Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Western Jet Lag Doldrums

5 innings of scoreless ball, pitched by Brett Tomko against the Yankees (the same team, incidentally, who DFA'd him with a swift kick in the arse earlier this season), tells you all you need to know about the hardships of playing on the west coast. We're mired in an official, honest-to-God slump, and if we don't get out in a hurry, the Red Sox series this weekend is gonna be a real grind. I chalk it up to fatigue, and that's not going out on a limb. You only had to watch our batters lamely flail for an inning to witness their lack of life.

The rigors of a season deliver such offensive lacunae, but I'm convinced jet lag and travel are the biggest culprits. If there's ever a time to dig deep, though, this is it; should we stagger into Boston with at least a 7-game lead (the current total) and win 2 of 3, the division is 100% wrapped up. Then we can give a big 'screw you' to the MLB schedulers on the next road trip and just send AAA Scranton team out to play.

And by the way, A-Rod is already in postseason form. Last night, with the bases loaded and one out against a struggling Tomko, he swung at the first pitch (an undriveable, low breaking ball) and grounded into the effortless 1-2-3 double play. Absolute stupidity, undermining the momentum in a game where real chances were scarce. I still hate him. I still hate this face:

Okay, on to part 2 of the Prospect Cup narrative. You can read part 1 at the bottom of this post.

Part 2: The Prospect Cup

Before I begin, it's worth noting that my recollections should be considered 'general' rather than 'pinpoint.' This is especially true of the game action, which happened exactly four months ago and wasn't recorded in any kind of official ledger or scorecard. I can vouch for the final score, certain specifics, and the emotional ebb and flow, but other aspects like mid-game scores and exact sequence will have what I like to call 'overarching truth' rather than 'specific accuracy.'

That being said, we left off at Part 1 with the Prospect Bowlers (my team) getting drunk at a bar that I think was called "The Gate," and strategizing. The latter activity consisted of dialogue like the following.

Me: We have to go deep a lot.

Geoff: We're going to absolutely destroy these guys.

Nate (to me): No stupid passes!

Noah: They have basically no chance.

Me: We should win. I'm not going to make any predictions, but we should win.

Nate (to me): Just be consistent!

Kyle: We shouldn't underestimate them. They'll be very organized.

(ten seconds silence)

Geoff: We're going to absolutely destroy these guys.

(general agreement)

We weren't the most humble crew. Which leads me to a detail I forgot in the last installment; we were all wearing shirts and ties, having decided Prospect Cup Eve should be like a formal team dinner. And here's the thing: I really believed the game would be a blow-out. The IBFL (our opponents) were, as Kyle said, really organized. They had plays and defensive schemes and had probably devised something special for the upcoming showdown. But all that considered, I still didn't think they'd be ready for our speed and ability. In short, I expected a blitzkrieg, and I know everyone else on our side had the same confidence.

With that in mind, we spent the night devising a kind of plan totally independent of football content. Here's what we came up with.

1) When we entered the field, we would walk in a single-file line. We would not acknowledge the other team except for a bare-minimum nod, a small concession to polite decorum (I had to fight for this). In fact, we would not even speak to each other except in hand signals and grunts. This, we reasoned, would be intimidating.

2) The first time we spoke would be after the first defensive stop, which we expected would happen right away. At that point, our entire team would explode in an aggressive outburst, piling on the defender in an unexpected eruption of enthusiasm. From then on, we would steamroll the competition.

When we finally called it a night, Kyle beat me in a paper-rock-scissors game for the big sofa at Nate's place, and I had to walk with Noah in uncomfortable shoes across the Gowanus Canal to spend the night on his (admittedly comfortable) couch.

In the morning, we ate at a diner called Daisy's, and I pulled out a bottle of Aspirin and passed it around. The faces on our team resembled those of men who had already played a football game, possibly two, and then held a contest to see who could take more stomach punches without falling over. I still felt enthusiastic, though, and set off for the field ahead of my team to help the IBFL set up. What I discovered in Prospect Park somewhat ruined our intimdiation plan, at least for me.

First off, I was about fifteen minutes late. The field had already been set up, and it looked immaculate. Space can be hard to find at Prospect Park, but the IBFL crew had done an admirable job, and I felt sheepish about my tardiness. But they showed no signs of anger or irritation, instead greeting me with smiles and joking about the upcoming game. Have I mentioned that these are all really, really nice people?

The second main thing that happened totally destroyed any chance of me playing the part of silent warrior. Looking into my bag, I discovered that I'd forgotton my sneakers. Still wearing the jacket, tie, and khakis from the night before, it was apparent that my sole footwear option was the uncomfortable pair of dress shoes toward which I'd developed a significant hatred in the past twelve hours. I called my teammates, but they'd already left for the field. Then Tim G., an IBFL player and extremely kind even by their standards, offered me his size 12 New Balance sneakers (he was wearing football cleats). I sort of hesitated to accept, knowing it would obliterate any chance of supporting my teammates in what looked like an increasingly misguided tough-guy act, but size 12 was perfect and, let's face it, New Balance makes a great sneaker.

About ten minutes later, Nate, Kyle, Noah, Geoff, and Whitney filed in from the west, crossing the grass expanse in a wavering line, their heads bowed in dogged but visibly hung-over comportment, ties loose and askance, stubble dominating all faces. I ran to join the back of their line, and as they followed the script and nodded curtly at the IBFL greetings, I betrayed our cause from behind with a craven smile, throwing up my hands and generally indicating to the IBFL that this was nothing more than the zaniest gag in history, and that we were not, in fact, assholes, and that I truly appreciated the field and the donated shoes on my very comfortable feet, and that they should consider this totally hilarious.

We stretched and took more Aspirin, and then I compounded the backstabbing by slouching back over to the IBFLers for what I claimed was a rule discussion, where I explained our behavioral strategy in revelatory detail lest their slight amused puzzlement cross over into maybe being offended. Then we actually did discuss the rules, and everyone prepared for kick-off.

But I'd irrevocably sandbagged our intimidation tactic, and I can't help but think that I bear some psychic responsibility for what befell us next. Events, I'm afraid, that will be covered tomorrow in Part 3: The Game.


  1. What is this honest-to-god slump you're talking about? Losing three games out of ten? Losing one series since the All-Star break? Since the break you've been playing at such a tear you've not only overtaken the Sox for best in League, but the Dodgers for best in the majors? What are you crying about, Yankee?

  2. 18-inning offensive slump, which became 21 but which is now, happily, over.

  3. New Balance does indeed make a fine sneaker.