Planes, Strains and Cansecos
by "Word" Smith
All Time League correspondent to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
I love airports.
Now, hang in there, folks; we'll get to baseball in a minute. But bear with me for just a bit.
Airports are the greatest places on the planet. Good sports-bar style
restaurants, well-stocked bookstores, newspapers from all over - I do
love newspapers, even the ones that aren't The Sporting Life - lots of places to sit, and little rooms where they corral the smokers so we can all chuckle at them.
In fact, there's only one thing wrong with airports: you can't actually get anyplace from them. Airline schedules are fiction worthy of Faulkner, cab rides are a tale out of Dante, and driving - no, we must not
speak of driving from an airport, it might invoke the unholy powers
that designed a system of roads and color-coded signs that not even a
Sherpa with CIA training could decipher, coupled with traffic that
makes midtown Manhattan look like the Autobahn at midnight.
So airports are perfect places, unless you're a passenger.
Now, on to hospitals. Having spent a good deal of the last week or so in one (as a visitor, no, not as a mental patient!), I've realized that hospitals are just like airports - really rather pleasant places, with decent food (really!) and services - except that, if you're actually sick, they stick stuff into every opening you have (and some you didn't before), they wake you up to tell you to get some rest, and the guy in the next bed (who has been unconscious since the NHL was in business) has 37 visitors who all speak some language in which nuance is conveyed through sheer volume.
So hospitals are great, too, unless you're a patient.
What, my good friends, what, you say, has any of this to do with baseball?
I give you the recent discussions in the wake of the Canseco bookazoid.
"Home runs are what the fans want."
"Fans love high scoring games."
"Singles hitters drive Fords, home run hitters drive Cadillacs."
Okay, that last one was Ralph Kiner, but you get the idea. Everybody's
tellling me that the whole steroid-or-whatever induced slugfests of the
last several years were engendered by a rabid desire for scoring on the
part of the fans; that this is why such things have been tolerated by
Commissionatron Zelig and his band of merry scroatheads.
I'm a baseball fan. Aren't you? Do you love slugfests? I don't.
I mean, I enjoy an occasional launch-a-thon as much as the next guy,
but not every day. In fact, what I really like about baseball is that
there are so many ways to play it, and play it well. Kiner can be a
star with a big swing and a rag arm. Richie Ashburn can be a star with
speed, OBP, and defense. Rickey Henderson can do a little of both. Bob
Feller can strike everybody out; Greg Maddox can have amazing control.
Baseball, like chess, can and should be a clash of strategies. I'll
play for one, you play for the big inning, let's see who wins. To me, that's what baseball fans like.
The huge run totals appeal to the "casual fan," meaning your cousin's girlfriend who doesn't actually like baseball, who thinks it's "boring" when nobody scores for five minutes.
Get it yet?
Baseball in the 00s is great. Unless you're a baseball fan. Let us all give thanks for the ATL.