September 22, 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 is Vince Grzegorek, our princely Polish pal from Scene Magazine. He had been looking forward to taking Drew Pomeranz(notes) and Alex White(notes) out for hamburgers and duck fat fries.
Well, well. Here we are. I would congratulate you on being on time, but you're not -- I expected you in June, but whatever. It is now mid-September, and you have exactly six months to think about why you are here -- to ponder the error of your ways.
Who stabbed Travis Hafner(notes) with the protractor? We'll start there. And why did you stab him three times? Just mean-spirited. And who thought it'd be funny to give Shin-Soo Choo(notes) that flask and then dare him to jump the Cuyahoga River in the driver's ed car? This list just goes on and on, gentlemen. Slamming Michael Brantley's(notes) wrist in his locker? Hanging Josh Tomlin(notes) from the goalposts by one arm? Throwing Jason Kipnis(notes) down the stairs?
Another note; team and school unity are not shown by telling Grady Sizemore(notes) that Janie is a huge fan of Evel Knievel and would totally go to homecoming with him if he could just break Knievel's record for most injuries sustained in a calendar year. She was going with Miguel Cabrera(notes) all along. Even I knew that. And now Grady's mom has to bring tea to him in bed every morning. No one wins there. The saddest part, fellas, is that he's fallen for that line each of the last three years.
I had hopes for you guys. I thought maybe you were ready to move on from St. Cleveland's School of Perpetual Sorrow next year, that you'd like to join your friends in regular schools, but the fact that you're here again worries me. Maybe you're not ready.
The Punishable Offenses: In May, your principal, Mr. Chris Antonetti, started making plans. He was already contacting other schools bragging you guys up. And when he gave tours to other troubled, lost souls, he would tell them that this is the class that would make a leap even though most of your parents have already written you off as lifelong failures who would amount to nothing more than paint-huffers who play video games in the basement.
"The consensus outside the organization was maybe they were a year or two away. But Chris was adamant: 'Absolutely not. You can make your decision here, there or wherever, but this team's going to be better than everybody thinks.'"
That's right, Chad. And Assistant Principal Mike Chernoff was on the same page. He told a reporter from the local newspaper that, "When you looked at our team in the spring, we had a lot of young players. We knew we had talent, but young talent is uncertain and volatile. We knew we had talent on the Major League roster and at the other levels of our farm system. We just didn't know how quickly they would proceed. We knew that if everything broke right, we could contend."
Everything broke, all right. All of your bones, ligaments, and Fausto, apparently every fiber of your ability. We can't do this every year, or you guys will be at this school and this detention hall forever. But you can't make excuses, you brought this on yourself.
Matt LaPorta(notes): You don't even belong here. There's a middle school up the road with your name on it. Your grades -- .290/.405/.695 -- are embarrassing, especially after you promised to get at least a 3.0 GPA this year.
Fausto Carmona(notes): That you can go one week with superb behavior only the next week to punch the lunch lady in the stomach and rub her face in a vat of mashed potatoes is befuddling. It's about time for both you and me to decide which one of those Faustos you are.
Same goes for you, Travis and Grady. You are basically seventh-year seniors at this point, and this school has spent a small country's GDP on personal tutoring, extra help, counselors, and teaching tools for you two, all at the expense of improving the environment for any other student. You're supposed to be, at the very least, examples for these underclassmen to emulate. So far, you've shown them how to look up the skirt of the hot English teacher and nothing else. And you always managed to tweak a muscle in your neck while doing so.
Shin-Soo Choo: Please remember that alcohol is strictly forbidden on school property, but for the most part you've been a glowing student here. It's unfortunate that you got hurt trying to break up that fight in the cafeteria.
Partners In Crime: We didn't mean to brag you up too much earlier this year when you behaved 30 of the first 45 days. It wasn't our intention to set you up for a fall, but people like a good story of redemption and surprise, and so parent-teacher conferences had record attendance and local TV crews came in for interviews. We didn't mean to put too much pressure on you, especially because we knew that it was really next year when the breakthroughs would come.
Since that stretch of 45 days, you've had your share of problems with fighting. Listen, it's an all-guys school, testosterone rages, we understand that you'll get hurt every once in awhile on the playground. But we didn't think that our entire starting outfield, DH, transfer student at second base, and one of our most reliable pitchers would all get hurt. That's an untenable situation. As is procrastinating and turning your homework in at the very last second, something you did quite often during those impressive first seven weeks.
Left with the island of misfit students -- Fukudome, Carrera, Duncan, Phelps, Donald, Kearns, Thome, Buck, Valbuena, Head -- as our "prize" students, you can understand how that made the school look, especially when neighbors look just up the street and see the St. Detroit School of Mashing and Pitching.
