Sunday’s Designated Hitter column was actually mostly written right around August, but I decided against finishing it or publishing it.
But after seeing Manny Ramirez go from dogging it and faking an injury — two of them if you count the fact he forgot which knee was supposed to hurt — only to hustle his butt off and hit everything for two months for the Dodgers, well, I got mad.
And then I thought about all the people who have lost their jobs over the last year as our economy continues to sink lower and lower, and I got even angrier. To think, this guy and his agent loafed out of Boston because $20 million the next two seasons wasn’t enough.
Here’s Sunday’s column:
You work hard — for this?
It’s hard sometimes.
You wake up. Go to work. Work hard. Go home. Dinner maybe, unless you got home late. Probably ate at your desk then.
You ask your wife about her day. Watch a little TV. Go to sleep.
Do it all over again. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
Is it fulfilling? Sure, on some days. Most, even. Other days you just try to get through. Grind along with the daily grind so you can get home for the things you enjoy. The wife. The kids. The dog.
And the games.
Yeah, you like sports. You know them. Follow them. Understand them.
Sometimes, even, live through them.
You watch sports. Then you read about them the next morning in the paper. You listen to them. Listen to other people talk about them on the radio on the way to work. Then you work hard, waiting, wanting, and yes, working, to get back home. And, after the nightly rituals are done, you save a little time for them.
Vicious cycle? Not really. More like a rhythm. It’s what you do. It’s what you enjoy.
Of course, you don’t always enjoy work. Who does? But that’s still what you do. Part of being a professional.
Sports are the same, though. They aren’t always enjoyable. Not when the kicker misses or the closer blows the save.
But you go back to them. Just like you go back to work.
See, it is hard. Both can be hard. But both can be rewarding.
You need both. Without work, you have no sense of purpose. The good days make up for the bad ones. And you would have no means by which to own that cable TV package or pay for the tickets to the occasional game. Work gets you to sports.
You work hard, and the kids will see it. They may not always notice it, or understand it, or maybe even believe it. But they will respect it. Sure they will. It will come. They will know that what you did, what you sacrificed, provided for them. That realization may not come tomorrow, or the next day. But through the culmination of days, it will emerge. And they will thank you for it. Eventually.
Because you will pass it down to them. Not knowingly. But it will happen. That drive will become a part of them.
And there it is again. Sports and work. Sports can be the same conduit. Maybe you help coach the kids. Even if you don’t, you’re there for the practices, the games, the postseason cookouts. You play in the yard, in the driveway.
One day they’ll beat you at one-on-one, and it won’t be because you let them.
And they will know that. And they will remember that day for the rest of their lives, just like they remember the first big-league baseball game you took them to. The hat you bought them. On that day, they’ll cherish the hat. Many years later, they’ll cherish the memory.
That’s why you keep doing it. For your lovely wife, who you know, deep down, you don’t deserve. For your children, who give your life meaning.
Funny how it’s all intertwined. Work, then play. Play, then more work.
It’s an OK deal. Think hard about it, and you realize that it’s really pretty good.
So you keep at it. Keep banging away. Keep busting it.
Because that’s how you should do it. Even if it’s the only way, it’s still the right way.
But it’s why you don’t get these guys sometimes. They have it so good. They play a game. They work hard at it, sure. But they’re well-compensated. Don’t they realize how good they’ve got it?
It’s why you don’t get Manny Ramirez. Why you saw through that stupid “Manny being Manny” junk a long time ago.
He doesn’t want to hit against Joba Chamberlain because his stats might suffer? His stats?! He doesn’t want his team to pick up an option in his contract for $20 million? $20 million! So, to make sure that doesn’t happen, he punches a trainer, loafs down the first base line, misplays fly balls, gives away at-bats and then says his team doesn’t deserve him?
He’s the victim? At $20 million per?
He begs for a trade, dogs it some more, and then says the team is making him out to be the bad guy? That’s what he does?
And then, a day later, he gets away with it? He gets exactly what he wants? Like manna from heaven? For being a jerk give-up artist?
And then, with his new team, all of a sudden the knee doesn’t hurt anymore, and he hits like Babe Ruth. Takes them to the playoffs, and rakes some more.
Now it’s show-me-the-money time.
Makes you wonder. Sure does. You wish you could hit a fastball. Or throw one.
Then you click the remote, turn out the light and wait for the alarm.
Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
You’ll hear about it again in the car, on the radio. About how hard Manny played after getting out of Dodge, knowing he was just a few days from free agency and more coin. And then you hear it at work, at the coffee pot. And then again at home, on TV, you hear it and see it.
Ah, home. Where you hope your kid doesn’t want a Manny Ramirez poster or jersey.
Because that would just be too much. Even for someone like you.