Thursday, August 13, 2009

Magic (Part 17)

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending."
- The Magic Store from The Muppet Movie

It started with a decision in the spring of 1990. He asked her if their first date should be an afternoon at the Art Institute or a double-header at Wrigley Field.

"How is that even a call?" she replied.

The sun gleamed, the grass glowed underneath the ballplayers and the magical afternoon was made more so because he thought it was probably their last date as well; neither was from Chicago.

But he was wrong. Both traveled enough to occasionally gain discounted tickets and the 1000 miles between Minneapolis and Philadelphia wasn't as isolating as they both thought it would be. Or at least not initially.


Two years later, it was. So with $1000 shoved into his pocket and all his worldly possessions crammed in an '84 Honda Prelude, he moved to Philadelphia to court her. The courtship was fun, but not especially easy. First he had to find work during a recession, then she was assigned to a project out of town. And when the business world stopped conspiring to keep them apart, the tougher questions began. "Will he ever marry me? What's he waiting for?" "Is she really the one? How do I know?" The questions were more destructive than geographic distance ever had a chance to be.

On a summer trip out west, his questions were answered in the Black Hills. And on August 13th, when they were supposed to go to a Phillies game, he showed up with flowers, acted all goofy and suggested they go for a walk. And she knew her questions were about to be answered too.

Unaccustomed to being nervous, the proposal was awkward but genuine, and the response was delayed but jubilant. Standing together in the park, their future felt too large. Neither knew what to do, where to go, who to see.

"So do you still want to go the Phillies game?", he asked.

"How is that even a call?"

It wasn't a call, because the one place in Philadelphia where they both knew there was some magic that year was at the Vet. The '93 Phils, lead by blue-collar rejects like John Kruk, "Dutch" Daulton, "Nails" Dykstra and Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams had somehow claimed 1st place in the NL East. They'd won games at Veteran's Stadium in every conceivable manner, including one in which Mitch Williams got a hit in the bottom of the 10th - at 4:30 AM. Tonight they were playing the hated Mets and it seemed like as good a place as any to look for magic.

The electricity they felt made the game a secondary concern. She'll readily admit that she spent most of the game looking at the back of her hand. But the game slowly became the focal point when the Phillies lost their early lead in the top of the eighth. They scratched in a run in the bottom half, but were still down 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth.

But there was a reason this hard-nosed city loved this team. They used a crucial error by the Mets to score one run and loaded the bases with two outs. Kim Batiste, a light-hitting 25-year-old utility infielder who seemed to have a special gift for striking out, came to the plate, and.......

Grand Slam.




Today, on August 13th, they went to a baseball game together, like they have every August 13th for the last 17 years. And they looked for the magic. It wasn't in the Metrodome, which was a stinker, with lots of magic unfulfilled. She suspects it was back at Wrigley, where her Phils swept the Cubs. He would be foolish to disagree.

But secretly, he does. It rarely comes from outside them anymore. Instead, its now their job to share it. They find it in the piano lesson, the car ride, and the back-to-school shopping that happened later.

Most surprisingly, it's something they've learned to fight for, usually over a glass of wine during a hectic week. A chance to reaffirm decisions made 19 and 16 years ago and daily since.

And tonight he agrees. It's not even a call.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shorts: Grudzielanek (Rios later)

Hi gang. Got about two minutes here, so here's the short versions of the first of the big off-day news:

Mark Grudzielanek: Well, for chrissakes. If you're going to get angry about something, this is the one that has the requisite symptoms. There were hints throughout this process that the Twins weren't optimistic, like:

- the lackluster announcement about the signing,
- they chased Freddy Sanchez after he signed,
- they signed another middle infielder and plugged him second in the order and
- the announcement on the 31st that he might need a month or so to get ready.

Apparently, Grudzielanek felt the same way, given that he texted Joe Christensen that the whole process was a waste of time.

So, let's recap what we know:
- Grudzielanek was a .300 hitter over the last few year with above average defensive range at second base. Oh, and he's right-handed and has mostly hit in the second spot in the order.
- On the other hand, he didn't sign with a team this fall. However, he was offered arbitration, worth $4-5 million with the Royals. He turned that down, saying he wanted to sign with a team that had a chance at playing in the World Series.
- After signing with the Twins, he spend more time in the Gulf Coast League than the had estimated, and the Twins repeatedly downplayed his potential impact, even as they searched for (and found) other replacements.

So what are the remaining theses? Umpteen options, but the top two are:

1) Grudzielanek, at 39 years old, let himself go a bit and wasn't ready when the call (finally) came.
2) The Twins desperate for help at second base, biased themselves against a possible solution after a very short three week trial.

Grudz apparently feels like it's door number two. Me? One makes more sense, but my heard says #2 too. Maybe that the Twins fan half of me talking.

Rios analysis coming tomorrow morning......