Tuesday, August 10, 2010


With fans bearing 'Zorilla' placards lining up outside the parking lot, an impromptu rally bashing the latest move from the St. Francis Friars threatened to destroy the monastic setting of the ball club's headquarters. A man with a megaphone, later identified as a local pastor, was leading a mob in the making, chanting:


Within the Friars complex, septuagenarian baseball legend Jack McKeon was as tranquil as the team Chairman, Brother Johann, was tense. Savoring a new cigar, McKeon remarked to his nominal boss, "Settle down, Padre. I've been through this one a zillion times. I've traded players a lot more popular than Zobrist, and the fans come back as long as they believe you're on the path."

Peering through the curtains, the nervous Brother Johann, "I hope you are right. We are giving you full authority to make the moves as you see fit, because we are not---ach! baseball men!" This last was accompanied by a wince, as something thrown from the parking lot landed in the rain gutters.

"Damn guttersnipes!" barked McKeon, leaning backward and throwing open the window. "Hey!" he yelled at the crowd. "SAY BYE TO ZO-BRIST! I HOPE YOU GET A CYST! AND I DATED YOUR SIS!" McKeon slammed the window shut with a chuckle as even more alarming sounds percolated from the parking lot.

"Please, Please, Mr. Jack!" said the exasperated Head Friar. "After all, a soft word turns away wrath, as it is said in Proverbs."

"Yeah?" barked McKeon. "What about Phillipians? 'Whatever thou doest, do with all thy might!' For a guy who heads a renegade order of monks, you seem to have little faith. Now, I know that Ben Zobrist is a good player, and he's very versatile. But, we've traded him to Oakland United, a club at the bottom of another division, so he's unlikely to do much damage against us any time soon. Yes, he had 16 dongs for us, and was hitting OK, and playing all over the field. But we just don't have enough pitching or overall depth to do much more than play .500, and when Shin Soo-Choo went down, we went down."

"But....," and here the monk hesitated before wailing, "$9 million? NINE MILLION? And, maybe $18 million next year?"

McKeon's eyes twinkled. "You mean the salary of Mr. Carlos Lee, our new left fielder...or maybe first baseman....or maybe designated hitter?"

The Head Friar shook his head vigorously.

"Look, Padre," McKeon said patiently, "In BARB, we are guaranteed sufficient revenues as long as we don't exceed our salary cap due to the league's highly-favorable local media markets. So we are in no danger of losing money. What we are in danger of is losing an opportunity to move up. When I helped set up these rosters in the spring, I left lots of cap room to either assume salary in trade, or else eat contracts. Unlike some of the other clubs, which have very little wiggle on their cap, I don't care much about Mr. Lee's contract."

"It would be nice," McKeon continued, "if Lee returns to form and belts 15 bombs or so out in the second half, but even if he did we are not going to pay 'El Caballo' $18 million. He needs to hit right away for us if he wants to even stay on our roster. He was just the inducement to pick up prospects that Oakland was willing to deal...."

The Head Friar brightened, even though sounds like firecrackers and the wail of police sirens could be heard leaking through the office walls. "Can you tell me about them?"

"Sure," McKeon says. "We picked up three first-round picks: RHP Matt Hobgood, OF Donavan Tate and C Tony Sanchez...and the best part is, they are all hurt!"

"WHAT?" Brother Johann was now in full-blown panic mode. "INJURED? WHY, MAN, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY?"

McKeon cackled. "These injuries are just the kind of things I look for. RHP Matt Hobgood's a teenager with too much baby fat, and wears braces, and he strained a muscle covering first base. Poor Widdle Matty! 'Oh, Lordy, what will the Orioles do?' People panic. You're talking about a kid who can't buy a beer legally, in his first season as a pro. He's not going to excel, in all likelihood, right out of the box, and right now he's a good fit for us as a long-term project. I see him as a #3 starter for sure. OF Donovan Tate tore some muscle in his groin area in an ATV accident over the winter. Like that's going to happen again? He's still the best overall athlete from last year's draft. I like our chances. And C Tony Sanchez, he's a comer. He's got some hairline fractures in his jaw, and may not play the rest of this year? Listen, I've been around this game, and I know you don't hit with your jaw or catch with your jaw. It's not going to have any long-term impact on a guy who would've been up in the big leagues with just a few months of pro experience this year, I can tell you that."

"So," concluded Brother Johann with a doubtful look, "An $18 million reclamation project that you may move to first, and three minor-leaguers who've had setbacks this year, for our team's most popular player, not to mention home-run leader?"

McKeon beamed. "Now you're getting it! They don't call me 'Trader Jack' for nothing! I've been looking for something to do with my time, and I've found it!"

The Head Friar sank into a velvet chair, and feverishly clicked his rosary while the smell of McKeon's cigar wafted through the office.

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