Friday, October 14, 2016

Bezbul's Been Bery Bery Bad

Fortunately, although I enjoy baseball, I've never lived nor died with a team. Perhaps that's something I've missed but I don't expect so. Baseball is a show that offers immense delight, mainly because every game is so different from the previous one. And there's something special still about being in the ballpark.

I've been in many of them. Nats Park is nice, especially because as well-designed as the Orioles' Camden Yards is, Nats Park is the first one that is defiantly not modelled after the Yards. It has its own character. I'm of course a traditionalist in that I despise the constant noise that the teams and leagues now think fans must be deluged under at all times. It was once pleasantly refreshing that the park would be quiet until something excited or something that could be anticipated to be exciting occurred.

Now not only is it always oppressively noisy but you are demanded to clap or toss your cap or stand up or do something. Real fans never needed any of that. I even remember with affection that the "Charge!" call that follows a horn blast was once initiated--in the L.A. Coliseum, I recall, soon after the Dodgers left Brooklyn for L.A.--with a few guys around the stands who blew their own horns, not the P.A. system.

Last night, I attended the third fifth-game of the opening playoff series that the Nats have been in during their existence. As on the earlier occasions, they blew it, helped along by a manager who made the wrong strategic decisions at critical moments. He stuck with Max Scherzer for one batter too long but even worse, brought in two successive ineffective relievers.

Probably not as awful as earlier managers--Davey Johnson and Matt Williams--relying on the clearly shaky Drew Storen to save fifth games in the ninth. Davey had a tendency to freeze and not act when he needed to, and Williams just made one bad move after another, to the point where the excuse that he was a tyro was irrelevant.

Writers have excused the third-base coach for his idiotic decision to send Jason Werth home when he would be out by 30 yards. I would fire him. Those decisions in crucial moments of decisive games are what you hire coaches to make. And to win a playoff series, you can't make mistakes. Being stranded on base is one thing but being sent to your doom by a moronic coaching call is entirely different.

For decades until 1955 the Dodgers seemed to be spooked. In The Year The Yankees Lost the Pennant, a novel that came out in 1954, the character who was the Devil, a Yankee fan naturally, gave a benighted Washington Senators fan the chance to be a young star who would best the Yankees finally. When he scores the winning run despite being turned back to old age by the Devil, who whatever other powers he may have, could not convince an umpire to change his call, the Devil pleads with him to join up again for the Series.

"Without you the Senators can't beat the Dodgers and those Dodgers have never won a World Series," the man in red, played in the musical Damn Yankees by the wonderful Ray Walston, urged. So then in 1955, Next Year finally arrived for Brooklyn, followed two years later by the desertion of America's favorite losers, now winners, to the West Coast. 

The Nats can't blame the Devil this time or the previous two, just themselves, that their managers--like the other two touted strategists this year--Buck Showalter and Bruce Bochy--came up short when it counted.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


I grew up in an Italian neighborhood and went to Columbus School, so clearly I've been indoctrinated enough so that I'm not inclined to view the Admiral of the Ocean Sea as one of history's greatest villains. But this is a good occasion to consider how we apply what may be more advanced ethical concepts to the persons and events of the past.

My first thought here is that we need to be careful about how quickly we judge according to our contemporary outlook, however accurate or not it may be. As the Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans disappear, will be still harbor suspicions about current-day Germany? Those same vets made most feel that using the atomic bomb saved millions of lives--those of our servicemen who would have died in an invasion of Japan. 

Today some assert that dropping the bomb was a war crime. Others suggest that interning Japanese on the West Coast in 1942 was wrong. Very little consideration is given to the fact that expecting a Japanese invasion was far from out of the question then, nor was it clear that we were going to win World War II in either the Pacific or Europe.

The line that might well be drawn occurred right after World War II at the trial of General Yamashita, the "butcher of Malaya." The general's defense was that Allied--American--success in vanquishing his army led to his loss of direct control and thus allowed atrocities to be committed. His defense was summarily rejected at the war crimes trial in Tokyo, as well as by the interim emperor, Douglas MacArthur, and then by the postwar Supreme Court majority, with only the two most radical justices ever--Murphy and Rutledge, not Black and Douglas--dissenting, citing Tom Paine.

The world does sanctimoniously single out Israeli occupation of the West Bank for condemnation, but who but extreme partisans would defend Netanyahu's behavior toward expanding settlements and his attempt to interfere in U.S. politics. The world has seemed to ignore genocide in Rwanda and Sudan, but not in the Balkans, perhaps because both Serbs and Bosnian Muslims qualified as white.

And last but not least in terms of a loss for hypocrisy, the murders in the Charleston church seemed to turn the tide against the Southern revisionism that successfully depicted the antebellum South as a land of chivalry and happy slavery. The Jeff Davis Highway and J.E.B. Stuart High School across the river in Virginia may be renamed. We may finally escape the image created by Gone With the Wind and Birth of a Nation (1915 film, that is).