested as a fan. Though I’ll sound a
pessimistic malcontent to any higher-ups who may mistakenly stumbled
across this blog (how else would they arrive here other than by
mistake?) by enumerating my skeptical knocks against the Classic, I
assure them there is a measure of redemption here, one rife with all
the right things for a young man interested in his long-term career.
The Classic, to my constantly frigid, post-economic-apocalypse self was too flawed. Pitch counts, potential injuries, player ambivalence, A-Rod. Ugh, A-Rod. First he was to play for the Dominican Republic after taking the field for Team USA in 2006, then he brought his kids to workouts (the only player to do so), then he pulls out of the Classic altogether due a hip injury that curiously went unaddressed over the offseason and conveniently allows him to dodge steroids questions.
Then, on Saturday, during my production of a lovely 17-7 Royals beat down of the Tribe in Cactus League action, I threw on Team USA’s first game, against Team Canada. Maybe it was the unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon weather in early March (mid 60s) melting the remnants of the foot of snow dumped upon us a week ago, but I was ready for this game. Dare I say, I needed it. And, as baseball has been so apt to do in my relatively young life, the game had me transfixed, as I bemoaned Jake Peavy’s squeezing by the home-plate umpire, fretted over the Yanks’ (these are the only Yankees I’ll ever root for!) early inability to mount much against journeyman hurler Mike Johnson, and wondered whether David Wright would no longer be saddled with the dreaded “unclutch” stigma if he were to collect a go-ahead hit at some point in the Classic — all of this, of course, while relaying to Royals fans that the top of their team’s order (Coco Crisp, Willie Bloomquist and David DeJesus) had combined to go 7-for-7 with a gang of runs and RBIs. That may have been the longest sentence I’ve ever written. Don’t get me wrong, by the way: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back to producing games. But sometimes, these spring exhibitions get ug-lee.
However, I digress. My point is this: No, Team USA vs. Canada obviously wasn’t on par with Opening Day at Citi Field, or even an inconsequential regular-season game on a chilly night in early May, but it was baseball, with a fair measure of competitive spirit, and that sure as heck beats following an Indians non-roster invitee get his second at-bat in the top of the 8th of a Cactus League game on MLB.com’s live box score. When new Mets setup man J.J. Putz entered in the ninth for Team USA with a two-run lead and allowed it to shrivel down to a mere digit, I was envisioning midsummer, bullpen-induced agita — it’s part and parcel of living and dying with the Mets for as long as I have. But Putz induced a lazy fly ball from the dangerous Jason Bay, and may I add I’ve never been so relieved to see a can of corn fall safely into Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino’s glove.
The Canadian fans were certainly into it, and Team Canada’s roster boasted a lot more recognizable names than I would have thought, and by all means, it gave Team USA more than it wanted and then some, and easily could have won the game.
After watching Team USA trample Venezuela on Sunday night (I produced this uncharacteristically tidy spring affair earlier in the day), I’m ready to ride for the Yanks. Bring on Round Two at Dolphin Stadium.
I don’t mind telling you that I posted the following on a friend’s wall on Facebook:
In addition to the usual red, I am also bleeding white and blue for the duration of this tournament.
I don’t mean to make light of a potentially serious situation like HIV and AIDS, but if we can’t laugh in these troublesome times for our nation, economy, and our beloved pastime, what else can we do?
Roberto Alomar, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, by my estimation, who tainted his legacy a bit by spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck in 1996, is now accused of knowingly exposing an unwitting partner to HIV.
Yikes, it’s been a rough few days in baseball land. But like I said in my original A-Rod reaction post, baseball is merely a distraction from everyday life for me. Sure, I’ve invested untold time and emotion in the game throughout my life, but there is more to both life and the game itself than the sanctity of home run records or the unsavory actions of a select few outside the lines.
Baseball recovered from the Black Sox scandal, Pete Rose, cocaine, the strike of 1994, and countless other controversies. It will recover from steroids, A-Rod, and anything else committed by those who do its name a disservice.
After viewing an excerpt of ESPN’s exclusive A-Rod confessional with Peter Gammons on my iPhone in class today, I rushed home to sign on for work and watch the talk in its entirety.
As I sat on my sofa chair, I wondered how Pulp Fiction’s Pumpkin (aka actor Tim Roth) — now the star of FOX’s Lie to me* — might inspect A-Rod’s tell-all. What of his averted eyes and seemingly blank stare? How about the way he thumbed at his nose, clearing away boogers that really weren’t there? And what about the indignation with which he accused Selena Roberts of stalking him?
