Like Barry Bonds, Baseball Widow hasn't retired; she's just not playing.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Signs of the Times

The Braves are on FSN. Baseball Baby is sporting his Braves bib. Baseball Hubby is passed out on the couch, too exhausted by his duties as primary caregiver to watch his beloved team. Baseball Widow, who for once isn't being forced into a baseball discussion by an obsessed husband, is pondering the retirement of Andres Gallaraga, whose homeruns number "only" 399. . .These are signs that the world is changing.

The first comments I've heard seem to be "What a shame!" My question is, "What's the shame?" Is there shame in choosing to end a career when the career's productivity is over, rather than hanging around for a number's sake? Surely not. Is there shame in the fact that 399 homeruns is not good enough for the Hall? Maybe--to the extent that Hall voters tend to focus on benchmarks rather than actual off-bench performance. Of course, 400 homers is increasingly less impressive, so I'm not sure that we'll continue to talk about 399 as "a shame." It's possible that some people feel the homerun era is a "shame," because they prefer a prior era of the game. Or, some people might view the homerun era as a shame because they feel it's a scam brought on by the abuse of steroids. Or maybe people just want something to cluck about.

It's amazing the number of people who have definitive opinions on the shame that is baseball in America. Baseball Widow and Hubby were listening to "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" the other day (for those of you not in the know, it's a public radio news quiz show, and it's fabulous). One of the contestants was asked about the author of a recent baseball memoir. The contestant responded, "I'm not a baseball fan, so I don't really know." Upon being prompted, the contestant remembered that Barry Bonds had recently been in the news. (Yeah, that's an understatement.) When the topic of asterisking baseball records came up, the contestant responded that, rather than an asterisk, there should be an eraser. Gee, for someone who isn't a baseball fan and doesn't follow baseball, you sure have an opinion. Bet there's something else you and everyone else have one of, too. . .

As far as Baseball Widow is concerned, there's not nearly as much shame in baseball these days as people like to think there is. It's not a shame that some people used drugs, and it's not a shame that stand-up guys like Gallaraga retire when they think they're ready to (to retire, that is. I just couldn't leave that preposition hanging there, naked.). It's only a shame that some people are ready to write off a centuries-old sport because of the latest scandal. Hey, we've been through gambling and we've been through drugs before. We've still got scandals to dish about, too. Collusion is a much bigger deal than anyone has ever fully appreciated. It's just a shame that no one in the media seems interested in talking about baseball, the game, this year.

Well, baseball is still being played, and played well. And the fans, at least, are paying attention, if Spring Training attendance is any indication. Now, of course, the only shame is that Baseball Widow and family aren't in Florida right now.

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