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Covering the Bases

So I say to my agent, I say: Listen, I'm doin' all the things it takes to be successful. I'm givin' a hundred and ten percent every day. On D, I'm goin' to get it in the gaps, hittin' the cutoff man and usin' my instincts for the game. So what if I butchered that little can of corn Mason hit the other night. Lost it in the lights is all.

Hey, I say to him. How about my hitting stats! At the dish, when some flamethrower who can zip a lamb chop past a wolf gives Bobby Larynx the high heater, it's still Rip City. 'Cause in nineteen-hundred and friggin' ninety-seven, I can still go yard with the biggest studs in the league. First week in June and I already got ten dingers, for chrissake. Gettin' good wood. Knockin' the friggin' cover off the ball! See that monster shot I cranked out of Wrigley last week? I put the sucker in another zip code, for godsake. Gone Gonersson. Musta come down in friggin' Waukegan.

Another thing, I say to him. Think Bobby Larynx gets fooled by off-speed stuff? Get that weak friggin' noise outta here. Some junkballer throws the nasty deuce up there? Or the splitter? Or the dead fish? I smoke it to the track. Liable to go three on 'em, too. Cause I still got the good wheels. Just ask Morales. You know Morales's got a rifle. Always did. A gun! But when Morales tries to nail me back in April goin' first to third on Butchy Wicks's little flare, I'm motorin'. I get down and I'm in under the tag like I was goddamn Donovan Bailey out there. 'Cause hey. I always know when to put on my game face and take it to the next level. I walk the walk. And when the game's on the line, I know that big players make big plays. Because I got it all. Remember that worm-burner I legged out couple of weeks back in Cincinnati? Next day it looked like a line-drive in the box score. Unconscious!

So tell me this, I say to my agent. I say: Why is it that Bobby Larynx isn't gettin' the big bucks? Why is it that some puny little second-sacker who couldn't hit water if he fell out of a friggin' boat is gettin' 3.4 mill a year for the next three years and Bobby Larynx is livin' like some rookie banjo hitter in the New York-Penn League who's scrapin' by on nine-dollar meal money? Why is it, I say to my agent, that Bobby Larynx, probably the best first-ball/fast-ball hitter in the league, a guy who can take anybody deep, get the head of the bat out in front of the ball and carry the team on his back, just isn't taking home the gold?

And you know what the dude says to me? You wanna know what this little no-playin' bush-league pissant in the $700 navy-blue blazer says to Bobby Larynx? He says I got a bad attitude. You believe that friggin' noise? A bad attitude. Calls me a head case. He says the suits in the front office think so, too. My own agent, for chrissake, the guy who steals 10 percent of everything I jack out of Candlestick or Shea. The guy whose friggin' shoelaces I pay for has the nerve to tell me the boys upstairs say the rap on me ever since I came up to The Show is that I had all the tools to be the next Mickey Mantle, to put up superstar numbers and get my plaque in Cooperstown. But there's never been enough mustard in the ballpark to cover me. That I'm bad chemistry in the clubhouse. That when it comes to veteran leadership, jump-starting the offense and providing the intangibles, I just don't know how to turn it up a notch. Sometimes I can hit it on the snout, he tells me, but I'll never be the Franchise. Because I've never understood that there are no individuals on a team.

It's a game of inches, he says, but you also have to understand the game-within-the-game. You can have all the momentum, hangtime, upper-body strength and athleticism in the world, he tells me, but if you're not willing to play your heart out, you'll never get it done and move on to the Big Dance. You simply have to get back to the fundamentals, he says. Don't deviate from the original game plan. Especially if you've got the home-ice advantage and one of your big men can post up in the paint, pit for right-side rubber and a splash of fuel and then run on for the checkered flag.

Then he tells me, my agent tells me, that the other reason I've been with thirteen different friggin' ballclubs in ten seasons is that I can't hit for average. You don't get untracked, he says. You have trouble getting off the Schneid. You want me to get you a multi-million-dollar contract with the Bosox, the Chisox or the Tribe, he says, but right now you're right on the Mendoza Line. Don't tell me about home runs when every rag-arm in the league who can't break a window with his hard stuff is throwing it right by you. Guy puts a balloon in your wheelhouse, my agent says, and you fan! .246 lifetime, he says. You're not exactly the un-disputed heavyweight champion. Can't hit your weight. By the way, he says, I quit.

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