Author Topic: Food for thought  (Read 356 times)


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Food for thought
« on: June 11, 2018, 11:46:17 am »
My brother-in-law had the good idea of buying my dad the new Mike Pesca book of sports what-ifs for Father's Day. (What if Nixon had been really good at football is one of the topics.) Also he suggested that he and I write our own. I could only think of two right away: what if Jordan had excelled at baseball, and this one. I thought y'all might enjoy.:

Three months after successfully organizing investors in an $89 million purchase of the Texas Rangers and convincing them to make him managing general partner, George W. Bush was approached by team president Tom Schieffer and G.M. Tom Grieve ("the two Toms", he called them) with a trade proposal. Coming off a season in which they'd finished 21 games under .500, good for 6th place in the AL West, the new management team was eager to make their mark. Already they'd inked Nolan Ryan to anchor an eclectic staff featuring Bobby Witt, the ancient Charlie Hough and the intriguing young sinker-artist Kevin Brown. Ruben Sierra was entering his prime and the farm was swimming with potentially explosive hitting prospects. What we need, the two Toms pitched, is a seasoned, veteran, professional hitter; a sage middle-of-the-order presence. They'd agreed in principle already with the Chicago White Sox for three-time All Star Harold Baines, and all they had to do was give up Wilson Alvarez and a long-shot minor leaguer.

Up til now George's life had been marked by rash decisions to such an extent that he hadn't really enjoyed what one might call a "career." He'd lost an election for the House of Representatives. He'd birthed and buried an energy company. But where before he'd done what he thought he was supposed to do, now, with baseball, he felt he'd found his calling. His first instinct was to sign off on the trade. The two Toms had been in baseball a long time, after all, and who was he? The scion of a family of political nobility, a former cheerleader, the son of a one-time first sacker for Yale. But something gave him pause: Samuel Kelvin Peralta Sosa was tearing it up that year for AA Tulsa. 

The two Toms explained to George that while the young Dominican had promise, no doubt, his track record since signing as a free agent in '85 had been one of stops and starts. He was a raw talent with excellent speed and projectible pop and he'd always been young for the level of competition, but his strike zone judgment was dismal and his swing Swiss'd with holes. Honestly, George, this guy tops out as a B, maybe a B-plus, they told him. Even say he puts it together, it ain't gonna be for another four, five years. And we got to sell tickets today. Hey, they said, take a look at his numbers in the Florida State League last year--this guy can collapse at any time. Honestly, George, this might be the most valuable he'll ever be. One Tom leaned across the table and extended the pen, the other leaned back and whispered: Harold. Baines.

It was early in the morning, July 29th, 1989. The day before, the Rangers had lost by 12 runs to the Brewers, while in Anaheim Baines had notched a pair of base hits off Bert Blyleven. The young Sosa hadn't much enjoyed his cup of coffee in the bigs that year, striking out in fully a quarter of his 80 at bats, homering exactly once. Meanwhile, his Tulsa teammate and fellow corner outfielder Juan Gonzalez was ruining the Texas League. 

Young, streaky, projectible, raw. Abstracted, George took the pen and prepared to sign.

Talented but inconsistent. Unpolished.

This'll keep for a minute, guys? If I wanna go for a run?

At around the three mile mark, George decided to check and see where the Drillers were playing that day. After showering, he drove the four and a half hours to Tulsa, becoming more convinced with every RPM that he'd made the right decision. They'd had a torrid start to the year, the Rangers, going 17 and 5 in April, but they'd cooled off since. Selling the farm for a stable if unspectacular piece like Baines was precisely the sort of thing new ownership teams were always doing. Baines didn't even play a position anymore. When he discovered that Drillers Stadium was located on Yale Avenue he wondered if it might not be a sign from God. He surprised himself by preferring anonymity for that night's game, buying a General Admission ticket, peanuts and a Coke.

The young Dominican struck out twice, swinging as hard as Jose Canseco, but in the seventh the ball chimed off his bat: a low line drive that split the right- and center-fielders practically before they'd even had a chance to move. Sosa was a blur legging it into third standing-up. George had seen enough.


The Rangers finished fourth in the West that year, but in '90 Sosa came up to stay. Joined to the core of Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro, and playing in the new launching pad ballpark George had finagled through eminent domain and a sales tax boost, they'd remain competitive throughout the 90s.

When the labor strife came in '94, George proved himself an indefatigable and moderate force, viewed as reasonable by all sides. Though he briefly entertained the idea of running against Ann Richards for the governorship of Texas, he felt he'd truly hit a groove in MLB. When during the endless work stoppage a group of owners suggested to him that he put his name in for Commissioner, a post officially vacant though nominally held by Bud Selig since Fay Vincent's resignation in '92, he gracefully accepted.

Sometimes he imagined himself in that other life. If he hadn't proved himself as a baseball man he might have done it, after all, yet a slave to the son's need to at least equal his father. Might have thrown his hat in the ring, tried to beat Ann Richards, moved to a mansion in Austin. From which of course it would've been only a short hop to a mansion in D.C.

Oh, it was something to think about, but how glad he was he hadn't done it. How glad he was he'd stayed his hand and talked everyone back from the brink of trading Sosa.

This way the whole family would get to concentrate its formidable powers behind Jeb when it got to be his time. This way 9/11 was John McCain's mess.