Sorry, baseball world. It was up to this ball-club to exact some sort of small revenge for the inadequacies against the universe and they failed. This was a demoralizing series, as the swingin’ dick Asterisks, in a perpetual climate of contradiction, proved that cheating without repercussion or self-reproach is the new American way of life. This approach is celebrated in the White House (and politics in general) and has trickled down into the muck of the baseball world as the catalysts bounce back and forth from “powerful” to “victim” at the drop of a hat or whenever it is convenient to benefit from said situation. When did we become a bunch of cowards? Even as a child I knew that when I did something terrible I felt remorse without trying to rub it in the victim’s face. That basic and humanistic concept is way over the heads of these “men.”
Am I being dramatic here? In the end, despite the unmitigated disaster, my girlfriend (who doesn’t give a toss about baseball) and I toddled down to the local art museum after the game, (don’t judge, we wore masks and the tickets were very limited) and afterward, in the suburban slob tradition, we scarfed a bunch of fast food, coddled in blankets while embracing auteur status of gory B-grade camp/crap horror movies. (Only because there were no more Cobra Kai episodes after binge-watching the shit out of the first 2 seasons) Very sophisticated stuff. This led me to forget about millionaires prancing around in pajamas and playing with balls. Embracing the important things in life. And we all need that in these trying times of pandemics, assholes, liars, cheaters, and pricks that surround us every day lacking any sort of compassion, justice, or truth that ultimately corrupts their blackened hearts.
The Asterisks won this series fair and square and undoubtedly have a powerful lineup, but in the playoffs pitching is always the Prom Queen and they have a noticeable lack of it. (So did the A’s but that is another story) How good is this team? Perhaps they stumbled upon a “playoff hot streak” à la the 2019 Nationals. Ahh, except that team had– you guessed it–pitching. Their shit-smudge dream will inevitably end, although, regrettably not by our hands, and their classless fans will crawl back under the rocks from whence they came. Go Rays! or Yankees? (I can’t believe I actually said that) 2020 can you please burn in hell? Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to go put my head in a cheese grater while searching for early signs of senility.
“People talk about escapism as if it’s a bad thing…Once you’ve escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn’t have before. Then you are better equipped to deal with your current reality.”–Neil Gaiman
By now everyone has heard about the tragic fires in California, which have been said to be the worst in recorded history of the state. These fires have given the sky a surrealistic orange hue, giving anyone who already had anxiety about the trials of modern-day an almost apocalyptic view on the vile calamities we now face as Americans in 2020. Our souls are in purgatory crying out for mercy…from ignorance, racism, destruction, greed, loneliness, economic uncertainties, pandemics, and a certain orange creature who leads the influx of oblivious humanity.
I thought it to be in the tradition of the Surrealist, and conjured in my mind the following Salvador Dali quote: “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” These shackles were indeed broken and destroyed above the Coliseum on a tepid Wednesday night as solid objects transmogrified and clocks melted.
I needed a moment of escapism….even for three hours and change, with a few gin and tonics as my only company. One of the sponsors, strangely enough, was called Planet Orange, a Bay Area eco-friendly pest control. What in the world is happening? Announcers Glen Keiper and Dallas Braden made a comment that this would be the first MLB game played on Mars. (Or Tatooine?) In the end, the good guys defeat the Asterisks in a highly contested fistfight, 3-2 as the bats awaken from their slumber in the later innings and the ‘Stros closer brings a bucket of gasoline with him to the mound. All seems normal and exciting for the moment. All is well in the world and there is consolation, if only for a very short moment.
What a perfect Sunday. I woke up early, had some coffee and went for a short walk to the little patisserie a few blocks away for some pastries. A friend and I then went to have some breakfast before checking out a legal graffiti park that had some amazing artwork. We found a can of yellow spray paint and added our own legacies to the mass of hodgepodge. “It’s getting a little hot today. Are you ready to go and watch the game?” she said. Why, yes. I was.
