Of Baseball in 2007 no profounder truth can be uttered than to admit that the players don't care about the Game (with a capital G) anymore. Across the internets the widespread belief is that the players are selfless, dedicated to their teams, passionately involved with the fans and disinterested in money. Ceaselessly, today's Game is compared favorably to the Game of our fathers, as everyone from managers to journalists to hot dog vendors celebrate our progression out of 1960s scoring levels, one-run strategies and hurlers throwing 130 pitches every start. You cannot watch a baseball game without hearing subtle progressivism and a denigration of the Bad Old Days. Everywhere, a blind devotion to the new, as evidenced by the LA media's warm embrace of Paul DePodesta, now entering his fourth year with the Dodgers.
This has become both a cliché and lie. I come to you as Marx did in Capital, as a lonely voice speaking the truth against a rising tide of lies: baseball players are self-interested pursuers of money, regardless of team loyalty.
Certainly, many of you will balk at this dramatic statement, initially. Yet a dark part of you, the region home to your profoundest insights into the sable fate of man, will surely, in fits and starts, realize that this is in fact the case.
We must have the courage to speak this naked truth. We must broach a topic so shocking that to this day sports-radio, ESPN, and the local columnists dare not touch it. Instead, they waste ink talking about the graduation rates of college student-athletes, the lies behind public stadium funding and the fact that NFL players die at age 55. They hover around these stories while national scandals involving steroids and Terrell Owens go totally unreported.
We must bring the truth of free agency to light. If not, our sacred national innocence cannot be restored. If not, the redolent social harmonies displayed by baseball during the Reserve Clause Era will be lost in the archive of history.
Which brings us to Benedict Bako and his new home.
Royals-Orioles just got a whole lot more interesting.
As you will recall, in December of 2005 Bako joined the Royals. Only 34, the expectation throughout the Midwest was that Bako would finish his career as a Royal, probably playing through age 45.
Thousands of fans envisioned a bright summer day sometime during the 2010s when they would stand up and cheer as Bako blasted his 15th, or even 20th career home run, in a Royal uniform. They wanted to witness his 5th career stolen base, his 150th career RBI, his 10th career triple, in a Royal uniform. Yes, its silly, but big round numerical landmarks are important to us. Especially when its one of our own, a true Royal like Bako.
What becomes of a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or does it explode?
Here's the dirty little truth about Paul Bako: yes, he puts up numbers, but they don't mean a damn thing to him.
Certainly, you don't become a career .235/.308/.321 hitter without talent. But I stand before you to proclaim that he's a phony. He's a sordid blackguard who stands as an exemplum of the rotten center at the core of our dear base-ball.
Each year it's the same: Bako rides into town, mashes like no other, then - surprise surprise - just happens to leave for another city.
-2004: .203/.288/.283 (Bako rocks Chicago)
-2005: .250/.362/.300 (A dream season with the Dodgers)
-2006: .209/.261/.229 (A Hero in KC)
-2007: Signs with Baltimore.
Anyone else see a pattern? We know what 2008 will bring, don't we? Another press conference, another set of lies.
I hope this fraud goes into the Hall of Fame wearing a jester's cap. One with bells.
We all bought in, and then we woke up jilted, with a "Dear John" Letter and a airline bill to Baltimore.
Last summer, this deceitful fraud sat back as the KC media fawned over him. With a king's hauteur, he played the role of team-leader and mentor. On March 3, 2006, he told reporter Alan Eskew that he was around to help John Buck. Help him do what? Become a coward?
"I didn't realize quite how long I have been in the big leagues to start gravitating toward that role," Bako said. "I'm proud and I'm happy to get the opportunity to do that. John is a great kid, a hardworking player, a blue-collar type player, which is a pleasure to be around a young guy like that."
End the lies Bako.
Here's what he was thinking the whole time: "Its time for Bako to get paid!"
To be sure, countless Orioles fans believe Bako is their man. They believe that he will retire as an Oriole, move to Delaware and hit the book promotion circuit with St. Cal. They believe he bleeds black and orange.
A trip to any Kansas City elementary school will quickly disabuse them of that notion, as they see a generation of betrayed children with un-dried tears on their cheeks.