Mr. President, Baseball Lasts Til Almost November
The St. Louis Cardinals are in the Rose Garden soon for the customary victory lap stop-over at the White House. It will be a rare baseball event for President Obama, and that is a sad commentary for both the game and for a president whose political advisors are so clearly asleep at the switch.
Presidents and baseball were once as apple pie as kissing babies and walking in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. When baseball came back to DC in 2005, George Bush tried to breath a little life back into a once proud tradition. For a moment it seemed as if all those intervening years after Richard Nixon threw out the last Opening Day pitch in 1971 had not happened. But then in 2007 Bush left the chore to Dick Cheney. After the Vice President came to Opening Day that year, it was as if a darkness settled over the idea and it has not really gone away.
President Obama confounded the problem when he went to Chicago for his first Opening Day. The South Side team is all Joe Lunch Bucket and maybe that made sense back then. But when the President finally made an appearance in DC for Opening Day, he had that silly White Sox hat on. Was there ever a President to come to Opening Day in DC with another team’s hat on? Historic Presidency indeed!
Maybe someone at the White House should check out the box scores. Mr. President, do you realize that Larry Summers could well be playing first base on the South Side of Chicago before the 2012 season is over? Wear that White Sox hat if you want but there is such a better team playing literally within earshot.
For those of you not from or familiar with Washington, the President literally can look out from the rear of the White House, over the clearing that is the Ellipse, and see the lights of Nationals Park in the night sky calling to him. “The Nationals are playing tonight and they are winning,” the lights call out from not so far away. “Stephen Strasburg has a no-hitter going into the ninth and you could be on every national sports program in the country if you were there,” the sky voices whisper to Plouffe and Axelrod.
And maybe the President wants to get a little of that action–the winning part, I mean. Again, it’s an election year as I recall. He’s likely running against a guy more at home on a polo poney than with a “Mitt” in his hand. Doesn’t someone at the White House smell that apple pie cooling on the sill? And by the way, isn’t that a wide open window of opportunity just above it? Eli Gold could figure this one out.
The clincher is the dynamite focus group that Mike Rizzo is putting together for the coming season. Getting the President interested should be a relatively easy matter. He’s a Harvard guy, a policy wonk, and there is real substance as entry point for just that special someone looking to become a knowledgeable Nationals fan. He can put in his dime on the Prince Fielder question for example.
Frame it–that’s what pols do–like it’s the essay question for the LSAT writing sample this year and it goes like this. You are a baseball GM for a National League team and you want to know whether it is worth $20-25 million a year for a first baseman who doesn’t own a mitt, but whose name is Fielder. You already have an slick fielding first baseman named LaRoche but one who will likely hit a dozen fewer home runs and drive in 40 fewer runs. Should you spend your money on a one-dimensional slugger or first try first to land a long-shot Cuban center fielder who may hit almost as many home runs and fills the biggest hole in your lineup for less than half the money?? You have two weeks to frame your answer.
I would slip a note to the President to think hard about Cespedes. The Cuban phenom–or not so phenom–can be had for $10 million annually or less on a contract that is probably shorter term; five years is a good winning bet. And there is a bonus that only a savvy pol will see. The Marlins are your chief rival for Cespedes as well as the team pushing you hard to be the next big thing in the NL East. There is a real concern that if the Cuban center fielder becomes a star in Miami he cements the Cuban vote for your opponent for years to come.
It’s like on Hollywood Squares. You bid on Cespedes not just for the potential outfield of Cespedes, Harper and Werth for the next four years, but to “block” the Miami Marlins.
Sure, Fielder will put fans in the stadium and is a relative sure thing. You know he is going to hit those moon shots and provide cover for Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup. You can trade LaRoche to the Rays for pitching prospects to replace some of the depth you gave up in your last trade. You may have to pay some of LaRoche’s salary to do that, but you will recoup that money in Fielder’s ticket sales and peripherals. Tough call, but these are the complexities that make baseball such a great game. It’s like figuring out the health care debate–or at least something close.
So, Mr. President, Calvin Coolidge got hooked on the Nationals back in the 1920′s and it was really his finest hour. You have accomplished far more than he ever did, done many impressive things in only your first three years.
There is a chance here to touch all the bases while you can and do it during an election year. Get involved with your local team while they are on the rise. Maybe they let you down, maybe they make you proud. That’s what it’s all about. Since you are going to be here another four years, get on board now.
Of course it’s good politics too, as American as apple pie. And let’s be real, it works with a demographic that you need some help with. So think about it. Pitchers and catchers report in little more than a month, and the season lasts til almost election day. What’s not to like?