--From the deserts of Algeria to the valley of Dienbienphu, from the Maginot Line to the Ardennes Forest depending on the French in any contest of agression is hardly a recipe for success. On the other hand when it comes to fries, toast, kissing and, surprisingly, overtime series clinchers between the Rangers and Devils Franco-phoning it in ain't a bad way to go. So as the cries of "Matteau, Matteau" are replaced by "Henrique, Henrique" and the potential TV ratings darling New York Rangers are off on the golf course here's hoping Derby/Preakness winner I'll Have Another has been on his most careful behavior over this week as Belmont-airing NBC can seemingly turn viewer gold into ratings garbage without even trying.
--And in other non-MLB news it appears former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield is headed to jail for owing over $350K in child support on 11 children. I can't help, but think if Mike Tyson had only bitten him a little lower a lot of these problems could've been avoided.
--Now it's hard to believe one old man could take down an entire multi-million dollar operation, but just like Modern Family would be little more than an annoying bunch of whiney Yuppies plus Sofia Vergara's breasts without Ed O'Neil so too, it seems, are the Atlanta Braves but a shadow of themselves sans Chipper Jones. Over the last several seasons the Farewell Tour-ing Jones has been yo yo-ed between the starting lineup and the DL so often you'd think Tom Smothers had a string up his ass, but at no time has the effect been as stark as at the beginning of the 2012 campaign. So far the Bravos are 19-6 in games in which Chipper has batted more than once and an astonishing 9-19 in all other contests. So there's your problem, right?
Well not really...You see despite Jones' abscence, Freddie Freeman's Mr. Magoo impression and the Sub-Replacement Level Homesick Blues of Juan Francisco at 3B Atlanta still ranks 3rd in the NL in runs scored. Conversely they rank 10th or worse in ERA, Runs Allowed, HRs Allowed, Walks and Ks as they struggle to find anyone beyond Brandon Beachy who can give them consistent, quality innings. With Triple-A banished Jair Jurrjens velocity having dropped like that of a Smart Car on Lombard Street, youngsters Mike Minor/Randall Delgado seemingly overmatched to this point and the Tommy Hanson/Tim Hudson inconsistencies hinting at possible nagging injuries the return of Chipper Jones seems moot.
Up to this point the Braves have far outplayed their run projections so that even with Chipper they are likely to drop back to somewhere closer to their #10 finish of 2011. That means unless one of the aforementioned under-achievers turns it up, Kris Medlen becomes the greatest swingman since Aaron Small circa 2005 http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/smallaa01.shtml or the Noc-A-Homas find help at the trade deadline it could be but a mediocre sunset Chipper Jones rides off into this fall. And with each passing day those Washington Nationals NL East pennant tickets I picked up in Vegas are looking better and better.
--But, as I always remind myself, things could be worse...you could be a fan of the Oakland A's. I mean not that anyone thought the Athletics were going anywhere this season. Still it's always nice to at least see some entertaining baseball when you come to the park or turn on the set, but this version of the A's features all the excitement of a Bill Pullman Film Festival...or do I mean Bill Paxton...wait, umm...well actually I guess that makes my point right there.
But if you need more evidence consider May 22nd when the A's were 1-hit by a combination of C.J. Wilson and Ernesto Frieri while putting forth a lineup that packed less punch than the drummer for Def Leppard. With Yosenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick dinged up the Oak-ies trotted out an order of Crisp, Cowgill, (Seth)Smith, Gomes, Donaldson, Pennington, Rosales, Barton and Recker in a veritable "Who's That?" of Triple-A lifers. In fact this clout crippled crew reminded us of nothing so much as an Amish Prince impersonator in that they batted like it was 1899. With 5 of the 9 spots manned by swingers below the Mendoza line the group sported less wood than the placebo control group in an Erectile Dysfunction drug trial and the highest batting average (.250 in 4 ABs) belonged to Adam Rosales a dis-utility infielder coming off a season in which, forget Mario Mendoza, he batted 1 point below the Barbara Feldon (Get Smart) Line at .098. Meanwhile bringing up the rear was LF Colin Cowgill (in the Dirt) who was at .128 in both batting average and slugging percentage. Since then things haven't got a lot better and presently Oakland stands dead last in the AL in every triple slash category. So to Billy Beane one has to ask...how's that Moneyball thing working out for you now, huh?
--Years ago after attending the movie Indecent Proposal with a girlfriend she asked, "Would you let me sleep with Robert Redford for a million dollars?" To which I replied, "Let's be serious...where would I get that kinda money?" Or in other words I know a little something about mis-speaking. In fact, the only difference between my ill-timed statement and last week's rants by Indians closer Chris Perez about lack of fan appreciation in Cleveland is that Perez had a litany of reporters/microphones/cameras in his face when he mis-spoke...well, that and he still had a chance of getting laid afterward.
Still I understand, to a degree, where Perez was coming from. His comment on the Indians being in first place in the standings, but last in attendance does seem to accord him latitude along the lines of "righteous anger", but that's taking the short-sighted view of things. So let's take a quick stroll back through time to see just how a fanbase may have reached this point of epic apathy and, what the heck, point out why Chris Perez is such a Mullet-headed moron in the process.
