To some baseball fans, the season begins with the Division Series in September and ends with the World Series in October—or November, as the case may be. Until recently I was such a fan. But I’ve come to realize that what goes on during the off-season determines what goes on later—so I’m beginning to pay more attention.
Right now, everywhere one turns in the world of Major League Baseball one finds pathos.
On the field: The Colorado Rockies, the biggest success story of the 2007 season, the little-money-team-that-could, went into the World Series with 21 wins out of their last 22 games—and were instantly pummeled and humiliated by the mighty Red Sox in the first game, which ended with a score of 13-1. Josh Beckett, a pitcher headed for the annals of baseball history, started off by striking out the side in the first inning, and never let up. The Red Sox hitters started with a solo home run on the first pitch of the first at-bat, and never let up. Some of the lowest moments included three walk-in runs by a Colorado relief pitcher. It was a sad sight, and unexpected: while most pundits predict a Red Sox victory, nobody expected a complete collapse of the Rockies, who with this loss snapped a ten-game winning streak. I don’t think anyone felt good about it, except Red Sox fans, the most single-minded fans anywhere, and, of course, the Red Sox players themselves—but even they, I’d venture, would’ve been content with a smaller margin of victory. For David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell, and the rest of the boys, it was like stealing candy from a baby. I just hope the Rockies didn’t suffer such a loss of self-esteem that they can’t re-group and make a decent showing tonight.
In the Dugout: The metaphorical dugout, that is. Barry Bonds, set free by the SF Giants, is now begging to be taken back. While not exactly crawling on hands and knees (yet), Bonds is dropping pathetic comments about how the Giants could afford to pay him as a “part-time” player. He told the press he knows he won’t be offered a position with the NY Yankees because “they already have two designated hitters.” Great cover, Barry! The truth is, the Yankees won’t have you because, like the Giants, they don’t need the tsuris you bring to a team, with your entourage and furniture crowding the locker room, and your questionable reputation dominating press coverage. Besides, Barry, don’t you know that the New York media would eviscerate you? Time to retire gracefully, while you still can.
In the Back Rooms: But speaking of the Yankees—and who isn’t?—the fallout from Joe Torre’s departure hasn’t stopped since the day he and the Steinbrenners “parted company,” as it’s politely being called. Georgie’s sons, while not as volatile as their lunatic paterfamilias, appear to be just as nasty. Hank Steinbrenner keeps dropping lines to the press subtly or overtly undermining Joe Torre. His latest comment was that a new manager ought to get some leeway, since, after all, they aren’t inheriting “the Yankees of 1996.” That’s the year Torre came in, ’96; Hank’s implying that Joe had a great team handed to him on a platter. The truth is, the team that the new manager will inherit still has many of the same players—Jeter, Posada, Rivera—who, under Joe Torre’s tutelage, never missed a postseason, and won four World Series titles. The Steinbrenners consider any season without a World Series win as a failure. Fortunately, nobody in the baseball world believes a word out of the mouth of anyone named Steinbrenner, and Joe Torre, one of the most respected managers of all time, is getting nothing but positive treatment from all quarters, including the press.
The U.S. Senate: Former Senator George Mitchell announced that he’s finished his investigation into drug use among baseball players, and will be naming names some time before the end of the year. It could be a bloodbath—but whatever happens, it’s going to be, at the very least, an interesting off-season.