Thursday, January 27, 2005

Let's think about this...

On a slow news day when nothing much is going on besides the ubiquitous speculation about whether the Mets or Orioles will actually bite on a Sosa trade (well, that and the news of some dude who allegedly blasted his kid with a stun gun) - perhaps it's time for some creative speculation about who smashed Sosa's boom box on the last day of the season.

Since it seems improbable that Sosa will be anywhere else next year (and since a bald appeal to the the second law of thermodynamics isn't likely to work), the players will undoubtedly need some sort of explanation as to how Sosa's salsa-spewing machine ended up in a hundred different pieces on the locker room floor - and it would probably be a good idea if they all had their stories straight by the time Spring Training starts.

Now who actually performed the cosmetic rearrangement of Sosa's boom box is somewhat irrelevant. Team chemistry demands a harmonious clubhouse, and so if that means this affair needs to be pinned on a scapegoat - fine. Baseball players have never been able to plausibly serve as ethical exemplars, and so this shouldn't be a problem for any player not named Barrett. As I see it, there's at least 4 candidates who fit the bill:

Moises Alou: In favor of Alou is the fact that the man is obviously not right mentally, a truth that is punctuated by the well-known fact that Alou often mistakes his hands for a urinal. Additionally, he is clearly emotionally unstable as evidenced by his disturbing collapse in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS (of course all of us experienced something of an emotional collapse after that game).

The problem with Alou, however, is the low believability factor. Sosa and Alou are close friends. In fact, Sosa might already know who actually smashed the box as a result. On the other hand, we can't worry about this possibility. Sosa wasn't there and so unless this incident was captured on tape AND the tape hasn't already suffered the same fate as the boombox - it's always going to end in a "he-said/he-said" stalemate. The actual offender only needs to understand something used with great effect in the legal world: plausible deniability. I often am amazed at the simple but effective utility of the following words: "It wasn't me." What more can you do after that? Couple that with a plausible scapegoat and you're as good as gold.

Matt Clement: In favor of Clement is his demonstrably erratic behavior. At times he would appear with the goatee and other times sans goatee. It could just be me, but this clearly is not the conduct of a stable man. It's also quite possible that he was upset that the lack of run support last year would relegate him to the second tier of available free agent pitchers and so he decided to pay back Sosa in a fitting way. Sosa's bat funked him, and so perhaps Clement used Sosa's bat to return the favor. The problem with Clement is that he's a pretty even keel guy and so even Sosa might not fall for this one.

Steve Bartman: Why not? Until the Cubs actually win a world series, Bartman (as sad as this is) remains a living tribute to the utility of a scapegoat - especially for a franchise that's experienced this degree of futility for this long. Isn't it possible that Bartman, realizing that his final vindication rests squarely on the ultimate success of the Cubs, erupted in a fit of rage on the last game of the season? If Sosa shows up in Spring Training and there's a Walkman with headsets and a black "Renegades" sweatshirt sitting in his locker, he'll get the message.

Mark Grudzielanek: Grudzielanek seems to fit the bill as well as anybody. It was a frustrating year for Mark. After an excellent season the year before, he had to deal with the twin frustrations of 1) the presence of Todd Walker, and 2) an Achilles injury that forced him to get off to a late start. Additionally (and unlike Clement and Bartman), he actually knows how to use a bat. Add to this the fact that he has a volatile personality and now plays for the Cubs chief divisional rival and you've got a perfectly viable candidate.

Now what you'll note about all of these candidates is that they all have something in common that makes each of them especially attractive - none of them are around to defend themselves. As the late CIA Director Bill Casey illustrates so well, a person's absence only increases his or her value as a scapegoat. It's unfortunate to say, but this thing has got to be pinned on someone who's no longer with the team.

Therefore, in my opinion, Mark Grudzielanek is your best candidate. Not only is he no longer around to present any kind of defense, but (as noted) he is now a player for the cursed Cardinals. I suggest the team pin a picture of Grudzielanek on the wall in Cardinals red and tape pieces of the boom box to it. What better than to have Sammy come out like a raging bull every time the Cubs play the Cardinals?

In any event, the team better come up with something, and fast, because it looks like Sammy's going to be around next year. I'd rather he be a happy camper because the Cubs are going to need him to produce better than he did last year if there's to be any chance of the postseason.