March 8, 2007

Baseball in Politics

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For decades, if not centuries, baseball has been America’s pastime. It can be a game of small ball, where strategy, speed and the ability to put pressure on the opposition eventually lead to long term success. Baseball can also be a game of epic power and fear, where one player and his ability to change a game with one swing of the bat trumps all other kinds of value. It’s no coincidence that the same strategies are used by leaders in American politics — after all, baseball and American politics are considerably linked. Former owners have become presidents, and former pitchers have become state senators.

With almost a year until the first meaningful vote pertaining to the 2008 election, like the current baseball season, next year’s hopeful Democratic Party nominees are embattled in what ironically seems a lot like spring training. If only evaluating and understanding each and every candidate was as easy as following the entertainment circus that is Major League Baseball’s version of the month leading up to the start of the regular season. The thought of throwing each candidate into the Grapefruit League with expectations of seeing them drop fly ball after fly ball like Manny Ramirez (most would say it’s because of the sun, but we know it’s just Manny being Manny) used to be nonsense. That is … until now.

Welcome to Legends Field in Tampa, Fla. — most notably the spring training locale for the New York Yankees. Although George Steinbrenner has poured in millions of dollars in an effort to make the ballpark look like an exact replica of currently snowed-in Yankee Stadium, this morning’s athletes do not resemble the Bronx Bombers in any way, shape or form. Instead, today’s athletes make their way out of the clubhouse and into the golden light of the Florida sun out of shape, way past their athletic prime, wearing sunglasses, smelling of sunscreen and carrying bags full of pine tar, mitts and batting gloves.

9:15 a.m.: While much of the Democratic Party’s lesser known candidates have already made their way onto the field to stretch, a confident, if not cocky, 45 year-old lawyer appears out of a doorway in the back of the clubhouse and throws three black wood bats into a bin near the end of the dugout. After waiting a few seconds to make sure his Oakley’s are perched ever-so-stylishly on his hat’s visor, he then makes his way onto the grass in front of the dugout amidst commotion from hoards of camera men and baseball know-it-alls. Kids in the stands watch in confusion as the event unfolds, and eventually a random innocent red-head tugs at his father’s shirt.

Kid: Daddy, who’s that?
Father: Son, that’s Barack Obama. He’s kind of like the Derek Jeter of the Democrats. He’s the son of a black father and a white mother, is calm, cool and collected. You’d probably slot him two-hole right behind that GQ Magazine pretty faced center-fielder, John Edwards (Ann Coulter ’84 pun not intended). He’s a hustle player that is just so … “Driven.”
Kid: Oh yeah, I’ve heard of him. I like him already. Although, I’m sure that everyone who isn’t a Democrat fan thinks he wouldn’t be as good on any other team.

As Obama makes his way out onto the field, another player makes her way out of the dugout and plants herself squarely in front of the media circus wearing the number 13 printed on the back of her pinstriped business suit. She poses for the camera and applies eye black with the help of a pocket mirror from a compact folding make-up kit. As if she is carrying that emotional baggage the results from suddenly playing second-fiddle to Obama despite being “the best player” in politics, the imported New York State senator makes the most out of her appearance before heading out to stretch on the baseline directly opposite of Obama.

11:30a.m.: Clinton is then heard talking to a reporter after the morning workout.

Reporter: I see that you and Obama aren’t the best of friends anymore.
Clinton: Yeah, we aren’t as close as we used to be. It’s still a ‘good working relationship.’
Reporter: Whose team is this?
Clinton: Oh come on. ‘Obama’s been blessed with great talent around him. He’s never had to lead.’

2:15 p.m.: Soon after a lunch outing, the team resumes drills and Clinton follows Edwards in line while working on base running technique.

Clinton: Nice slide, John. Looks like the one you suffered in your last Democratic nomination campaign.
Edwards: Watch it, Hillary.
Clinton: Where’s Joe Lieberman? Is he a no-show at this spring’s camp?
Edwards: Yeah, didn’t you hear? He pulled a Bernie Williams. Nobody knows if he’s coming back or not. I kind of hope he’d just retire already.

Shortly thereafter, Obama and journey man Dennis Kucinich are seen leading other Democratic hopefuls in a discussion over foreign policy with members of the Japanese press.

Obama: “Konichiwa,” my Japanese friends. Thank you for coming out. Now this is what happens when you play the foreign policy card the right way, unlike Bush has been doing in Iraq.
Japanese reporter: Uhhhh…we’re here for Hideki Matsui and Kei Igawa.
Kucinich: Well, if you are not here about the war, remember that I’m right about health care too.
Japanese reporter: So … then you need to talk to Carl Pavano.

6:00 p.m.: Later, as the afternoon wanes on, drills are completed and the team prepares for an intra-squad game. As luck would have it, the stars Obama and Clinton only play a couple of innings. Instead, the crowd watches many Democrats that will eventually drop out of the race due to lack of money and support. Like all things true in spring training, all the talk after the game is about how “this could be the year.”

As players file out of the clubhouse and travel back to their respected hotels, Obama is caught by a reporter in the parking lot and is asked about Clinton’s comments earlier in the day.

Reporter: Obama, how do you feel about Hillary’s comments?
Obama: Why is everyone so concerned about our relationship?
Reporter: Maybe it’s because you both spoke at two different venues three blocks away from each other in Selma, Ala., last weekend and because it’s obvious that you both don’t think the other is capable of leading the Democratic Party to victory in 2008.
Obama: ‘The only thing that should matter is that we play on the same team. We’re both trying to win.’

With that comment, the day is over and fans are left wondering if any candidate separated themselves from the rest of the pack. The real concern about the whole situation centers on whether or not whoever comes out on top will have a real shot at the presidency in 2008. Regardless of what candidate it is, the primary issue will be that of American foreign policy. Unfortunately, it seems that the surest way to undo the situation in Iraq is by bettering U.S. relationships with other countries in the middle east and around the globe, all while repositioning America’s stance on foreign policy. With that being said, it’s ironic that the Democrats wish is to pull out all troops at first chance. In replacing American politics with baseball, it’s important to notice that the biggest impact made by a foreign player all year will come from Daisuke Matsuzaka — who just happens to be playing for the Red Sox.

Tim Kuhls is a Sun Senior Writer, Thats Kuhls Baby will run every other Thursday this semester