Now in the cult Sid Vicious biopic Sid & Nancy (didn't see that coming I bet) there is a scene late in the film where a completely strung out Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen beg a supplier to get them more heroin as the grovel in their own refuse on the floor of a disheveled room at the Chelsea Hotel. After teasing them a bit the pusher finally grabs the money then quips sarcastically as he exits, "now you two don't go nowhere while I'm gone..."
From a career path pointing toward Rock God popularity to murder and finally misplaced martyrdom Vicious' story is a cautionary tale of the perils of addiction. One that baseball fans in 1981 did not heed (and considering the movie didn't come out until 1986 it woulda been difficult) when 72,086 of them poured into Cleveland's cavernous Municipal Stadium to celebrate that year's All-Star Game put on by a group of owners and players who had held America's Pastime hostage for 48 days in a strike that lasted from June 12 to July 31 and forced the splitting of the season into two halves.
And from that point on the powers that be in the game knew they had a blank check to tell the ticket buying public to "don't go nowhere" while they ushered in the era of parking fees, cable-only telecasts, multi-millionaire utility men, $6 hot dogs, $9 cans of beer, taxpayer funded stadiums, seat licenses and any other udder they could grab on to milk more out of the willpower-less Diamond Dependent.
So 30 years later is it any wonder that a mouth-breathing moundsman like Perez feels a sense of entitlement so great that he doesn't just want to get paid millions for his 3-4 innings pitched a week, but also wants a large contingent of unconditional cheerleaders on hand to stroke his ego as well.
It reminds me, many years ago, of the complaints by Doctors who said Health Insurance Companies were squeezing them by only paying say $250 for a procedure that they previously charged $500 for. What these Hippocratic Hypocrites failed to realize is that the price of everything whether it be a Box Seat ticket or a Colonoscopy is determined the same way...by What The Market Will Bear. When Doctors priced themselves beyond the market they forced patients into the arms of the Insurers and once the Insurers became ubiquitous the balance of power shifted. The Healthcare carriers had the knowledge of what procedures were necessary, how often they should be administered and what was a fair price with an eye toward protecting their client (the patient) and their own bottomline. If the White Coats so chose they could refuse to accept Health Insurance, watch their appointment books go blank and seek a job as Mitt Romney's Personal Physician, I guess.
But that's Capitalism. Unlike the one Perez' teammate Fausto Carmona was caught going the wrong way down prior to his DUI it's a two-way street. Everyone loves it when the flow is going their way, but when the traffic turns against them they cry foul...or Socialism...or some such thing. For the owners and players the idea that folks would just keep turning out no matter the cost has almost never been challenged. But even in a town that once gave as idiotic a promotion as Nickel Beer Night there is no Loaves and Fishes Day at the ballpark.
So perhaps it's the down economy or more likely it's the lack of commitment/poor planning by the Tribe's front office, but no matter the reason the fans of Cleveland have seemingly shaken the horse-hide monkey off their backs and lapsed into a Missouri State of Mind. Demanding that the Indians "Show Me" their turnaround is serious before they turn over their ever-decreasing paychecks and increasingly clogged hearts to the team this time.
And based on recent events in Tribe-dom who can blame them. Since their improbable run to within one game of the World Series in 2007 they've jettisoned two Cy Young Award winners (Lee/Sabathia) for the Quadruple-A likes of Matt LaPorta, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Michael Brantley and Zach Jackson. When that hasn't worked they flipped the equation and sent prospects like Drew Pomeranz and Alex White to Colorado for the diminishing returns of Ubaldo Jimenez or tried to pretend there were any missed bats left in the sinkerball stylings of the carbon-dating required arm of Derek Lowe. And if all else fails ownership cries injury pointing to the lamentable tales of Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and now the cranial traumatized Carlos Santana.
At this point they've almost run out of ways to distract the fans from the fact that they are paying Kellogg's Frosted Flakes prices for $1 Store Frosty Flake entertainment. By the time kids like Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis become stars (if they do) monetary concerns could take Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-soo Choo and others away as the interminable cycle of rebuilding feeds on itself and the big market clubs go veteran-ly rolling along.
And maybe that's why I can't recall any of the Cleveland brass publicly reprimanding Chris Perez or discounting his words. They've run out of excuses to fool asses into the seats so they hope angry words might shame folks back to the ball park. Too business savvy and without the athletic credentials to get away with it they were more than happy to let their erratic and easily replaceable closer do the dirty work for them.
Attendance figures indicate it hasn't made much difference so far particularly in the face of the Tribe getting knocked out of first by the red-hot White Sox. But that's alright there's always one last trick up the proverbial ownership sleeve. And when Clevelanders hear the idea of the Charlotte/Jacksonville/Vancouver Indians bandied about in the near future they should take it with a smile, after all, they'll be reminded, it's only Capitalism.
Yes I promised less verbose postings, but had to clean out the last of the notes before we moved to the new format. Within the next few days we plan to move on from the pithy titles and long-winded rants and move on to date-stamped MLB commentary on a bi- or tri-weekly basis. Also we hope to have full blown Fantasy Football advice here soon. Become a Follower at the top right, find us on Facebook at "Bowling Til' It Hurts" or on Twitter @sprtcom102...and now to find out what this whole "Bath Salts" thing is all about....