30 Fictions: Your 2012 MLB Preview / A.L. West

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. Next up, the stench of new money lingers on the American League West.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Predicted Finish: 90-72)

Jordan Walden sits at an upright piano situated in the Angels’ locker room. It’s a few hours before the Angels’ first home game, and Walden is playing a loungey noodly riff as the team’s early arrivers mill about and prepare for the game. Then, Albert Pujols appears in the clubhouse doors, and Walden breaks into “Los Angelenos” by Billy Joel.

“Los Angelenos all come from somewhere to live in somewhere, their funky exile,” he sings. “Right, Albert? Al knows what I’m talking about everybody.”

Pujols shakes his head, almost imperceptibly, and walks past Walden to his locker.

“Midwestern ladies, high-heeled and faded,” Walden sings. “Sounds like maybe someone from St. Louee, huh Al?”

Pujols ignores him. Bobby Abreu walks into the room. Walden starts up again.

“Driving sleek new sports cars, with their New York cowboys.” Walden riffs, preening for the few players who have gathered around the piano. “Ex-Yankee Bobby Abreu, everyone!”

C.J. Wilson strolls in.

“Los Angelenos all come from somewhere ’cause it’s all so easy to become acquainted,” he sings.

Wilson gives a straight-edge hand gesture, slaps five with Walden, yells “C.M. Punk!” and heads for his locker. Torii Hunter saunters in next.

“Electric babies, blue jeaned and jaded…”

Hunter laughs. “You’re crazy, kid,” he says as he walks past. Then Kendrys Morales appears.

“Tanning out in the beaches with their Mexican reefers, no one ever has to feel like a refugee,” Walden sings.

Morales stares at him.

“What, man? Refugee, right? Get it? Because Cuba?” Walden sing-speaks.

Vernon Wells moves to the front of the now-sizeable crowd surrounding the piano. “Do me, man. Do me. C’mon.”

“Sorry, V. Outta verses.”

Texas Rangers (88-74)

Johnny Narron’s business cards say “accountability partner.” That’s some bullshit he came up with a few years back to dull the humiliation he felt when telling people what he did for a paycheck. But Narron knows he’s a chaperone — fuck it, a babysitter — whose entire vocation consists of making sure that the dimwitted Josh Hamilton doesn’t get loaded.

He sits in a sterile bar in downtown Dallas sipping straight vodka. That’s the only thing he can drink when he’s on duty lest Josh smell liquor on his breath and go ballistic. Or try to lick his tongue. Narron’s due to meet Hamilton in a few minutes and he needs to steel himself for another in an endless string of days pushing the boulder up the mountain.

Yesterday, Narron had to indulge Hamilton in a three-hour conversation about how not drinking made him a better Christian, and that yes, God saw and appreciated how hard he was trying. The day before, Narron saw a suspicious bulge in Hamilton’s breast pocket and confiscated a small bottle of Schnapps. Last week, he had to explain to Julio Borbon that if Borbon was going to cook a dish with rum in it, he could not bring the leftovers to the ballpark for a post-game snack.

Everybody worries so goddamn much about Hamilton, Narron though, as he threw back the last of his vodka and lit a cigarette. Why doesn’t anyone worry about me? They don’t know what it’s like dealing with this moron day in and day out, trying to keep him off booze and women and gambling and crack and whatever else popped into his id on a given day. The more Narron fought to keep Hamilton clean, the more he abused himself.

He spent his life keeping Hamilton out of bars, and then running directly to the closest bar as soon as Josh was behind lock and key (aka with his wife). Narron never drank in hotel bars, knowing Hamilton or one of the prick Rangers owners might be discover him and harass him. He’d wander a neighborhood over, or take a cab a couple miles away, and walk into the most non-descript bar he could be find, one with no chance of the kind of young, pretty, slutty girls who might attract Hamilton. Narron took a deep drag and flicked some ash on the floor.

Before leaving the bar, he ordered one last vodka, chilled, neat, and slurped it down.

The light shocked him as he opened the bar door and stepped outside. He’d been in there for a few hours, apparently, while Hamilton participated in a day game. The sun seemed too strong and bright for April. Narron walked a few blocks to the ballpark, and waited outside by the players’ entrance, his designated meeting spot. Hamilton came out in a sour mood.

“What’s wrong, champ?” Narron intoned cheerily.

“0 for 4,” said Hamilton.

“That’s alright. Shake it off, let’s get you to the hotel and it’ll be a whole new game tomorrow.”

“Naw, man, I need to get my mind of that guy’s cutter. Ate me up. Let’s go out somewhere.”

