To get ready for the 2012 baseball season, we’re looking at each team by way of a short story or one-act play. Why? Why the fuck not. We move on to the chasm of mediocrity that is the American League Central.
Detroit Tigers (Predicted Finish: 90-72)
He pushes play on the boombox.
“Boom Boom Pow” by the Black-Eyed Peas kicks in, and Jose Valverde feels it. He doesn’t move though…not yet. He stares straight ahead into his bedroom mirror, and admires the massive, shirtless stud he sees there.
On the top of the mirror, “Papa Grande” is written in silver and red rhinestones, which are embedded directly in the glass. The bedroom is painted black, ceiling included, and the walls are unadorned except for a giant poster of Valverde himself, with a tiger standing beside him. A blacklight mounted on the ceiling shines on the poster.
As the Peas’ song breaks into the “I gotta boom boom boom” part, Valverde lets it go. His body spasms violently once, twice, three times. Arms fly toward the ceiling, legs leap at strange angles. For a moment, he’s off the ground entirely. Sunglasses on but eyes open, he watches his form in the mirror carefully.
“Come on, Papa, you can do better! The people need more!”
He sings along. “They try copy my swagger, I’m on that next shit now.”
Another dance. Another performance. His head bobs, his titties bounce, his love handles shake violently from side to side over his black leggings. This spasm is longer, lasting more than 20 seconds. It ends with one knee pulled up to his chest and his arms flayed out in a Christ pose.
“Better, Papa. More. Harder.”
He snorts a line of cocaine of his dresser.
“This beat be bumpin’ bumpin, this beat go boom boom.”
Again. Valverde wrenches his neck trying to turn his head around 180 degrees, he thrusts his crotch out, he cocks the angle of his left foot. Somehow, his left elbow has turned inward. He finishes the dance and stares again into the mirror as beads of sweat trickle down his stomach.
“Mr. Perfection,” he whispers to himself, and then he readies for bed.
Cleveland Indians (84-78)
INT. CLUBHOUSE – DAY
Facing his teammates for the first time since his arrest for identity theft, ROBERTO HERNANDEZ stands as the other Indians sit, Indian-style, oddly enough, in a semicircle around him. Roberto takes a moment to gather himself.
Guys, thank you all for taking the time to listen to me today. I have let all of you down, and I need to come clean. As you probably have read by now, I am not the real Fausto Carmona. My name is Roberto Hernandez.
The reliever for the White Sox from the ’90s? Did you lie about who you were because you’re 55 years old?
Roberto Hernandez the Mexican sportscaster? Did you lie because you’re not really a baseball player?
Shut the fuck up, Grady, and let him talk.
And try not to break your jaw while you’re shutting your mouth, dude. Don’t want to disappoint Grady’s Ladies with more DL time.
Anyway. I lied about who I am because I was afraid. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to support my family. So even though I know God has given me talent, I lied about how old I am so I could come to the United States and the scouts would like me. I lied about my name so I wouldn’t get caught. I’ve learned my lesson. Never lie. The truth always comes out.
Like the truth about how you suck as a pitcher? 5.25 ERA last year when we were trying to be respectable, man. Killed us.
Grady, don’t make me tell you twice, son.
I know that I have hurt all of you. All of these years, while I throw my sinker, you call out, “Get him, Fausto,” or “One more strike, Fausto.” (I also apologize for almost never getting that one more strike.) And that wasn’t even my name. You called out for a different man. Probably somewhere, the real Fausto’s heart hurt while he was in a Dominican prison. My riches and fame should have been his riches and fame. But my talent is mine. And my heart is mine. And I will give you everything I have this year. Again, my friends, my teammates, I am sorry. I am not Fausto Carmona.
There’s a long, pregnant pause in the clubhouse. Indians skipper MANNY ACTA scans the room, looking for clues in his teammate’s faces for how they will accept the apology. Travis Hafner uncrosses his legs and stands.
I am Fausto Carmona.
Asdrubal Cabrera stands.
I am Fausto Carmona.
I am Fausto Carmona.
I am Fausto Carmona.
Roberto’s eyes begin to well with tears.
I am Fausto Carmona.
나는 파우스토 카르모나
Aw, fuck it. We’re all fucking Fausto Carmona. Get in here, brother.
The group closes in to embrace Roberto. SHELLEY DUNCAN bulls in from the back of the room.
Oh, hell yeah. I love you, Faus…I mean, Roberto.
Shelley gives Roberto a forearm smash that shatters the erstwhile Carmona’s carpus into 32 pieces.
Chicago White Sox (79-83)
All spring long, Robin Ventura’s lower back and ass have bothered him. While in Arizona managing Cactus League games and getting a feel for his new charges, Ventura didn’t think much of it, mostly because he couldn’t figure out what was causing it.
But now that the team’s home in Chicago, getting ready for the season, he knows. Maybe he hasn’t fully admitted it to himself yet, but he knows somewhere in his subconscious. Total awareness won’t come for another few weeks, when he sits down a couple inches to the left of where he normally sits on the White Sox bench and notices his left buttock higher than his right. When he stands and turns around to look at the bench, he’ll see the indentation of two ass cheeks, seemingly permanently imprinted in the cushioning. Ozzie Guillen’s ass cheeks.
