Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Out There For All To See

The Minnesota Twins sunk a fair amount of money into the career of Tsuyoshi Nishioka over the past two years. Mr. N. is only 28, a multiple time all-star Japanese baseball player with a seemingly bright future. But for some reason, it just didn't work out here. His hitting was modest on his good days, and his fielding at 2nd base left much to be desired. An injury hurt his progress as well.
This kind of situation isn't new to baseball. For over a hundred years, teams have signed new talent, only to be disappointed. What's worse, there doesn't seem to be any other way to get young players to the point where they will contribute at the Major League level. The cost to the team is, of course, made up for in ticket sales and other sources of revenue, but to be competitive in the future, the recruit, sign, pay, train cycle continues as a kind of  hidden cost.
When players have to be cut from the roster it's common to make it all pretty low key. The players collect what's owed to them and quietly leave. Management will be talking up the next group of newcomers in about four months. Mr. N's story, though, has a surprising twist. He graciously thanked the Twins for giving him the chance to play in the Big Leagues, but then surprised the team by saying they could keep the $3.2 million he was owed. I guess even if you're a bust it's still nice to be remembered for something, though I suppose the Twins" financial guys might have the fondest memory of this particular player disappointment. The lesson here is this: even a washout can find a way to show some class heading out the door. Good luck to Mr. N., who will presumably try to regain his star status in his native country.

It's hard, I think, to realize that being a highly paid athlete in a major market has a downside, and I'm not just talking about people asking for your autograph in public when you're out having dinner with the family. The thing is, just about everyone will know about it when you have a bad day, and a few will be nasty about it.
What if, for example, you were a member of the 2012 USA Ryder Cup team, which held a large lead last Sunday vs, Europe in their biannual match play (This is GOLF) showdown. But it all went away when the Americans seemed to catch the same virus, which caused well-paid tournament veterans to choke and lose. If I were a member of that team I would be tempted to spend the next month behind a Nixon mask rather than endure the insults spewing forth from people I don't even know. I didn't see it, but I read that the losing Yanks could barely choke back the tears in the televised post Cup postmortem.
In fact, about the only consolation is that someone else will foul up next week as surely as the sun rising and setting. Field goal attempts bouncing crazily off the upright, an infield throw that turns a double play into an unearned run and a missed chance to make the playoffs, a handful of intercepted passes, some of them for opposing touchdowns.
Perhaps one of the ultimate pressure spots, though it isn't athletic, comes up tomorrow night when the first presidential debate takes place. Given President Obama's well-developed sense of "cool" as compared to Mr. Romney's scattershot attacks that never quite seem coordinated or sometimes even coherent, I would pick Obama as the favorite. On the other hand, surprising things sometimes happen in these mano-a-mano duels.Then again, running the White House isn't like being an everyday debate judge who bases administration policy on whose arguments seem cleaner. The contest, though it's there for all to see, doesn't end in inaugurating a Debater in Chief.


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