Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Talking to the Media Adds 5 mph to your Fastball

Larry Brooks has written an article in the Post defending Wagner’s not pitching the 9th inning in Tuesday’s game, which isn’t exactly insane in and of itself: there is no sense in getting Wagner more injure if he doesn’t feel healthy. However, articles in the Post defending Mets for not playing are sort of hard to come by these days (in the same column he sort of implies that Santana is bum for not pitching the ninth inning in that game) and one gets the strong feeling that this puff-piece is Billy’s little reward for being the best quote on the team. Its kind of frustrating because Wagner has gone through periods of serious ineffectiveness (and cost the National League home field advantage in the World Series for the second straight year); aside from his willingness to talk to them there is no special reason that Wagner should be so uniquely deserving of the Post’s mercy. I would have much rather read an article demanding that Minaya trade Aaron Hielman for Oakland’s Huston Street.

Also, if knowing what the word “quarantined” means was a sport, Larry Brooks would be its Jose Lima.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The USA Trilogy/Thank God for the Internet

Not so much about the Mets, and not so much about baseball. It all sort of popped into my head during a brief break from meditating on Alex Rodriguez, and I figured it was better than nothing:

Don Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy (which I read mainly because it was a high-school graduation present from a friend who has apparently looked occasionally at this blog, so thank you) is probably the Great Un-Appreciated American Novel. A protracted jumble of interweaving narratives, pastiches from newspaper headlines, biographical sketches of prominent Americans, and stream-of-conscious passages that straddles the fence between formalistically brilliant and obsessive compulsive, the work’s major project is too examine how economic circumstances contribute to everything from the formation of individual’s characters, to the course of world events. The book’s socialist inclinations, far more than its formalistic oddity, has to be considered the major factor in its current obscurity; reading the book, one gets the sense that Dos Passos understood (or perhaps expected) the direction in which the country would go—it is a little hard to tell why he bothered.

At any rate, I recently remembered a scene that takes place during the first World War, in which Joe, an American sailor on a British vessel in Trinidad, ignores the advances of a foppish American tourist, in hopes of getting to see a newspaper and baseball scores—Joe is from Washington and the Senators (behind Walter Johnson) looked like they might be in the race. Throughout the scene, Joe’s desire for the baseball scores seems to be an expression of the alienation that Joe feels as a US Navy deserter traveling aboard a foreign ship and his nostalgia for his life and family back home. Joe meets the tourist in a bar and the tourist says that he might have a paper in his hotel. The two then go on a boozy drive through the country-side, while the tourist delivers what Joe probably ought to have recognized as a lengthy and elaborate come-on—but Joe isn’t paying attention to the tourist, he is focused on the possibility of seeing baseball standings. Back at the hotel, the newspaper is nowhere to be found and the tourist offers him $50 for sex; Joe shoves the tourist out of the way and leaves. Back on the ship, Joe tells his story to a British sailor who initially says that Joe should have taken the money, and then suggests that they go to the hotel with a posse and blackmail him. As the scene ends with Joe crawling into his bunk, his major regret is still simply that he didn’t get to look at the baseball scores.

I have always sort of wondered what the sports page that Joe hoped to see would have looked like. It would have had the league standings, and possibly the box scores of some recent games; possibly articles about some of them. Of course, in the old pennant-race system, with the two eight-team leagues, a single day’s standings would have offered a far more complete picture of the baseball season than it would today: once the season was well underway, the teams would settle into identifiable groups of contenders and non-contenders, which would likely only be subject to limited change. If one saw that one’s team was in the contending group, after a prolonged separation from baseball, it would be heartening enough and offer a valuable ray of hope to last until the next port and the next newspaper.

The internet, thankfully, renders the entire interaction obsolete: mlb.com has Joe’s needs covered, and the tourist could have found himself a homosexual prostitute on Craig’s list.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Starting to like this Manuel Fellow

A strain that runs through much of the dimmer writing on baseball involves extolling the virtues managers who get thrown out of games, and I reluctantly join this chorus in saying that I have come to appreciate Manuel’s tendency to get tossed. I will not go as far as to say that I fault Willie Randolph for not getting thrown out of games—Willie Randolph was a reasonable man, a quality making him nearly completely unique in all of organized baseball, and understood that no greater good would be served by getting ejected. There was a lot to applaud in the understanding, implicit in Randolph’s interaction with the officials, that managerial theatrics ought to be irrelevant to the game’s outcome; something calming and dignified in his acknowledgment that the skill of pitchers and batters would determine the winner, weather Randolph watched from the clubhouse or the dugout.

