They may seem unrelated, but the hirings of Jay Mariotti and Milton Bradley, as well as the passing of Twins owner Carl Pohlad, may have suddenly altered the course of 2009 White Sox baseball for better. And for worse. And for something in between at the same time.
Mariotti, who I just two short weeks ago predicted wouldn’t find work again before Joe Crede, found a new home over at the AOL Fanhouse. Oh irony of ironies! Mariotti, who went out of his way to decry sports blogs as baseless hackery, has become a sports blogger! Mariotti, who called the internet a wasteland of invented stories and overt negativity, has ceded the future of his line of positive, upbeat, well-researched and multi-sourced work to the internet! Let’s take a look:
The biggest Internet sites — most importantly, those unaffiliated with leagues and franchises — are in position now to do the best unfiltered work.
Pretty bold statement considering he used to write for an unaffiliated website that draws, you know, a few million readers monthly. Maybe old Jay can use this new platform to dabble in bold new endeavors like, um, spouting opinions and uhhhhhhh weighing in on the news with his broad and progressive new national view. . . which is sad, really, because thanks to the Cubs we are about to welcome a glorious, glorious summer of athlete tantrums and maybe, just maybe, the Ron Artest of the Chicago baseball scene.
Can you imagine it?
On a sunny day in June at Wrigley Field, the beer flows freely through a packed house of pretty boys and beautiful women. The Cubbies, alone atop the National League Central, lead the visiting Cleveland Indians 4-2. Suddenly, in a nod to the traditional welcome given former Cub luminaries Jacque Jones, LaTroy Hawkins, Dusty Baker, Shawon Dunston, Kosuke Fukudome et al, a pack of popped-collar wearing young men shower the newest Cub outfielder with good luck beers and the affectionate nicknames only they still know or care to use. Historic Wrigley Field, indeed.
The thing is, Bradley has gone after umpires, broadcasters and teammates before; what happens when some man-child of privilege calls him, you know, that word? How badly does Bradley lose it? And could you blame him? Milton, here’s a promise: if it happens at any of the handful of games I attend at Wrigley each season, I’ll be right there with you kicking that boy in his Tommy Bahamas.
But if it’s something else – a scorer, a beat reporter, concessionaire, groundskeeper – that incurs a nonsensical Milton Bradley tantrum, then let us rejoice. After so many years of Frank Thomas, Albert Belle, Wil Cordero, Jaime Navarro, A.J. Pierzynski, and Ozzie Guillen, and the decades of media-aided Cubs painted in their best light coming to an end, it will be a Cubs player in the crosshairs of the Mariotti school of semi-journalism.
And while the Cubs dodge bad press and collapse under the weight of Year One of the Second Century, it could be the Sox quietly winning, and winning, and winning again in the face of a still-weak division while young talent shines and the deals, so widely derided by know-nothing internet blowhards, all work out in the end.
The Sox, as they often do, can then spend another summer dueling with the Twins to the bitter end. Those pesky Twins, what with their wretchedly well-executed baseball and admirable ways of winning despite the financial handcuffing put on them for so long by their owner, could find a way to just fall short, perhaps landing just a free agent or high-priced trade piece short of taking the division.
But alas, the days of the tight-fisted owner are at an end. To the friends and family of the deceased, we extend our condolences; to the organization, fans and suddenly affordable players, we say curses to all the newfound riches heading your way.