30 Fictions: Your 2012 MLB Preview / N.L. East

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 begin the day with the National League East.

Atlanta Braves (Predicted Finish: 92-70)

Hello, friends. I am Chipper Jones’s patella. You might know me better as Chipper Jones’s kneecap. That’s OK, I’ll answer to either. If you shout out, “Hey, Chipper Jones’s kneecap,” I won’t turn away like a snob. You’ll get my attention.

Please don’t be frightened of me. I know that my appearance can be off-putting to some. I am not the handsome, distinguished patella of my youth. I am wizened, diseased and discolored. I appear much older than my physical age. It’s alright, you can turn around if you need to. I’m used to it.

I am at rest. Or rather, I’m as much at rest as I can be these days. Chipper is sitting on a sofa, his legs propped up on a cushion atop a coffee table. I think he’s eating Bugles. I still feel weak and tired and frayed around the edges, but I’m somewhat at peace. The pain is minimized. So I thought I’d take this moment to talk to you, in case I don’t have another opportunity. I want to be heard before my end.

I have lived, damn it. I may not be long for this mortal coil, but I have lived. I was here. I contributed to Chipper’s Hall of Fame career, didn’t I? He couldn’t have done it without me. Not that he’d ever give me an ounce of credit. All I get is blame. Every new trip to the disabled list, I head my name cursed anew. Yet did I ever get a simple “thank you” after a home run or a key RBI single? I did not.

I suppose my message today is twofold: I have lived, I was here, etc. We covered that. But also: it’s not my fault. I was born strong and fortified. I was built for years of running and leaping and many more years of walking. I’m battle-tested, one of the best of my kind. God, at 21, you wouldn’t find a more gorgeous patella. Or a tougher one. No, I’m not going to cry.

What you see now, both here and in the rest of Chipper’s body, was not caused by me. Or my twin. No, some of the decay is random and indeed, no one’s fault. But some of it is caused by Chipper himself, or at least his filthy brain. The man does not take proper care of himself. Look at him right now, fingers smeared with Bugle grease, a bag of Smart Food on deck. He’s already had a snack today! Do you know what that snack was? Cheese and a milkshake! Chipper’s been living this way for years and we all pay the price. So look elsewhere when you want to cast stones. Ignore what the newspapers say. USe your eyes. Look at Chipper’s ample torso. Look at what he’s done to us.

So, friends, take note…Oh, God.

Oh, God no.

He’s shifting. He’s moving. He’s going to stand.

Please. No.

The weight! I can’t take the weight! I’m going to shatter into a million pieces. There’ll be nothing left of me! Please don’t stand, Chipper. Stay seated. Watch your NASCAR some more. Please. Stop!

Philadelphia Phillies (88-74)

EXT. CITIZENS BANK PARK – DAY

JIM THOME

Hello, everyone. I’m sure most of you know me. My name is Ji

PLACIDO POLANCO

Huh?

JIM THOME

Sorry, swallowed weird. My name is Jim Thome. I’ve asked you to meet me here today because I need to hold an audition.

CARLOS RUIZ

For what, Philadelphia Idol?

JIM THOME

No, Chooch. Now that I’m back in Philly, I need to find a Replacement Delmon. You see, Delmon Young provided me an invaluable service when in Minnesota. He made me feel mighty and strong, like I could accomplish anything. At my advanced age, I need that kind of affirmation.

JOHN MAYBERRY

What did Delmon do for you, exactly?

JIM THOME

This.

Now, I’m going to see which one of you has the highest Value Over Replacement Delmon. I’m going to have Kyle here lob me in some balls, and I’m going to crush them. You guys take turns standing behind me and doing your best Delmon. Cool?

JUAN PIERRE

I’m too old for this shit. (walks away)

JIM THOME

That’s OK. I knew Mr. Pierre didn’t have what it takes. The jealousy is strong in that one. Mayberry, you’re up first. I have high hopes for you.

JOHN MAYBERRY

Why, ’cause I’m black like Delmon?

JIM THOME

No, son. Because I believe in you.

FADE OUT.

Washington Nationals (85-77)

Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are seated on the Nationals dugout bench before a game, their feet up on overturned Gatorade jugs. They spit sunflower seeds onto the ground at regular intervals.

“What are you going to do when you win the MVP this year?” Strasburg asks.

“Take it with me to bars, use it to get laid,” Harper replies. “Is it a cup? Can I do shots out of it? Or is it like a plate so I can snort coke off of it?”

“Not sure. Do you know what I’m gonna do when I win the Cy Young?”

“Nope.”

“Stick it up some girl’s cooch.”

“Is it shaped like that? Is it pointy?”

“You sure are obsessed with how these awards are shaped,” Strasburg says. “Let’s focus instead on how many of these motherfuckers we’re going to win.”

Jayson Werth trots in from the field. “Hey rook,” he says to Harper. “Go collect those balls from the outfield and bring ’em in.”

“Fuck you, Yeti,” says Harper. He and Strasburg laugh and high five.

“Hey Harp,” Strasburg says. “Whose wife on the team are you going to fuck first?”

“Zimmerman’s,” says Harper. “Her legs will look real nice up on my shoulders.”

Ryan Zimmerman, seated several feet away, shakes his head and walks into the clubhouse.

“Hey Stras,” says Harper. “When they build statues of us outside the stadium, whose do you think will be taller? I mean, I know mine will be handsomer. Obvies.”

“Fuck that. We’re not getting statues outside the ballpark. We’re getting them on the Mall. Think bigger.”

Davey Johnson, who has been sitting on the end of the bench the whole time, approaches the duo.

“Hey guys,” says Johnson. “Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, I used to manage the Mets. We had a real good team, and we had a couple real good young players named Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.”

“Never heard of them,” says Strasburg.

