March 2008

Flip-Flopping on Opening Day

Congratulations, Al, on your new affiliation with the Washington Nationals.  Excuse me while I puke.

“The wonderful part about getting to watch the Nats all season long is that they could send a team to the playoffs…”

– Allen Krause

Seriously?  Look, Al, I’m not going to ridicule you for your
support of a National League team.  That’s perfectly
understandable.  And I’m not going to ridicule you for your
passing on Baltimore.  But I am going to ridicule you for your
reasoning because if you think that the Nats have even a smidgeon of a
chance in a division stacked with the Mets, Phillies and Braves then
you have much bigger problems — problems involving your brain or, more appropriately, the lack
thereof.

RonnieWooWooGoat.jpg

But before I get too angry or too possessed by the strong emotions that
tend to separate me from reality — I must remind myself that this
proclamation that the Nats “could send a team to the playoffs” is
coming from the same guy who, while living in the Chi, wore a Cubs hat
and tooted around town wooing with Wrigley Ronnie Woo Woo on his arm.

So sure.  I get it.  Living in a new city you feel a little
displaced.  You are looking for a new social network — a venue
for communitas.  No shame in that.  So you do what feels
comfortable.  You align yourself with losers who perennialy get
their hopes up only to be let down in every single way possible, only
this time they wear a “W” on their hats instead of a “C”.

I totally get it.

At least your silence tells me you heartily agree with my assessment of your inappropriate Filibuster question.  And your acceptance of disloyalty towards the man who once pitched your team to a World Championship.  I know.  I know.  Your welcome for my thoughts.

In keeping with such exactitude, I have to say that TLR saw his club get off to a good start today; unfortunately, rain wouldn’t allow it
to last long.  Such was the case in many cities this day. 
No, there weren’t any snow-outs this year, but Allen, your dream of an
Opening Day sans the Yankees came true.  Don’t get used to
paradise.  They play tomorrow.

And I guess I won’t bring up that colossal letdown loss the Tigers took against the mighty Royals today.  Gil Meche what!?!  Tigers got Danza-slapped
Okay, I will admit, I did get a little mancrush on Cabrera when he hit
that longball; but all in all I found it quite sad that all of those
white suburbanites immediately went back to buzzing about post-season
hockey when the final score was in. 

Nah, don’t worry about it, Al.  It’s a long season…and besides, you’re a Nats fan now, so your season will be that much longer.

Seriously, don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy
(more…)

Pennant or penitentiary?

Having recently moved to our nation’s capitol, I am slowly beginning to look into the teams that call this area home. No team will ever be able to replace the Tigers in my heart but I see nothing wrong with supporting an NL team up until the point that they are pitted against Detroit. Well, unless it’s a team from NYC. I refuse to support any team from the NY metro area but that’s another story for another time. My point is that in coming to the DC metro area, I am faced once again with the prospect of two teams.

It would not be blasphemy to support the Orioles since they are terrible. And, beyond the the fact of their complete ineptitude is the greater fact that they will play both the Yankees and Red Sox many times this season giving me just as many chances to cheer against both teams. This makes me happy. However, because the Orioles will also have to face my Tigers throughout the season, which means that I have settled on supporting the Nationals. To be honest, though, I don’t necessarily consider this settling. The main reason is that because, just like the Cincinnati Bengals, the Nats have possibly the most felonious team in baseball.

PH2008032703408.jpgThe wonderful part about getting to watch the Nats all season long is that they could send a team to the playoffs or they might just send a couple players off to the joint. I mean, we’re talking about a team here that suits up both Elijah Dukes and Dmitri Young. How could you not love the possibilities? Now, I already have a special place in my heart for Dmitri since he used to be a Tiger but at the same time I recognize that this is a man who had a warrant out for his arrest in Detroit and once punched a fan during a minor league game. And Elijah, for all his talent, is probably best known for impregnating a 17 year old foster child living with his relatives. However, in the city that gave us Marion Barry, can you really expect anything less? All I know is that I will be watching all season long, including tonight as the Nats start things off against the Braves.
 
-A

The Filibuster

Mike Ditka arguably did less with more than any other coach in NFL
history. Is it more accurate to argue that the MLB equivalent of Mike
Ditka is Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa?

