September 19, 2011
As the regular season winds down, 22 teams are facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategery.
But we're not going to let them get off that easy. No sir. No way. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're giving a blogger from each team the opportunity to detain their squads for the equivalent of a Saturday morning detention stay.
Up next in our series are Jason Fry and Greg Prince of the great Faith and Fear in Flushing. They're planning on buying a minority share of the team if they sell enough copies of their books (Greg's here, Jason's here) so help pad their pockets.
The rules stipulate that you have to stay after class.
Don't make that face at me — I don't like the idea of spending extra time with you any better than you do with me. I would have been just as happy to have declared recess in August and locked the doors behind you. But the school district had other ideas.
Because our district still has "social promotion," you will all be graduating to 2012, even though I don't necessarily think you're ready. Then again, I wouldn't want to be the teacher who has to watch you repeat the second half of 2011.
If I sound angry, it's anger born of disappointment. You led me to believe you were capable of doing better work. You didn't test well for "skills," yet you showed a real eagerness to learn for a while. There was a time during our school year when it wasn't a matter of making you stay late. We had to have the groundskeeper let you in early — THAT'S how eager you were to educate yourselves.
What you don't seem to understand is this school year lasts 162 games, yet you mentally dropped out with a third to go. Quick — can anyone here tell me what a third of 162 is?
The correct answer is you don't appear to have learned very much or retained much of what I thought you learned from April to July.
Staying Healthy: Why did so many of you have to bring me doctor's notes? This is a chronic condition where my classes are concerned. I've had all my inoculations. Have you? You're all missing far too many classes.
Before I came in here, I looked through my attendance book and couldn't believe some of things I saw. Ike Davis — last attended class on May 10. Daniel Murphy — absent since Aug. 7. Jonathon Niese — hasn't been here since Aug. 23. Same with Scott Hairston. Chris Young only attended class four times. David Wright — missed two months of schoolwork. Jose Reyes — a two-week absence and then a three-week one. And Johan Santana? I haven't seen him all year. That's too many empty chairs.
Staying Focused: Just because you have a poor start to your school day, it doesn't mean you can't have a good finish. On the other hand, I'd like to see better starts out of all of you. When you make a habit of falling behind on your schoolwork, you have to realize it's not easy to catch up.
April was a mess — there was that stretch in which it either rained or we lost, and at 5-13 I figured I'd be flunking you guys left and right. But you pulled together. You helped each other. For 3 1/2 months there, we had good results but we also had something more. Those administrators who are trying to help us understand these newfangled test scores don't like it when I talk about this, but it felt like we had school spirit.
Let me remind you of where we were at the end of July. We'd just taken four straight from the Cincinnati Reds despite Beltran's transfer out of the district, and some of you were even talking about a special October field trip. But since then, it's been a mess. Starting the month of August with a 5-15 record is not the way to the honor roll, and that 1-8 homestand really had us at our wits' end in the teachers lounge. The Nats and Cubs, really? Those are remedial schools, gentlemen. We thought you were better than that.
Partners in crime: I know, I know. Everything went right for our rival school — the one with the maroon uniforms and the green mascot and that Hawaiian kid we all hate. I know you're all tired of the uncertainty about the budget — I hear the rumors too, the talk that there's so little money that we'll barely get new uniforms next year. And I know you guys complain about some of the facilities here. (We're looking at some changes to the physical plant.)
And yes, I know those doctor's notes were real: Johan didn't want to spend the whole year at the St. Lucie Academy for Medical Studies, and we were all shocked when Ike had to miss the rest of the year after that weird misstep on our field trip to Denver.
Heck, there was even that craziness about the dress code a couple of weeks back. You had to answer tons of questions about all that even though none of it was your fault.
But gentlemen, everybody has stuff that doesn't go the way they want it too. You deal with it, and hopefully you rise above it. At the end of July you were doing just that, and I was so proud of the great job you were doing. That's why I'm so disappointed to see you all here. I thought you were better than blowing off the last two months.
Something to build on: Don't get me wrong. A lot of you guys can hold your heads up. I don't want the rest of you to copy off anybody's paper, of course, but a handful of your classmates have performed exceptionally well. You need to see what they're doing and try it for yourself.
Lucas, you seem like you've come to believe what I and your other teachers kept telling you: You belong here, and you can do this. I'm proud of you, and think you could go right to the head of the class next year.
Ruben, you've held your own really well despite having skipped a lot of grades and being one of the youngest guys here. There will be a spot for you next year.
Justin, you became one of the most popular kids in school by trying your hardest and succeeding when we really needed you.
Murph, you had a terrific year we were just sorry to see end too soon.
R.A., you would have had higher grades on a lot of projects if your classmates hadn't let you down. And you're probably the most rounded student in the whole grade — we've consistently enjoyed your extracurriculars, even if your new mountain-climbing hobby makes us a bit nervous.
Jose, you're a delight when you're not at the nurse with something or other. We're still hoping you can get named district valedictorian — you know we've never had one of those?
And I think we've all been fortunate to have a solid new principal in Mr. Collins. Until recently you seemed really motivated by his pep talks.
But as I said, you seemed to think graduation day came about 50 days early. And gentlemen, that undid a lot of the fine work you'd turned in.
Shape up or ship out — That's the final thing on the board here. When we meet again next spring, some of you won't be here. Mike and Angel, we have to wonder what you guys are thinking out there sometimes — you're your own worst enemies, and frankly some of us are wondering if this is the right situation for you. Bobby, we've tried to be patient, but we're tired of seeing you with your head down after something else has gone wrong. David, we want you to get back to being that precocious student you were a couple of years back — it feels like your approach has changed, like it's all or nothing. And Jason, we know how hard you work, but we really need you to be that new kid from the Boston school whose transcripts had us all so excited.
Before we're back together, you guys are going to hear a lot of talk about school budgets, about remodeling, about whether or not Jose will still be our star student. Those things are out of your control, though. We need you to be the best students you can be: attentive to your lessons, disciplined, and focused on understanding what you don't know and figuring out how to learn it.
Look, people make a lot of cracks about our school — particularly the jerks in that fancy-pants private school uptown where nobody's allowed to have any fun. But next time you look at the trophy case by the principal's office, don't think about the fact that the awards are old, and frankly a little dusty. Think about the fact that we have space in there. We want you guys to be the ones to fill that space up. When we reconvene in February, make us proud.
Read more of Big League Stew's 2011 Detention Lecture series here.