State of the Union, Signs of the Times
July 11, 2002
As your president, in the event that my
chain-letter campaign for the office succeeds, it will be my
constitutional duty from time to time [to] give to the Congress
Information of the State of the Union. This information will
include full reports on the health of the national pastime, and will
specifically feature frequent updates on the progress of the baseball
career of my grandson Joe.
If I were giving my
state of the Union speech today, for example, it would run more or less
My grandson Joseph
Sobran, now 15, is no longer the darling little gerbil who first scrambled
onto a Little League diamond seven years ago. He is now a strapping
170-pounder; last time I remember checking, he weighed about 59 pounds.
He recently hit a home run an estimated 390 feet and is perfecting an
unpredictable and well-nigh unhittable knuckleball.
The prospects for
baseball in general, I regret to report, are less encouraging. Though raw
talent abounds as never before, Major League Baseball seems determined
to rid itself of its remaining fans.
This last Tuesday
night, the commissioner of Major League Baseball outraged fans by
stopping the annual All-Star Game in the eleventh inning, causing it to end
in a frustrating 7-to-7 tie. He gave as his reason that both teams had run
out of pitchers as if this werent one of the possibilities a
manager has to take into account as he makes his decisions throughout the
game. Either you use your pitchers sparingly, or you risk having to put your
shortstop on the mound in the late innings.
The current season
may also be interrupted by another strike leaving another indelible
scar on baseball history. Its not as if we were in an age of
scarcity, with sweatshop owners and workers haggling over the minimum
wage. Players and management alike are millionaires, indifferent to the
unseemly way they are redefining the very character of baseball, not to
mention their contempt for the fans.
Faster-moving sports football, basketball, even soccer
have long been overtaking baseball in popularity. Baseball has
coped by giving undue emphasis to the offensive game, particularly the
home run that attracts and thrills the casual fan. This has meant
increasing the hitters advantage over the pitcher by allowing or
encouraging umpires to shrink the strike zone without the formality of a
change in the rules. As a result, the game is now becoming lawless.
frequency of home runs, however appealing to the casual fan who cares
only for high scores and spectacular displays of hitting power, has
devalued the subtler skills of pitching, fielding, bunting, and base-running
that fascinate the serious fan. Witness the rise of that unspeakably vulgar
contest, the Home Run Derby, which, if present trends continue, will
replace nine-inning games altogether. Who needs subtlety?
The huge profits
accruing to the home run have spawned another evil: players are now using
illegal and dangerous drugs steroids to increase their size
and strength. By some estimates, half of all Major League players, as well
as many college and even high-school players, are currently taking
steroids. This puts all other players under pressure to use steroids too, or
risk being literally dwarfed by the competition. The players are already
starting to look like freaks with bulging arms and heads.
It also means that
baseballs most venerable records its statistics are
being devalued too. New, steroid-enhanced records are being set. Is this
fair to the great players of the past, who achieved their records without
chemical assistance? Should the new marks carry asterisks, signifying
that they were set in the steroid era?
Finally, the body of the
late Ted Williams has been cryogenically frozen by order of his son, who
has hitherto been content to sell his fathers autographs. Relatives
charge that the son plans to sell his fathers DNA, possibly with a
view to future cloning.
development is not the fault of Major League Baseball, but it is
nevertheless a disturbing sign of the times. If modern science can find a
way to fuse Ted Williamss DNA with steroids, then a generation
from now, instead of baseball as we have known it, we may see countless
seven-foot, hypermuscular Ted Williamses competing in endless Home Run
A lot of good Joe
Sobrans knuckleball will do him then!