Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Thing With Feathers

"Hope" is the thing with feathers-- That perches in the soul-- And sings the tune without the words-- And never stops--at all-- Emily Dickinson
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So you had no guarantees, Bronson. You had no written confirmations of your eventual fate. All you had was simple blind hope that they wouldn't, somewhere down the road, find a deal for you which they could not, in good conscience turn down.

You stupid boy. You stupid, stupid, sweet idealistic boy. You should have learned by now, I should have learned by now, that hope has no place in baseball. Well, at least not in contract negotiations.

I knew that. I should have remembered that, but I didn't. I was too wrapped up in the joy of your new contract to care.

And the thing is, I have no one to be mad at for this. It's just free floating anger, with no object on which to pin it. I can't be mad at Wily Mo Pena; I don't want to be. From everything I've heard, this is the guy you trade a little bit of pitching for. The young bit of clay, the mass of talent waiting to molded into a slugging masterpiece. The power is there, the speed is there. The defense isn't, but it could be. The strikeouts are worrisome, and yet a worthy project for a masterful hitting instructor such as Papa Jack. Heck, even the chemistry is partially there a little bit, with the news that Wily idolizes Papi, and Papi reciprocates the warm fuzzies. Everything says, this is a player who could work his way into the hearts and minds of Red Sox Nation.

And thus I can't blame Theo either. I say, we say so much, that we want a GM who will make these types of tough choices, who will not flinch from getting the rotten produce thrown at him when it doesn't work, whose head will not be inflated by the excessive praise when it does. Hypocrisy is one of my most hated sins. So I cannot clamor for the steely-eye gun-slinger, yet change my tune when the crossfire takes down one of my own.

Who's left? Bronson? For what, having faith in human nature? For loving my town as much as I do, for appreciating the energy his fans bring everytime we come to the ball park? For being stupid in exactly the way we want our ballplayers to be, except when we don't?
It's so incredibly amusing to me, that all of this is going down, while only a couple hundred miles to the South, Alfonso Soriano embodies evrerything so completely.. opposite. He's paid several times what Bronson is, and has several times the talent. But he sits there like a goddamn toddler, "I won't go to the outfield, I won't", performing the grownup equivalent of sitting on the floor, threatening to hold his breath until he turns blue.
And here is Bronson, jerked around like a rag-doll, rotation, bullpen, rotation, bullpen, peanut vendor... Yet nothing could break his hope, nothing could kill that thing with feathers within his spirit, the tune went on. He put on his cleats and walked where they pointed him, head held high, like a man. So now he walks west, with that same dignity.

I can't explain, quite exactly, what drew and draws me to him. I have no delusions about him. He was a 5th starter at best, a swingman, with a occasionaly magnificent, usually good breaking ball, and an incredibly inconsistent fastball. He was never ace-level brilliant, though there would occasionally be flashes. The 7 innings of a no-hitter he pitched last May. The time I saw him in Fenway, taking a one hitter into the 8th. The steady hand and contributions he made in the late innings, as a member of the 25.
Maybe it was just something in his presence on the mound. The quiet strength. But he grabbed my fannish heart by the strings, and would not let go, as hard as I might try.
I root for the laundry, not the men. That's just how you survive emotionally being a fan, especially in Boston. But only to a point. There are guys who creep their way in, and it hits you harder than usual when they go. Bronson was one of those.

Bronson, Guns' and Corn, Bron-Bron, Cornroyo. On good days, Bearer of the All Powerful Vegetable Mojo.

See you round, String Bean.