–Allen

                                                                                             

Mr. Krause, as much as it pains me, I must give you credit for being as brazen and careless as you look.  Though my supporters would very much like for me to chastise you for your ignorance, I will not willingly attack your character, except to say that you are completely retarded.

Even hinting at the idea that it is acceptable to compare managerial expertise in baseball with football coaching is heinous enough  –  but to make such a blasphemous claim that either Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa has failed in some aspect of their respective careers is an absolute aberration in of itself.

tony larussa.jpgLess with more?  Really, Al?  You really believe that?  Is taking your team to the playoffs seven times in eleven years with pitching staffs that have included the likes of Donovan Osborne, Rick Ankiel, Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver considered doing less with more?  Is winning the NL Central Division title six times in eleven years considered doing less with more?  Is making two World Series appearances in the last four years and winning the whole thing after having to defeat the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers while having an overwhelmingly inferior pitching staff considered doing less with more, Al?  For real?  And, Al, I haven’t even touched on Tony’s Oakland and Chicago days.  Less with more?  Bite your slanderous tongue, my friend.  How about being third on the all-time wins list with 2,375?  Considering that the Cardinals (and A’s and White Sox) haven’t had the luxury of pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into their payrolls, I contest your outlandish claim and set you straight that if anything, TLR has done more with less!

joe torre.jpgAnd I know your personal bias towards all things Evil Empire prevents you from making any rational observations and/or decisions when it comes to the likes of Joe Torre, Al, but come on, he managed his team to four World Series titles in five years (1996-2000) and even after that surge, he continued to get them to the Series in 2001 and 2003.  In fact, he was only one Gonzo bloop single away from winning four in a row.  Sure, his time had run out in New York, yes, that’ s true; but he might just take his new team to the World Series again this year and with all that sun and the absence of anyone named Steinbrenner breathing down his neck, I say he won’t have any problems producing wins.  Having racked up 2,067 of them so far, Mr. Krause, it is quite obvious that he is no slacker.  Less with more?  Please.  You turn my stomach. 

Ditka has been labeled with the stigma of doing less with more because he had a team that had all the potential in the world to become a dynasty.  It never did. 

Tony LaRussa’s Oakland A’s were in the World Series from 1988 to 1990.   Since 1996, his St. Louis Cardinals have been a perennial contender.  The man has won a World Series in both leagues.  He hasn’t had an owner willing to pass out blank checks either, which is all the more reason to celebrate his greatness.  He is innovative, strong-willed and brilliant.  He has gotten more out of his teams than anyone else would and he’s only behind Connie Mack and John McGraw in all-time wins. 

And there’s no question that Torre had a dynasty, Al.  The New York Yankees have been the bane of our existences for the last eleven years because he has managed them to so much success.  Less with more?  Please, check yourself before you wreck yourself, Al.

I know it won’t be easy for you, but you have to see the Truth in what I say.  And I urge you not to hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

Ode to the Mustachioed

It’s only Wednesday and already it has been a long week.  After getting up at 5 a.m. the last two days to watch the Tokyo series, dealing with the stress of work and setting Allen in his place after his slanderous Filibuster, I finally found myself with some downtime.  So I turned on my television this evening only to find that it had decided to stop working.  To my utter dismay, this happened right in the middle of (daresay!) American Idol.  In response, I did what any constrained adult male would do — I hit it as hard as I could, over and over and over again. 

It didn’t work.

So it is with ice on my swollen fists and sunglasses over my bulging bloodshot eyes that my mind meanders down that strange path somewhere between dementia, destruction and delusion, which aren’t all that different really.  Just ask Dubya

Jack Morris.  That’s who we’ve been discussing the last few days.  And after lobbying for him (and discrediting Allen as a Tiger fan) it appears that the more pressing matter regarding the HOF snub is actually his trademark mustache:

"…Jack Morris should get in, if for nothing else, for the unwavering sporting of the 80′s p0rn mustache…over his career.  That could quite possibly be a better statistic for consistency than his winning seasons."

