Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Little Umpires Made of Ticky Tacky

I was waiting in line at the supermarket today, and since I tend to grocery shop like a bachelor, I was in the express lane. I was staring off into space, having not yet had my second cup of coffee, and I happened to notice the items in the cart belonging to the girl in front of me. While she only had a few, she was buying all of them in bulk—twenty-two cartons of heavy cream, two super-sized bags of Splenda, four containers of Hershey’s syrup and two enormous bags of ice. My first thought was, “I hope my invitation to THAT party gets lost in the mail.” My second was that what I had on my hands was obviously a criminal mind, an entitled brat or someone not-so-bright. I think it’s pretty clear to anyone who isn’t one of the above that the express lane does not exist for people who are purchasing an unlimited quantity of any fifteen different items. It exists for people with a TOTAL of fifteen items, even if all of those items happen to be the same. The heavy cream alone put her well over the express lane limit. Throw in the other stuff, she’s looking at double.

It gets to be her turn and, before the guy at the checkout counter has a chance to comment on the girl’s surplus, she is very quick to tell him that “Jessica” told her it would be all right if she went into that lane. I’m sorry. What is this? Studio 54 circa 1978? Was she really dropping a name to get into the express lane? At the grocery store? Did I need to start worrying that I was only wearing gym clothes?

As if all this wasn’t enough, the girl felt compelled to talk to us. She was obviously feeling guilty about the fact that she broke a rule—rules, by the way, exist to hold society together. Either that or she felt embarrassed about the weird conglomeration of crap in her cart and wanted to explain herself. “I work at a camp,” she said. “We’re making ice cream.” As though this information would have the power to endear her to us, despite the fact that she was making me wait ten minutes to buy my New York Times and orange juice. Please. Whatever. She works with kids. That doesn’t make her a saint. She gets a paycheck. Honestly, all it did for me was explain why her t-shirt said “Staff.” That and raise a whole host of questions about what kind of demented camp she’s working for. Splenda? Now that’s just wrong.

I considered, for a moment, the possibility that this was a camp for diabetics, but then I remembered the Hershey’s syrup. Not diabetic friendly. So what’s the goal here? To fight childhood obesity? With what? Twenty-two containers of heavy cream? Or is it to simply fight childhood itself? Or maybe it’s just to cause degenerative diseases. Yes, Splenda does that. If you’re concerned about the morality of feeding kids junk, then don’t have ice cream-making as an activity. If I was a parent sending my kid to camp, and they were secretly feeding MY kids Splenda behind my back for their own good, there would be blood. Or at least lawsuits. Or a petition. Or something. Fortunately for that camp, I have determined that—more than making them Yankees fans or never feeding them Splenda—the best thing I can do for my future kids is never have them. You probably need to know Jessica to get into that camp anyway.

As if the experience wasn’t traumatic enough already, as I was waiting in line, enduring this insanity, who should I come face to face with but Fav-ruh. Uh huh. Right there on a pack of Rayovac batteries, staring me in the soul. If you haven’t heard of Rayovac batteries, don’t feel bad. No one has. Sorry Farvie. I guess the Packers aren’t the only ones who didn’t want you. Apparently, neither did Duracell. Though, personally, I sort of think Energizer missed the boat on this opportunity. Think about it: who better to promote a product that just keeps going and going and going and going?

Weird game last night. The balks, the ejections, the overturned calls, the injured shoulders, the walk off grand slams. A lot to process. To state the obvious, on a night when the Chowdas and the Devils (I have opted to drop the latter half of their name rather than the former. I’m really doing them a service—the Rays is a ridiculous team name.) both picked up an “L” it would have been an ideal night for us to get ahead with a “W.” It was pretty frickin’ close, too. Nady’s doing us proud, but Marte is making me sweat. I believe he’s got the goods, so I’ll chalk it up to settling in, for the moment. And to state the obvious again, we’re in trouble if Joba’s shoulder ends up being anything other than a minor setback.

David Cone, who was commentating, had a lot to say about the weirdness. With regard to the two balks called on Padilla, he was very insistent that the calls were “ticky tacky.” He didn't just say it. He said it a lot of times. Looks like somebody’s been watching Weeds. Or listening to Malvina Reynolds. Despite the bizarre choice of words, Cone had a point. To say that something’s ticky tacky implies either that it’s built of shoddy materials or that it’s unimaginative. (This is not, for the record, the Tim McCarver definition. His would probably be “having the quality of something that makes a sound kind of like a clock but not quite.”)

