Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Burn, Basepaths, Burn!

Another assortment of quasi-organized thoughts from our foreign correspondent and has-been jersey taxidermist, Blylevin's Beard.

Did you see Jacoby Ellsbury steal home against the Yankees?! I mean, wow! Sorry, I’m excited, and I’ve gotten way ahead of myself. I’m gonna back it up, like a lot, and seemingly switch topics entirely, but I beg of you, please bear with me. Because that steal of home was awesome.

Barry Bonds had eclipsed perhaps the most treasured record in all of sports, a feat responded to by Hank Aaron with predictable grace, and by Bud Selig with predictable weaseliness, and by the American public with all the enthusiasm of a car owner paying for new brake pads, Major League Baseball blackballed him. They shut him out, hoped he’d shut up, and directed our attention to Alex Rodriguez, the clean-shaven-former-teen-phenom, the pinstripe-clad golden boy at the height of his considerable powers, destined to restore the shine on the newly-tarnished Home Run Throne. And then it turned out that he’d tested positive for ‘roids while a Ranger. And some new book clams that he may have been juicing as far back as his high school days, and has played with needles while in a Yankee uniform, too. Oh yeah, and while in Texas he allegedly tipped pitches to opposing batters in hopes of getting the favor returned – selling out his teammates for an infinitesimal boost to his own stat line. To put it bluntly, this is a bonafide shitstorm. And this time, the MLB can’t slug their way out of it.

The tradition of enticing disillusioned fans back to the ballpark with the promise of dingers aplenty stretches back to baseball’s seminal shitstorm, the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. The following year, umpires began cracking down on spitters (and emeryballs, and goopballs, and snotballs...) and introducing fresh balls once those in use got scuffed up, dramatically tipping the scales in favor of hitters: ergo, the dawn of the "Live Ball Era." The Babe became The Guy, and was soon joined by the likes of Lou Gehrig, Hack Wilson, Jimmie Foxx and Mel Ott in reeling fans back in by knocking more and more pitches out of the park.

Most recently, of course, the “Problems? What problems? Check out this 500-foot blast!” method was employed following the disgusting/depressing 1994 strike. At the pinnacle of this swing stands the McGwire-Sosa derby of 1998, but those two certainly weren’t alone in the effort: Bonds, Griffey, Sheffield, Matt Williams, hell, even Jason Priestley, er, I mean Brady Anderson, got on the Round-Tripper Trolley! Only this time around, it wasn’t decreased levels of vaseline on the ball making everybody homer-happy; it was increased levels of testosterone in the players. Baseball’s best and brightest in the post-strike era weren’t “farm-boy strong” a la Enos Slaughter and Mickey Mantle, they were rapidly morphing into Lou Ferrigno lookalikes, and it wasn’t because of the new Nautilus machine in the clubhouse, either, and everybody knew it, but they thought the party would last forever, and then it blew up in MLB’s face, and that pretty much brings us to the shitstorm at hand.

So like I said, with Barry long-beyond-tainted and A-Rod newly-tainted, it’s become clear that the longball won’t cure what’s currently ailing baseball. To my great delight, however, it appears that what will is a return to old-school, Senior Circuit speed-and-defense baseball. Once again, did see Jacoby Ellsbury steal home against the Yankees?! How about Carl Crawford’s sextet of steals against the Red Sox. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when Ryan Howard gets ahold of one, too, but he does so once every 15 at-bats or so. Jimmy Rollins’ wheels, on the other hand, are on display in every inning of every game he plays. So I say give me more Emilio Bonifacio inside-the-parkers, more Ichiro Suzuki stop-on-a-dime bunts, more Reed Johnson diving catches, more of Hanley Ramirez on the rise and Juan Pierre on the rebound [Ed: This last one's not going to happen. Live in the now, Beard]. Give me the second coming of Vince “Firecrackers Ahoy!” Coleman and the Redbirds of the mid-‘80s, with a lineup full of switch-hitting, count-working, drag-bunting, hit-and-run-executing speed demons who somehow found a way to make baseball played on turf a glorious thing.

Let’s put this steroid mess (and all the other baggage A-Rod’s bringing to the table these days) behind us. One stolen base at a time. Speaking of which, did you see Jacoby Ellsbury steal home against the Yankees?!


The Backwards K said...

Great sentiment!

And info on our correspondent's namesake's current affairs can be found here


Obscenity Bat said...

Careful readers will notice how I denigrated Juan Pierre by editorializing that his "rebounding" is simply not going to happen. Well, color me wrong:

In the first 10 games since he was forced into the everyday lineup by Ramirez's 50-game suspension, Pierre is batting .465 (20-for-43) with seven doubles, a triple, 11 runs scored and nine RBI.

Sorry Blyleven! (correct spelling)