Thursday, July 16, 2009

If Rip van Winkle would have fallen asleep in Cincinnati about three years ago, he would wake up, look at the roster and say, "How long have I been out?"

About the only names he would recognize would be Brandon Phillips, Aaron Harang, and Bronson Arroyo. He may remember Edwin Encarnacion and perhaps David Weathers, but the others would having him rubbing his eyes for hours.

Where is Griffey, Dunn, Kearns, he may ask?

He would shake his head in amazement that there are only three guys with double home run figures at the All-Star break. The highest batting average (with enough PA's) is 47th on the National League list, in the person of Phillips at .269.

"What happened to Eric "No-No" Milton?"

Then he looked on the top step of the dugout and declared, "The last time I saw Dusty Baker sucking on a toothpick he was in Chicago."

Poor, poor, simple, out-of-the-loop Mr. van Winkle.

Doesn't he know that youth is the driving force of tomorrow? As My Cousin Vinny would call them, "Utes" are tomorrow's Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, and Walter Johnson. I mean, at some point, hardly anybody heard of those guys either.

In a gesture of kindness and doing my best not to condescend, I say to the good man, "See No. 19 over there? His name is Joey Votto. He is the man who will take us to the Promised Land."

We walk on over to the dugout and I point to Jay Bruce. "See the guy with the splint on his wrist? Bruce is his name. He has the potential to be the next Mickey Mantle. Heaven knows he already has the strikeouts down pat."

"Now look at those two over there. The guy with his hat all crooked, Edinson Volquez is the name. And the guy with him is Johnny Cuetto. Those two have the talent to become the next Maddox and Smoltz. I don't know if Dick Pole has what it takes to bring them to fruition, but time will tell."

We walk along, me eating Gold Star Chili and he stroking his beard. I thought I would tell him what the philosophy is now. "You see Mister, we don't care about today, we don't care about tomorrow. Hell, we don't even care about the rest of this year. We are concerned about our future. That's what happened to Adam Dunn and Junior, our pockets aren't deep enough to keep guys like that."

He and I continue to make our cursory trip around the ballpark, talking about the old days and how the game has changed now, for the worse, he assured me.

"See the guy behind the dugout talking to the two players? The one who looks like Rip Torn, yeah that's him. His name is Jocketty. Good man, he knows how to build a team. We got him from St. Louis, the man's a baseball architect. When he builds 'em they stay built. Look at the Cards right now," I said, knowing the truth but denying the power thereof.

After picking some weeds from his tattered suit, he looks me dead in the eye and says, "Son, what are they gonna do if that don't work? Look at the Pirates."

I almost choked on the chili and thought about Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Oliver Perez, and Nate McLouth.

"You know, I think I might go home and take a real, long nap and see how it looks when I wake up"

© 2009 Clifton Eastham. All Rights Reserved

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