The broad definition of a balk is that it is when a pitcher attempts to deceive a base runner. Within that definition, there are a number of smaller rules that are used to determine whether such a deception is occurring. Within the bounds of these rules, both of Padilla’s called balks were technically balks. Do I believe he was acting with the intent to deceive either time? No. And neither did Cone. So when he said the calls were ticky tacky, which is admittedly really weird, he was saying that, while the ump may have gotten the letter of the law, he didn’t get the spirit. I tend to agree. Having said that, while you could argue that the law exists for the sake of its spirit, the only real way to make reasonable determinations is to follow it to the letter. Rules exist for a reason, and since there’s no good way to determine intent, perhaps the only way is to use the guidelines that are pre-prescribed. (Remember the girl with thirty items in the express lane at the market? Imagine a world where EVERYBODY is doing that.)

Want to know who didn’t agree with that logic? Ron Washington. The dude may be little, but he’s scrappy. I bet HE wouldn’t be afraid to run into Mike Lowell in a dark alley.

The other call that David Cone had a whole lot to say about was the fair-to-foul reversal on Ian Kinsler’s hit. In typical fashion, the good people at YES showed us the instant replay about thirty times, and most of us had come to the conclusion that the ball HAD bounced off of Kinsler, and that it HAD happened in the batter’s box. Cone commented, “Take a look at Kinsler’s reaction. He doesn’t hesitate for a second before moving back to the box and picking up his bat. That’s an indication that the ball definitely hit him.” Fine. A good point. Unfortunately, he went on. “Unless he’s an Academy Award winning actor. I mean, if you have the wherewithal to think about that in advance and to plan that, you know, that’s…uhhhhh….. good thinking.” Oh, Cone. At least you’re out there. You know, you’re trying.

I must admit, I get a little flummoxed against the Rangers because I forget that I am supposed to be rooting against Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley. Whether or not you think I’m a chump for loving them, you’ve got to give Hamilton credit for that insane diving catch that robbed Jeter of an RBI single in the ninth. As for Bradley, true, the man has been known to get upset on occasion. True, he has the name of a board game manufacturer, as many of you will not stop reminding me. And I believe I have a response that will address both of these grievances to everyone’s satisfaction.

You see, Milton Bradley’s name isn’t Milton Bradley. It’s Milton Bradley Jr. No, his father isn't the Hasbro guy. His father was, however, an abusive, drug addicted, sometimes-homeless Vietnam vet who had always wanted a namesake. Knowing that Jr.'s mother would never consent to the idea—not surprisingly, she had developed less than fond feelings for him by this point—Milton the 1st decide to take matters into his own hands. He waited until she had passed out from the exertion of labor and filled in the birth certificate himself. After years of exile imposed by Milton's mother, his father eventually cleaned up his act, and she allowed him to start coming around. But Jr. always felt ill at ease in his company. It is to his father that Bradley owes his ability to switch hit—a righty originally, Jr. learned from Sr., a lefty, to bat lefty as well. Bradley also owes to his dad his rage and, as we’ve established, his name. Bradley never changed his name because he says it compels him to be a fighter. And he does appear at times to be at war with the world. So, for these reasons, we forgive Bradley his name and his anger. Anyone who got as excited as he did to watch Hamilton, his best friend, break that home run record during the derby—so excited that he ran up to him and gave him a hug midway through the feat—is obviously someone fundamentally awesome. Not to mention the fact that he loves his mother. A lot.

I want to say for the record that fireworks in response to a home run is just inane. It’s tired, it’s stale, it’s loud, and it’s boring. Do what (most of) the rest of us do and play bad club music that suddenly sounds good at the baseball stadium. Just make sure to play it really, really loud. If you feel the need, for whatever reason, to have it be a special event, at least really try to make it your own. Like—I don’t know—a big exploding apple that looks like an overheating car?

As a side note, if you would like to be having a better day, you should go to your iTunes accounts and download King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Unless, of course, you already have it, which you should. Either way, listen to it as soon as you are able. You’ll thank me later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great comment on Dancing in the Moonlight.