Friday, February 5, 2016

Down at the Columbus of Pennsylvania, Greg Bird's replacement is the Human Cannonball

The Scranton Railriders - aka the Traveling Wilkes Barres - have released their 2016 promotional schedule, and it's a reason to move to Tonga. The big event, by far, takes place June 17:

Human Cannonball/Man Vs. Marathon Night.

A long-distance marathon will coincide with the game, answering the age-old question of which takes longer to complete? (This ignores the question of which seems longer. Because few people run marathons, and even fewer watch an entire minor league game.) Then Dave "The Bullet" Smith - aka "the Human Cannonball" - will blast off from the outfield before the firework displays. Reserving you room now at the Airport Ramada.

There are other events: Bobblehead nights, Dollar Nights, an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet night, a Glow in the Dark Wrist Thingy night; you name it, there is a night for it. Let's face it: The modern minor league baseball product has little to do with the outcome of a game and everything to do with freak show carnival barking. Cities build expensive stadiums for teams. Nobody wants an empty park. In a perfect world, Greg Bird would be the reason to see a Scranton game, but it's not as if he'd be shot from a cannon.

As a Triple A resident - the Syracuse Chiefs are technically my team - I can tell you there is a Grand Canyon-sized disconnect between the parent club and the city that hosts its 26th man. MLB teams use their Triple A roster like a brain dead clone that is being harvested for body parts. They move players with such lack of concern for the Triple A team that you feel like a dupe for caring. Now and then, I will drive 45 minutes to the city of Auburn, which has an NYP League franchise. There, you see 18 year olds in their first professional incarnation. They still care about winning. They actually want to be there.

At Triple A, players generally look as if they rather be anywhere else in the world than Syracuse. Or Scranton. Or Tidewater, or anyplace but here.

So the teams spend eight months conjuring up the Human Cannonball and the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet night, seeking to create enough distractions, so the fans won't notice the lack of soul in the game. Because - and I really hate to say this - Triple A doesn't have any.

I write this today because, believe it or not, Greg Bird's injury may just have saved his career.

The Yankees were going to send Bird back to Scranton, where he would get depressed and go into a slump. From there, they would question whether he really was that good. The Yankees do this to too many of their young players. One year, they brutally cut Francisco Cervelli at the last minute and sent him to Scranton. It's a wonder he turned it around. Last year, they did it to Rob Refsnyder - they'll probably do it to him again. Slade Heathcott? