“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” ― Werner Herzog
I’m walking down the street on a main boulevard near a donut shop with two unknown, genderless children. (?) I have been here before, in my waking life. It is the type of place where, if you’re not wearing absolute rags they think you have money and are a half-wit who can be taken advantage of. Suddenly, a large, heavily tattooed man grabs my arm as I pass. I swing around to confront the man when I find a gun that looks comically small in his massive, sweaty meathooks pointed directly at my face. I panic, and seemingly conscious that this is a dream, I bail out and am abruptly sucked away from this destitute reality and awaken on my bed in a darkened room.
There is a moment of pause and reflection before I stare at the time–4:30–and I’ll probably toss and turn for a few hours before slumbering again. My phone tells me that the Yomiuri Giants are playing the Chunichi Dragons, and it’s 1-0 in the 4th. I turn it on. These teams were playing baseball on the other side of the globe and battling for playoff position–a classic Japanese version of the Dodgers/Giants rivalry with both teams wearing the respective colors of the teams from the Golden State. Who was that tattooed man, and what does he represent? And the children? Too tired, and not in the mood for Freudian consideration, I watch for a few innings–the pace and play comforting me before finally awarded repose once again.
Although much of what I do here is the literary equivalent of digital fish wrap, I recently decided to go a different direction and did a cool and very interesting interview with Matt from Oakland A’s UK. I despise long intros, so I’ll let the interview do the talking…also, do yourself a favor and check out the link above if you get a chance! Enjoy.
1. Let’s start with the genesis of this love affair. How did you discover baseball in a football-obsessed country, and why did you choose the Oakland A’s as your favorite club?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s two MLB games per week were shown live on British TV in the early hours of the morning. As a big sports fan, I thought I would give baseball a shot and so I recorded a game and was hooked straight away, despite not having much of a clue what was going on at first. My first game was in mid-1998 so I lucked into the whole drama of the ‘Run for ‘61’ (slightly tarnished in retrospect!) that season and also quickly gained a healthy dislike of the Yankees due to them being annoyingly good in that period!
I thought it would be more fun to have a team to root for, but had no geographic or family reasons that might pick a team for me, other than not wanting to jump onto the bandwagon of the usual big-name teams. In the end, it came down to the colors. I come from a small city called Norwich and our soccer team plays in yellow and green, so when I saw the A’s green and gold caps that was as good a reason as any.
I’d say I’ve properly been following the A’s since 2005, as that was the first year when MLB.TV was really starting up and I was able to watch or listen to lots of games rather than just reading up about them online. 2005 really isn’t all that long ago, but the way MLB.TV has developed over the years since, and streaming in general, is pretty remarkable. Add on social media and wherever you are in the world you can now feel like part of the fan base. We’ve been incredibly lucky that so many A’s fans have been so welcoming towards us, both online and on visits to the Coliseum, and I think that speaks to the unique spirit that A’s fans have.
2. Considering the time change, you and your crew have to rise at ungodly hours to watch these games. How do you suffer through it?
We are 8 hours ahead of Pacific Time so day-games are our friend! A typical 12.37pm or 1.07pm start in Oakland is 8.37pm/9.07pm here in the UK, and that means most weeks there are at least 2 if not 3 games we can watch live at a convenient time.
The night-games are usually a 2.40am or 3.07am start for us. With the best will in the world, watching those live every day, combined with a full-time job and other commitments, often isn’t feasible. So we don’t tend to watch ‘working week’ night-games live and instead either just settle for watching the highlights or watch the game back ‘as live’ the following day. That’s been made easier over the past 18 months due to Covid lockdowns and the increase home-working where we can have it on in the background!
The other silver lining of the Covid period has been the wide adoption of Zoom calls as a way for us to watch games together despite living apart, in different parts of the UK and also friends out there in the States joining too. That helps to get us through late nights when the game is dragging on a bit.
