Sunday, January 21, 2007

Thoughts on baseball cold and white

There is this white stuff falling from the sky right now, something I vaguely recall seeing before, though I don't feel the animosity I had for it in the past. As long as it continues and gets worse tonight so I don't have to go to work tomorrow, it's fine.

The baseball restlessness has begun. I rented "For Love of the Game" last night in a fit of desire for baseball. There are so many great baseball movies out there, and this is one of the best. It shows how much the game can mean to someone, and it shows why that meaning exists. As Billy Chapel is pitching the game of his life and what ultimately turns out to be the last of his career, memories of playing catch with his father keep popping into his mind. That is the essence of baseball.

The fictional Billy Chapel played for the Detroit Tigers during his entire 19 year career. I wonder when Biggio and Jeter retire if there will ever be another player who stays on one team. As long as the gross economic disparities of the game exist, only teams like the hated Yankees, the anti-Yankees, and the Cubs, perhaps, will be able to afford to keep a player for the duration of his career. This is all hinted at in the movie.

Perhaps those of us who long for the old days romanticize about the past far too much, forgetting that the business of the game has prevented it from ever being perfect. Baseball has a dark history of abuse by greedy owners who treated their players like livestock. But the players got greedy, too. With the state of free agency and arbitration, the greed is spiraling out of control. Mediocre and bad players should not be paid the exorbitant amounts of money they are sucking down faster than a Randy Johnson fastball. Kyle Lohse, for example, should not be earning $4.5 million a year, and Eric Milton is not worth a quarter of his $9 million or whatever it is for 2007. Teams like the Reds shouldn't be forced to stick to a crappy roster just because the salaries of mediocre players have helped to skyrocket the cost of good players, rendering them unaffordable.

This is what we have to dwell on during the offseason when white stuff falls from the sky, a chill wraps itself around our bones, and our longing for the warmth and glory of baseball makes us crazy with restlessness. We have 38 days before we can hear Marty call another Reds game. Until then, I'll pull my fleece over my head, my cap down to my eyes, and dream of baseball as I want to see it - a romantic game filled with passion and nostalgia and a kind of warm perfection that exists only in literature and film and in the hearts of those of us who truly love the game.

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