February 22, 2006

Going Gonzo for Spring Baseball With Hunter S. Thompson

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It has been a year and a day since infamous and revered gonzo journalist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson decided that he had been around here long enough, thank-you-very-much, and left the rest of us to our earthly business, in search of his next great adventure. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head isn’t the sort of transportation we’d all choose, to be sure, but I’m not inclined to argue with a Doctor of Journalism.

Since I am in no way qualified to provide an elegy for such a giant, I have instead handed out some of the Good Doctor’s most famous quotes to a few of the storylines heading into Spring Training 2006. Thompson was a rabid sports fan, after all, and I like to think that his anti-establishment proclivities meant he didn’t root for the Yankees.


“No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.”

To Dodgers fans, who awoke one fateful morning to find Grady Little managing their team. Shockingly, this didn’t lead to another round of riots in L.A. Doesn’t anybody follow baseball in that town? Dodger fans have been generally optimistic about Little’s Forrest Gump persona, to the point of convincing themselves that what happened in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS wasn’t his fault. They blame Pedro’s hubris for the catastrophic meltdown, not Little’s complete inability to do anything remotely close to managing. He’s a great guy, just as long as he never has to be decisive under pressure. Red Sox fans know that the Pedro situation was just a microcosm of the entire season, one that saw Little make inexplicable decision after inexplicable decision. Any success that Sox team had was absolutely in spite of his bumbling, and now he’s supposed to step in and right the Good Ship Dodger? Are you kidding me? Your manager has a horrendous history of misusing pitchers, and your best player is Eric Gagne, a pitcher coming off an injury. The optimism is nice, but there’s no way this is going to end well.

“When you bring an act into this town, you want to bring it heavy. Don’t waste any time with cheap shucks and misdemeanors. Go straight for the jugular. Get right into the felonies.”

To Johnny Damon and Kyle Farnsworth, the two big-name offseason acquisitions of the New York Yankees. The Bronx is famous for being a pressure cooker, and living up to the expectations of both George Steinbrenner and the fans (especially Big Stein) is enough to make even the best players wilt. As Alex Rodriguez can certainly attest, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to justify your massive paycheck and begin to press – A-Rod was swinging at everything under the sun for the first three months of the 2004 season, trying to hit 8-run homers and make it look like he and Jeter were best friends. I don’t think Johnny Damon is aware enough of his everyday surroundings to concern himself with pressure, but if he struggles early, he’s going to hear the boos at Fenway AND Yankee Stadium.

“Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits – a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”

To the Boston sports media, for unfailingly managing to eviscerate nearly every member of the Red Sox on a yearly basis. If there are two sides to an issue, they’ll inevitably highlight the negative option. (I’m including sports radio here, because the good folks at WEEI have on various occasions over the past year spearheaded the campaigns to make Keith Foulke and Manny Ramirez public enemies number one and two. And you can’t even make a rational appraisal of the Johnny Damon situation because of the incredibly one-sided viewpoints.) Whether it’s twisting around quotes or taking things out of context, the Beantown media loves to rip players for any reason they can come up with. These are the guys that call for Ramirez’s head for not running out a groundball, rather than praise his HOF-worthy production and general zeal for the game. Granted, it’s not everyone in the Boston media, but there are enough to make the whole situation disgusting. If they are successful in running Ramirez out of town this season, I’m going to throw myself from the Tobin bridge.

While we’re at it