Archive for October, 2007

Everyone’s Invited!

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

The public is warmly encouraged to come to my reception and reading for METS FAN on Thursday, November 1 at Hofstra.  The reception begins at 5:30 in the first floor lobby of C.V. Starr Hall on the South Campus (on California Avenue, just south of the Hempstead Turnpike).  The talk begins at 6:30 in the Monroe Lecture Center Theatre right next door.

At the reception, there will be free and plentiful food and drink, and the New York Mets have graciously contributed Mets blinkie pins that will be distributed to everyone who attends.  A Gotham Baseball Magazine radio podcast will also be broadcasting from the reception and the event.  Mets fans and others will be welcome to offer their comments on the radio show.  If you’re a reader of my blog, please make a special point of coming up to me at the reception or after the talk and saying hello.  I will be very glad to meet you.

It’s best to park on the North Campus, where there’s lots of parking, and then cross the Hempstead Turnpike to the South Campus, either at the light or over the Unispan. 

So please come and visit me in my native habitat at Hofstra, where I really am a professor.  See, here I am telling Honors College students stuff about Virgil’s Aeneid that they never knew before!  Look how appreciative they are.  You too can feel as if you’re in my class.  Come to the reading!

 

A Milestone and a Memory

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Children born on the evening that Mookie Wilson’s ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs will be having their first beer, or glass of wine, or worse, tonight.

Let’s toast them. 

 

Two and a Half to One?!

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

On a long drive yesterday (10/24) I had to listen to Mike and the Mad Dog talk about the upcoming World Series.  Yes, I had to.  Don’t ask me to explain or justify.  Anyway, Russo was going on and on about some Vegas oddsmakers making the Red Sox favorites in the Series by Two and a Half to One.  He thought this was ridiculous.  I agree.  I agree with Mad Dog.

Now he may have gotten this wrong.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but sometimes Mike and the Mad Dog get things wrong.  Like, for example, I had a wonderful fifteen minutes yesterday before Mike realized (REALIZED!) that the 2004 Red Sox did not in fact belong on the list he had repeated several times of teams that had been inactive for over a week before the World Series.  Oh man.

Anyway, who makes these odds?  Don’t these guys realize that one of several things that makes baseball eternally superior to football and many other sports is that the odds are never two and a half to one that any team will beat another?  Never.  Take it to the bank.  An excellent pennant winning team with the best record in baseball, like the 2007 Red Sox, has won 3 games for every 2 they’ve lost.  On average, they do slightly better than this against under .500 teams, just about this against .500 teams, and slightly worse than this against teams over .500.  When playing a team with a record of 88-74, that beat them in the season series, the odds of the Red Sox winning any single game will be less than 3 to 2. 

I would have given the Red Sox three to two odds to win the Series before any game was played and that is a little generous.  I cannot even imagine an argument that the Red Sox have, going into it, a 5 to 2 chance of winning this World Series. 

Now that the Red Sox have won the first game 13-1, I can imagine an argument for 5-2, although I still think the odds are lower.  Not every Red Sox starter is Beckett and the Rockies do have a genuinely formidable lineup.  I am rooting for the Red Sox for family reasons and because I am curious to see what happens to their fan base and culture if they have to absorb the shock of two Series championships in four years.  But I think the Rockies are a great story.  And they do remind me a little of you-know-who.  You remember, of course, who won the first game of the 1969 World Series?

 

An Organization Without Any Class Whatsoever

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

The Yankee ownership put their heads together and came up with the brilliant idea of offering Joe Torre, whose current salary is $7.5 million, a one-year contract giving him $5 million dollars, with a bonus of $1 million for making it to the ALDS, another $1 million for making it to the ALCS, and another $1 million for making it to the World Series.  Can you imagine the utter intellectual and moral vacancy of the heads that could have come up with such a plan? 

A team that spends money on a scale that makes it meaningless, a team that draws over 4 million fans and has no money worries or limitations of any kind, chooses to “make a point” by cutting, by one-third, the salary of a manager who has brought them into 12 postseasons, and who literally brought them roaring back from the dead this year.  Did they do this to save $2.5 million lousy dollars?  No, the only reason they did this was to insult someone who deserves only praise, only respect, only admiration. 

Maybe they thought that they were providing him with an incentive?  Yeah, that’s real smart.  I guess the reason that Joe Torre hasn’t won any World Series since 2000 is that he didn’t have enough incentive.  Dangle an extra million dollars in front of him at each additional step on the way to the championship and he’ll get there!  Yes, just like when you want a rabbit to come out of a cage!  That’s the way it works!  What insight into human psychology!  Maybe they did some kind of experiment down in Tampa, with their cats and dogs and tuna and steak!   Gee, dad, let’s try this!

When I first heard Mike Francesa report that Joe Torre had accepted this insulting offer, I was genuinely downhearted.  When I heard that he actually turned it down, it brought tears to my eyes.  The Yankees, as an organization, are about to lose what they have left of dignity.  I wish I could have seen what happened when Torre took his principled stand.  It must have been like that moment in the movies, when the principled hero speaks truth to power and tells them where to go and where to put it.

I hope it stays like that.  I don’t want this to be one of these stupid Yankees things that are never what they seem to be.

