Friday, February 13, 2015


Our title presages one of the coming features of our (admittedly idiosyncratic) coverage of the beautiful eyesore that is baseball for 2015--a series of essays in which aberrant references to and arcane interpretations of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land will gurgle up like...well, like lilacs out of the dead land (if you must know).

And that's just what certain franchises in baseball's dizzying merry-go-round (Darren V., feel free to cue up that long-treasured copy of the Wild Man Fischer LP...) have been trying to simulate--their own chthonic canticles of rebirth (even if it all merely amounts to various psychic variations on graverobbing).

The two "unreal cities" of the 2015 offseason (not counting Oakland, of course, since Billy Beane is already well-known for defying the limits of mere unreality) are Chicago and San Diego, where three teams (whose GMs dare to step out from the shadow of this red rock) are looking to walk out of their own graves.

Actually...the thing that scares us the most is just how
much the elderly Eliot resembles Bud Selig. Thank God
we've never seen a photo of him cupping his hand to his right ear...

The relativism, the uncertainty, the moment of repose in the leap of faith (see? you can't really tell when I'm quoting Eliot or simply playing randomly with the gas burners on my stove...) is what finally sinks in after all the media blather and the strong, pungent lather of the off-season, waiting for dull roots to be stirred by spring (t)rain(ing).

It's a healthy shoulder-shrug for those guardians of the word, who don't actually have to play the games, who also serve by scribbling (even in the face of automaton "replacement level" journalists--our thanks to El Jefe for the sobering reminder that everyone's consciousness will, sooner than later, merge with the machine). This is the season of casting stones, to followed in March with the regathering of those stones and the systematic stakeout of glass houses.

Anyone else see it? Jayson: if you just let that
hair grow, don some thrift store duds, and hire
a hag to be your mom for the photo shoot, you'll
be a dead ringer for Wild Man Fischer!!
And so you might be cheered by the cheeky comfort in the ongoing transit of the cloud of unknowing represented in Jayson Stark's ESPN column, with its ersatz quantification of off-season activity, where The Man Who Would Be Us But For The Grace Of God has once again donned his reversible vest and asked the Emperors to cover their heinies. (Of course, some people make a fortune out of turning polls into blunt instruments, but Jayson is smart enough to know that corpses planted in the garden a year ago have a dangerous tendency to sprout.)

What's usually the case with teams such as the Cubs, the Padres, and the White Sox--our troika of flamboyant off-season fisher kings--is that some overlooked element in the makeup of their roster proves to be a stumbling block for the prospects of a phoenix-like rise from the ashes. For the Cubs, it will be the karma of the ruling-class clan with that most unfortunate and negatively evocative name, added to the insular prep-school arrogance of its brain trust, that will stall the "progress of the seasons"--that, and the failure of certain young prospects (Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler) to meet outsized expectations. For the White Sox, it will be that the massive off-season "haul to the stockyards" (and let's remember that it was always the South Side of town that was never safe from the whiff of cattle...) is more burdensome beast than sanctifying stampede.

Madame Sosostris, right after her blind date with A.J. Preller...
And, in San Diego, the spectre of a team that (according to Madame Sosotris' wicked pack of cards, at any rate..) will have the greatest discrepancy in home-road performance in recent times (venturing, in its own inverted way, into the territory occupied by the early incarnations of the Colorado Rockies) is going to put the chill on A.J. Preller's ascent into the Empyrean, leaving him instead with a series of B-tickets for all the really tepid thrill rides at Disneyland. He's a personable kid, though, and he'll resurface ten years after his ritual beheading as the new host on (yet another) remake of Let's Make A Deal. The irony will not be lost on him, but he'll do his best to suppress it...while dimly recalling that in a land strip-mined of its values, there is not even silence in its mountains. (That thought will be hard to keep hold of, however, when he's being overrun by those hordes of housewives.)

So...will these three unreal cities--or, rather, franchises--collectively play over .500 in 2015? Neither Jayson Stark, nor I--nor even that mischievous Man in the Moon--know for sure. What's happened to analysis in the past twenty years is that it has mixed its metaphors and its ideologies into a muddle, no longer sure of which is which, filled with carious teeth that can't even spit in the midst of its off-season spew. So we all await those bats with baby faces in the violet light...