Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Conundrum

All of a sudden, there are too many things to write about if I'm to finish ripping the Bush Administration by Inauguration Day. On the other hand, it is Christmas Eve, hardly the time to be writing mean things about Dick Cheney that he'll never see or worry about. I've said all I plan to about the Right's phony "war on Christmas". I wrote it a year ago and nothing's changed. It's a conundrum - writing now, I mean.
So let's settle on something neutral. Baseball, for instance. Teams and players come and go at such a pace that most people can be forgiven for not knowing a thing about the Tampa Bay Rays or that the last game of old Yankee Stadium has already been played.
But some players, I submit, deserve perhaps even more than the attention they get from the local fans. Take, for instance, the recently retired Greg Maddox. All he did was his job, superbly, for over 20 years, not only as a pitcher, but a part-time hitter, fielder and even occasional base runner.
Fair or not, pitching success depends on inches, or fractions of inches, on specific pitches delivered in very specific situations. At this, Maddoz seemed to always be a pitch or two ahead of his competitors - major league hitters. His was not the the blinding fastball approach of a Roger Clemens or the whirligig breaking balls served up by Pedro Martinez. He just wanted to beat the batters any way he could, with as few pitches as possible. The glamore could go to someone else, Maddox saw his job as simply doing everything needed to hang up the "w", then prepare for his next start.
He became known for several rather rare trademarks. The first, in a world which now features the average major league game lasting three hours or more, the Maddox starts often were over in closer to two hours, oweing to the pitcher's goal of self preservation. In addition, he was a wonder of endurance. All he did was win 13 games or more as a starter for 20 consecutive years. Sure, he finally wore out, but he's now 44 years old.
They didn't hire him to hit, but in the National League, pitchers are called on to do just that, and he did it creditably every year. He had speed good enough to be a pinch runner when needed, and he won more Golden Glove awards for fielding his position than most kids get these days for "participation" in Summer School Art.
But his game didn't bring forth gasps from the crowd, and he could walk in many US cities without being recognized. All he did was to surpass the normal unofficial standard for Hall of Fame induction by almost 20%, winning almost 360 games in his career. He never had a bad headline for off the field troubles and helped his main team, the Atlanta Braves, dominate their division for over a decade. If he had been a physicist, his name would have been Einstein.
Have a nice, long, happy retirement, Man. You've earned it.


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