The retribution: It all started a few days before the Astros skulked into town on their “Revenge Tour” and former Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart said he couldn’t believe the Astros had traded Ramon Laureano to the A’s. “Thanks, cheaters,” he mocked. The Astros complained about the cardboard cutout of their mascot hanging out in a garbage can à la Oscar the Grouch which was promptly carted away by league officials. Some rascal in a plane flew above the Coliseum before the first game with a trailing banner that read: Houston Asterisks. Announcer Ray Fosse made buzzing sounds during a Jose Altuve AB which was a subtle nod to him wearing a buzzer during Game 6 of the ALCS.
Still, I wasn’t satisfied.
For his sacrifice/inevitable Manfred scapegoat suspension, Ramon Laureano will go down as a legend in the Green and Gold, and every baseball fan should thank him for some momentary, albeit small, semblance of making the baseball gods smile. Did the average fan win? Probably not, but sometimes your pride and integrity is all you have, and when a team of smug assholes try to take that away…you fight back. After the game the formerly unapologetic fake tough-guy Josh “We have nothing to apologize for” Reddick was trying to garner sympathy, saying he hoped there is not a carry-over of anger when the Asterisks play the A’s again. ‘We don’t want targets on our back as big as we already do now.” Too bad and too late. Not too smug are we now, eh, Mr. Reddick?
Am I satisfied? For the moment. And that moment ended just…about….now.
My travel buddy and I decided to take a break from the incessant driving to pause for a moment and take a look at the ominously beautiful and deadly Joshua Tree National Park. The sign at the entrance gave you the true indication of what the desert landscape had in store when it read, “No gas for 42 miles.” The lack of water and an eerie feeling of peacefulness seemed to envelope me, but in the back of my mind there was also the thought that human life in all its totality is not needed and scarcely wanted in this section of the world. It’s almost as if humans take some sort of sadistic pleasure in their environment slowly trying to sap the life out of them. We soaked in the atmosphere while hiking a small trail and enjoyed the lovely desert flora for awhile before heading to Phoenix.
Phoenix was 105 degrees in the shade, and the downtown streets were a veritable ghost town as we searched for Chase Field, home of the Arizona D’Bags. There was obviously no baseball due to the Rampant ‘Rona, but we decided to check out the stadium at any rate so I could cross it off my bucket list since I had never been to Arizona and scarcely had any desire to go to Chase Field before this trip. The park had a very nice early 20th century brick facade but was a little boring besides that and had a noticeable lack of any sort of player statue. (Luis Gonzalez?) I took the opportunity to take a photo with the over-payed, fake tough guy and infamous red-ass, Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner, unarguably had some great and damn near epic World Series moments, but will always be known by this writer as a guy who screamed at another player, Max Muncy, who apparently didn’t run the bases fast enough after crushing a ball into McCovey Cove. Muncy’s response? “Go get it out of the ocean.” Muncy was apparently so intimidated by Madison “Fake Tough Guy With a Girl’s Name” Bumgarner that he had t-shirts printed of the above response and wore it to the ballpark the very next day.
In 2002 I was living in Los Angeles, being young, doing dumb things, and hanging out with pompous art school kids in my spare time. I was, for the most part, puking in their studios and stealing their beer when I wasn’t attending a gallery opening. I once wandered into a walk-in closet stacked with cardboard boxes and immediately walked out thinking I had made a mistake.
“This is someone’s artwork.” a friend told me.
I’m not sure to this day if he was pulling my chain. Such is life in Los Angeles.
October came rolling around and the Angels and Giants were playing for the WS title…2 teams I just hated with a passion. Whom to root for?
It was gay rights icon Harvey Milk who described Orange County best, in response to California State Senator John Briggs describing San Francisco as “the moral garbage dump of homosexuality in this country.”
“Nobody likes garbage ’cause it smells,” Milk told reporters. “Yet eight million tourists visited San Francisco last year. I wonder how many visited Fullerton.”
–The Angels had the Rally Monkey, thundersticks, (basically inflated plastic) douche-bag and mouth-breather John Lackey, the most boring fans in the league, and they played in a white-power wasteland famous for birthing Richard Nixon: Orange County.