“Doc? That’s a faggot name,” says Harper.

“Uh huh. Anyway, these two fellas had all the talent in the world. They both should have been first-ballot Hall-of-Famers and won five World Series rings. They shoulda had streets named after them in New York. But you know what they did? They pissed it all away. They got too big for their jockstraps, and they got into drugs and liquor and women, and they never came close to their potential. It’s a fucking American tragedy.”

“So?” asks Harper.

“Yeah, why the fuck are you telling us this?” says Strasburg.

“No reason,” says Johnson, as he sidles away.

Miami Marlins (82-80)

EXT. MARLINS PARK – DAY

JEFFREY LORIA paces up and down the third-base line. The ballpark is empty except for the players he has lined up, standing at attention before him, arms folded behind them. Loria looks each man in the eye, taking their measure. HANLEY RAMIREZ, JOSE REYES, HEATH BELL, LOGAN MORRISON, GIANCARLO STANTON, JOSH JOHNSON, and CARLOS ZAMBRANO stare into the middle distance.

JEFFREY LORIA

Gentlemen, do you know why I’ve gathered you here today? It’s because I have a mission for you. You may think that I have acquired you for your skills at playing the ball, but that’s simply not the case. In fact, my record shows that I care not at all about the quality of ball that is played. You may also think that I have acquired you to help showcase my new stadium, with its architectural echoes of Miro and its cacophony of delights. Also not the case.

He strikes Reyes in the crotch with his walking stick. Reyes doubles over in pain.

JEFFREY LORIA

Just a little cup check. No, I have gathered you for a mission of the utmost importance. We are going to steal all of the art from the Miami Art Museum.

LOGAN MORRISON

What the fuck?

Loria nods at DAVID SAMSON, who produces a small pistol and shoots Morrison in the left temple. Morrison’s body collapses in a bloody heap while the other players scream and wipe blood off their faces. Two large thugs appear out of nowhere and drag the body away.

JEFFREY LORIA

I think now you will see that I am quite serious. The Miami Art Museum has a wonderful, world-class collection: Duchamps, Segals, Mendietas. And it will all be mine. The nicest pieces, the ones that please me most, will set on my mantle alongside my World Series trophies, the collective spirit of Montreal, and the mounted head of Jeff Conine. The rest, I shall sell off to a Soviet arms dealer in exchange for missiles, biological weapons, and gold.

CARLOS ZAMBRANO

Sounds good, boss. What’s the plan?

JEFFREY LORIA

I appreciate your dull-witted enthusiasm, Mr. Zambrano. You have the stuff of a lead henchman. Mr. Stanton, you are here because your new name also lends itself well to henching. Mr. Ramirez, you are only here as a courtesy, because in a way I admire your extreme lack of drive, your unique brand of lethargy. You shall have no part in The Plan. The rest of you are muscle. During tomorrow’s game, Mr. Stanton shall hit a homer run in the 8th inning of competition.

GIANCARLO STANTON

How do I make sure I go that, sir?

JEFFREY LORIA

You leave the particulars to me. When the ball clears the fence, The Plan begins. The Creation will begin to sing, distracting and appeasing the idiot masses.

Then, we make our escape through the underground tunnel I have had built leading directly to the basement of the museum. My fleet of helicopters will meet us there.

HEATH BELL

What about the cops?

JEFFREY LORIA

Don’t worry about the authorities. The Creation will take care of them. You see, once we are safely underground, The Creation will stop singing and dancing, and it will explode into a fiery display of light, color, flamingo feathers and marlin flesh. Every police unit in Dade County will be called to the ballpark while we quickly away.

CARLOS ZAMBRANO

Love it, boss. This is way better than the time we escaped in the tunnel from Wrigley Field to the Cubby Bear to get drunk.

New York Mets (63-99)

David Wright doubled over in laughter. His high-pitched weaselly squeal filled the Mets’ clubhouse. He struggled to catch his breath and compose himself.

“Valley Fever? Ha ha ha ha ha ha Valley Fever! You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” Wright guffawed.

“Leave me alone, man,” said Ike Davis. “I wanna be out there on the field, but the doctors won’t let me. It’s a real thing.”

“Valley Fever. What a fucking faggot disease. What are the symptoms? You have sand in your vagina? You’ve got a papercut? Jesus Christ, man, Valley Fever! I love it so much. What a team we’ve got here.”

Davis sat in his locker with his elbows on his knees and his head down, staring at the floor. Wright continued to cackle and grabbed other Mets as they passed by to laugh about it with them. Just then, R.A. Dickey emerged from the trainers room.

“Leave the kid alone, David. He’s got a medical condition, and he’s sitting it out because he has to. Don’t be a dick.”

Wright walked over and got in Dickey’s face, his nose just inches away from Dickey’s. A hush came over the room.

“Don’t be a dick? Leave the kid alone? Why don’t you fucking stay out of it, old-timer?” Wright said, giving Dickey a gentle shove to the chest.

“Jesus, David, no one is entertained by this nonsense. Let’s just go out and play ball,” Dickey said.

“Maybe you just don’t like me telling Ike over there that he’s a faggot because you’re a faggot too. Maybe you two are butt buddies.” Wright began laughing again, so hard this time that he started to wheeze. “Didn’t your fancy new book say that you got dick up your ass as a kid? I bet you liked that. Bet it turned you homo. And now you’re making Ike give it to you, but you’re sad because he has Valley Fever and can’t give to you like you like it. Good and hard. Am I right?”

Dickey looked like he was going to take a swing at Wright, but instead he walked over to Davis, put his arm around him and led him out of the clubhouse.

“Don’t listen to that asshole,” Dickey said. “He’s just lashing out because he can’t hit a home run in his home ballpark. All bullies are scared, somewhere inside them.”

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