3. Are you invested in the decision regarding the Oakland City Council and the A’s potentially leaving Oakland?
Definitely. We don’t come from a sporting culture of franchises and the very idea of picking up a team and moving it somewhere else is completely abhorrent to us whoever the team is, let alone the one we love. I know the A’s moved from Philadelphia and KC to get here, but the team has been in Oakland since 1968 so by now I think everyone has the right to consider the A’s as being Oakland’s team. I guess Fisher and Kaval see the Vegas flirting as standard business practice for US franchises, but it’s just the latest kick in the teeth for a fanbase that has been treated terribly for years and deserves so much better.
Clearly the Howard Terminal plan is complicated, but it feels like it has got further along the line than any other plan for a new ballpark in Oakland, so I view it all with cautious optimism. All of us in the AUK group would struggle to follow the team to a new location, especially one out of the Bay Area, so we all desperately hope that everything works out and Fisher and Kaval actually come good on their ‘Rooted In Oakland’ talk.
4. Who are your favorite players and most hated? (Any Jim Johnson hate would be appreciated)
Jim Johnson certainly is on the bad list, with Billy Butler being the other name that comes up most in our discussions of recent flops.
In terms of favorites, I think I loved everything about Coco Crisp, from his name to his batting stance, and he was a rare player who stuck around for quite a while. Cespedes was like a comet who shone with us briefly, but he felt like a star player when he was here, and one who genuinely seemed to enjoy being in Oakland.
Most recently, Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks were players you had to love because we saw their struggles and how hard they worked to become excellent players, and again both had a lot of respect for the A’s fan base. That made the past off-season really hard, but there are always new players to emerge or existing ones to step up. Right now, my vote would be for ‘the starting rotation’! I love the way that they clearly enjoy being in each other’s company and drive each other on. Here’s hoping they can keep performing as well as they have up to this point.
Here is a cover I “designed” for a little-known and now-defunct baseball magazine (this was around the time magazines were on the cusp of dying, but were still relevant to the average Luddite, tactile enthusiast, or collector of things) that never ran. The editors, or powers that be, said it was too abstract or artsy, but I didn’t care as they had already bestowed the 200 clams for the idea–no questions asked. In the end, I presumably decided that this working relationship probably wouldn’t progress my ideas or disciplines as a creator and in the process did some serious dampening on my ideas of the publishing world.
I met the founder/owner/head honcho for dinner one night in a Chinese restaurant, and all the other writers/designers/shit workers wore a suit jacket or tie of which I was obviously exempt. One of the wives asked the server if the rice was “the type with plastic in it.” I was dumbfounded until she explained to me that she had read somewhere that the Chinese put plastic in their rice. I was then assured that my meal would be less than hygienic once the cooks were informed of this deranged idea.
There is something about an ostentatious dinner party that is equivalent to watching the entire life cycle of a drowning house fly. This excursion was an example of wealth without inhibition, leading to projects done on a whim because someone had money to burn, and because of their ineptitude and lack of knowledge of the (dying) industry, their layman cracks were starting to show major gaps between ideal and actuality.
Insider jargon was being thrown around fast and furious, more or less centered around the male, mass media, basic-bitch sphere of cologne, beer, and cars–and the lines between fantasy and reality were laughably blurred. I decided in an instant to make the shittiest cover I could possibly throw together just to see if it would, by some miracle, get green-lighted. The “project” was a simple cut and paste that was done hastily in about a minute on my laptop while folding laundry…not bad work for a couple of Benjamin Franklins on a sleepy Saturday.
The A’s finally acquired some bullpen help in the form of Andrew Chafin, and the green and gold zealots were predictably overjoyed. Here are some of the complaints that A’s fans have relished this season: bullpen, bullpen, bullpen, Chapman can’t hit, bullpen, bullpen, Andrus can’t hit, bullpen, bullpen, John Fisher is the human equivalent of a festering boil, bullpen, bullpen, bullpen.
