Thursday, August 17, 2006
The Sports Page
One of the reasons that I like baseball so much is that some things never change. The coaches tend to be old guys of whom the immortal Bill "Spaceman" Lee once said, "mostly sit on their big fat asses and nod at things and spit." A greater collective of idiots than baseball's owners cannot be found cannot be found this side of, well, the owners of pro football.
When an umpire ejects somebody it always entertaining. I believe it was the writer Florence King who said that the only reason that she wished she had been born a man was because if she were a man she could become an umpire. And then she could tell somebody "You are fucking outta here!" That baseball could inspire a line that damn funny is another reason to love it.
The Cubs are always bad. The Red Sox are always good enough to break one's heart and the Yankees are always despised.
Here's one more truth about baseball. If Roger Clemens is pitching, likely as not somebody is going to take one in the ear. Part of that is because when you throw as hard as a Roger Clemens, every now and again one is going to get away from you. The other part is that he is an asshole with a nasty temper who is not above decapitating guys just for standing in against him. As Mike Piazza. He got beaned by Clemens during the 2000 World Series.
I have been lying low this week with one of the allergy/sinus infection things I am plagued with from time to time. I have been watching lots of baseball. The Cubs-Astros game last Tuesday night had more bad drama than your average soap opera which was just the thing for a stuffy head and burning eyes. That and bourbon.
The series had been marked by guys getting hit left and right. So you had to figure with The Rocket on the mound rough justice would be exacted. The festivities got started early Tuesday with Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones getting hit in the leg by Clemens in the first or second inning. He got by with that one. There's no reason to brush back the light hitting Jones. So the umps gave the future Hall of Famer on the mound a pass.
Back when he was pitching for the Red Sox and the Yankees, Clemens was widely considered by the batsmen of the American League to be a major pussy who was a pretty tough guy so long as he knew he didn't have to bat himself. But now he is in the National League and he has to face the music himself. Still, throwing at Roger Clemens is a risky thing to do. He is sufficiently bloodthirsty even when he is in a relatively benign humor. Hell, he plunked his own son during Spring Training for chrissakes.
In the 5th inning Clemens stood in against Cub starter Juan Mateo. Up to that point in time, Mateo had put in a most un-Cub like performance in scattering 4 hits and giving up two runs. EDITORIAL COMMENT: You always use the word "scatter" when describing the number of hits given up by a pitcher during a good outing. It is in the "Bad Sportswriter's Stylebook."
Anyway, Mateo has some 300 innings of Major League experience. Clemens has 350 wins. So you can imagine my surprise when Mateo plunked Roger on the left shoulder with a fastball. First of all, pitchers don't generally throw at other pitchers seeing as how they are all in the same neurotic club. Besides, Mateo was scheduled to be the first guy up the next inning. Second of all, as alluded to earlier, you don't throw at a Roger Clemens without running the risk of starting World War III. Anyway, it wasn't going to be Mateo's problem as he was jerked by Dusty Baker in favor of a pinch-hitter named Ryan Theriot.
"I'm not going to save Mateo and then send Ryan Theriot up there to get hit." Baker lied to the Chicago Tribune afterwards. " Theriot's not up there as a sacrifice." Still, I guess this would explain why Theriot was sent to the plate without a blindfold and a cigarette.
Nothing ever changes in baseball. Everybody in the house knew what was fixing to happen. Both benches were up on the rails of their dugouts preparing to charge the field for the inevitable brawl. Clemens throws an inside fastball. High but not tight. Theriot jumps back as if he's stepped on a land mine. Ball one Second pitch, low and away. You got to make this look good after all. Clemens looks in to get the signal. Theriot is praying the Rosary.
The catcher must have given Roger the "Ventilate him" sign because the next pitch is aimed at Theriot's chin. Only he does such a deft job of impersonating the Rubber Boy while this missile is heading for his cranium that it merely brushes him in the back. Theriot doesn't even know he's been hit until the the umpire sends him to first! This is something he can tell his grandchildren. "I got plunked by the Great Assassin and I didn't even feel it."
Theriot practically skipped to first. The players took their places on the bench. This shit may be worth fighting over but it ain't worth getting fined by the league over.
Here's another reason it's cool to be an umpire. At times like this, you get to warn the benches. You take off the mask and point at one manager. Then you point at the other. Then you walk to the mound and point at the pitcher. And you tell him, " This is a warning. You throw at another batter and you and your manager are fucking outta here! You got it?"
Just the sort of bad drama you need when you are struck down with a sinus infection. I'm just sorry Florence King wasn't here to see it with me.