Ventura will realize that he sits in the same spot Guillen used to sit, and that his ass doesn’t have the exact same contours as his predecessor’s, so his posture has been thrown ever so slightly off, leading to spinal alignment problems. A chiropractor will be called in.
No, Ventura doesn’t know all of that coming’s just yet. But he does know he’s in for a rough year.
When he went out to dinner at a local spot near U.S. Cellular Field the other night, the hostess asked if he would look to be seated at the traditional manager’s table. When Ventura declined, he was met with slow service and lukewarm ravioli. The Hawk and Stoner passed him in the clubhouse and gave him polite nods and made an appointment for a pregame manager’s interview for the telecast. Fans on the street shake his hand and wish him luck, then immediately launch into their favorite Ozzie story.
No one had bothered to clean out the manager’s office. Guillen’s detritus remained behind — used magazines, food wrappers, a few unflattering pictures of Oney. When Ventura asked the clubhouse guy about it, he claimed he had forgotten in the midst of a busy time of year.
Everywhere he looks at the ballpark, Ventura sees celebrations of the 2005 World Series championship, with posters screaming “Ozzieball!” Everywhere he goes around Chicago, Ventura runs into people with fond memories of Guillen. They love him too, Robin knows, but not in the same way. He has no ring. He only has a sore ass.
Kansas City Royals (76-86)
A Royals fan strolls the corridors of Kauffman Stadium. He comes upon an area with a large sign proclaiming, “Royals Hall of Fame.” Entering, he first comes across a section of hallway marked “1970-1979”. There, he sees:
- A pair of Amos Otis’ spikes
- The 1976 American League West champion pennant
- An autographed photo of Larry Gura mid-windup
- A ball signed by Paul Splittorff
- A bat signed by Hal McRae
- A photo of the team celebrating a victory in the 1978 American League Championship Series
- …and much more.
The fan wanders on, to a section labeled “1980-1989”. He finds:
- Brett Saberhagen’s Cy Young Award
- A video on loop of the famed Pine Tar Incident
- A baseball ball signed “George Brett, .390”
- The 1985 World Series trophy
- The 500th base stolen by Willie Wilson
- A framed In Memoriam photo of Dan Quisenberry
- The 1980 American League championship pennant
- …and much more.
The fan continues, now to a section called “1990-Present”. There, he finds:
- The pants George Brett was wearing when he shat himself.
Minnesota Twins (69-93)
Justin Morneau has a song stuck in his head. It isn’t a song he has a particular feeling or opinion about, but it’s “Creep” by Stone Temple Pilots. He wanders around with one line on repeat inside his brain: “I’m half the man I used to be, half the man I used to beeeee.” He never sings it aloud. He doesn’t think he’s ever owned a Stone Temple Pilots album.
His head doesn’t hurt, really, it just never feels quite right. Some days he’s dizzy. Some days he’s tired. Some days he loses a minute or an hour or an afternoon and can’t remember anything. He arrives at the ballpark and recalls nothing from the drive over.
He can’t sleep. The other day, he snapped like an asshole at Krista, who merely had the nerve to ask what he wanted for dinner. And worse, he couldn’t bring himself to apologize despite knowing full well he’d been a dick. He tries so hard not to take it out on her, but she’s always there. And her understanding only makes him angrier. She deserves better than this.
Morneau continues to play ball because he’s a ballplayer. He thinks that if he keeps fighting, keeps pushing through, that the other side will magically appear one day. But goddamnit, he’s tired of fighting. The stadium lights get in his eyes while he’s hitting, causing flares and floaters that never bothered him before. Sure, he can still see the pitch, but fuck if he can concentrate on hitting it. Between innings, he has to go back into the locker room because the noise in the dugout is too much for him.
He feels like he’s such a fucking pussy, like if he was a tougher man, someone from an older generation maybe, that he could just clench his teeth and get through this. The doctors tell him not to rush. Gardy tells him the same, but Morneau can tell the skipper’s disappointed in his lack of grit. Everyone tries to say the right things, but Morneau knows what they’re thinking.
At first, the thing with Sidney Crosby made him feel better. If a tough, godlike hockey player — a fellow Canadian — could be felled by the same beast, than Morneau couldn’t be seen as weak, right? But as the months dragged on and Crosby couldn’t make it back, Morneau just grew sad. Then, when Crosby finally returned to the ice, Morneau’s sadness deepened. Never an emotional man, now he can’t even keep track of why he feels the way he feels.
He thinks about leaving it all, the game, his family, everyone who knows him. He thinks of never setting foot in Minnesota again, and just finding a cabin in the woods somewhere where he could settle down with his savings and face the rest of his life in solitude and peace. No one would notice when he forgot what he was saying, or was too fogged in to take infield that day. No one would ask, “How ya feeling today?” with that fake hint of good-naturedness in their voice. No one would remember him.