Chafin has the look that A’s fans embrace–that of the badass dad with a handlebar mustache and a beer belly that sometimes parties with his Hells Angels friends on the weekends. He conjures up visual memories of a favorite of this blog–Rod Beck, (RIP Shooter) and will hopefully bring a left-handed dominance that the Oakland ball club has desperately needed. This guy is like bringing water to someone who has been crawling around, lips cracked and sun-baked in the desert. Remember that scene with Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? Blondie can finally drink. Not to be greedy, but I would be ecstatic if we could also acquire a stick before the deadline, because this offense smells worse than diarrhea on a hot tin roof and doesn’t even remotely resemble a team of contention.
To everyone’s shock and surprise, yours truly was apparently persuasive enough to wrangle a few media credentials recently for a AAA game on a hot, sticky Saturday night in Round Rock, Texas. My baseball buddy (the female version, not the one that looks like Cheech) had a good laugh at this and was comparing me to the baseball writing equivalent of Hunter S. Thompson.
“They’re going to be wondering, who the hell is this guy affiliated with?” she said with a snicker, glaring at my cut-off jean shorts and general casual appearance that bordered on “depraved homeless guy” entangled with a little “divorced dad who stopped giving a shit” vibe–the only thing missing was the cigarette holder and flask of vodka in the breast pocket.
I assured her that this wasn’t the old-school baseball writing world of cigar-chomping old guys wearing Hawaiian shirts with an Olivetti typewriter tucked beneath their arm. No, my friend, these weren’t newspaper and media hacks who didn’t use nuance or subtext and who hadn’t read anything remotely literary since the ink on a copy of The Old Man and the Sea was fresh. These were modern, good ‘ol All American tech-savvy baseball promoters with hipster haircuts, toothy smiles and finely trimmed beards looking to climb the ladder in a billion-dollar industry by foisting fake opinions for clicks and sponsors.
“Wow, now you look even worse.”
All the internal hype was for naught. (This was, alas, the minor leagues) I was asked, indeed, what outfit I was with, but the overall Press Box atmosphere seemed sort of relaxed and lethargic as I put on an authoritative and seasoned air meant to mirror professionalism. A nice man, Leonard, answered a few questions, told us we couldn’t go into the TV room, and gave us some tickets for free tacos. There was a snack spread and we took a few bags of chips and soda and decided to go down and find a few empty seats on the first baseline with the rest of the fans: we needed that feeling of symbiosis that had been missing since our weakened empire unequivocally turned divisive politically, went mentally unhinged and rehearsed a zombie apocalypse drill. I was also told that under no circumstances could someone media affiliated receive the Nolan Ryan bobblehead giveaway that night. Well, shit.
Overall, it was a humid, syrupy, sweat-inducing pleasant time. The atmosphere was lively (the crowd sang “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” during the 7th inning stretch) and my new favorite player, Curtis Terry aka “Scary Terry” hit 2 massive dingers while my baseball buddy made a sugary mess eating a funnel cake. A major highlight was the hilarious stampede for dollar hot dogs when the “Hot Dog Batter” struck out in the bottom half of the 7th–a kindly older gentleman felt the need to wildly instruct everyone in our section of this fact while other fans returned triumphantly with ghastly amounts of their pink, mustard-laden prize…I love minor league baseball.
All it takes is one minor “insignificant” thing to enter labyrinthine corridors that lead to dreams, memories, and fantasies…and watching the 1988 ALCS Game 3 on youtube was the meager catalyst that jolted the brain and shook free a few locked away memories that slowly clambered to the surface. Memories of childhood often walk that fine line of the unholy hybrid of the fictional and the real, and the rusty time capsule had been jarred open rather coarsely with a crowbar whether I liked it or not. The antique contents were tender reminders of budding times when you accepted the mysteries of oneself because there was no mystery to contemplate, you just are.
