Monday, July 28, 2008

Happy Birthday to (Vida) Blue

First things first, in response to one of the comments, I just want to state for the record that when I criticized Hansen for hitting A-Rod, what I was criticizing was his lack of originality. Nothing more. To be clear, generally speaking, if you’re going to bean a Yankee, make it A-Rod. Definitely. 100%. No contest. I don’t know if I’m being explicit enough, but in case I’m not, it’s important to me that I make it clear before we proceed: I don’t like A-Rod. I know it may be controversial and that he is one of the greatest players of all time and that I’m supposed to be so thrilled to have him on my team. But I’m just not. Leaving aside the fact that he afflicts me with his poor aesthetic and personal choices in the manner of a Red Sock—from the frosted tips to his latest infatuation with Kabbalah—he’s just not my kind of player. Sure, he posts great numbers. And if I need someone to get me one run in an inconsequential game when the Yanks are already leading by ten, I’ll go with A-Rod. For sure. That’s when he’s awesome. But in the postseason or when it’s tight or it matters even vaguely, I’ll go with, um, whoever we have available that day that isn't him.

A-Rod came to the Yanks because he wanted to play for a championship team, but the reason that hasn’t happened is that he isn’t a championship player. He is a terminal big fish in a little pond and I think he can only reach his greatest potential in an environment where it just doesn’t matter. And in the Bronx, let’s face it, it always matters. Not that you’d know based on his attitude. From day one, when he made the move from short to third, A-Rod tried to make us believe that he was a team player. But in my humble opinion, everything he does that can be considered an effort to do anything worthwhile reeks of insincerity. I can’t tell you you suck, A-Rod, because you’re a Yankee, so I feel obliged to want you to succeed. But you don’t not suck. And I still miss Soriano. That guy had heart.

Well, it’s my birthday. For another few minutes, anyway. And I say that not because I care all that much but because it’s a good way to test to see who is actually reading this thing. As a rule, I believe that if you are not actually with someone on the day of your birthday, you are officially self-obsessed if you expect that person to remember that your birthday is happening unless multiple reminders or marriage are involved. Birthdays are fine, and I am always glad to celebrate the existence of those I love, but I think we can all agree that the potential for narcissism can be great. Not like wedding day great. But it’s there.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to get all dramatic and whiny about how I’m so old and my life is over because I'm thirty. However, there is an unfortunate and undeniable reality at play, which is that the world officially expects something of me now. The problem is that, regrettably, I have nothing more to offer the world today than I did yesterday. It seems unreasonable that anyone would think I should. So you know what? I’d rather not focus too much attention on the fact that this is the day that I begin to fail to meet the world’s excessive expectations. Or at the very least, I’d rather not do it in the typical way, which involves a lot of self-pity and boring information about what isn’t working out in my life. Instead, I’d like to do it by paying a birthday tribute to someone who actually had accomplished something by the age of thirty. And that someone is Vida Blue, pitching phenom for the A’s, Giants and Royals.

If the world puts sometimes unreasonable demands on people, no one could ever argue that Vida wasn't up for the challenge. Want to know what he had done by the time he was my age? The short answer to that question is that he had made it to the All-Star team four times, won the AL MVP, won the Cy Young, been a World Series champ three times and pitched a no-hitter. Want to know how many drugs he was on when he did all this? Lots. Want to know what he probably could have done by the time he was my age were it not for all those drugs? Double that plus, oh, I don’t know—build a rocket to go to the moon.

Vida struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for the whole of his career and adult life. I am not sure of his current status, though I know that he has made several attempts to get sober. Josh Hamilton recently gave us all a glimpse of the power of drugs to destroy the careers of professional athletes and the potential for recovery to transform those same athletes. The home run derby could not have, well, driven the point home any more clearly if someone had scripted it for an after school special. No, not true. I guess that in the after school special Hamilton would have actually won the thing. But the point is that after all we’ve been through with guys like Strawberry and Howe, we’ve seen the way drugs can ruin even the most promising of careers. And while I have very little sympathy for the idiots pumping themselves full of HGH in order to get ahead, I put this in a different category. So I think we have to applaud Vida for what he managed, despite his struggles, and all by the time he was my age. As someone who is my age and has accomplished nothing, I will be the first to acknowledge how hard it can be to accomplish things. And that's without a cocaine habit to inhibit me. So let’s send those birthday wishes in Vida’s direction. I’d say he’s done more to earn them.

Speaking of no-hitters and amazing accomplishments while under the influence, if you didn’t already know, let me be the first to tell you about Dock Ellis and the no-hitter he pitched tripping his face off on LSD in 1970. He apparently was not aware that he was pitching until his girlfriend read it in the paper, by which point he had already done the deed. Ellis was supposedly so out of it that he had the catcher, Jerry May, tape reflective orange tape to his glove so he could see it, and yet his teammates claimed not to have known that anything unusual was going on. It’s kind of hard to imagine an explanation for that one that makes sense OTHER than, "I’m tripping on acid and I can’t see what the hell is going on," but I guess May was not a particularly inquisitive guy. Despite the no-hitter, Ellis hit several batters and walked eight. Now I know the Pirates were doing their best to avoid talking to Ellis so as not to mess with his groove, but between the tape, the lack of control, the presumably enlarged pupils and behavior that I would have to assume was at least the slightest bit odd, did NOBODY notice that something was fishy? Or were ALL the Pirates tripping acid that day?

We don’t need to talk about last night’s game. We wanted the sweep, but we also knew Sidney Ponson was pitching, so I am assuming that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t counting on it. Moose tanked tonight—and I mean tanked—but the Sox lost to the Angels, so we’re holding steady at minus two. I can live with that. By the way, we owe tonight’s Red Sox humiliation (it wasn’t that humiliating, but I like to call it that whenever they lose) to Jered Weaver. I used to like to refer to his brother Jeff as the bane of my existence. Remember when he pitched for the Yanks and tried to ruin all our lives and then suddenly went to the Dodgers and decided to be good? Well, I guess he ended up sucking after all in the final assessment. At least his brother is less useless than he is, though both his hair and facial hair are equally as dumb. How good is LAnaheim, though? Is the rest of the AL as scared as I am?

Keeping my eye on that big Dodgers-Giants “rivalry.” I think it’s cute when teams that aren’t that good have rivalries. Though, this year, LA may be a force to be reckoned with. (In the NL West, which is obviously different from being a force to be reckoned with in general.) I sincerely hope so. After the hell he’s endured at the hands of the Steinbrenners, no one deserves a break more than Torre.

Let me conclude by saying that I share my birthday, not only with Vida Blue, but also with my hamsters Sadie and Fitze, who are two today. That’s like a hundred in hamster years, so give them your respect. Today is also my three year anniversary with my dog Yogi. Given all this, you’ll forgive me for posting so late. As you can see, it’s been a big day for me.

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