We weren't surprised that you lost every game against them. And we weren't surprised when that dropped you from 1.5 games back to over nine games back in just 20 days. We were surprised you were that close to begin with, but we also saw warning signs from a mile away that you weren't ready. Mainly, that you stayed up the whole previous night in the hotel watching Cinemax and eating ice cream.
And yes, I know that the company that owns this building refuses to upgrade the air conditioning, hasn't replaced the windows since 1999, and sometimes forgets to pay the electricity bill, but those are things we can't change. We might get a new fan here or there, but a new HVAC unit is probably out of the question.
And we know that this class' test scores are not the greatest yet. We've always believed that we shouldn't teach the test, that helping you grow individually, from K-12, was the best way to build something. But you know what? You can't always do that. Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) over there was brought in to help raise this class' average. Hopefully with a summer of tutoring, his scores can top out near 100 and bring up our mean score.
Which isn't to say that we're done bringing in ringers. We actually need one or two more if we're really going to show the people something. If we can land a transfer student or two with top-notch test scores, things might start looking very promising around here. If those guys happen to also play first base or pitch in their spare time, that'd be a bonus, too.
Something to Build On: There's plenty to be hopeful about, no matter how pessimistic we try to be. Carlos Santana(notes)? You, my friend, have been my rock. Asdrubal Cabrera(notes)? You continue to grow as a student and a person, and now I don't even have to worry about you. I know you're doing your work. Justin Masterson? You're my ace in the hole, which is not what I would have guessed. That whole group sitting in the back there -- Chris Perez(notes), Vinnie Pestano(notes), Joe Smith(notes), Rafael Perez(notes), Tony Sipp(notes) -- I could not have higher praise for you. With all the trouble around you, and there was plenty, you stayed out of it, and I'm really proud of you.
Michael Brantley? It is so rare in this school for a kid to show signs that he's reaching his promise. Usually it's the other way around. Regression, more trips to come see me, a visit from the police department -- that's what we're used to here. The fact that you promised to make strides and then actually did so is a welcome surprise. Matty LaPorta over there promised to make strides too, but as I mentioned, he's on the verge of being pushed back a grade.
Lou Marson(notes), Duncan, Hannahan, Donald, Fukudome -- I might have been a little harsh before. Let me clarify. Not everyone can get A's. That's OK. We just can't have you representing the highest grades in the class. However, we need guys who won't get F's, and that's where you come in. Solid C's and B's are fine from you, and you've shown to be reliable if not unspectacular in that regard. We're going to need you.
Tomlin. Your perfect attendance record is to be commended.
Kipnis, you are the perfect lead-in to my last bit of positivity. As a whole, you guys are some of the youngest in this division. Your average age is well below that of other schools, and that's reason to hope that your best times are still ahead of you. But being young and having promise is one thing. Making good on that promise is another.
Shape Up or Ship Out: You aren't there yet, but my last nerve is coming up soon on the horizon. It's not entirely your fault, but you're going to have to deal with it.
Ubaldo. You bet your butt that I expect you to go all Masterson in the offseason and come back here throwing darts, because we turned down two other highly touted students to bring you here. Kipnis, you take a good long look at Brantley, because the jump he made after his first season here is the exact sort of progress I want to see out of you. And Brantley, don't think you're done yet either. You take a look at Santana and Cabrera. I need you. Grady, Hafner. This might just be your last chance at this school. Fausto, you too. Tomlin. It takes more than one good year to impress me. Choo. We'll put the little flask incident behind us for now, but I want to see the Choo of two years ago, pronto.
Listen, guys, next year might not only be your best chance, it might be your last.
And look at me. I know. I'm dripping in sweat. This stupid air conditioning. I swear, I've had it up to here with this crap. If they don't get me at least a new fan next year, I'm going to march out those doors and head down to Cabo and start my retirement. I'll do it. I swear. I don't need this. I deserve better. I'm not going to waste the prime years of my life sitting in this boiling room watching you guys screw around.
You know what? I've made a decision. This is the the last time, Tribe. It's the last time you ever make me look bad in front of these people, you hear me? I make $31,000 a year and I have a home and I'm not about to throw my piddly little salary and time away on a punk like you unless you improve. If that doesn't happen, someday when you're outta here and you've forgotten all about me and this place and the rest of the fans and they've forgotten about you, and you're wrapped up in your own pathetic little life, I'm gonna be there. That's right. And I'm gonna kick the living crap out of you.
Then go to Cabo and forget all about this place and let these principals brag you up to a new sucker.
Read more of Big League Stew's Detention Lecture series here