Tim C. was a boy who lived in my neighborhood and I remember watching the 1988 ALCS at his house, although the details tend to get foggy like a faded photocopy. (One detail that isn’t foggy is the Red Sox holding a 5-0 lead that ended in an eventual 10-6 loss) We would get bored and go outside to toss the football and once even walked to the store to get a soda, ice cream sandwiches, and baseball cards. I remember there were a considerable amount of commercials for the upcoming presidential election between George Bush and Michael Dukakis, but we didn’t care in the slightest who won–someone would probably punch you in the stomach at that age if you dared to talk about such nonsense. Besides, there were bigger debates like–who was hotter: Samantha Fox or the red-headed vixen dry-humping two Jaguars in the Whitesnake video?
Tim’s parents were never around, (they were notorious barflies) so his house was a bit on the grungy side, and damned if I can remember him ever offering me anything to eat or drink. He was an early example of the vulgar inequities of life–with his family being dirt poor–but he was a good athlete and wasn’t averse to getting into a fistfight with older boys so he was almost admired around the neighborhood. For reasons that elude me, I also remember that he had a poster of Led Zepplin’s Houses Of The Holy in his room, and I would often stare at the cryptic image of naked, golden-haired children crawling around an apocalyptic landscape in wonderment. This image resonated and unearthed murky, neolithic repressed memories perhaps representing a past and an ancient life long forgotten in an odd feeling of soul transference. Silly, I know.
After elementary school, we sort of outgrew each other, as boys tend to do, and friends seem to be transitory as you cultivate life as a 13-year-old. Forever gone was the world of battered bicycles, black eyes, and skinned knees. We would give each other knowing glances in the hallway but were worlds apart as growing teenagers. Tim, being far more mature than I, was already into heavy metal and girls, and I was sort of still trying to figure things out at this vulnerable age, albeit awkwardly while wearing Bugle Boy jeans, multi-color fluorescent t-shirts, and listening to generic pop music on a transistor radio covered with stickers.
Tim died in a car accident not long after graduating high school–something I didn’t find out about until years after the incident as I had already moved 500 miles away from our tiny little culture(less) vacuum. The driver was drunk, killing his wife as well as 19-year-old passenger Tim–who left this cruel world forever as a teenager and absorbed into the soil that constitutes a past.
“Baseball opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one and most of ’em stink.” — Harry Caray
Baseball “agitprop” continues as the Houston Asterisks became yesterday’s news, (bad timing for the hot new book exposé, Cheated) and the new squabble concerned pitchers using a goo/sunscreen/coca-cola/spider-tack jizz concoction on their fingers to have better control and higher spin rate. Of course, MLB was impartial until the media fired shots about baseball being “boring” due to the 3 true outcome trends, no-hitters becoming run-of-the-mill and baseball’s collective batting average dropping quicker than a high school girl’s panties on prom night. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the game’s old coots/heroes spewing nonsense about “going the other way” and “choking up” when they neverhad to face the otherworldly velocity and wicked breaking shit day to day that the modern-day players have to face, essentially making their points void and out of context. (Ty Cobb floated the same criticism Babe Ruth’s direction, and on and on and on…ad nauseam)
It’s the stale old case of baseball being better “back in the day” when in reality it probably wasn’t. The strike zones in the 70’s/80’s were more horrendous than today with the zone changing arbitrarily from AL to NL, and pitchers getting called strikes a foot off the plate from East to West. Banjo-hitters were playing daily and barely batting above .220 with little power, and pitchers were also proving their “toughness” by losing games in the later innings when it was obvious to everyone in the ballpark that they were barely throwing above 90 at that point while a bullpen guy who could throw peas sat on his ass and stared at a blonde in the front row. (Tony LaRussa is now hearkened as a “genius” for being able to compute basic math and daring to challenge the norms) These same standard-bearers are also nostalgic for .300 batting averages (a stat that is not as relevant as it used to be) even though Tony Gwynn, he of multiple batting titles, didn’t score a seasonal 100 runs after his 27th birthday. Do you smell what I’m dishing here? The key to winning is runs, not hits, and being stuck in the Mesozoic Era doesn’t necessarily mean better unless you enjoy beating the shit out of a dinosaur with a bone and dragging your significant other by the hair into a dingy cave.
