The Baseball Desert

Friday, February 23, 2007

Foul lines

Nice Guys Finish Third made an astute observation last week about the month of February, with which I wholly agree. It's a waste of a month. A non-month, in fact, full of non-news. I got all excited about Truck Day and Matsuzaka arriving in Florida, but now? Nothing doing. At all.

In many ways this non-month makes me feel a little sorry for journalists. The more observant readers of this blog will have noticed that when I have nothing to say, I say nothing. Unfortunately the journalists at the Globe / Herald / don't have this luxury - they have to submit their daily offering. And in Red Sox Nation right now, that usually means something about Manny: Manny Being Manny, Manny turning up late for Spring Training, Manny selling his vintage car / looking after his Mom. A word to those journalists in question: I DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT WHAT MANNY'S DOING, NOT DOING OR PLANNING TO DO!

I love Manny, because he plays for the baseball team I follow with a passion. To do that - to play a game for a living - he gets paid a lot of money, more money than I will ever make in a hundred lifetimes. The reason he gets paid all those dollars - some of which come out of my own pocket - is that he is one the best hitters who has ever played the game. I'm not looking for him to lead the league in triples or stolen bases or be the world's greatest left-fielder. What I as a Red Sox fan want and expect from Manny is production on the field - 30-40 HR, 120-130 RBIs every year.

What I am most definitely not looking for from Manny - or any other millionaire ballplayer - is a shining example of a blue-collar work ethic. It can happen - my favourite ballplayer of all time, Cal Ripken Jr., is my favourite precisely because he displayed that kind of ethic in playing 2,632 straight games. But as a general rule, I'm not looking to be shown that kind of example in professional sports. If I need an example of that, I only need to look around at friends and family to find one.

As a Red Sox fan - someone who devotes an unhealthy amount of time and energy to following a game played by millionaires - I feel as if I've pretty much forfeited any right to demand that the people who play that game play by the same rules as I do. "But it's not fair!" I hear those journalists cry, "They make all that money playing a game, whilst poor old Joe Shmoe Red Sox Fan works his ass off 40 hours a week for peanuts." Well, no, it isn't fair, but then I'm not asking it to be fair - I'm asking the Red Sox to provide me with the thrills and excitement and the sense of community that I can't get doing my shitty job for 40 hours a week. For them to be able to do that, I have to compromise. For my part, I'm as put out by Curt Schilling being an opinionated, loud-mouthed Republican as I am by Manny's alleged 'attitude', but I live with it, because I want to have the guy who will win 15-20 games every season and be a leader to the Sox young pitching staff. The guys I root for are Red Sox players, not my role models for life, and whatever lies outside the foul lines - be it religious beliefs, political leanings or sexual preferences - has no bearing on that. I want my guys to produce in the workplace, i.e. on the field. Period.

Before you jump up and wave your hand around like a lunatic, I know what argument is coming next: "But Manny sometimes doesn't run out ground balls, so his lackadaisical attitude does affect what happens on the field." (For those who can stomach it, the Globe has actually spent time putting together this piece of shit: a gallery of 'Manny moments', including a "Need we say more?" caption on a photo of Manny with an wild Afro. Oh my God, stop the presses - Manny has a wacky haircut! If somebody can explain to me just what the fuck Manny's hair has got to do with his ability to play the game of baseball, I'm willing to listen...). Well, here's a little thought for you: every season a bunch of Red Sox - professional baseball players with years of experience - get doubled off second base on line drives to the opposing shortstop, and nobody says a word. That's a terrible out to make - even I know you shouldn't get doubled off in that situation - but nobody makes the same kind of song-and-dance as they do for Manny's occasional lapses. Be critical, by all means, but be consistent whilst you're at it.

Contrary to what much of the Boston press would like us to think, Manny arriving after the other players for Spring Training - for whatever reason - is not a big deal. He'll be where he needs to be - on the field - doing what he needs to - scaring the shit out of opposing pitchers - when he needs to do it - when the Sox season begins on April 2nd. Outside of that, he can be as Manny as he likes. As is often the case, Red said it best:
As I've said before, I don't care if the shows up with two minutes of Spring Training left to go, visibly drunk, wearing no pants, and stubbing out a cigarette on my forehead. He gets the pass. 'Cause he's the Manny.