“Ode to the Nats of 2019,” by Adam Morris Garfinkle

This piece is a parody of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey At the Bat” that I stumbled upon, and it’s a pretty good one. Adam Morris Garfinkle does a really good job of maintaining the rhythm and spirit of Thayer’s piece while capturing the story of the Washington Nationals’ 2019 season. I found this poem published in tandem with a piece, also written by Garfinkle, titled “In Lieu of Opening Day: The Poetry of Baseball.”

*

[in gratitude, to Ernest Lawrence Thayer]

The prospect wasn’t bright at all for the Washington Nats in May;
Their record stood at 19 and 31, with 112 gruesome trials to play,
Turner he got injured, and ‘ol Zim he turned up lame;
Despondency settled upon the hometown fans, again and again and again.

A faithless few their precious season tickets went to pawn,
But most just sighed with wistful longing, their hopes cruelly smashed and torn,
They thought that if only their pathetic bullpen could finally come around,
The pall of desperation would at least be lifted from the mound.

They blew so many saves we despaired of keeping track,
Of hit-and-run and sacrifice bunts there certainly was a lack.
They bobbled grounders, overthrew first, and dropped innocent pop flies,
You’d have thought the guys were trying to play the game with ‘baca plugs glued upon their eyes.

Our heroes stumbled through a maze of ghastly springtime torpors;
At one point losing five games straight, even getting swept by them New Yorkers;
“Fire the manager!”, the disgusted minions insistently demanded.
As if that would have made any difference, to be perfectly candid.

At last faint embers of diamond life slowly began to glow,
In early June they finally managed to win four games in a row;
The bats all at once seem to jump, their Louisville sluggers did thrive,
The pitching improved significantly with a revised rotation of five.

Little by little they strove to turn their season right around,
By the All-Star Break they’d mostly healed and felt pretty gosh darn sound,
Before long they passed up the Mets, then swiftly dropped the Phillies,
Waving back to Bryce as they gave chase for Atlanta willy-nilly.

They never did catch ‘em, their goofy tomahawk chop to still,
But they played good enough to climb high enough upon the standings hill,
To wild card their way into the lustrous postseason playoffs,
Finishing the regular season with a win streak that handsomely paid off.

So it was that the Nats came face-to-face with the Milwaukee Brewers,
In a winner-take-all single game, fans’ nerves jangling as if on skewers
Scherzer fell behind early, three big runs to zip,
The lineup looked utterly punchless, not one batsman connected with a rip.

Strasberg came in to relieve Max, for his very first relief stint ever,
And shut down Milwaukee’s mighty crew in a masterful endeavor;
Then with but six outs between them and cursed oblivion,
The eighth inning became at last a friend, and started us a-singin’. 

For Taylor got plunked (maybe), and Zim cracked a solid single,
Rendon then walked to fill the bases, and Soto solidly delivered ‘em.
Three runs came home before the dust had settled, their first lead of the game,
Then Hudson came in to shut the door, and the town went totally insane.

“Beat LA!” the crowd then chanted, but that demanded gallantry;
The mighty Dodgers had won 106 games, and the Nats a mere 93,
The first game was a six-zip shutout, things did not look at all good.
But the Nats won the second 4 to 2, they knew in their hearts they could.

Game 3 was an unmitigated full-frontal home field disaster,
LA scored ten runs and our faces turned to alabaster,
Now down two games to one in a short best-of-five series,
Our breathing went giddily shallow and our attitude turned quite leery.

The guys pulled out game four 6-1, to even the series two and two,
But back to LA they had to go for the crucial deciding set-to.
They fell behind again, three-nothing after two,
Exactly as in the Brewers game; hmm, could that be a clue?

They tied it in the eighth off Kershaw, the poor bedraggled fellow,
Rendon and Soto dinged him back to back, and we felt oh so mellow.
Then Howie Kendrick slammed the Dodger door shut in the tenth,
After which Mr. Excitement Sean Doolittle one-two-threed a breathless heaven-sent.

Then came Saint Louis for to joust the coveted NL Pennant,
This was to be no ordinary series, and we really truly meant it.
For oh how cruelly had the Cardinals crushed us back in 2012,
Erasing a 6-run Nats lead in game six, dropping us straight down into hell.

The Nationals were taking no prisoners this time around,
They chewed up the Red Birds, flung them hard down on the ground,
Plucked them but good they did, winning four games in a row;
No one believed the Nats could sweep ‘em; it only goes to show.

And so came the World Series, the Nation’s Capital exploded
With joy and rapture and mirth; some folks even got loaded.
Off to Houston the victors then made for to travel,
As serious underdogs surely, most thought, bound quickly to unravel. 