In the end, organizations are trying to win, not look aesthetically pleasing to old farts who should probably take a trip to the ballet if they are looking for dainty and pleasing visual cues that remind them of their younger years–which begs the question: if baseball is a dying sport, why has attendance averaged (roughly) 30.000 asses in the seats when it barely reached 15-25 in the ’70s and ’80s? The “get off my lawn” argument just doesn’t hold water and sounds just as ridiculous, pious, and nonsensical as a wrinkled, childish, dunderhead spit-spewing while wearing a red cap that states, “Make Baseball Great Again.” These people want the facade without the meat and potatoes even though they claim to want both. They hate the numbers just because they’re not the right numbers. Didn’t we just endure a blazing hot point of discussion about moving the mound back a few months ago? Or banning the shift? Quit tinkering! Leave the goddamn game alone! This game was here long before you and your cultural heroes were enjoying their lives and the fruits of their labor and will be here long after this generation and the next are in the ground rotting aeternum.
I dragged myself to one of those fancy movie premieres, and it was an experience that was embraced as a heroic poem and not just a regular, boring Saturday evening–this was a communal, but at the same time extremely individual moment that felt like an atonement of sorts. I had not been to the movies in over a year (since the short-lived and limited re-issue of Alien) and it was the longest I’d gone without being in a cinema since I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983 as a little devil child. There was the nostalgic, yet forgotten hint of popcorn mixed in with the notes of cleaning spray and faux-butter sludge to welcome me with open arms. I was a tad bit leery about being around so many skin-sacks, but calmed myself on a few occasions by telling myself that the world was a different place– and it was as simple as breaking free of a routine, and a miserable one at that. In conclusion, the movie sucked, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as a free flowing, maskless and anxiety-free critic unperturbed by low-brow cinema.
The after-party was at the Flamingo Cantina, and their mezcal margarita hit me straight behind my third eye. Matthew McConaughey was making his rounds, flittering amongst the packed club and making benign conversation, but as an ex-denizen of Los Angeles, we just aren’t that impressed by fame. We are used to seeing our screen heroes at the grocery store buying jarred pickles or matzo ball soup and shrugging it off with an, “Oh,” after getting a 10 second cheap thrill. I can enjoy the craft of acting (some would say the basis of the craft is to act like a disingenuous, self-satisfied prick with a set of veneers, tendencies to show-off, and a healthy case of nepotism) without caring a lick about their social life or even trying to be near them to suck their “aura.” And in the end actors simply don’t impress me as much as athletes or musicians (both somewhat based on meritocracy) as most of them are smaller in stature than even the average person on the street. (Hola, Tom Cruise) Size matters–am I right ladies?
Noted Austin-ite and former Oakland Athletic Huston Street was standing in the corner nursing a Bud Light and wearing some vintage-aviator-style Jeffrey Dahmer glasses that are all the rage with Generation Z hipsters and dads in the 80’s if you happen to have access to a time machine. I’m not sure if he was there for the after-party or if he was just hanging out, but the bartender told me he is now a coach for the Texas Longhorns and I had no reason to believe he was being untruthful. Street had a few excellent seasons as a closer in Oakland before moving on to greener pastures and giant sacks of money elsewhere. I remember being impressed at the time that he was a 21 year old rookie who had to learn how to “piss standing up” with very little minor league experience. Mr. Street had been relegated to oblivion in my mind, and now it all came rushing back with a sun-baked bang. I suppose we didn’t know how good we had it considering we had to endure and agonize with the likes of Jim Johnson and Brian Fuentes since his departure, which now seems as if it happened so many moons ago.
