Wednesday, September 17, 2014

talkin' baseball

Once and for all, baseball players should not be role models. They are spoiled, out-of-touch grown men who are overpaid for playing a game that any seven-year-old would happily play for free. They contribute almost nothing to society and, if baseball were deemed illegal tomorrow, wouldn't be qualified to do anything that could earn them anywhere close to the same income.

I love the historical aspect of baseball. I've visited the Baseball Hall of Fame several times. I enjoy the stories and lore surrounding the greats of the game — Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio. What I don't like is shit like this...

This fine example of good sportsmanship is Phillies relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon. He came into Sunday's game in the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead over the Miami Marlins. All he needed to do was get three outs and victory was his. He has done this simple task 37 times this season, so it seems he was up to the challenge. He is second on the Phillies all-time save leaders. Not bad for a guy who has only been on the team for three years. Considering that the Phillies' performance this year is one of the worst in recent years, Papelbon has been a bright spot in an otherwise dreary and pathetic 2014. Oh, did I mention that Papelbon will make $13 million this year. Thirteen million dollars! For throwing a baseball!

So, Mr. Papelbon came into the game in a situation that he had seen himself in before. He gave up a lead-off double and it was all downhill from there. When the Marlin's half of the inning was over, they had scored four runs off of Papelbon and taken the lead. The 30,000 fans remaining in the stands began to loudly express their anger and frustration. Papelbon was officially the fall guy for an entire season of disappointment. Obviously aware of the fans' collective rage, Papelbon expressed a little rage of his own. After Marlins centerfielder Marcell Ozuna grounded the final out to Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis, Papelbon stood high on the pitcher's mound and assessed the crowd. He raised his chin, reached his pitching hand down and grabbed his crotch with the firm grip usually reserved for a split-finger fastball. Second-base umpire Joe West ejected Papelbon from the game for the blatantly rude display. The enraged pitcher offered a foul-mouthed arguement but eventually left the field. In a post-game interview in the Phillies' locker room, Papelbon played innocent, claiming that he was merely adjusting his protective cup, something that every ball player does regularly in every game, sometimes several times a game. Papelbon and his explanation, in my opinion*, are full of shit. 

I have been to many baseball games and I have watched many more on television. I have seen an untold amount of players scratch, paw and grab at themselves in an attempt to realign protective padding and equipment to a more comfortable position. What Papelbon did was no adjustment. It was a silent statement that can only be interpreted one way. And the message came through loud and clear.

I work in the marketing department of a law firm. As part of my job, I create congratulatory ads. If I fuck up several ads in a row, I would expect my boss to bring those errors to my attention. Can you image what would happen if I responded to that admonition with an obscene gesture? I know where I wouldn't be working anymore. 

Mr. Papelbon, on the other hand, gets thirteen million dollars for his trouble. And he lies to the people who are paying that salary.

* an opinion I'm sure I share with anyone who saw the interview and is familiar with the "I'm innocent" protocol exhibited by professional athletes when they, themselves, know they are full of shit.

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