But we whooped ‘em twice in Texas, ‘twas hard even to conceive!
Our spirits were buoyant, you bet your sweet life we believed.
Houston was supposed to be down in the great state of Texas, doc.
But the Nats left that city reeling in a total state of shock. 

Not so fast countin’ your chickens, said the Astros, we ain’t done yet.
Then they won three straight in DC; d’ya think we got upset?!
Now down three games to two, and facing two more on the road,
The odds-makers smirked, the Nats’ll flush right down the hall-of-shame commode.

But we pulled out the first one 5 to 4, forcing a deciding game seven,
On the day before Halloween no less, we were jumpier than a flea in denim.
The guys got down two zip with but a measly nine outs to give,
It seemed that maybe, just maybe, the boys had finally run out of fizz.

But that’s not how it ended, I’m oh so glad to tell,
The guys sliced clean through the Astros bullpen pell-mell;
Howie lined one off the right-field foul pole; Houston sunk down in pain.
How he even hit Harris’s low outside sinker at all, no one could explain. 

In the baseball dome of heaven dugout angels rejoiced on high,
The Big Train looked down on where Griffith used to be and plaintively cried,
Huzzah and hosannah, shouted Saint Kenesaw Mountain Landis,
Not since Calvin Coolidge was President have I seen anything so marvelously outlandish.

So hats off to the Nationals, true champions of baseball lore,
Bringing the Nation’s Capital its first Series win since 1924.
We even booed the President, and some held out snotty hankies.
The only way it could have been better? Had the Astros been the goddamn Yankees.


2020 Postseason schedule

In case you missed it, Major League Baseball announced the tentative 2020 postseason schedule yesterday. I confess, I never expected that baseball would make it this far in the midst of the pandemic, and yet, here we are. This unusual year just keeps getting more interesting.

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RIP Tom Seaver

With a nickname like “Tom Terrific,” you know he was good at his job. Born November 17, 1944, Tom Seaver pitched for twenty seasons in Major League Baseball. Over the course of his career, he played for the New York Mets, the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox.

Seaver won the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1967, and during his career, he won three NL Cy Young Awards. He was also a 12-time All-Star, compiling 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts, and a 2.86 ERA. Just to pad the résumé a little, Seaver even threw a no-hitter in 1978.

Tom Seaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. He passed away a few days ago, on August 31, 2020 from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19.

Rest in peace.

Tom_Seaver_at_Shea_Stadium_1974_CROP

Wikimedia Commons


Opening Day blues

MLB Opening Day was yesterday, and as hard as I tried, I just could not get excited about it.  The Royals play their opening game tonight, and while I feel a tiny bit happier about that, it’s still nothing like what I usually feel when Opening Day comes around.

I am making an effort, I really am.  From the time the announcement came down that a season was going to happen up to now, I have been trying to get excited about baseball.

It’s just really hard to do right now.

Every time I think about Major League Baseball proceeding with a season, I find myself thinking, “Half those players are going to get COVID.”  “This season will be ended by early September.”  “It’s not like anyone can go to the games anyways.”  “It’s not about the game, it’s all about the money.”

Now, admittedly, bringing baseball back is not all bad.  It’s been weird not having new games to watch, even from the living room.  I miss the highlight reels, even the repetitive ones.  I miss having to confess to my co-workers, “Um, yeah… I fell asleep in the seventh inning, so I didn’t see that homer.”  I miss the bench-clearing brawls in all their glorious stupidity.  I miss seeing the perfectly cut grass of the myriad outfields and listening to the various broadcasters react to and analyze the games.  I miss baseball itself.

There’s also that ironic voice in my head reminding me, “At least the Royals can’t lose 100 games this year,” like they did last year and the year before that.

But even that can’t drown out the thought in my head that keeps insisting that going through with this season is stupid to the core.  The schedule is so short and compact, it’s almost laughable.  Then there’s the not-so-funny fact that all these players are at risk for exposure.

I will watch some games — it will be hard not to.  But it still won’t be the same.

I’m sorry baseball.  I just can’t this year.


Infographic: The Cost of A Season Without Spectators

The infographic below was created by Statista back in March, estimating the potential losses MLB teams would be facing if they were to play an 82-game season in front of no live fans.  For an 82-game season, each team in the league would be facing an average loss of $640,000 per game.  The infographic shows estimated total losses for the top eight teams as a result of the shortened season and spectator-less games.  The total loss for the MLB was estimated to come in around $4 billion.

infographic covid ghost games.jpg

Fast forward to the current arrangement, with a 60-game season, and these dollar amounts are no doubt looking even more ominous than the ones in the graphic.  As much as we all hate that money is such a big part of professional sports, it’s no wonder there was so much of a push to get a season, any season, underway to recoup some of these losses.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, with the coronavirus continuing to spread around the country at such a rapid rate, it’ll be interesting to see if the league even makes it all the way through the planned 60-game schedule.