Ok, so what the hell does Don Mossi have to do with Billy Martin, Cal Ripken Jr. Durwood Merrill, Rickey Henderson? (editors note: the Cal Ripken incident will be discussed in a future post.) I want to say absolutely NOTHING, but I would have been wrong. As it turns out, Mossi was traded to the Tigers, along with his good friend and roommate, Ray Narleski, in a November 1958 deal that sent Billy Martin to Cleveland. No that’s not the reason for Mossi’s appearance here either.
The reason I posted Don Mossi’s baseball card is all about the book someone mentioned, The Wax Pack. After reading their description of the book I was intrigued and checked out a couple of reviews. I then ordered a copy that should arrive next week.
It appears that The Wax Pack covers several of my favorite subjects: The afterlife, the loss of innocence, and of course, baseball. Impermanence is just a more sophisticated way of saying “Nothing lasts forever”or ‘A constant state of change”. Impermanence only becomes a “gift” when we learn to understand and accept the constantly changing, fleeting nature of life and appreciate what we have. All things good and bad eventually come to an end.
Is there life after baseball? I am going to say yes, mainly because I am currently living it. It has been said that athletes die twice so Ipresume I’ll be dying at least one more time. Athletic careers imitate our life span. The life span of an athlete’s career is an accelerated version of our real lives. It mimics the process of development and decay we experience throughout our lives at a faster pace. As we age our performance declines It’s the curse of mortality, a symptom of impermanence. You spend the first portion of your life learning, growing stronger, polishing your skills, then your body begins to fail. You remember yourself in your prime and wonder where that person went. The wear and tear of training and competing, combined with the physiological changes that naturally occur as we age, conspire to slowly diminish our physical skills…..nothing lasts forever and careers come to an end.
Then in “real” life, you repeat the process only at a slower pace. If you have come to terms with the inevitability of impermanence then you will be better prepared to cope with it. I guess you could call it a gift as the L.A. Times review did, but I think if you have managed to come to terms with the inevitability of impermanence, you likely earned it the hard way.
The Loss of Innocence
As it pertains to baseball the loss of innocence for many of us the transition from the joyful innocence of playing the game as a youngster to professional baseball where it was much more of a business than it was a game. Then there comes another transition from doing something that you had worked hard at and has been a major part of your life since childhood quickly deteriorate and leave you facing a fate that apparently can be the equivalent of death! This is why they say athletes die twice because for some, getting a job in the real world after living in a fantasy world can be very traumatic.
Back to Don Mossi
About 10 years ago my friend Steve Ashman (High school & Senior league baseball teammate) was staring at Don Mossi’s baseball card commenting about the size of his ears and said “You know we should go visit him, he only lives a couple of hours away” It sounded like a good idea to me. We made a list of players we wanted to meet in addition to Mossi. I added a pair of 20 game losers, Don Larsen, Roger Craig, and Vida Blue even though he only lost 19–never mind being an MVP, and Cy Young award winner! Steve added Alex Johnson and Willie McCovey to the list along with Rusty Kuntz. Rusty Kuntz? I asked Steve ‘Why Rusty Kuntz?” He replied “I always wanted to ask him what his parents were thinking when they named him Rusty”
So we planned a trip for “sometime in the future” and as you might imagine we never got around to making that trip. Life got in the way. Alex Johnson passed away in 2015, McCovey in 2018, Mossi in 2019, and Larsen in 2020. They were victims of impermanence as we all will eventually be.
I know the threat of the Oakland Athletics moving to a different city looms in the shadows, but it would be inconsequential to comment here until the Oakland City Council votes on the matter on July 20th. The readers of this blog already know my feelings concerning billionaire flim-flam artists and John Fisher is no exception.
