My 10-year anniversary writing this column has prompted a look back at some of my past reflections. I thought I’d share some with you. This is a slightly edited version of a column that ran in December of 2004. Things have changed. Sammy Sosa is retired, Michael Jackson is dead, and baseball is back to being interesting (except for the Cubs).
What do I want in the new year? Well, world peace, good health for all, and a lifetime supply of flaxseed oil, the stuff that seemed to do more than cure Barry Bonds of an arthritic knee.
But what I need is a sport that excites, unites and invites inspiration, acceleration and humanization, which means I want baseball without millionaires, without steroids, without corked bats, without corked egos, without $5 beers, without $30 bleacher tickets, without rooftop lawsuits, without falling stadium debris, without whiny crybaby poor losers who skip out on their team before the end of the season, without creepy scalpers, without belligerent drunks, without obnoxious billboards behind home plate, without childish squabbles between broadcasters and players, without overwhelming and unwarranted hype, without the designated hitter, without Bob Costas preaching to dismantle the wild card, without a commissioner who is so entirely passive that he doesn’t realize a tied All-Star game, performance-enhancing drugs, and a team in Washington, D.C., are all bad for the sport.
I just want baseball.
I want baseball without Pedro Martinez, who, after being offered a 3-year $40 million contract to return to the World Champion Boston Red Sox — the team that defied every superstition, every curse handed down by dead, plumpy, former home-run legends, decided to accept an offer with the New York Mets that simply added one more guaranteed year and a few more million dollars that probably won’t ever need to be spent until either Jesus returns or the planet Mars holds its grand opening.
Not only do I want every baseball player from high school, college, the minors and the pros tested for every conceivable type of steroid, including goat pee, I want, during their initial physical before playing in the big show, to have ego zapped from their brains. Anyone found to have an ego will be banned from baseball, per Commissioner Brad Spencer.
Martinez has made $92 million over seven years with the Sox, more money than you, me and Portland could spend in a lifetime, yet he feels disrespected by the recent offer from his former club. He’s bad for baseball — like steroids, like greedy agents, like cunning general managers, like selfish owners. They are malignant cysts on the heart of a genuine pastime. The Mets brass are also to blame. They are throwing all this money at a guy who may have a bum shoulder. They are willing to invest years and millions in a guy whose hair gel has canceled out every team-oriented thought in his head.
Should I talk about Sammy Sosa? He’s flawed in so many ways that when I think about it, I get vile eggnog burps. Baseball has given so much to Sosa, who owns an island in the Dominican Republic called the Dominican Republic. Yet, he has used a corked bat, skipped out on games, and mysteriously changed in physical appearance more times than Michael Jackson. Sosa needs to join the WWF, where lies and steroids are recommended for a successful career.
Baseball is a wonderful sport. Baseball is a wonderful sport. Baseball is a … I can’t do it. Baseball is a wonderful sport being stained by money-hungry, drugged and morphed-up players. Baseball is a wonderful sport being run by a puppet, who is being run by a group of rich and powerful parrots, who are repeating the phrase, “Pedro want a cracker?”
Baseball is a wonderful sport hemorrhaging respect. How can I respect baseball when cheating is prominent and even, through the guise of obliviousness, condoned? We’re not supposed to respect lovers who cheat. I love you, baseball, but how can I respect you if you’re cheating on me?
It’s my own fault. I keep going back to you.
My self-imposed 10-year anniversary celebration, which entailed running some of my favorite columns from the past, has officially concluded. I’m all partied out (or cried out). For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting a new column (mom), they will begin running again next week (Feb. 2).