Happy Independence Day!

To all my readers in the States, please have a safe holiday.  Wear your masks, wash your hands, keep social distancing, and if you’re going to use fireworks, please be mindful of others when doing so.


The 2020 season guide

Major League Baseball just posted this handy quick-reference guide on social media.   While I’m not a huge fan of the runner-on-second rule for extra inning games, I’m pretty excited to see what the universal DH will bring this year.

Further details can be found on this FAQ posted on MLB.com.

2020 MLB guide


Baseball is coming back

Players, owners, teams, the league… all the moving parts of the MLB universe have finally come together, and we are, at last, going to see some baseball for the 2020 season!

Major League Baseball is having a second Spring Training (or should we call it “Summer Training” at this point?) to begin in about a week’s time, on July 1st.  Then, we will be looking at a 60-game regular season, to be played over the course of about 66 days, from about July 23rd or 24th until September 27th.  The postseason will begin on September 29th, with the World Series to begin on October 20th, and a potential Game 7 to be played on October 28th.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, access to games is going to be limited, of course.  No fans in the stands is going to seem a bit weird, but so long as we can watch games from the comfort of our living rooms, that seems like a minor concession at this point.  There will be a regimen of temperature checks and symptom checks, as well routine tests for the virus, not just among players, but also coaches, trainers, staff, etc.  Players who are high-risk or who have family members at high risk have the option to opt out for the season and still get paid.  Media interactions with the teams, meanwhile, will all take place through Zoom, in order to adhere to social distancing recommendations.

On the field, spitting will be banned, which makes perfect sense given the nature of how the virus spreads.  Non-playing players in the dugout will be required to wear masks.  Pitchers will bring their own rosin bags and will even be permitted to carry a wet rag in their back pocket so they won’t need to lick their fingers (does anyone else sniff a potential for some doctoring on this one?).  Social distancing, in general, remains strongly encouraged.

How well will this all work?  Obviously, it’s difficult to tell until things really get underway.  The potential for a widespread outbreak remains very real — just look at what happened among the Phillies last week — and for all we know, the season might end abruptly after the first thirty days.

Information about this new development is still coming, even as I write this.  This strange, strange season just keeps getting stranger, and while I’m happy that we’re going to see some ballgames, half of me is intensely curious about how long it’s really going to last.

See the source image


“The Idea of Florida During a Winter Thaw,” by Gail Mazur

This piece makes me want to go back in time a few months — back to the last days of winter as Spring Training was just getting underway and the threat of the coronavirus still seemed too far away to be of any concern.

*sigh*

We’ll get it back next year.

*

Late February, and the air’s so balmy
snowdrops and crocuses might be fooled
into early blooming. Then, the inevitable blizzard
will come, blighting our harbingers of spring,
and the numbed yards will go back undercover.
In Florida, it’s strawberry season—
shortcake, waffles, berries and cream
will be penciled on the coffeeshop menus.

In Winter Haven, the ballplayers are stretching
and preening, dancing on the basepaths,
giddy as good kids playing hookey. Now,
for a few weeks, statistics won’t seem
to matter, for the flushed boys are muscular
and chaste, lovely as lakes to the retired men
watching calisthenics from the grandstands.
Escapees from the cold work of living,

the old men burnish stories of Yaz and the Babe
and the Splendid Splinter. For a few dreamy dollars,
they sit with their wives all day in the sun,
on their own little seat cushions, wearing soft caps
with visors. Their brave recreational vehicles
grow hot in the parking lot, though they’re
shaded by live oaks and bottlebrush trees
whose soft bristles graze the top-racks.

At four, the spectators leave in pairs, off
to restaurants for Early Bird Specials.
A salamander scuttles across the quiet
visitors’ dugout. The osprey whose nest is atop
the foul pole relaxes. She’s raged all afternoon
at balls hit again and again toward her offspring.
Although December’s frost killed the winter crop,
there’s a pulpy orange-y smell from juice factories….

Down the road, at Cypress Gardens, a woman
trainer flips young alligators over on their backs,
demonstrating their talent for comedy—stroke
their bellies, they’re out cold, instantaneously
snoozing. A schoolgirl on vacation gapes,
wonders if she’d ever be brave enough
to try that, to hold a terrifying beast
and turn it into something cartoon-funny.

She stretches a hand toward the toothy sleeper
then takes a step back, to be safe as she reaches.


Detour

This comic feels a lot like this entire baseball season, doesn’t it?

Baseball Detour comic