I finally got my second vaxx shot, so I commended my new precursor to freedom and the ending of covid-induced hibernation by buying a few beers and a new collectable Skeletor as my companion and I drove through the winding, craggy hills singing Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” at the top of our lungs. (Subsequently, I was confused by her public animosity of the Eagles, but love of a few choice Henley songs) It’s scorching and humid and we are glistening as a result. There was an excursion to Taco Bell, a food I hadn’t eaten in well over a decade, and I felt as if I was eating toxic sludge with notes of acidic regurgitation, but I needed sustenance before we went to a soiree bursting at the seams with a certain titular clique of Southern socialites. Not my cup of tea as a breezy West Coaster, although I was looking forward to imbibing on the Southern Belle, The Alabama Slammer, and The High Noon Old Fashion which would perhaps loosen me up for the plethora of “ya’alls” and stiff posturing that would be heaved my way. How did I end up here?
“Did you ever notice that Donna Summer looks like Rick James without a mustache?” she said.
Are my readers tired of the pseudo-intellectual baseball pundit gibberish constantly shoved down their throats? Perhaps, but if you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with your bullshit regarding “pre-gaming” and cliche sports blog financed beer reviews– but color me naive as I have not received one thin red dime for my efforts here.
And as I was standing in the store aisle, blankly staring, and confused by the dizzying array of choices, I gave in and decided to try the Houston Asterisks sponsored Crawford Bock, and my immediate impression was that it reminded me of a sort of piss-infused Newcastle. I found it to be rather bland for an attempt at a bock, and about as safe and by the books as you can get without going the dreaded “light beer” path. This is an attempt at making baseball fans that are used to drinking traditional lifeless, stodgy beer feel sophisticated by drinking a trendy, “craft beer” when this is the farthest thing from it. It’s a damn good metaphor for their baseball team–style over substance and pure surface trickery. I felt in the end I was paying for the can with its retro-rainbow Nolan Ryan era motif more than anything, and in the tradition of the organization, felt cheated. Not Recommended.
“No one jumps when the phone rings at Todd Van Poppel’s house. It rings almost constantly, and not just because Todd is a typical high school senior. It rings because Todd just may be the next Nolan Ryan.” —Sports Illustrated
I was a baseball crazed ankle-biter when i read the above article in a 1990 issue of Sports Illustrated, but gave the zit-faced high school senior nary a second thought because my esteemed Oakland A’s had no shot at getting him with the 14th pick that year. Ol’ Todd didn’t help out the situation by saying he was going to college, in turn scaring off most teams, including the Braves who swallowed their pride and took some second-rate scrub named Larry “Chipper” Jones. The A’s, being the perpetual team of desperation took a shot on the guy and “Zitface” decided that Oakland was better than wearing flip-flops and kicking around a hacky sack once he got a taste of the oodles of greenbacks, loose women, unquestioned admiration, and the sycophantic ass-kissing big leaguers deal with in every city around the country.
Apparently, when the A’s signed Van Poppel, they signed him to a major league contract and not a minor contract. Consequently, the A’s could only use a limited number of minor league options on Van Poppel, so they had to rush him through the bush-leagues and he never really had time to develop. In scouting reports, Van Poppel was described as having a blazing fastball with no movement, which helps explain the discrepancy between scout analytics and the reality of his career. In the end, Van Poppel was a career reliever who bounced around from the Tigers, Rangers, Pirates, Cubs, and Reds; never coming close to Ryan’s 324 wins and ended his career with a paltry 40-52 record, essentially becoming one of the biggest busts in baseball history. I, like every other red-blooded American dipshit bought into the false and largely propagated by Upper Deck baseball card craze of the 90’s and hoarded “Van Pimple” cardboard –never dreaming that you could find it (with case) 22 years later for exactly 25 cents on amazon.com. (with the case being more valuable than the card.) I should have listened to my economics teacher explaining why you can’t print more of something and expect it to keep its value–and would have been better off putting the damn thing in my bicycle spokes.