WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD
Remove pistol. Aim into barrel. Shoot fish.
Such is the modus operendi for sportswriters this season. As usual,
speculation from the pundits is a triumph of redundancycolumnists
around the country seem eager to repeat the clichéd possibility
of a Twins-Expos World Series. This notion is about as interesting
as sitting through another Kevin Costner baseball flick. Montreal
barely stands a chance of making it to the Fall Classic, and if
they did, would it even be interesting? Do we really think that
Bud Selig's going to be sitting in some dark corner, gnashing
his teeth, cursing the heroic Twins? The idea of playing in front
of the hushed crowds of French-speaking Canadians doesn't particularly
thrill us. And yet, sportswriters seem to think that this would
be a the funniest thing since "Major League" charmed
their socks off a few years back.
We'd like to remind our readers that prior to the sinister whispers
of contraction, we thought that shaving a team or two off the
league was a good idea.. Lest we not forget, prior to '02 many
were those who grumbled about the watering down of the majors.
Expansion was used as an excuse for everything from the rise in
home runs, to the need to remove the anti-trust exemption, and
over to the injustice of the electoral college. Here in Mudville,
we're firmly behind the notion of contraction. Simply put, there
are too many teams in the leaguein fact, we believe there
are precisely two too many.
The Twins aren't one of these teams. Contracting the Twins is
a good idea only to Bud Selig and his loan shark, Carl Pohlad.
Frustrated over the collective intelligence of the frugal state
of Minnesota, Pohlad and company keep muttering threat after empty
threat, to move the team to Las Vegas or North Carolina and now
just to can the whole thing altogether. There is no logical reason
to remove the Twins, except to benefit Carl Pohlad.
So who should get the axe? To begin with, let's set some ground
First: no team should be removed that has played in a World Series.
Admittance into the fall classic makes a team worthy of a higher
statusfor playing in a championship often cements a team
to its community. When the Diamondbacks won, much was written
about the fact that it was Arizona's first pro championshipthe
same went with Denver and their Superbowl victory. Fans talk and
reminisce about championship seasons through the generations.
In Detroit, people still talk about the '68 World Series and what
it meant to the city, and in the fair state of Minneapolis, the
Twins '87 and '91 series victories are spoken of with reverence.
Contracting a team that has engaged in a Series would be utterly
cruel and in the worst interest of the sport. Sadly, this probably
is not a deterring argument for our enlightened ownership cabal.
Second: in no way, shape, or form, should an original franchise
get the axe. Consider the Twinstheir Minnesota history dates
back over forty years. However, before the move, the Washington
Senators date back to the beginning of the American League. Removal
of the Twins would eliminate the team of Kirby Puckett, Harmon
Killebrew, Rod Carew, and even the distant Movietone memories
of Walter Johnson, the affable losers in "Damn Yankees",
and the great doormats of the American league. Kill the Twins
and you send a terrible message to baseball fans: namely, that
nothing whatsoever is sacred to the owners, and no team is safe
from movement or sale. For a sport already facing a possible strike,
and with a fan base growing more and more jaded, this would be
Finally: keep the teams with newer stadiums. OK, so we hate how
the league keeps blackmailing cities into coughing up their milk
monies, but if the deed's done, let's keep the place occupied.
Imagine the horror a city would face having erected one of these
giant pleasure palaces only to see it vacated? Sadly, for this
reason we also believe that Tampa Bay should remain solvent. Yes,
their dome is the worst, built when domes, like K-cars, were considered
a good idea. But the city of St. Petersburg has been screwed over
so many times, they deserve a team. And we believe that if they
actually fielded a winner, the city would respond, as Seattle
did with the Mariners.
So who to contract? Of course, we firmly believe that the Montreal
Expos should go. They stink, their logo stinks, their stadium
stinks and their city, beautiful though it may be, does not enjoy
baseball. Put your head on the block, Expos, you're going down.
Fine. That's one. But there's another. By our reasoning, we've
eliminated Tampa Bay, Florida, the Twins and most of the rest
of the expansions. All except one.
The Anaheim Angels.
That's right, the Angels. Bland as the suburb they curiously named
themselves after, the star-struck Anaheim Angels have never been
more than a mercenary team, unable to buy a winner. They play
in a lousy park whose lease was up in 2001, with a history that's
only interesting for their horrible exit from the '86 playoffs
(resulting in a great World Series, and, later, a horrible murder-suicide).
