Feesh fans – dozens of us – awakened this morning with that same old same old concavity in our puppicks with which we’ve roused ourselves since 2009. After a 3-7 start, our Rainbow Warriors look headed down the same sluice in spacetime along which they’ve chased the strange attractor, to their ultimate futility, for seven years. As if to acknowledge the fact, Jar Jar Baseball said, during his postmortem press conference as his neotenic wonders were swept by the hapless Barves to go 0-5 at home this season, “I don’t want us to get caught in a trap of like, ‘Same old thing….We’ve just got to continue to get better.” As far as why they’ve come shambling out of the gate like some mutants lost and adrift on the planet Anareta, Jar Jar was acute in his analysis:
“The reason our record isn’t better is because we haven’t done enough to win.”
I hate to keep beating a dead horse – maggots enqueasen me – but back during spring indoctrination, when Jar Jar announced his no-facial-hair-policy, I pretty much knew how the season was going to exfoliate. It wasn’t that I thought a bunch of supposedly grown men would respond negatively to being Mickey Moused that way –
rather, it was that anyone could be dense and atavistic enough to suppose that Mickey held the answer to esprit de corpse or that imposing this silly regimen on the team would enhance its on-field performance.
Through those seven years the Feesh drag their legacy of failure like a non-prehensile tail (I mean, even dinosaurs don’t drag their tails anymore). The team has failed to finish at .500 during that entire time. In the same interim, Scrooge McLoria has gifted us a bounty of managers – ten, to be precise – out of pique, frustration and – hell Leo, I ain’t afwraid to use da woid – incompetence. On a few occasions, he’s blown open his money vault to sign or extend players, some (Christian Yelich, the Iron Giant) justifiably, but most apparently to loosen dandruff; we still scratch our heads over $18mm for Black Hole Buck, for example, and of course if you throw in Heath Bar Bell, Saltalamacchia or Michael Morse, the list becomes even odder. And he keeps giving three year contracts and extensions to managers he doesn’t keep for more than a season and a half, then – as in the recent case with the Meerkat – tries to weasel out of paying them by claiming their new jobs aren’t paying them enough. The MLB arbitrators treated that one with the contempt it deserved, and quickly, too.
Last season, the Feesh organization – I’m still looking for a term out of complex dynamics or chaos theory for a more appropriate description of the franchise – plunged to new depths of absurdity, firing a pretty good manager in Mike Redmond and replacing him with General Manager Dan Jennings, largely because Scrooge McLoria held the Meerkat responsible for the team on the field. When after faltering for much of the season the Meerkat’s Feesh put up one of the best records in the majors from mid-August through September, Scrooge fired him anyway in his rush to salvage Jar Jar from the ongoing purge in Tinseltown. Scrooge, we are told, grew up a Borg fan and the erstwhile manager of the Dodgers was the idol of his superannuated Young Republican adolescence.
That and, one deduces, the Feesh owner’s continuing frustration with the refusal of the universe to conform to his expectations that an incoherently constructed team, alternating purchases from the MLB’s answer to the Goodwill Superstore and Tiffany blowouts, could triumph over teams constructed on intelligent balancing and thoughtful investment. As Judge Holden explained it to the nameless protagonist of Blood Meridian, “That man there? See him….You know his opinion of the world. You can read it in his face, in his stance….”
“….Yet his complaint that a man’s life is no bargain masks the actual case with him. Which is that men will not do as he wishes them to. Have never done, never will do. That’s the way of things with him and his life is so balked about by difficulty and become so altered of its intended architecture that he is little more than a walking hovel hardly fit to house the human spirit at all.”
So, we have entered upon the eighth year of Scrooge McLoria’s failure to enforce his will upon the baseball universe, much to the delight of the Old Ones who created life on Earth, and with it baseball, as a joke. But what can we deduce from the strange behavior of arguably the worst owner in the game? Right now his Feesh are riding a thirteen year schneid of October vacations. He continues to do the same stupid things that have perpetuated it. He continues to behave erratically. And, perhaps most ominously, he continues to disappear from the key limelight as his factotums occupy the foreground he used to command with such oleaginous arrogance.
A couple of years ago, jolted by the combined failure of his team to perform well, local anger at revelations of what his grotesque monument of a ballpark was really going to cost the community, the voter revolt that recalled and dumped by an alltime record majority the mayor who approved the stadium boondoggle , and his second consecutive teardown of his team, Scrooge went into what was described as a self-imposed exile from the area. Sentiment in Macondo was so virulent that it wouldn’t surprise me if he had been advised that he might be in physical danger if he got recognized in a crowd here. But perhaps, given his increasing erratic behavior – and this is purely speculative; I haven’t had a look at Scrooge’s dendrites or corpus collosum in some time and so haven’t spotted the accretion of calcium or lipid plaque on this tracts – the 75-and-change-year-old owner of the Feesh is, as they say, losing it.
And if he is, what is there to be done? Do the Chihuahua and his henchmen keep Scrooge out of sight like some cross between Rochester’s wife and Wilbur Whateley’s brother, exacting oddball proclamations about who to hire, fire, draft or trade? Again, this is all speculative but, having shepherded a parent through the awful declining years of dementia, I can’t help but draw analogies between the way Scrooge has been running this team and the way I’ve seen others mismanage their affairs in that twilight zone between relative normalcy and the unmistakable implosion into dementia. The closest we can come to asking this about a major franchisee would be the case of Donald Sterling, former owner of the LA Clippers, who was held incompetent by a judge who appointed his wife as his supervisor. The NBA stripped him of his ownership of the franchise, the only one coming readily to mind as being quite so blighted as the Feesh. However, Sterling was disenfranchised after a series of his racist remarks were recorded by his ex-mistress and went viral. In effect, he was kicked to the curb not because of his failing acuity and poor administration but because the NBA deemed his ownership bad publicity.
To be fair, there are other plausible explanations for Scrooge’s behavior just as there are for his withdrawal into the public relations shadows. He wound up owning the Feesh in 2003 as a reward for enabling the relocation of the Expos to Washington. He was also credited with freeing John Henry to buy the Red Sox after several years of banging his head against corrupt Macondo politicians in his efforts to get a publicly funded stadium for the team. In the process, he stumbled into a Dave Dombrowski created roster that, with a few minor adjustments by Larry Beinfest (who ultimately became another one of his executive guillotinings) like the addition of Pudge Rodriguez, won it all that year. Of course, the franchise hasn’t sniffed the postseason since. As the last remnants of Dombrowski’s craftsmanship faded from the scene, the Feesh have slipped further and further away from contention. One can appreciate how Scrooge credited himself with that initial success, and that kind of self-delusion can breed frustration. Unfortunately, such resounding early success can also mask administrative incompetence under layers of benefits of the doubt for a long time. Scrooge’s behavior might just as easily be explained by lousy judgment. As Bozo’s Deviant to Occam’s Razor states, when stupidity is available as one explanation among several for why things go wrong, it is usually the correct one.
As Chief O’Doole noted in Miller’s Crossing, I’m only speculatin’ on a hypothesis. But still.