THE WIMPINESS AWARD
"Yeah, Coach, it STARTED OUT
as a cut I got from my locker door,
but then it really got seriously
Whatever happened to playing through the pain?
By MAURY ALLEN
I always won the attendance award in grade school.
I wasnt the smartest kid in class or the tallest or the best athlete or the most handsome or the funniest or the best singer. As far as singing in the school chorus, I was known as a listener.
What I could always do was show up.
Woody Allen once wrote that showing up was 95 per cent of life. I had that part of my persona down pat. Not even a broken finger suffered in a sled accident or a concussion suffered in a stickball accident when I was 12 kept me from school.
Neither rain nor snow, nor darkness of days kept me from school. My parents had a small business they ran together. They left for work at 8 in the morning. We left together. I was a latch key kid before we had latches. I could drop my school books on my porch and play in the nearest neighborhood lot until dusk. By then one of my parents would be home.
I could have my milk and cookies then, do my homework, listen to my favorite radio programs (Yes, Virginia, there were radios then), play with my model planes or stamp collection, eat dinner with my folks and older brother, read a newspaper my father brought home from work, go to bed and prepare for the next day.
What does all of this have to do with the 2009 version of the New York Mets?
They arent showing up for work.
The latest to go down for the count was All Star third baseman David Wright who took a pitch on the cocoanut and is now resting comfortably on the Mets disabled list.
Despite a huge payroll and the acquisition of some great free agent stars, the Mets are out of the race. The team they put on the field for the September finish would have trouble winning a Triple A title.
In the past two seasons they blew pennant leads in the last could of weeks and were maligned for choking. This year they can be attacked for not showing up.
The injuries, maybe unavoidable, have happened to their best, middle and worst players, including first baseman Carlos Delgado, All Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, team table setter Jose Reyes, free agent pitcher J.J. Putz, veteran Tim Redding and reliever Billy Wagner, a carryover cripple from last year.
Now Wright, through no fault of his own, is out, at least, until early September and maybe beyond. Maybe the full impact of a concussion wont be known until he faces fastball pitching again.
A future Hall of Famer with the Brooklyn Dodgers named Joe Medwick never was the devastating, aggressive hitter he had been after a beaning in the early 1940s. Few of them ever are again.
Most of todays star players have contracts guaranteeing them millions of dollars for four, five, six or more years. There is no rush to get back in the lineup after serious or even minor injuries.
Another famous Hall of Famer named Dizzy Dean rushed back after an All Star game injury to his foot, damaged his arm and had his career ended early. Of course he got into broadcasting and made famous the line, after some grammatical criticism, That a lot of people who aint saying aint, aint eating.
This is not to say the Mets are the wimpiest of teams. Thats just the way baseball and all sports seem to go these days. Get injured and take time off. Rehab in Florida. Play against minor league teams.
It just seems to be showing up more around the Mets than around any other team because of the blown pennants in recent years with nobody to blame. This year they can blame the injuries to their stars and soak the fans for those expensive seats again at Citi Field next year.
In another time players played through injuries because they had one year contracts, the competition for jobs was brutal and macho mania was part of the scene.
The Yankees of 1949 won the American league pennant under rookie manager Casey Stengel despite something like 79 major injuries during the year, especially the heel injury to Joe DiMaggio. He sat out the season until a June series against the Red Sox, destroyed them in four games and led the Yankees to a title. Of course, he had to play the last two games of the year with walking pneumonia.
The Mets last won a World Series 23 years ago. It is hard to imagine them winning another with their new history of chokiness and wimpiness.
©2009 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The illustration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA. This column first posted Aug. 24, 2009.
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