O: Mr. Baseball Commissioner
FROM: Field Correspondent RE: All-Star Break Report
As per your request, I am filing my report on the state of baseball at the midway point and, to sum up, let me say, Brazil 3, Netherlands 2.
No, you’re right, that is not baseball. But that is my point. More people are now familiar with World Cup soccer than they are with many parts of our national pastime, such as when does the strike start, who makes the playoffs, what division does Milwaukee play in, and is the strike over yet?
Baseball is confused. I say this not because the Tigers’ road uniforms look like blueberry pizzas. I say it because the divisions are shuffled, Darryl Strawberry keeps popping up in different places, there’s a Ken Griffey, a Ken Griffey Jr., a Barry Bonds, a Bobby Bonds, Texas is in first place with a losing record, and the ball is loaded with Kryptonite.
Also, we can’t decide if Frank Thomas is human, or the Incredible Hulk.
In short, baseball is a mess — and I haven’t even begun to talk about the Yankees. In the interest of clarity, Mr. Commissioner, let me break things down by category, followed by a brief summation:
* STRIKE ZONE: Ha!
* AL WEST: Ha!
* TORONTO BLUE JAYS: Ha!
* JUICED BALL: A problem. Batters are clobbering the ol’ horsehide at a titanic pace. There are already six players with 25 or more home runs — versus zero at this point last year. Batters credit this to lifting lots and lots of weights and have demanded a Weight Lifting Clause in their contracts. Unfortunately, they cannot lift their contracts.
Pitchers are convinced this hitting thing is the result of new baseballs, which, thanks to Secret Purchase Order No. 185229, are stitched tighter than Roseanne’s bustier. No one can prove this, of course, because the balls are not made in this country. But many major league pitchers believe that somewhere in Costa Rica, factory workers are driving Cadillacs and spending money like sailors.
* STRIKE ZONE II: The Juiced Ball theory has led to major confusion over the strike zone. I would be more specific about this, sir, except, as William Hurt says in “Broadcast News,” they keep moving the little bugger. The strike zone used to be anywhere between the knees and the chest. It is now anywhere between the top and bottom of the belt buckle.
There are 400 more walks this season than at this time last year. This can flare some tempers. Take Sunday’s game at Tiger Stadium. Texas starter Kevin Brown thought he’d struck out Cecil Fielder on a 2-2 pitch. The ump said no, ball three. The 3-2 pitch came down the middle again, and Fielder smoked it over the 400-foot sign for a three-run homer. As Cecil rounded the bases, Brown approached the umpire to gently clarify the strike zone situation. I believe the words he used were, “YOU BLEEPING SON OF BLEEP! YOU MOTHER BLEEP! THAT BLEEPING PITCH WAS A BLEEPING STRIKE, YOU BLEEP!”
This reflects the new religious attitude of many baseball pitchers, who often quote the Bible, saying, “It is easier to put a camel through the eye of a needle than to get a damn curveball in for a strike.”
* TIGER ROAD UNIFORMS: OK. Who spiked the punch?
* NEW YORK YANKEES: Believe it or not, sir, the Yankees have been in first place most of the year, yet there is no noise from the Big Apple. This is confusing, because New Yorkers have been known to make noise even after they’re dead.
These Yankees, however, are the dullest collection of pinstripes since Price Waterhouse had its last board meeting. No Reggie. No Billy. No Winfield.
Besides, Yankees manager Buck Showalter, who, in the interest of keeping his job longer than the average Yankees manager, which is to say, long enough to actually put on the uniform, has installed a “No Controversy” policy. This consists of tying up each player before and after the game and gagging him with a rag.
In the Yankees’ clubhouse, Matt Nokes is considered gabby.
* OFF-FIELD BEHAVIOR: More confusion, sir. Dwight Gooden has the nickname of a doctor but the spirit of a pharmacist. He’s gone again: substance-abuse violation. Will he be back? Of course, sir. Strawberry, his old teammate, is back after another rehab stint, thanks to baseball’s drug policy.
Pardon me? What is baseball’s drug policy?
A good question, sir. I believe it’s another word for “boomerang.”
* GOOD NEWS: Yes, sir, there is some. Griffey. Thomas. Matt Williams. Greg Maddux. Also, Marge Schott hasn’t said anything stupid in a month. I think Showalter has her gagged.
* SORT OF GOOD NEWS: The Colorado Silver Bullets drew 33,179 to a game last week. Unfortunately, sir, they’re not one of your teams.
* FINAL THOUGHTS: In summation, I think a few things need clearing up. Is the AL West a division, or a batting cage? Is that really Michael Jordan, or a celebrity look-alike? And how does Jack Morris keep landing on first-place teams?
By the way, sir. I know Maradona, I know Leonardo, I know Baggio. But Mr. Commissioner, I have to say — and I mean this with all sincerity — what’s your name again?