Baseball and the devil…

So, I’ve been reminded by my fiance’ that I haven’t written anything in this space for quite awhile. My excuse? I haven’t had two thoughts to rub together since then. This excuse apparently doesn’t cut it with her. So, she suggested I write something today about the significance of the symbolism of today’s date and [tag]baseball[/tag].

Truth be told I’m not paying nearly as close attention to baseball this year as I have in recent years past. For that I credit the anaemic performance of the Oakland A’s, the still early (and therefore mostly non-attention-worthy) state of the season in general and personal circumstances that make family come first (as it should). But Karen’s suggestion got me thinking, and that usually leads to words on a page in my world – or a lengthy discussion that one of my friends, coworkers or family members looks for a quick and elegant escape from.

So, what do [tag]6-6-06[/tag] and baseball have to do with one another? My initial thought is nothing. One of the things about baseball that I’m forced, as a devoted fan, to ignore with all my might is the obsessive religiousity of the players. If I really pay attention when my favorite hitters are crossing the plate I’m likely to throw up. Eveyone’s seen [tag]Barry Bonds[/tag] little “props to the big guy” move as he crosses the plate and if you watch [tag]the A’s[/tag] you get to see [tag]Mark Kotsay[/tag] cross himself a couple times during each at-bat.

[tag]Mike Sweeney[/tag], the only player on the [tag]Kansas City Royals[/tag] who can legitimately be called a star, was once a much better player. Then he found God. Since then he’s decided that winning doesn’t matter. Good thing too, because since he stopped caring about winning the Royals rarely do. One of the reasons Sweeney hasn’t pursued a trade to a contending team is because he’s fairly successfully converted most of the guys on the Royals roster to his view of God and baseball. [tag]Tony Muser[/tag], who once had the misfortune of managing the God-awful Royals, once memorably said, “Chewing on cookies and drinking milk and praying is not going to get it done… I’d like them to go out and pound tequila rather than have cookies and milk because nobody is going to get us out of this but us.”
The Royals represent the far end of the God spectrum in baseball, to be sure, but their utter lack of success and simultaneous utter godliness ought to give other major leaguers pause. It doesn’t though. God-babbling, religious kooks abound in professional baseball. [tag]Jim Bouton[/tag] mentioned them in his classic baseball tell-all, [tag]Ball Four[/tag], back in 1970. At the time born-again Christian wingnuts were a small minority in the [tag]MLB[/tag] clubhouse, but he could tell they were on the rise. His opinion at the time was that since the rednecks who represented the majority of white players in the game at the time were no longer welcome to harsh on the black and latino players openly they’d picked Jesus as a way to sequester themselves from the more liberal elements in baseball.

It should be noted that when one speaks of “liberal elements” in baseball one is talking about anyone who reads on purpose, folks who vote Democrat and anyone who might once have accidentally talked to a gay man. Back in Bouton’s day that list would have included anyone whose skin was black or brown. Nowadays though religious wingnutism is an equal opportunity employer. I still suspect the latino players are looser and more fun than anyone else in the game, but that’s just because they tend to be Catholic, and their brand of religion has a safety valve for sinful behavior called Confession. Nonetheless, they’re still praying at the plate regularly.

About the only place one doesn’t find overt Christianity in professional baseball is on the pitcher’s mound. [tag]Pedro Martinez[/tag] does a fair amount of giving props to the Big G and crossing himself, but I suspect that Pedro does that for show. It’s like the big oversized sleeves he used to wear on his uniform when he was with the Red Sox – the mess up the hitter’s mind. I mean, think about it. Say a God-babbling nitwit like Mike Sweeney is facing Pedro – Pedro crosses himself and looks up to the heavens. Sweeney is likely to get psyched out and say to himself “gee, what if the big guy likes him better than me? I haven’t got a chance. Shit, I knew I should have tithed more.”

In all seriousness, if you watch pitchers as studiously as I do you just know these guys are into [tag]Satan[/tag] (like all the best rock bands). Satan is all about the individual and nowhere on a ball field is there less of a team mentality than on the pitcher’s mound. Pitchers don’t sit with their teammates, don’t workout with them, don’t talk to them and mostly don’t even remember they’re there at all (if they did the A’s pitching staff would occassionally remember that throwing it over the plate isn’t that bad a deal if you keep the ball down because you’ve got a great bunch of defensive players behind you).

The Christian god is all about community and your fellow man and all that jazz. Pitchers haven’t got time for that. It’s up to them to strike out the side and win the game. No one else on the team has a stat for wins and losses. If you’re a batter you can have a great day at the plate and a great day in the field but you’re not getting credit for the win or blamed for the loss in the annals of eternal baseball. It stands to reason that pitchers are the most vulnerable to temptation from the dark lord.

Think about it. If I’m Satan and I’m going to try to collect a soul I’m going straight to the pitchers. There’s far more glory and far more potential doom in pitching. Maybe this explains [tag]Roger Clemens[/tag] and his ability to pitch so well into his mid-40s. I can totally see it. Roger has just signed (actually, he was dumped because his game was in decline) to the [tag]Toronto Blue Jays[/tag] after [tag]Red Sox[/tag] GM [tag]Dan Duquette[/tag] famously stated he was in the “twilight of his career” and elected not to re-sign him. [tag]Beezlebub[/tag] visits him in the off-season and makes him a deal – I’ll turn you into the greatest pitcher in the history of the game if you’ll just sign on this line in blood. Running program my ass. Clemens is who he is because of Satan. How else do we explain him getting a fat contract from [tag]the Astros[/tag] to pitch half a season for them this year?

Yes, if there’s any Satanic influence in baseball it resides with the pitchers. I mean, just look at the music they play before most closers enter the game – Hell’s Bells by [tag]AC/DC[/tag], Fire by [tag]Metallica[/tag]. You don’t see anyone trotting in from the bullpen to the strains of [tag]Third Day[/tag], do you?

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