|Sammy to the rescue|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
What's the big deal? What's everyone in a lather about? It's just a little cork. It ain't the death of a dream; it ain' t the decline of western civilization. Quit with the head wagging, I say. Give the hand wringing a rest.
Truth is, Sammy's done the game a favor. That's right, this thing is good for baseball.
Here's 10 reasons why:
2. Winning the kids: Used to be, the wee ones were wide-eyed innocents looking for can-do-no-wrong heroes. Nowadays, though, kids are too savvy and sophisticated to go for the super-perfect super hero bit. Guys like Sosa, who run, pop and smile like there's nothing to it, like everything is always so good, so fun and so right -- kids don't trust 'em, and they think they're kind of square anyway. But guys like Sosa who work the angles, sneak their way to advantages, and reveal the way things work in the real world -- now that's a modern-day hero.
3. Peace of mind: Those nagging questions about performance-enhancing drugs can finally be put to rest.
4. Science: The minute Sammy's shards went spraying all over the Wrigley infield, everybody started talking physics and crunching numbers. Bobby Valentine's quoting Robert Adair's The Physics of Baseball on "Baseball Tonight," guys all over the country are busting out drills, calibrating scales and setting up video cameras in their garages to test for bat speed, wind resistance and power transfer, and teachers who've been struggling to get their students to pay attention to the force=mass X acceleration lesson are heading into the classroom with smiles on their faces, knowing the little buggers will be chomping at the bit. In an ordinary week, baseball is a diversion, an amusement. This week, it's educational.
6. Center stage: Last night was Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Tonight is Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Think anyone cares? That's right, baby, the National Pastime is back!
7. Intrigue: That thing about inter-league play lacking drama? Never mind.
8. The little man theory: Let's say I'm a 155-pound second baseman hitting .216. I've got three home runs … career. The team keeps me around for my glove, but they don't feel good about it and neither do I. These last few years, I watch a guy like Sosa, and I envy him his power and swagger. If I could only do what he does, I think. If I could only feel what he feels. But I know I never will. I know I'm just a scrappy little out-maker and he's the king of swing. I walk around all sheepish and skittish, wishing I were more. But now I know it's all been cork and mirrors with Sammy. Now I'm thinking he ain't so bad. Now I'm thinking I ought to feel good about myself. Sure, my numbers are thin, but they're my numbers, damnit. Pure, hard-earned. And before you know it, my chest is puffing out a bit, I'm walking a little taller, swinging with a little more righteous gusto and purpose. Hits start to add up, the average and slugging numbers start to climb. Before you know it, I'm a bona fide threat, a guy capable of doing damage, an x-factor, a difference-maker whose late-summer rush helped tighten the playoff races and bring excitement to the park.
10. The Hall is back: In April, with the "Bull Durham" thing, the Hall of Fame was an out-of-touch treehouse club run by a paranoid goof. But now it's the standard by which a player and a man are measured, the heart of baseball integrity and the center of the ongoing debate every pencil pusher and phone jockey in every office in America is taking part in right now.
Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.