Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Get on the funk train

Former Phillie/Cub/Ranger Doug Glanville has an Op-Ed in the New York Times about baseball and the fear of getting old. I would have liked to include it over on Philebrity, but it has nothing to do with my column this week.

Glanville is Penn-educated, and he was always the locker room go-to-guy for a quote- mostly because he understood how to speak without using cliches. Reporters loved the fact that he was intelligent enough to comment on the game using some second-order thinking. Baseball players, for all their folklorish glorification, are high school educated at best, even the "college" educated ones. Most Latin players have less. Furthermore, most of these guys are the jock assholes who had kids like YOU doing their homework that whole time anyway. I always kind of imagined baseball writers looking at pencil-neck, .250-hitting Glanville as "one of us."

Anyway, his Op-Ed piece isn't exactly profound, but it's the best first-person insight we're going to get into the mind of an aging ballplayer in the steroid era. Everything else we read about that time (and trust me, there will be a zillion books when Sosa et al retire), is going to be a dry "as-told-to" book. Here's the meat of it:
I retired at the ripe old age of 34 following a season of sunflower seeds and only 162 at-bats. I had been a starter the year before. In this game, change happens fast.

Human nature wants to put the brakes on that rate of change. While your clock is ticking, faster, stronger and younger players are setting up their lockers next to yours. They usually have better sound bites and lower salaries, too. In 1998, I was the new kid in Philadelphia, battling Lenny Dysktra for the center field job. Five years later, I was mentoring another new kid, Marlon Byrd, so he could replace me. Faced with that rate of career atrophy, players are capable of rash, self-serving and often irresponsible decisions. Enter steroids.

There is a tipping point in a player’s career where he goes from chasing the dream to running from a nightmare. At that point, ambition is replaced with anxiety, passion is replaced with survival. It is a downhill run and it spares no one.
Read the whole thing here.

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