The sum of all fears

Nick Baker

On Feb. 23, a column of mine entitled “Take me out of the ball game” was published in this paper.

In it, I babbled in vain about Major League Baseball’s steroid problem (and subsequent cover-up which led to the systematic release of major names to make things more acceptable) and that baseball would try to keep us all suckered despite the fact that it is a sport, or, more importantly, the business of the sport, was heading in dangerous new directions.

Yes, baseball is its own evil entity.

The league office is the brains, the players are the heart and the talking heads are the slimy entrails.

Well now, some seven months later, as the baseball season is entering its final weeks, a festering fear of mine that marred the pre-Opening Day anticipation is now oozing pus and looks infected.

And the line between the sport-side and the business-side is blurred beyond recognition. Almost.

That line will be blown to hell if the New York Yankees end up with their 27th World Series title.

Admittedly, most of the anger in that column was concentrated on Alex “A-Roid” Rodriguez and the new Yankees Stadium, or the House that Loot Built (in a Washington Post article of the same name, the stadium was compared to the Roman Catholic Church rebuilding the Sistine Chapel with luxury boxes).

I will be perfectly honest and say that I hate the New York Yankees. I would not root for the Yankees if they played North Korea. I would not root for a Mariano Rivera strikeout if some team sent out Pol Pot as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth.

I can’t stand the jingoist name, the Uncle Sam hat logo and the fact that when I go see the Indians play them half the damn crowd is wearing Yankees memorabilia.

I hate that they had the audacity to change the MLB logo on the back of their caps to coincide with the opening of the new stadium.

The thought of that vile, head-hunting, I-can’t-start-regularly-because-I-have-a-spaghetti-arm-but-I-am-still-an-arrogant-prick Joba Chamberlain, sliding a $201.4 million World Series ring onto his finger is enough to induce cold sweats.

That is the Yankees’ payroll: $201.4 million. A-Roid (or “Bitch Tits,” as his teammates affectionately called him after his body had certain “reactions” to substances he took, which clearly shows how deep the players’ concern ran about doping) is the league’s highest-paid player at $33 million a year. To put it in perspective, the Cleveland Indians have the 17th-highest payroll (of 30 MLB teams) at $81.5 million, while the bottom-dwelling Florida Marlins have a payroll of $36.8 million.

Now that’s what I call fair competition.

Last year I was almost made a believer again. The Tampa Bay Rays, with their $43.8 million payroll in 2008, went all the way to the World Series. I thought, “This is it; the little guy is showing that grit and guts are more important than money.”

As a Cleveland fan well aware of the impending end of LeBron James’ contract next summer, that hope is all I have.

It was the American Dream incarnate in a baseball season. Horatio Alger could not have written it better.

But the Philadelphia Phillies, with their seventh highest payroll (and who appear to also be on their way to another World Series), snapped those dreams like a fat man on a toddler’s rocking chair.

This year I’m expecting to find Horatio Alger dead in a Bronx alley with his brains scattered on the pavement and his wallet missing from his back pocket.

It’s like Goliath stuffing the rock from David’s sling up his ass.

It could be the proof that in sports, one of the most inexplicably important and communal aspects of our society, buying championship rings is not only acceptable but the blueprint for how to replenish a storied franchise.

I just hope Tony Danza is somewhere in one of those $2,500-per ticket luxury suites flapping his arms to save us from this oncoming apocalypse.

Nick Baker is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]