Posted by: Tim D. |
March 26, 2008 10:42 AM on The Filibuster

Indeed, Tim.  That’s what I’ve been trying to say all along.  You just said it better.  Let’s take a look at some other famously mustachioed Hall of Famers…

Dennis_eckersley
Dennis Eckersley
.  Like Morris, Eckersley sported this slick-styled "p0rno mustache" during his entire career.  I’m not sure if the ‘stache ever led to having to talk to women while naked, but something must’ve been working because that slider was wicked! (except that one hanger to Gibson)  At his 2004 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he was still wearing this trademark blue-collar everyday-joe ‘stache that women seemed to have loved in the 70s and 80s.  I tried it once.  Didn’t get very far with it.  Maybe if I had a slider…

Goose_gossage
Goose Gossage.  Another mustachioed reliever of the game who still carries on the signature ‘stache years, decades past his playing career.  Seems to work pretty well because Goose is still scary as ****.  In childhood, I refused to collect Goose’s baseball cards because I was convinced he was the devil incarnate, evil, the boogeyman… that he would sneak in my room and knock me down with high heat.

Rollie_fingers_2 Rollie Fingers.  Fingers is proof that there is always room in the starting rotation for a Civil War general.  An integral part of the Charlie Finley dynasty, Rollie was paid a bonus for growing a wildly interesting mustache.  Who knew he would keep it for the rest of his life — the mustache and the bonus… or that he wouldn’t ever pay taxes on said bonus… or ever pay taxes at all?

Perhaps it is true that the man can’t make the mustache but the mustache can definitely make the man… that is, if anyone were to ever say that.  In the meantime…

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

Wrong, Wrong, and WRONG

GoreangryatalThe entire city of Detroit (sorry, I mean the white suburbs surrounding Detroit) is sobbing right now, Al.  Yes, Hockeytown may never forgive you for your slander if you can ever sell enough Girlscout cookies to buy a plane ticket to go back.  But why would you, really?  You’ve already proven your disloyalty to the keystone of the lonely World Series Championship your team has achieved during your lifetime.  Sure, maybe the Hawk, a victim of being the best player on the worst team year in and year out, ultimately doesn’t have what it takes to be in the Hall of Fame (though keep in mind, if he would’ve hit 62 more homers we wouldn’t even be having this conversation).  And sure, Jim Rice, though he’s touted as the most dominate player of his league for at least a decade, just misses "defining" the game of baseball.  But, Al, Jack Morris?  Really?  You really believe that Jack Morris doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame?  That he doesn’t deserve his place among the greatest of all time because he didn’t "define the game of baseball"?  Well, I hate to tell ya, Al, but you are absolutely WRONG.

Now it would be easy for me to rip you apart here with my diligent statistical analysis and shrewd acumen of baseball inteligencia to prove why I am right, but let me save everyone from having to read a book and make this much easier for you with two words: Jim Bunning.  Yeah, I said Jim Bunning — the senator from Kentucky.  That’s right.  Did you know, Al, that Jim Bunning is in the Hall of Fame?

Did Jim Bunning define the game of baseball, Al?  Using your own argument, I have to tell you that Jack Morris did so indeed, my friend.  He was the poster-child for consistency, compiling winning records in 15 of his 18 years in the big leagues and twelve times he won 15 games or more during a season!  He won 254 games (that’s 30 more than Bunning) in his career, led the ’84 Tigers, the ’91 Twins, the ’92 and ’93 Blue Jays to World Series championships, made 5 All-Star appearances and won a WS MVP, not to mention the absolute wicked nature of his splitter.  If only Al Gore had invented the internet a decade earlier, fantasy baseball nerds like me would be drooling to draft him.  He was a lock for a strong, injury-free, 15+ game winning season.  In other words, he dominated during his career. 

And all that leaves him out of the Hall?  Perhaps a case can be made for getting just his signature mustache in?  An exhibit of the mustache then?

But, Al, you’re not the only one who’s completely wrong on this day…

HillaryclintonohmyHillary Clinton: WRONG.  You see, I really must apologize to everyone for not responding to Allen’s heinous post earlier…it’s just, well, gee, I didn’t want to bring any of this up but I guess I should let you all know that on my way to work in downtown Chicago the other day I had to dodge howitzer fire, a couple of grenades and the thirty-third infantry, which kind of set everything back a few days, you know?  But jeesh, that wasn’t the half of it.  What really got under my skin was having to ride the 62 Archer bus home while we evaded sniper fire from a book depository at Michigan & Roosevelt.  While the bus was sliding across the intersection on its side, shooting sparks all over my otherwise pleasant view of the lakefront, I realized I was bleeding from the shrapnel that lodged into the side of my face while I was having lunch with a colleague earlier that day.

