Monday, October 8, 2007

Lofty Expectations


Post #10 Topic: There’s no place like your 2nd home

Motel 6 will leave the light on for Kenny Lofton. From the Astros, to the Indians, to the Braves, back to the Indians, to the White Sox, to the Giants, to the Pirates, to the Cubs, to the Yankees, to the Phillies, to the Dodgers, to the Texas Rangers and finally back to the Indians. Over the course of his career, Kenny Lofton has done a pretty darn good job of adjusting to new ballparks, new managers, new teams and new steroid providers. Kenny is a 6 time all-star, a 4 time gold-glove winner, a 5 time league leader in stolen bases, has lead in hits, triples, at-bats and outfield assists. During his 18 seasons in the bigs Kenny has amassed a career batting average of .299, an on base percentage of .372, and over 600 stolen bases. Needless to say, Kenny Lofton is a professional baseball player.

Let us assume that the reason a professional athlete ever winds up on a new team is that the old team no longer wants him as much as other teams might. This could be the result of several instances including: Declining numbers, increasing salary, younger replacements, older free agents, falling out with the fans, or falling out with the managers. The one circumstance upon which this obscene amassing of frequent flyer miles can not claim foundation is on the player’s desire to go somewhere else.

Of course, a player who has spent at least several years on one time might be reluctant to trade in his library card and head elsewhere. But for a player who has been on a vast amount of major league teams in the likeness of Mr. Lofton, there simply can not be any allegiances remaining.

For example: For the greater part of my first year in law school I insisted on using the 3rd floor bathrooms. They had the most space, the best T.P, the most modern amenities, and sinks that you could turn on without having to re-turn them on every 20 seconds (which really makes it impossible to wash your hands because you keep having to touch the metal part which is not clean, given that the people who are washing their hands are touching that thing BEFORE every wash). Then one day the 3rd floor bathroom was under construction and I had to relocate myself. Mind you that my butt is very spoiled. I have sat on toilets in the palace in Monte Carlo, the Churches of Vienna, the endangered rain forests of Costa Rica, Hearst’s Castle in San Simien California, the Rockefeller mansion in Newport Rhode Island, the lobby bathroom at the Hotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (which was by far the most awesome toilet ever), and the McDonalds on I-95 which boasts the world’s largest play-place; the world’s most refined bathroom areas. So needless to say that when I find a good toilet I like to mark my territory (figuratively speaking).

Upon finding this construction to my favorite toilet, I first ventured to the 10th floor faculty area. Clearly my institution is not concerned with their professor retention… If I were a professor and had to choose from two old stalls, sandwiching a non-operating and decrepid one, I would not be pleased. My next stop was the 6th floor. The bathroom wasn’t ideal but it had character. The doors creaked, there was a broken soap dispenser, and the tiles were somewhat shiny due to a consistently low level of traffic. Ever since that day I’ve been glued to the 6th floor bathroom, and have willed it all of my cleaning supplies that I currently or may someday own.

The point being that Kenny Lofton is no longer concerned with where he goes to the bathroom (ask any kindergarten teacher that Everybody Poops). Kenny Lofton only wants to play baseball. So maybe after playing briefly with the Astros, Kenny didn’t want to move, but at this stage of his career Kenny is only interested in securing a roster spot. And secure one he has.

So given that a professional athlete is not only not guaranteed but is unlikely to remain in one spot for the duration of his career, how can a player get excited about the team that they are on? After a while a team has to become nothing more than a name on a shirt that you receive your pay-checks from. My favorite thing to hear from a newly drafted athlete (which I hear most frequently during the NHL draft, which they do in fact televise) is that “this was my favorite team growing up”. Well son, quite frankly that sucks for you because you’ll be packing your bags in the near future. Grew up a Yankee fan? Pittsburgh isn’t that far away. Idolized Brett Farve? He was drafted by the Falcons so Atlanta is the next best thing. Though Wayne Gretzky was a puck-magician? Well he did play in St. Louis for a brief minute… or is that just a bad memory?

This raises the next question. You grew up a Rangers fan. When you finally made your way through their farm system you discovered a log jam at the center position that signaled an imminent trade with your name on the paper. You wind up in Pheonix, a team that you not only didn’t care for, but couldn’t watch (were never on national television), and that didn’t even exist when you started watching the sport. How do you dedicate yourself to this new team? You’ve been told, in less words, that you were unwanted where you were before, that there was a better option than you and that you didn’t fit into the team’s future plans.

To me this would be incredibly disheartening. I don’t quite understand how a player can play to win when they really don’t care if the team wins. Sure everyone wants THEIR team to win, but not everybody cares for the team they’re on. I would imagine that once you lose the excitement of “your first team”, feeling tied to your organization becomes quite a chore. Furthermore, once a player has been moved once, the threat that he is the big chip in the next deadline deal is constantly looming. How can you push yourself to achieve when your hard work could be for some new guys benefit?

Although the question is complex, the answer is rather simple, and can be best illustrated by Kenny Lofton’s career. In 2002 Kenny played for the Chicago White Sox and had the worst year of his professional career. That year he was traded to the Giants, and then to another team. On that next team Kenny put up his 2nd best career average, his 3rd best career OBP and was part of a resurgent team. The team? THE CHICAGO CUBS, six miles from where he started that year. Sure enough later that season Kenny was once again traded, this time to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the point is not defeated. The point being that wherever Kenny Lofton goes, he fits right in. Center field, right field, his current position in left-field. Hitting lead off, hitting eighth, hitting cleanup (which he did several times while playing in Pittsburgh, which says volumes about his flexibility and Pittsburgh’s unwillingness to bring in a competent General manager and an owner willing to spend a buck). Kenny Lofton loves to play baseball. And that perhaps is the answer to the cryptic question.

Perhaps its not all about winning. Sure winning is important as it brings the rings, the bucks and the massagers but maybe just maybe winning isn’t all that is important. So why is this significant? Well the only reason anyone would ever take steroids is to win. Not only in the general sense of the word as in winning games, but in the more gut-wrenching meaning of the word as in winning a batting title, winning a home run chase, or winning an undeserved MVP. So maybe Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Guillermo Mota had one common problem amongst themselves… they were so intent on their personal victories that they lost site of what it was that brought them to the field in the first place: their love for the game of baseball. And for any of you who don’t know exactly what that looks like, catch Kenny Lofton in the lead-off spot for the Devil Rays next season.

Other Notes:

At the time I’m writing this, the Yankees trail the Indians 6-2. Kenny Lofton is 6 for 12 in the series. I personally believe that the Yankees getting eliminated in the 1st round is far more pathetic than the Mets not making the playoffs.

Marion “Oooooh here she comes, watch out boy she’ll chew you up” Jones returned her Olympic medals today. What an idiot, she could have sold them to a pawn shop, use the proceeds (which will god-willing be the only money anyone ever gives her ever again)to purchase steroids, and pick up a roster spot on the St. Louis Cardinals, where good players go to do steroids until they are publicly reamed and decide to retire and move into Chez Kazinski in the Vermont hills somewhere.

Smoked turkey may have just unseated bacon as my favorite food. However, I have not been to Joe’s Shanghai in several weeks so dumplings are only waiting to take the reins.

My camping trip was a success. I successfully built fire, cooked food, set up tents, and realized that you can take the boy out of Scarsdale, but 8 out of 9 times you cant take the Scarsdale out of the boy.

Ain’t scared of nothing but god and weddings, at the top of my paper like im starting a heading.

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