THE SPOTLIGHT FORGIVES ALL FOR THAT KIDDER, ANDUJAR

ST. LOUIS — Oh, Joaquin, you knucklehead. You wild man, you. Come on over here and give us a bop on the head, you nut.

What a kidder. One day you hate us. Next day you love us. All season long, the media are “a bunch of bleep.” Now, in the World Series, you say, “I like you guys. You got to write. That’s your job. That’s why I’m here talking to you.”

Ah, J.A., you card. You Card. You Cardinal man.

Give us a hug. All is forgiven. So you treated us like dog droppings early in the year. Our fault. We were blind. We didn’t know it was just because your feelings were hurt. Now you tell us.

“I win 20 games the year before, but nobody come to talk to me,” you said Monday at your press conference. “They talk to Ozzie Smith. They talk to the other pitcher. Nobody talk to Joaquin Andujar. So I say OK. I going to win 20 more games and not talk to nobody.”

Well, you showed us, all right.

And now — what a guy! You’re talking up a storm. Just in time for the playoffs and the World Series.

It must be our cologne, right? You’re just being yourself It couldn’t be that now’s your chance to be an international star, instead of just a pain in the butt in St. Louis.

It couldn’t be that you might be on the trading block, and you’re not thrilled at the idea of being shipped off to a whole city full of people who don’t know how good a guy you are, and just may figure you’re a jerk.

Of course not.

You’re just being yourself — like you say, “One Tough Dominican.” You ol’ peanut head. Talk to us.

“The guys in the papers, the guys on TV, they only tell you Joaquin Andujar is a bad guy. They don’t tell you he is a good guy. I am a good guy.”

Of course you are.

And now that we’re talking, just us good guys, how about the nasty All-Star Game business, when you pouted and refused to show up because they didn’t pick you to start?

Oh. We can’t ask that question.

“I only want to talk about the World Series,” you say. Hey. Forget it. We just made that whole incident up anyhow. You know us guys.

“The press write bleep. They are bleep. They treat me like bleep.”

Joaquin, baby. Remember when you said that last week?

Don’t want to talk about that, either? Hey. No problem. You want to tell us who Joaquin Andujar is. Great. This sounds like fun.

You say he is the pitcher who won 21 games this season, who won 20 games last season. You say that many times.

You say he is a good guy, a guy who is nice to the clubhouse man, and gave some money to the Domincan Republic.

You say “God bless America.” You say your name over and over. Joaquin Andujar. Joaquin-God-Bless-America-I-Won-21-Games-This- Season-Andujar.

Aw, you nut, you. Knows only what he reads That guy who sat by your locker all year, beneath a taped-up column called “Andujar’s Image Problem His Own Doing,” that guy who, when someone would come to talk to him, would just point up at the column and go on as if the person were a can of bug repellent — that wasn’t you at all.

It was your twin brother from San Pedro de Macoris.

Who knew? Forgive us, big guy.

And the pitcher whose teammates avoid him, who leads them to say “I don’t want to get involved” when his name is mentioned.

That’s your long lost uncle, right?

“The players on the St. Louis Cardinals all like me. They kid with me. You ask them who they like to kid with, they say Joaquin Andujar.”

Of course they do. Too bad none were around at the moment.

But, hey. Really. That was a heckuva press conference Monday. Nice show.

Bury the past. This is the World Series. “God bless America.” Great to have you back in print. You pitch tonight. Game 3.

Can’t wait.

Especially after you got done saying “I really like you guys,” and a touched reporter asked you if you’d be so accommodating tomorrow after the game.

And you smiled and said, “I’ll talk tomorrow, depending on what I see in the papers tomorrow.”

That-a-way, Joaquin. You don’t have to take no bleep from nobody.

You’re full of it already.

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