Narron’s heart sank.

“Joshie, I don’t think that’s a great idea. Let’s go back to the room, order up some room service burgers, get a good night’s sleep and get back at ’em tomorrow.”

“Coach, I need some air.” Hamilton started walking away from the players’ parking lot. Narron struggled to keep pace, his shorter legs going double speed to stay in stride.

“C’mon, Joshie, we both know this is how trouble can start.”

“Maybe I need some trouble to turn my swing around. Last time I slipped, it was no big deal, just a few drinks. That proves I can do it again.”

“Joshie…”

“Coach, you’re either with me or you’re against me, so if you keep walking with me, I’m just gonna assume that means you’re with me. Hey!”

Hamilton stops and turns down an alley, something catching his eye.

“I’m gonna see if this guy has any H.”

Narron stops dead in his tracks, watching as Hamilton gets a few strides in front of him. He takes a deep breath, and hurries to catch up.

Seattle Mariners (71-91)

Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge sits in the manager’s office in the bowels of Safeco field, working on that day’s lineup card. He gets on his laptop, doing some research about righty-lefty splits. He allows his mind to wander for a minute, and looks up Ernest Hemingway’s famed attempt at writing the shortest story ever told. He shoves aside the lineup card, and scribbles in black ink on his wooden desk, “Cleanup hitter: Justin Smoak.”

Oakland A’s (68-94)

INT. BILLY BEANE’S HOUSE –  NIGHT

BILLY BEANE arrives home from the ballpark fuming after the A’s took a 10-3 loss at home. He tosses his laptop case on the table, opens the fridge, pulls out a beer, and slams the door in disgust.

BILLY BEANE

Fucking Daric Barton. Jesus FUCKING Christ.

He opens the fridge door and slams it again for good measure.

BILLY BEANE

What’s that fucking noise?

He huffs and puffs his way to the living room, where he finds his DAUGHTER perched on the ottoman strumming her guitar and singing.

BILLY BEANE’S DAUGHTER
(singing)

Love comes and goes like a dream
Or at least that’s how it seems
To this lonely girl who’s all alone
Don’t even know where to call home
So I’m just wonderin’ if love is even real
Or if it’s somethin’ that I’ll never get to feel
I wish this feeling would forever go away
Like Otis sittin’ on that fateful bay
Yeah, yeah

Oh, hi, Daddy!

BILLY BEANE

Hi, baby. Is that your new song? It sounds…great.

BILLY BEANE’S DAUGHTER

No, it’s a Nicki Minaj cover. Of course it’s my new song, silly. You like it?

BILLY BEANE

I like all your songs, you know that. OK, well, I got some work to do, so I’m off to bed. G’night.

BILLY BEANE’S DAUGHTER

I thought we could spend some time together tonight. I have five other new songs I could play you…

BILLY BEANE

Another time, pumpkin.

Billy Beane’s Daughter begins to cry.

BILLY BEANE

What is it, pumpkin?

BILLY BEANE’S DAUGHTER
(through her sobs)

It doesn’t seem like you really like my new song.

BILLY BEANE

Of course I do, it’s just that…Well, that weird Otis Redding reference doesn’t make any sense, and “alone” and “home” don’t really rhyme, and…

Billy Beane’s daughter begins wailing inconsolably.

BILLY BEANE’S DAUGHTER

But a boy made me sad, and my music makes me feel better, and I need you to…

BILLY BEANE

Frankly, pumpkin, your cutesy Kimya Dawson stuff worked a lot better when you were like 12. You’re like 20 now. This whole thing is kind of weird.

BILLY BEANE’S DAUGHTER
(still sobbing)

S…St…Stop being mean to me!!

BILLY BEANE

Oh, Jesus fucking Christ. If it weren’t for you and that goddamn guitar, I would have been in Boston. That clown in a gorilla suit won two rings there…do you know how many I could have won? I WOULD HAVE RUN OUT OF FUCKING FINGERS. I would have been a prince of the town, a king of New England. Instead I’m stuck here, unloading every player with a modicum of talent every year and pretending that someday things are gonna turn around when we get a new Stadium deal. Do you know what it’s like to go to work every day at the Oakland fucking Coliseum? DO YOU?! It’s a nightmare, and I live that nightmare every day BECAUSE OF YOU AND YOUR MOTHERFUCKING GUITAR and your crocodile tears. You have killed me, for all intents and purposes, pumpkin. So forgive me if I don’t stand and applaud for your new little ditty.

FADE OUT.

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