A full week of exhibition games in, and Mark McGwire is clearly not on his way to setting a single-season record for confrontational interviews. Not even TMZ-style ambush.
Sure, sure, they’re pulling his name off his highway in Missouri and given it to Mark Twain (begging the question: they’re just now
getting around to honoring Mark Twain?). But this
today, from the local paper in Naples, Florida, seems to be more representative of the overall tone to the start of the McGwire post-steroid, post-I-did-it-for-my-health-interview, era:
“There is a lot of negativity and failure in baseball. It’s nice to talk about how positive it can be. I’m a positive person,” McGwire said.
With that apparently not ironic use of “positive” there, presumably psychiatrists have just upgraded Mac a few notches in preparation for their upcoming Psychology Rotisserie Draft. But we move on.
There are three ways to read the slow start to McGwire Season. Firstly, it’s just that, a slow start. The real tests start Friday when the Cardinals play the Red Sox, and then next Monday as they begin a virtual playoff series with the Mets (also Saturday, a week from Thursday, the 28th, and 30th – should you want to start circling your calendar). The players are irrelevant; the writers mattered. One can infer from giving New York’s Grouchiest five separate shots at Mac, that the schedule was either drawn up long before McGwire’s hiring, or somebody in St. Louis really doesn’t like Mark.
The second theory is that McGwire’s return really is no big deal, positive or negative, and the writers have correctly gauged the spirit of the times. Since the writers only correctly gauge the spirit of the times once every 12.7 years (and when they do, 60 percent of them ignore it and write anyway), I’m not putting a lot of money on this one.
The third one, I think, is the likeliest. Mark McGwire is simply being forgotten to death. The first evidence of this syndrome – a kind of psychological universal asterisk – was apparent when ESPN’s Barry Bonds Reality Show bombed. It did not generate controversy, it was not attacked as exploitive, it wasn’t even criticized as bad TV. It was just that outside the Bay Area and a small circle of other admirers, nobody wanted to hear from or about Barry Bonds, ever again. As if by a collective unspoken will: Barry Bonds hit more home runs, and Henry Aaron is still baseball’s all-time home run leader.
Perhaps this invisible fog is now enveloping McGwire. Nobody’s raising a stink, because nobody takes him seriously.
Maybe the Missouri Department of Transportation should have re-named the McGwire Highway after another former Cardinals hero: Roger Maris.
FROM A RESEARCHER’S NOTEBOOK:
Imagine if this had happened a little later in baseball’s history – it wouldn’t have been labeled “trivia.” When the Dodgers played an exhibition against the Braves in Vero Beach on March 11, 1967, two late, one-inning defensive replacements for Los Angeles included first baseman Sadaharu Oh, and third baseman Shigeo Nagashima. There’s even an Associated Press wire photo of one of the Japanese immortals, Nagashima, taking a throw as Atlanta’s Jim Beauchamp slides into third. The photo is not on the net, only in a digitized version of the Chicago Tribune’s hard copy, so it’s tough to be certain but it appears Nagashima is wearing not a Dodgers’ uniform, but his Tokyo Yomiuri Giants’ garb.
FROM A PERSONAL NOTEBOOK:
Belated thanks to all who have posted comments lately with well wishes for my father, who continues to fight his illness, more than two weeks after he lost wakefulness, and more than six months after he was first hospitalized. Your support is of great value to me (and my thanks to MSNBC for its understanding in this time, and, for that matter, MLB.Com, for providing this oasis where I can immerse myself in the game between trips to his bedside). This is, in fact, what baseball is for.
I’d also like to welcome new reader Bill Simmons, who has been kind enough to tweet about my note here last week already ceding him the dumbest sportswriting award of 2010 for his laugh-out-loud funny argument that the comeback of Tiger Woods (caught having repeated trouble with his putts) will be more difficult than that of Muhammad Ali (persecuted by the federal government for the color of his skin, his stance against the war, and his religious conversion, and effectively banned from his sport for two years).
Mr. Simmons tweets:
I’m furious that my Tiger column distracted America from a detailed and only mildly creepy case for Johnny Orsino’s Hall of Fame candidacy.
3:12 PM Mar 5th via UberTwitter
This is pretty standard stuff for Mr. Simmons. Make a fool of yourself comparing Tiger Woods (loss of advertisers) to Muhammad Ali (loss of income, threatened loss of freedom), so change the topic – to an admittedly trivial column about a trivial moment from a marginal catcher named John Orsino.
Mr. Simmons resumes:
KO, please know the feeling is mutual. You’re my worst case scenario for my career in 12 yrs: a pious, unlikable blowhard who lives alone.
3:13 PM Mar 5th via UberTwitter
This assumes that Mr. Simmons’ career now is where mine was twelve years ago (anchoring SportsCenter, then my own MSNBC political show, anchoring NBC Weekend Nightly News, writing a best-selling sports book, etc). In fact, this assumes that this is Mr. Simmons’ career, which is remarkable. Also, anybody who could write as many words without saying anything of consequence really should throw around the word “blowhard” as frequently as he would a street sewer cover.
Also, I don’t think “pious” necessarily means what he thinks it does.
Having made his point 50% of his words ago, Mr. Simmons still continues. As usual:
I feel bad about saying Olbermann lives alone. I forgot about his cats.
3:30 PM Mar 5th via UberTwitter
Mr. Simmons apparently uses, for factual research, old parody sketches from “Saturday Night Live.” I’m not surprised. That was Ben Affleck. Thanks for playing.
I am surprised, however, to be able to shed some light on something that has been a prominent topic of late around the internet: the prospect that Mr. Simmons is leaving ESPN. Admittedly I am something of an authority on this process. Nonetheless, I was stunned to receive several emails from some of Mr. Simmons’ bosses there, thanking me for pointing out the absurdity of, and the embarrassment to ESPN provided by, the Woods/Ali comparison.
About five years ago, I guess, somebody said Tony Kornheiser was the most uncontrollable, unmanageable talent in the history of ESPN. I was, of course, crushed (although I believe I got honorable mention). When ESPN bosses are writing me for helping them about somebody they claim has now lapped Tony and myself, I am left to conclude only that if Mr. Simmons does leave ESPN, it may not be entirely of his own choosing.
And we now encourage Mr. Simmons to again falme the comments section under various identities, to his heart’s content. This is a managed site, and they can take ’em down. But enjoy yourself.