Monday, July 31, 2006


I got the e-mail between games of the doubleheader, just after the press conference about the Big Trade. It was my cyberfriend CandyEater53, the unofficial president of the Bobby Abreu Fan Club, and at first I thought he was joking.

“I’m going to kill myself,” he wrote, a sobbing emoticon punctuating the declaration. “You heard, right?”

Yes, I have heard the news, I replied, my joyous thick fingers caressing the keyboard. Our beloved Comedulce has been traded -- with Cory Lidle thrown in for funsies -- for a box of chocolates and four minor leaguers. Think we can buy a pitcher for his $15 million next season? I wrote.

Life goes on – and coincidentally, the Phillies proceeded to sweep a doubleheader to mark the beginning of the A.A. (After Abreu) Era. But before I had a chance to take in Game Two, there was the small matter of stopping a suicide. My lonely friend has a mancrush on Abreu, and he no longer wanted to live.

CandyEater53 (“Fiddy Tree” for short) told me he had just finished swallowing a dozen Diphedryl mini-tabs and washed it down with Scotch and Kool-Aid. He requested I stop at the Rite Aid to get him more pills and deliver them to his house, as he was, like, a little taken out by events. Of course, I wasn’t about to enable his death, so I told him I’d be right over with the little pink pills.

Fiddy’s house is a shrine to Abreu. Posters, jerseys, authographed baseballs, bats, maps of Venezuela, the porno pictures of his ex-fiancee, and other obsessive ephemera are plastered all over the walls. It always gave me the creeps. I felt as if I was in the lair of a child molestor. As George Carlin once joked, when you collect baseball cards as a boy, you’re collecting pictures of your heroes. When you collect baseball cards as an adult, you’re collecting pictures of men.

And when you contemplate suicide over the trade of your favorite Phillie, well…it could be argued you’re collecting evidence of your emotional immaturity.

Fiddy would be alright. He may be a little queer for Bobby, but he likes his Internet chat rooms too much to buy the farm. He’d go back to his job as a systems analyst, collect his fat paycheck and continue to enjoy the single life without the remotest prospect of pussy anytime soon. But as I explained to him, some of your team’s idols need to take their ball and play somewhere else, especially when one of them hits for a lower average than David Bell but are paid three times as much.

“Fiddy,” I began, handing him a container full of candy, “do you remember when you asked your boss for a new contract after you put in five years at the company and he turned you down at first?”

“Yeah,” Fiddy said, “I told him I wanted to make what they offered the other guy before he turned them down and worked for the competition. I thought they would pay me anything I wanted because they’d be afraid I’d walk out, too.”

“And what did they tell you?”

“They told me to pound sand.”

“Right,” I continued. “You asked to be paid what some companies pay their entire staff. A little unreasonable, wouldn’t you say?”

“Well, in hindsight, maybe it was,” Fiddy reflected. “They would never be able to pay other talented people to work with me. I understood that. I am compensated comfortably. I have a house that’s paid for. I buy cars with cash. I’m doing alright.”

I ate one of the candies and contemplated the picture of Abreu holding his Gold Glove. I continued with my point.

“Now look what happened with Comedulce,” I said. “He is arguably the best outfielder the Phils ever had. In fact, he’s one of the best players ever to wear the uniform. But you know what? He was one of the most overpaid players ever to put on a uniform anywhere. Ed Wade was mentally ill to offer him that kind of money.”

“How can you say that!” Fiddy screamed. “Get out of my house! What do you know about baseball?!”

I was wondering whether the sedatives he took had had any effect, or if the adrenaline fueling his knee-jerk reaction was overriding it. But this reaction was not to be unexpected. As he recited his marvelous sabermetric figures, I stood pat and contented myself knowing the Phils’ offense wasn’t likely to suffer too much damage in his absence. And what good are all the runs when your starting pitching is the worst in the National League? Even if you are suspicious of the owners’ intentions, it is hard to believe they will simply pocket the savings and barricade the gates when the barbarians like me come calling.

Then again, they are a collectively stupid bunch. They let Ed Wade get themselves into this mess.

Abreu’s deal was an albatross from the beginning, truly emblematic about what’s wrong with baseball finances. But for the Abreu worshippers – some of whom even admit he is not worth the $13.5 million this year or $15 million the next – now that the burden is removed, they are crowing about the return received in the trade, as if having him limiting Pat Gillick’s options to four teams put the aging GM in any position to get anything but four warm bodies and the liberation of his budget.

For fans like Fiddy, they’ll never get past their near homo-erotic attachment to Comedulce. For fans like Tacony Lou, I’ll never get past my attachment to winning, and not only winning, but winning with a little positive hate for the opposition. And face it, a little personality and intensity goes a long way in Philly.

As Fiddy continued reciting the laundry list of Abreu’s career achievements in every esoteric category, I remembered his last at-bat as a Phillie, the slow dribbler to the second basemen that forced the potential tying run out at second and left him standing on first…where he proceeded to get picked off to kill the inning. I tried to imagine what that would look like in Yankee pinstripes. I tried to imagine how much sympathy he would get from fans in the Bronx for a blunder like that.

Meanwhile, I consoled poor Fiddy, and he drifted off to sleep hugging his teddy bear adorned in his wee-wittle Bobby Abreu jersey. This morning, I got home and watched the ballgame. It was a beautiful new beginning.

Marlins 15, Phillies 2. That’s our Fightin’ Phils.


Anonymous ChuckM said...

Goodbye, thanks, and best wishes to Abreu. He could be an adventure in RF at times but was a majorly productive offensive component who was an asset until the ridiculously backloaded contract ballooned way past any reasonable bang for the buck. I wish it was the other overvalued corner OF
that was packing his bags, but one of these contracts had to be shed. Now that Pat Gillick has plenty of loot on hand to work with, he is warning us not to get our hopes up for 2007 (no major splurge for FA starting pitching) and chatter seems to suggest that this extra $$$ is going to be sank back into scouting and player development. This surely isnt going to sate us winner-starved fans in the short term but this could be a good thing in the long term. Of course, I will be looking for a lot of heads to roll up and down the ladder (starting with the manager and field coaching staff in 2007) and if not, I will presume that the Phillies are going keep running the organization like a country club.

31/7/06 10:50 PM  
Anonymous JG said...

I think I know of this Fiddy. I also believe he has many brothers who feel the same as he does. A bit of Chase Utley memorabilia may cure what ails them and lead them back to reality. If nothing else maybe it'll stop the incessant whining.

I'm of the belief Gillick can put together a much better team for much less than has been spent recently. Let the young arms take their lumps and mature. Bring the young position players up and see what they can do. His stating next year is not the year is absolutely fine and realistic in my view. Instead of perpetuating the fraud ala Wade he's doing things the right way.

1/8/06 3:03 PM  
Anonymous ChuckM said...

jg- I am a bit more skeptical about Gillick due to the horrible job he has done with the stop-gap players he acquired for this season (Dellucci and Flash excepted and Dellucci took forever to kick in and Flash has shown signs of already gassing)...Nunez, Franklin, ASG, Santana, Rhodes, Fasano. These players werent even servicable in a mediocre way, they flat out stunk. But hey, maybe Myers, Hamels and Mathieson will be a core of a serious rotation by 2008 (as opposed to the out-of-shape, oft-injured labor-thru-6 innings starters we have suffered through) and a balanced, properly configured offense assembled around Utley and Howard. But I have to take the glass half empty attitude until Gillick shows me a bit more than he has thus far, and that glass goes full empty if there is not a complete manager/coaching overhaul after this season.

1/8/06 6:15 PM  
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