To make this deal even sweeter, consider that even Disney's sick
of this team and ready to cash out. Plus, since most Southern
Californians consider themselves Dodger fans, and since the good
Gene Autry has since passed on, removal of this team would be
as (relatively) painless as the extraction of the Expos.
So there you have it: The Expos. The Angels. Together they epitomized
baseball at its most bland and uninteresting. Euthanizing these
teams is a humane gesturesort of like putting down a lame
horse. No one likes to do it, but deep down inside, you know it's
for the best.
OUR EYE WANDERS:
Mother Nature gave her testimony in behalf of the Twins Metrodome
the other day, giving us yet another cloudy, forty-degree
day while the Yankees dispatched the Twins in seventy degree comfort.
Don't forget, this is the same place that so disturbed St. Louis
and Atlanta in the '87 and '91 World Series that they couldn't
win a game, and draws over 20,000 when winter makes its last dying
gasps during the regular season. Sometimes, even the dome has
its own special charm. Like Oscar's trash can.
What good is baseball in Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City?
Already those three teamsto name but a fewcan pretty
much write off their season. Will they grow into a better team?
Can we look for signs of improvement?
Consider this story from our dear, close friend, the Buddha: a
monk was sitting quietly, listening to a baseball game on the
radio, when his master stole up and whacked him across the skull.
The monk jumped up in anger. "Whadja do that for?" he
shouted. With a sly grin, the master responded, "Since none
of these things exists, and all is Emptiness, where does your
anger come from?"
OK, so that bit of esoteric nonsense may only help out a bit.
But maybe Gene Benson stated it a bit bettereveryone knows
how to win. Baseball teaches you how to lose.
Perhaps this is one of the great lessons of the sport. Everyone
talks about its emphasis on failure: yah, yah, even a .400 hitter
fails 60% of the time. But for those teams swamped in last place
by May, sometimes its good to just take a deep breath and think
of the big picture. It's only a game, after all. Endure. And,
in a few years, when the 'Rays and the Royals meet in the playoffs,
won't you feel smug for following them all these years. Patience
is a virtue. And besides, all is emptiness, all is emptiness
Speaking of Tampa Bay, we sincerely encourage them not to
improve. In fact, we hope that they will become much worse. The
addition of some belligerents on the team would be helpful, and
maybe a few horrible blundering fools, the new Marv Throneberry.
Right now, the modern record for losses is the Mets woeful 42-120
record. Think you can beat that Devil Rays?
Viva the National League! Why, it looks as though anyone
can take the pennant over thar! Pittsburg, Cincinnati, St. Louiswhy,
we bet even Houston and the Cubs make a run for the crown of the
Dollar Store Division.
And what about the East? Philly's only four games out. Could the
Expos take it? Pray that doesn't happen. How 'bout them Marlins.
Or the Mets? Anyone but the Bravesthey're about as interesting
as Al Gore debating fuel-efficiency.
Even the west's usual triumverate of Arizona, San Fran and Los
Angeles is more interesting than what we're seeing in the American
League. Boston v. New York? Seattle v. Oakland? Why bother to
change a bland formula?
THE DATING GAME
Attention young lovers: beware when introduce your current paramour
to your favorite sport. While baseball is the greatest game, the
gem of all pastimes, it is still an acquired taste. Take these
tips to heart:
First, don't haul the date to a baseball game right away. Start
with TV, or even better, radio. Understand that fidgetyness is
a part of baseball for the uninitiated. During the dull spotse.g.,
pitching changesyou can change the channel, or admire or
loved one. And radio possesess such a lovely charm, and encourages
making out besides.
Remember: do not shriek at the first gmae, TV, radio, or otherwise.
And beware of statistics. Nothing cools the romance like an explanation
of Earned Run Average.
Be patient with questionsif you like the sport, and your
lover likes you, they'll want to get to know this mysterious person
by asking questions about squeeze plays. Even a simple questionlike
what is the yellow pole at eitehr end of the fieldwere really,
truly, something that you yourself did not know at one time.
Hot dogs are really not great date food. Sometimes, in a baseball
movie, a quirky date will end up sharing hot dogs. This is nothing
more than a blantant lie. Like Doritos, red hots leave your breath
smelling, how shall we sayfoul as a dog's breath after a
snack of dumpster stew. Add a beer to the mix and you may wonder
why she's leaning so far to the other edge of her seat.
Then again, if she's willing to kiss you through all that, there's
some real lovin' there.