June 27, 2008

Dirty bird business?

A mid-June 4thebirds post from another network, by permission:

If this was anything other than professional baseball, you would probably say the St. Louis Cardinals organization is nothing more than a bunch of dirty birds.

This, because of how quickly on-again, off-again major leaguer Brad Thompson was utilized in yesterdays game against the Kansas City Royals. Short on even the short list of pitchers, the Cardinals activated Brad Thompson to pitch. Putting it simply, the Cards needed an arm.

Thompson's role in yesterday's game was, of course, to pitch well, to try to help the team win, but of equal importance, he needed to fill the void left by Todd Wellemeyer and Wellemeyer's replacement, Anthony Reyes, both out with elbow maladies. (Thompson had just come off the DL, rehabbing from problems with his own elbow.)

After five innings of solid pitching, Thompson was relieved by Jason Isringhausen, having given up only two runs and with the Cards down by one. That's not bad for any starting pitcher, figuring your team needs to score at least a few to win, anyway. The Cards did not win, the Royals tacking on a couple more runs on a homer off of Chris Perez in the ninth.

Thompson got word in the locker room right after the game: He was to report immediately to the minors once more.

Hmm. After getting dispatched like that after pitching so well, most folks would probably say: Well that's a fine how-do-you-do. But not Thompson, who when speaking to reporters, had to break the news himself, that he was no longer needed with the major league club. And at that moment, the surrounding reporters, who can be quite crass at times, and who have nothing invested in that circular mound of dirt, fell into stunned silence, for just long enough so that you could feel Thompson's disappointment flow through them, then the TV cameras, and into the living rooms of Cards fans.

Thompson's dejected appearance, combined with his boyish looks, gave him the appearance of a youngster who had just been picked last to play, did well on the field, then was told by the other kids that they didn't want him around any more. But instead of throwing a fit, he stood there, aking the announcement that a Cardinals' front office staffer should have been making, and then, like a man, explaining how the demotion was a part of the business of baseball.

Explaining why he was there pitching. Explaining why he was no longer needed. Explaining, and maybe biting his lip a little (who could blame him), that how everything went down concerning his five inning stay in St. Louis was acceptable, in so many words, educating players "on the verge" of getting called up, and players "on the verge" of getting sent down, and players who are approaching this point in their careers, and anyone who ever wondered how badly it would suck to suffer such a seemingly unappreciative moment in a baseball career.

If they haven't already, Cardinal Nation ought to be embracing Brad Thompson for how well he represented himself and the team.

In a game where we have learned to hesitate before promoting the idolization of "certain" mega-star behaviors, and while I wouldn't always want my kids to read Brad Thompson's lips while he's at work on the mound at times, I wouldn't mind the kids hearing Thompson's post-game interview, even if at this point they can't quite fully appreciate it. Because what Thompson may have unwittingly taught goes far beyond anything that can be accomplished on the ball field.