I feel much better now.

Mannyramirez799960_1
And all you Manny haters out there upset that he pulled a Barry Bonds move by watching the ball instead of running hard are, in this case, WRONG, too.  That game-winning double he hit early this morning was a fantastic start to the season and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.  Do you ever really expect Manny to not watch a high pop fly that has, at the very least, the potential to be a home run?  This is Manny Ramirez we’re talking about here.  This is the guy David Ortiz says is a crazy matsuzaka.  He should’ve been hustling on that play?  No way.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much without seeing his priceless reaction of oh sh*t that’s not out of here, I better run now…  We love Manny because he is so dumb yet so bright, so awkward yet so graceful, so Manny yet so…Manny.   Unlike Bonds, he’s a lovable guy.  He says funny things.  He plays the Green Monster perfectly and he does hustle…sometimes.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Filibuster


As of 2008, Jim Rice, Jack Morris and Andre Dawson have all been kept out of the Hall of Fame. Which of these snubs is the most heinous?

–Jeff

___________________________________________

Well, Mr. Lung, I appreciate the gravity of the question. And I’m sure the thinking man’s response would be Jim Rice. More than that, with the current power of the Red Sox nation, one would assume that it was a done deal. However, I don’t care about that. And I don’t care about Andre Dawson either. Me, I want to talk about Jack Morris.

First of all, he deserves to be in some Hall of Fame somewhere just for saying "I don’t talk to women when I’m naked, unless they’re on top of me or I’m on top of them." And that’s coming from a guy who looked like this:
Jack_morris_autograph
And he went to BYU. A mormon with a dirty mouth? Sign this man up.

And on the baseball side of things, without Jack, Sparky only wins the World Series in one league and Alan Trammell is just another shortstop. Ok, so the part about Trammell isn’t true but there’s no way the Tigers win the series in ’84 without Morris.

However, I’m going to have to go against my instincts and my abiding love of the Tigers here and tell god’s honest truth. It is Easter after all and Jesus just came back from the dead. So, here it is, straight from me to you. None of these baseball players, as good as they are, deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Yeah, they’re amazing talents and they may have even posted numbers that were gaudy in their time. Morris ended his career with 254 wins. Rice almost hit .300 for his career and more or less held the Red Sox together during that time. And Andre Dawson has a cool name and played for the Cubs. But none of them defined baseball during their respective careers and none of them deserve a place next to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb or Sandy Koufax.

The Hall of Fame ceases to be relevant when players get in based on spectacular seasons, slightly above average careers or the meaning they may have had to their team. The Hall of Fame exists to reward and celebrate those who redefined how the game is played. That’s why Micky Mantle is a Hall of Famer and Cecil Fielder is just the father of Prince Fielder. Once someone like Cecil gets in, Micky’s accomplishments mean that much less. So, a standard has to be set and that standard has to be rigorously applied to everyone, no matter how beloved they might be.

So, here’s my answer to your question. None of these snubs are heinous because not a single one of these players met the standard that has been set for inclusion in the Hall. And since they don’t meet that standard, not a single one deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

A

The Freshness

Waino2006Sorry, P-Diddy, it ain’t always about the benjamin$.  In fact, sometimes it’s just about quality of life, staying where you’re adored and remaining humble.  Gee, what a novel idea. 

How many other 28 year-old pitching stars would waive their first two years of free agency eligibility during the prime of their lives?   How many other stars would take less money than they know they’ll be offered down the road in order to stay in the city, with the team, that they love?  That’s exactly what Adam Wainwright did in signing his new four-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday.  The current cornerstone of the Cardinals pitching staff and phenom stopper during the Redbirds’ 2006 World Series Championship run is proof that ballplayers who are humble and realize just how lucky they are to be playing baseball for a living really do exist.

"I get to do it in St. Louis, where the fans are the greatest in the
game, and I love the city and my wife loves the city, and that’s what’s
most important to us," he said. "We’re going to be there for,
hopefully, a long, long time, and a long time after this contract. My
wife is very, very excited about this deal, and I look forward to
raising our daughter there. It’s just a great situation for both
parties, I think."