How would you like to be a Yankees fan right now?  You know, for all of our joking around, we Mets fans know that there are plenty of decent people who root for the Yankees.  I feel for these people right now.  I mean, fans complain about ownership and management all the time.  That’s part of what it means to be a fan and what it means to own or manage a team.  But imagine what it would be like to have to root for a team owned and managed by such people.

There aren’t words in the English language for such people. 

 

I Love It

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

 

 

“Why panic?” Ramirez said. “If we don’t do it, we’ll come back next year and try again … If it doesn’t happen, who cares? There’s always next year. It’s not the end of the world.”
TV and radio people and “let’s get everybody all worked up” sportswriters couldn’t be happier than when a ballplayer says something like this.  To them, this is the coolest thing to happen since Michael Vick.  How could he say this?  Omigosh!  Doesn’t he WANT it?  Doesn’t he know what happens when baseball players and baseball teams don’t WANT IT BADLY ENOUGH WITH THEIR WHOLE HEART AND SOUL AND THEIR BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS AND THEIR GUTS AND THEIR LIVERS AND THEIR COJONES????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You know what maybe happens when a player has an attitude like this?  Maybe 4 home runs and 11 runs-batted-in in 7 games.  Maybe getting on base two thirds of the time.  Maybe that happens.  Did anybody ever think of that? 

I guess not.  Well, we’ll know who’s to blame if the Red Sox don’t win the pennant this year, won’t we?  I mean who the hell does he think he is watching those home runs he hits and raising his arms?  Yeah, there’s no room on a team for somebody like that. 

So, Red Sox, if you don’t want someone on your team who is such a bad influence on the image of the sport and on the whole American can-do spirit …

There’s a 718 number I would dearly love to give you. 

 

 

The Beginning of the Offseason

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Just after the Yankees were eliminated and I was left without anything much to want for the post-season, some kind of unexplainable software glitch made it impossible for me to access my blog as an administrator.  I was reduced, against my will, to silence.  The freaky demons of the 2007 season were not done with their work. 

Now I’m back online. 

I like the Rockies.  I always like it when teams like the Rockies, who were mainly picked for last, make it to the World Series.  But family loyalties will have me rooting for the Red Sox if they manage to get past Cleveland.  

I’d also like to see the Red Sox win the Series because I am curious to see what will happen to New England if the Red Sox win two World Series in four years.  It will have to become some other place.  New England’s mythic sense of identity will have gone haywire.  Palm trees will start growing.  And bougainvillea.  Sidewalk cafes with accordion music will spring up in defiance of strict zoning laws and white clapboard churches will become glamorous nightclubs.   The Scarlet Letter will suddenly have a happy ending.  Emily Dickinson will leave home.  And Thoreau will invite Whitman and his buddies up from New York to go skinny dipping on the lake.  It really never could be the same dear old unhappy place again. 

Anyway, we are now at that particularly strange time when baseball is fresh in our minds, it’s even continuing, but the Mets are nowhere.  They’re out of sight and out of mind.  Did we dream them?  Here’s a short piece from my book that tries to describe the eerieness of this time of year.

THE BEGINNING OF THE OFFSEASON

If the season doesn’t ended with a ticker-tape parade, you feel, for the first few days, as if you were driving a speeding car that has gone off the road and is now on its back, with the wheels spinning. It takes a while for the wheels to stop spinning, for the adrenaline in your system to get back to a normal level.

Some fans, apparently, can start talking right away about trades and free agents and all that. I can’t do it. I need some time to get used to the fact that the season is finally over, that nothing more can ever be added to it. It’s as if someone you know has disappeared. Suddenly a constant background hum is silenced. You turn on the radio or the TV and the Mets are not there. It’s as if some evil conspiracy has managed to eliminate all evidence that they ever existed.

Every so often during the offseason, you’ll hit the WFAN button on your radio and hear the Schmooze talking about football, or Howie announcing a hockey game, or Gary announcing a basketball game. You feel as if you’ve caught them having an affair.

There is now the long, fitful, and boring night. You don’t want to be outside. Soon, you forget what it was like, exactly, to have leaves on the trees and baseball on the radio.

Lear in the Storm

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

 

KENT
I know you. Where’s the king?
Gentleman
Contending with the fretful element:
Bids the winds blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled water ‘bove the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white hair,
Which the impetuous blasts, with eyeless rage,
Catch in their fury, and make nothing of;
Strives in his little world of man to out-scorn
The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.

What we see this morning in the sports pages is a rash and foolish old man, outraged by his inability to control what he can’t control, attended by a faithful daughter.

Baseball does not get much more Shakespearean than this. 

And baseball has suffered from the vanity of this man for how many years?  Baseball can thrive, baseball can be pleasurable only if those who are involved in it understand what baseball proves to us at every chance it gets: 

The natural condition of life is disappointment, and the sustaining pleasure of life is hope.  And love.  Baseball mirrors the human condition.  And no one can use it successfully to escape from that condition. 

A decent, loyal man about to lose his position (like Edgar?  like Cordelia?) says it best this morning: 

“I understand the requirements here, but the players are human beings, and it’s not machinery.  Even though they get paid a lot of money it’s still blood that runs through their veins.”   Joe Torre