To use a bad word, Manuel’s interactions with the umpires are somewhat post-modern. Manuel, I think, also knows that his getting ejected is irrelevant, and thus, to him, there is no reason not to have a good time hollering at the umpires until he gets tossed. In the finale against the Philles, after the umpires made an abysmal call on a home run, Manuel kept turning back to get last word in, long after he had been thrown out of the game-- at this point everything was irrelevant: the call had been made and Manuel had been banished, but Manuel stayed on the field, reminding us all that there is something pleasant about a man who yells against injustice, even when the yelling can be shown to have no imaginable effect.

Manuel is a self professed admirer of Gandhi, and I would like to ask him how he thinks Gandhi would handle a blown home-run call in a baseball game he was managing. I suspect that Manuel would reply that Gandhi would understand that there is a difference between the struggle for survival and freedom and the struggle of a baseball game, and that the latter exists largely as a venue for childish rages and frustrations; and that, if he were for some reason managing a baseball team, Gandhi very well might choose to scream at the umpires and use bad language and get ejected.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Possible Explanation of Recent Events:

[December 11, 2007: Oliver Perez and John Maine are leaving Madison Square Garden]

Maine: I can’t believe those fuckers booed us on the jumbo-tron.
Perez: I know, what were those assholes thinking?
Maine: Seriously, we were both throw-ins in deals for relief pitching, and we went and won fifteen games apiece.
Perez: We pitched pretty good in the ’06 playoffs…
Maine: We pitched damn good in the ’06 playoffs. Now, just because Pedro and Alou spend the year injured…
Perez: And Reyes forgets how the hell to get on base…
Maine: and the entire offense folds down the stretch, now we can’t even watch some basketball without being booed.
Perez: This is bullshit. I never want to win a game for those jerks again.
Maine: Do they know how terifying it is to entrust a game to Gilermo Mota?
[Isaiah Thomas steps out of the shadows]
Isaiah Thomas: You gentlemen seem to have unjustly drawn the ire of the New York sports fan. Perhaps I may be of assistance…
Perez: Hey coach, how’s it going?
Thomas: Terrible.
Maine: How’d you know we were in trouble?
Thomas: Well, I was watching you on the jumbo-tron. I try not to pay much attention to the basketball games they are so…awful.
Perez: But aren’t you the coach?
Thomas: I wish you wouldn’t mention that.
Perez: Sorry, coach.
Thomas: Anyway, perhaps I can aid you in your quest for retribution against the sports fans of New York.
Perez: well, I’m not sure you’d call it a quest…
Maine: yeah, I mean they are jerks, but…
Thomas: Oh come on, it’ll be fun.
[Maine and Perez shrug]
Thomas: Let’s discuss this in my apartment…

[Maine, Perez, Thomas enter Thomas’ apartment.]
Perez: Whoa, nice pad, coach. Is your building famous?
Maine: Yeah, this place seems really familiar, like it was in a movie…
Perez: Was this the building where Annie Hall lived, in Annie Hall?
Maine: Or, was this where Woody Allen had his apartment in Manhattan?
Thomas: No, it was not in either of those movies…anyway, in order to completely destroy the hearts and minds of a sports fan you need to always extend the possibility of hope.
Maine: I don’t understand…
Thomas: see, take my Knickerbockers. They can be counted on to play two, maybe even three quarters of respectable basketball in…most games. For a true believer the possibility will always exist that my wretched team will turn it around…in any given game there still exists the remote possibility that they will come away with a win…
Perez: So the goal is to prolong the terror for as long as possible, by dangling carrots of decent play on a stick?
Thomas: Exactly, if you ever become completely wretched, like the Pirates, or the Oriels, or the NBA’s Grizzlies, the fans will just abandon the team, and spend time with their families or read a book. But if you keep on holding out the possibility of success, they’ll keep coming back like masochistic dope fiends.
Perez: ohh, so why don’t I start out pitching abysmally, up to the point where they start to think about dropping me from the rotation, and then at the last moment come through with a dominant performance against a hated rival.
Maine: And I can start out the year kind of ok, but just when the fans get a nice boost of hope from you dominant game, I’ll follow it up with a four inning loss, where I walk batters and commit a costly throwing error.
Thomas: Excellent…you have learned well, my children.
Maine: I’m thirsty, mind if I grab something?
Thomas: No, don’t open that…
Perez: I got it! This is Sigourney Weaver’s apartment from Ghost Busters!
Maine: Oh shit, there’s a demon in your refrigerator!