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not one to say that ballplayers should be making less money.  Not at all.  I think they do deserve what they’re worth in regards to the overall revenues of the game and I think baseball is much better off with free agency.  But it’s just nice to know that some players are satisfied with 2 million a year as opposed to 22 million. 

And believe me, Adam is getting paid.  He won’t be making a salt miner’s salary, that’s for sure.  But if he just held out for two more years it’s almost guaranteed that he’d be getting big bank offers for his services, probably from teams like the Evil Empire.

Waino likes the Cardinals organization.  He likes St. Louis.  His wife likes St. Louis, too.  He actually consulted his wife!  Wow!  What a guy!  I won’t go as far as my sister has and declare that he is the most attractive man in baseball, but I will give him mad props (*cliche warning) for being a breath of fresh air. 

Speaking of mad props, I want to take a second and commend some of the superior blogging going on at MLB by everyday joes like myself.  These fellas continue to draw me in with their superior reporting/pontificating/lampooning: Cardinals Kingdom, by Brady, is a must for Redbirds fans, especially those interested in minor league developments.   Paul at Prince of New York repeatedly impresses with his unique insight and well-researched ideas that tackle all angles of the game (buy his book here).  And Matt at Diamondhacks is witty, funny, edgy, brave and downright hilarious with his atypical style of genius.  I read these every day.  You should too.

And please don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

Affirmative Inaction!

With the issue of race dominating the headlines this week, I felt it my civic duty to address an all-too-often overlooked issue that has been increasingly detrimental to the game of baseball and society as a whole.  It is a matter that has been consistently neglected by both casual fans and executive suits, the media and the players.  Frankly, bringing it up now, in this forum, at a time when our country is in great need of healing from past and present atrocities, I must admit that I fear for my life.

But somebody has to say something.  Because grave inequalities saturate our stadiums from the east coast to the west coast, in red states and in blue states, which sorta leaves out Canada, but they’re guilty of sins too!  Fear not, baseball fans, for I may be but one, but I am one for all. 

And sacrifice is needed.

Fredbird
Ladies and gentlemen of this great nation, there are six birds currently employed by Major League Baseball.  You will find them in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Toronto (that’s in Canada).

Slidermascot_1
Ladies and gentlemen of this great nation, there are six monsters currently employed by Major League Baseball.  You will find monsters in Cleveland, Boston, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Chicago (Southside).

While it saddens me that our nation’s ignorance towards the fact that the privileged birds and monsters of the world are hoarding a great percentage of the jobs in baseball, I am happy to say some minority groups have been able to worm themselves into arguably comfortable positions.  That is not to say it has been easy.  Being a sea creature is not easy, folks.  The pain, the ridicule, all that time spent out of water in the hot summer sun.  That is not an easy life by any means.  But you won’t hear a complaint from the fabulous Lou Seal of San Francisco or Billy the Marlin in Miami.  You also won’t hear complaints from the two felines with steady jobs, even though they endure countless acts of ridicule themselves as victims of a vindictive world.  Paws used to be the most exciting thing at Comerica until Leyland came in and that pizza man started buying all those rich ballplayers.  And of course, who could forget the spiteful slangs of hate by the disenfranchised snake population directed towards D. Baxter the Bobcat, icon of the Arizona Diamondbacks?   

Though outnumbered for now, it is apparent that at least the sea creatures and the felines of the world are making great strides towards a brighter tomorrow.  And MLB is slowly rising to the call.

But ladies and gentlemen, this is 2008. 

Bushfanatic
And it is embarrassing to report that there is only one, (yes I said just one), phanatic employed throughout the entire game of baseball. 

I know, I know, phanatics are Republicans.  I know.  But ladies and gentlemen of this great nation, Republicans are living things too.  Republicans have feelings thoughts heartbeats.  Republicans have mouths to feed.  In fact, republicans have much to offer this world, including running around on ballfields pulling down players’ pants and dancing the macarena on the tops of dugouts. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time we stand up against these injustices.  It is time we recognize that phanatics/republicans are just as capable of making fools out of themselves (in fact, much more capable) as birds, monsters, sea creatures and felines. 