I don’t commend A-Rod for coming clean (pun recognized, not intended). Let’s not forget, he bold-faced lied to Katie Couric and baseball fans everywhere just a couple years ago when asked about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Now, presented with indisputable evidence, he comes forth with a definite admission peppered with circumstantial ambiguities, chalking his use to naivity and stupidity, and cushioning it with the proclaimation that he was ignorant as to exactly what substance was putting in his body, as well as the outrageous claim that he was not aware of the prevelance of PEDs in baseball during his days in Seattle.
OK, so A-Rod at least had the decency to admit he used the good (or is it bad?) stuff, unlike, say, Gary Sheffield and Roger Clemens, both of whom have vehmently denied it despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Time will tell whether his other assertions were true, but if history’s any indication, we should brace ourselves for another bombshell before this guy’s career is out.
Other curiosities and observations from the interview:
– Call me juvenile and perverse, but I thought it strange when A-Rod said of his ribbing with teammates: “I like taking it,” and “I’m a good receiver.”
– Was it just my TV, or was there something funky going on with the footage? The brights were really bright.
– A-Rod drank a lot of water — the expensive stuff, of course — Fiji.
– Nothing personal against ESPN or Peter Gammons, but this interview would have been a nice score for the MLB Network and Bob Costas.
– In Gammons’ first question, he prompts A-Rod for the “truth” regarding SI.com’s report. A-Rod then responds with his long-winded explanation, which ran for about one minute, 30 seconds.
– As the interview wears on, A-Rod curiously grows more
comfortable in commending himself for coming forward with his story —
as if he were doing it by his own volition and hadn’t been humiliated
by a gang of investigative journalists (one of whom he accused of
– Often chided for his stilted demeanor, A-Rod didn’t do much to shake his automaton image by saying “100 percent” six times.
– GNC can officially invest its advertising dollars elsewhere for 2009. A-Rod references the health store three times.
My dad sent me the A-Rod news via text this morning at about 11 a.m. I then relayed to Nelson, my best baseball friend and a devout Yankee follower.
The following conversation ensued via text message:
Me: CNN reports arod tested positive for roids in 2k3.
Me: Look, this is solid investigative journalism in my opinion.
Nelson: There goes the hof.
Me: I mean is this bad for baseball at this point? I think so. Even still, I don’t mind seeing this fraud raked over the coals a bit.
Me: Tomorrow’s Post hed: “A-roid”
Nelson: I think this is bad for baseball period. It really makes me angry.
Nelson: All the arod apologists including myself have to seriously reconsider our allegiances here.
Nelson: Hypothetically, if this were dwright, how would you react? Sincere question. I feel like I don’t want to watch baseball anymore.
Me: No I understand. I’d be crushed if dwright tested positive.
Nelson: I feel betrayed on a deep level right now … don’t even have a logical reaction.
Nelson: Fwiw he wasn’t a yank in 03.
Nelson: The whole game is a sham, bud has to out every single player today, this can’t continue. I refuse to be a fan if I’m going to get sandbagged with old evidence six years after the fact. I blame mlb for covering this up.
Me: Yep. I agree
Nelson: I’m sincerely done with it. That’s the end for me. I feel betrayed by the game.
Whether Nelson’s sentiment is shared by the majority of baseball fans, I cannot say. I wish things were different, of course. I wish this were not an issue, that every player had already been cited and we’d moved on.
But, regardless of the resolution, I’m already offering baseball my clemency. I’m not a despondent lover about this. I need baseball in my life; it provides me an income, sure, but it also gives me something to do on humid July evenings.
It’s supplied me countless memories over the years, like going to Shea in 1992 for the celebration of Tom Terrific’s election to the Hall of Fame, and witnessing the now-infamous “Matt Franco” Interleague game between the Mets and Yanks in 1999 when the eponymous pinch-hitter extraordinaire ended the riveting back-and-forth battle with a clutch base hit off none other than the immortal Mariano Rivera.
I memorized the stats from the back of my favorite players’ cards as a
kid, and emulated their swings as a Little Leaguer. I played the game
with my friends on dusty lots, dreaming of being something when I grew
up the odds said was nearly impossible. Tough losses have ruined many a
day, but I’ve come back the next day, in need of the distraction and
entertainment and otherworldliness of the game.
I trekked from school in North Carolina to Washington, D.C., in September 2005 with The Former Mrs. to watch a couple of meaningless games between the Mets and Nationals. We saw David Wright hit a grand slam in the first one, and Mike Piazza slugged the final longball I saw him hit as a Met in the second. We also went to a pitcher’s duel that spring that was the inspiration for a short story I wrote in one of my fiction writing classes. The following season, we witnessed Piazza’s return to Shea — as a Padre.
I need baseball, imperfections and all.