–The Giants had territorial rights over the A’s, were kind of dull, and had 2 cantankerous schmucks in their own right (who hated each other) in Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.
In the end we all know what happens. The Giants blow a 5-0 lead in game 6, Dusty Baker makes some half-baked managerial decisions, Scott Spezio becomes a legend in Anaheim, and the Angels win their first World Series title essentially denying Barry Bonds his one and only shot and leaving him crying in the locker room.
The only saving grace? At least it wasn’t the Yankees.
I don’t have the affection towards Jeff “Shark” Samardjiza that I do for other former Athletics–he simply wasn’t in a Oakland uniform long enough for me to care, netting only 5 wins for the Green and Gold. Besides, once you slip on the pajamas with San Francisco stitched on the chest all bets are off. Affection can burn away as quickly as a love affair in a cheap Tijuana hotel room after coitus, an early morning coke hangover and a head full of regrets. I slop mustard on my hotdog and wash it down seconds later with carbonated, gut-wrenching goodness.
This is game 2 of the NLDS.
Samardjiza, long and lanky with long flowing hair akin to a 1980’s Sunset Strip hair metal band, the archetype of a “tall drink of water,” sauntered with that loose and easy gait toward
the bump with mythic and ghostly dimensions whispering through the ballpark–1908— and this former Notre Dame football star was standing in the way of mental and historical catharsis for Cubs faithful. Their celestial recognizance hanging in the balance of a 5 ounce sphere with a Catholic boy twirling it; their fathers and grandfathers never getting to see what they are hoping to see in the near future: a homo-erotic dogpile on the mound (say that once again without innuendo) and a lifting of the gold trophy.
Their collective vision crystallized after 6 months and 2, 106 games. Babe Ruth and his “called shot” be damned.
Samardjiza’s line: 2 innings, 4 runs, 6 hits, 1K, 1 BB…a clunker, a stinker, a garbage pile. Ex Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee used to say that sex robbed you of your stamina: “If you let a woman drain away your life’s essence you’ll never be able to go nine.” Does this mean Samardjiza had spent too much time in a Tijuana whorehouse? or was it simply that he couldn’t getting his breaking stuff over?
Top 4th: Baseball giveth and baseball taketh away. Starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks has to leave the game with forearm stiffness after an Angel Pagan (this is the best example of a dichotomy in the baseball universe. Both names butting heads against each other with the former in a perpetual battle for the souls of the denizens of earth and the latter practicing polytheism and prancing around the forest in their birthday suits.) line drive nails him. Travis Wood, the reliever, proceeds to hit a home run in the bottom half of the inning. Baseball giveth again. The rest of the game is filled with a menagerie of relievers shutting down the Giants dreadful lineup, shots of Bill Murray chuckling and partying with fellow fans, and Bob Costas struggling for a heart-felt metaphor. He even mentioned beloved (well, excepting Pete Rose) commissioner Bart Giamatti’s “elegant” poetry at one point.
“We tend to think of true fandom as a virtue and of bandwagon jumping as a vice. But why? What’s so great about pulling for a team even when it does poorly? And what’s so bad about pulling for a team even when it does well? Humans rightly value loyalty. Being a loyal friend means being a friend even in bad times. Fair-weathered fans are like fair-weathered friends. They display a culpable lack of fidelity. Conversely, one who exhibits genuine fan-hood displays the same exact virtue of a good friend. For the good friend has a reasonable hope and expectation that the friend to whom he/she is being faithful to in the tough times would do the same for them.”–Thomas D. Senor
I despise the Giants. It isn’t the panda hats and the Disney-fication of baseball. It isn’t the fact that their two biggest stars, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds are self entitled assholes that simply played a boy’s game well. It isn’t even the obnoxious, loudmouthed selfie-taking “fans” who couldn’t tell you why you would want to hit a ball to the right side of the infield with a man on second if their lives depended on it.