Consider yourself informed.  You now have no excuse.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

P.S.  Look for The Filibuster this weekend, the new weekly segment where Al and I jar one another with provocative questions in an attempt to get each other angry, or at least thinking about something in an opinionated way. 

Running the Race

Obamathink



"Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well."

                    —-Barack Obama, March 18, 2008

 

It was bound to happen eventually and we all knew it.  I’m surprised it took this long; in the wake of ongoing verbal fencing and loud whispers to the press, yesterday, race became the focal point of our nation’s political future.  And I can’t help but ask myself, "Really?  Are we not past this yet?" 

It seems that I, like most people, tend to get wrapped up in my own little cozy world where I subliminally tune out important issues like third-world hunger, genocide, massive racial divides.  While I do not actively wish to diminish the magnitude of such matters, I know that we, as human beings, have the propensity to ignore them all together as long as we feel distanced from them.  But how distanced are we really?

It wasn’t all that long ago when Al Campanis told Ted Koppel, and every other American watching Nightline, that blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager" in Major League Baseball (1987).  It wasn’t all that long ago when Frank Robinson became the first black manager in the American League (1975).  And it wasn’t all that long ago when Frank Robinson became the first black manager in the National League (1980).

Of course, when one thinks about the history of the world, or the history of this nation, or even the history of Major League Baseball, April 15, 1947 wasn’t all that long ago either—a mere blip on the screen of modernity.  And just think of all the great ballplayers, games, pennant races we missed seeing, knowing, reading about before that day.

Historically, baseball has been a leader in equality.  Presently, baseball is lagging behind.  We have overcome mountains of obstacles, but there is always more to be done.

Baseball is a game, but it is more than a game.  For me and my brethren, it is a passion, a way of life, a worldview.  And one would be hard pressed to find any distance between passion and the passioned.

And I know I am not alone.  Thank you, Jackie.  Thank you, Barack.  Let us find that common stake we all have in one another and let our game reflect that spirit as well.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right,

Jeffy

Awesomeball!

Maozedong3_1MLB has officially invaded China, and despite growing concerns (or the complete denial) of political unrest in the much-disputed province of Tibet, everything is going just swell!   For China, this entire event is considered a blip of a test run before the unveiling of their true grandeur as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games.  For US Americans, this is the beginning of making a lot of $$$ in a virtually untapped market.  And what better way to showcase our national past-time to China than to have the San Diego Padres (a bunch of bat-wielding religious zealots!) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (a group of fleet-foots named after dodging danger!) play to a 3-3 tie–the ultimate proletariat resolution to conflict.  (*Another, more effective way is to simply shoot your opponent.)

JiangyawnsOf course, the Chinese already arduously follow a sport with similarly  anticlimactic outcomes.  It’s called soccer, or futbol–zuqiu in Mandarin, of which I’m a fluent speaker, because, yes I’m brilliant.  And arrogant.  And stubborn.  And sleazy.  In other words, I am China. 

Seriously though, I do fancy myself as an intellectual capable of overcoming cultural boundaries, stereotypes, and all that other smart sounding stuff.  My four years living in China are testament to this.  In fact, prior to my Fulbrightonian quest to become the world’s most renown sinologist (still working on that; we thank you for your patience) I knew that there was some history, albeit brief, of baseball in China, but I never gave it much thought.  Taiwan (not China by the way), because of its American and Japanese military/political presences, had a better grasp of the game–played it even–but weren’t that good.  Watching a televised Taiwanese professional contest is about as exciting as watching presidential candidates arm-wrestle: interesting, but for all the wrong reasons. 

In my experience, the Chinese (back to the Mainland now) find the actual name of the sport, bangqiu, more appealing than the sport itself.  Loosely transliterated from the English "baseball", bang means "great!", "awesome!", "grand!".  Qiu means "ball".  Naturally, Aweseome!ball sounds like the rip-roarin’ time that it is.  However, when my scary Communist Party Official professor, Mr. Wang Jianguo asked me "what exactly is baseball?" and I answered with a twenty minute diatribe explaining balls and strikes, the bases, three outs, 9 innings, etc, I got a terse response: "Sounds too complicated to be embraced by the masses.  It doesn’t sound ‘awesome’ at all."

Dsc00107_3
This hiccup in my international relationship building project really left a sour taste in my mouth.  So, 8 years before MLB ever played a game in China, I took my message to the streets, professing my love and faith for my country’s greatest, awesomest, grandest game.  I found the one outlet in all of Beijing (a Japanese store no less) that actually had baseball gloves, balls, bats, and I started showing up in parks, hanging out and hitting pop flies into wide open spaces otherwise occupied by diligent university bookworms until someone would approach me to see what in the world I was doing.  Occasionally, curious onlookers would get past the fact that I was a whitey who spoke their language and would actually stay quiet long enough to let me explain the gists of the game.  But more often than not, I didn’t get very far. 

Eventually, a certain 50-something Mr. Qian Deping became interested in what I was professing.  After he made certain I wasn’t a Christian missionary using an obscure, odd angle to push Jesus, he began to show up more frequently; he became my biggest fan.  Okay, my only fan.  Having his undivided attention, I began to realize just how difficult it is to adequately explain the rules of baseball to someone who has never even seen or heard of it before.   Mr. Qian didn’t follow most of what I taught; and he was very adamant against the idea of ‘three strikes and you’re out’. 

Qianxiansheng_2
"No.  Three strikes is not good," he said.  "There must be another way."

"I’m afraid not.  Three strikes and you’re out."

"This is not a good game for the people."

"Why?  I think it’s a great game for the people.  It celebrates individuality in the spirit of team, community, common goals."

"The people will not like it.  They will not like being ‘out’.  They want another try."

As much as the people may not like being ‘out’, Mr. Qian finally got up the nerve to throw the ball around with me.  He threw like a girl.  I couldn’t help but laugh. 

"The people simply throw.  There is no distinguishing between ‘like a girl’ or ‘like a boy’."

He had a point because I couldn’t get him to throw like a boy.  He was stuck in his ways, and quite comfortable.  His reinterpretation of the game included banning base-stealing because "stealing is a crime" and shortening games to only 8 innings because "eight is a lucky number and nine is not."   

How could I argue with such logic?

I handed him a bat, stepped off 60 1/2 feet and threw him a lazy fastball.  He just stared at it as it passed by, hitting a cement wall behind him.  "You’re supposed to hit it, Mr. Qian.  Just rear back and take a swing."  I took a little off the next one and watched–in slow motion–this 50-plus year old man windup the most unorthodox swing and crush the ball to what would’ve been straight away center field had it been a ballpark and not a campus quadrangle. 

I turned and watched it soar, fly high through a grey sky with that song from The Natural repeating in my head while time froze.  Every hair on my body stood up.  Tingles rushed from head to toe.  For a few seconds, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

The ball landed among a bunch of lounging Beijing University students who screamed and scattered like shrapnel upon its descent, looking in every direction for a culprit, a foreign devil.  All eyes turned to me.  In unison their glares scolded me for my tomfoolery. 

But the deafening celebratory cackles of ecstasy by Mr. Qian broke up any ensuing retaliation by the student mob.  I turned back to where home plate would have been and saw Mr. Qian holding the bat high above his head like a Tusken Raider, screaming sounds of victory to all who would hear.

"I did it!  I did it!  I won!"

Mr. Qian was a winner on that day (grab the Kleenex) and so was I.  I may never have gotten to see him figure out how to run the bases or catch a ball or pitch in the strike zone, but for that one brief moment I was an integral part of mending two cultures that had grown accustomed to bickering over differences.  Finally, the game I loved proved a fine (though at times confusing) ambassador to the people I had worked so hard to understand, to be a part of.

That was all the proof I needed to know that someday China would get baseball.  It will take some time–well, honestly, it will take a very long time.  But if the Chinese people as a whole are good at anything, it’s copying things that have already been proven successful.  Whether it’s mass producing bootlegged DVDs or creating faux designer clothing or reinventing our national pastime as their own, I expect that eventually our broadcasters will be stumbling over names like Zhang Jianguo, Zhu Fengming, Li Ningshou, Jiang Jiahe, He Weili and Mou Daiguo.  Who knows, maybe we’ll even be able to get an order of pot stickers and gulao jirou at the game.  But no fortune cookies, please. Nothing could be farther from truly authentic things-Chinese than fortune cookies.  Those are designated especially for American ******. 

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right (yinwei wo shuo de dui, suoyi, bu yao hen wo).

Peace,

Jeffy   

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