These same fans use the Giants World Series victories as a sort of personal bourgeois self-vindication. (“We live in San Francisco, a world-class city…Oakland sucks,” whether they be educated and wealthy or not–a typical, though not uniquely American way of using group-thought as a facade of wealth.) This self-vindication has led these rubes to some serious deep-rooted racist and classism issues–seeing Dodger Stadium or the Coliseum as “dangerous” and “full of gangsters” read: blacks and Latinos, while ignoring the multiple murders and beat downs that have happened outside of Pac Bell, which are strangely swept under the rug. Baseball is a business, but it’s one made possible by the illusion that each of us has a personal connection to their team and its place. Apparently, this “illusion” has made some fans blind…and, according to the photo above, much more poverty-stricken as well.
Baseball doesn’t always follow a Hollywood script and neither do baseball seasons. This past season, for me, conjures up the old baseball adage: we came, we saw, we went home. It was a quandary from the beginning that lent itself to flaccid penis. We as Oakland fans simply knew we weren’t going to be contenders a month deep, and it can be tough watching games day after day, month after month with no hope for the immediate future and a bullpen that resembles something my dog leaves on the ground after a brisk walk. The A’s pitching has been at its worst since the mid 1990s and it makes me cringe at how they would look without Sonny Gray and half a year of Scott Kazmir. This team reminds me of the crummy baseball team on the Twilight Zone episode “The Mighty Casey.” Perhaps the Oakland ball-club should sign a robot as well or maybe Kelly Leak from the Bad News Bears. Hell, the alcoholic manager of the Bears (played by the late, great Walter Matthau) could probably hit as well as Sam Fuld. The rest of the team (except for a few players) left me cold– like a disease but with a prescription that includes strychnine along with the penicillin.
This past Saturday gave Bay Area baseball fans something to talk about (besides provincial animosities) as the A’s and Giants faced off with 2 of Oakland’s “Big 3” facing off in Barry Zito’s first ML appearance since 2013 and perhaps the final appearance of his career. (obviously my local A’s radio affiliate couldn’t care less as they decided to carry a Division 2 football game instead.) The game echoed the year to date: much to do about nothing as Zito and Tim Hudson were knocked around and each left before the 3rd inning. The fans gave each a heartwarming standing ovation as they skulked off the field in perhaps the most ultimate display of nostalgia and a desperate attempt to cheer about ANYTHING in a season of despair, disappointment and the worst record in the A.L. Is there any way to smirk on paper? Fans were actually excited about a dumpster fire… but at least this one had an explosion at the end compared to the many others we’ve experienced that were just slow burning tire fires. I just refused to bring out the marshmallows.
The “Los Angeles” Angels clinched the Western division last night, finally living up to their “potential” and bloated pay-roll. Their mellow, almost boring to the point of tears fans were given kudos for sticking around after the game and watching the Athletics’ Sean Doolittle achieve a karma-like implosion on the big screen as the Rangers scored 6 in the 9th to take the game 6-1. I think it is pertinent to understand that Doolittle had just come off of the disabled list a few days earlier but seeing that the A’s bullpen had decided to smear feces on its collective faces the past month or so, his comeback was seen as just slightly below the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Mike Scioscia, who has the character of a stoned sloth summed it up this way, “Guys are aware that this is one little milestone that we need, and I think they’re proud of that, but we have a long way to go. I think these guys know the bigger prize that we need to keep our eyes on.” Well said, but let’s not forget that their pitching staff would be/and will be considerably worse than any team in the A.L. playoffs. Now the baseball world will be able to see the owner of the worst contract in Angels history, Josh Hamilton, do what he does best–swing at virtually everything, and look bad while doing it. His MVP season of 2010 feeling like decades ago as he is now just an average player at best when they can get him on the field. A’s fans also have no love for outfielder Kole Calhoun who complained about the Oakland fans in RF being “too loud” in Anaheim and actually had a few ejected. Perhaps I am looking at this with a jaundiced eye, but besides Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick and maybe Jeff Weaver this team just isn’t very likable. They are as homogenized as the city they play in. Here’s to hoping they choke on a giant chicken bone in the playoffs. Godspeed.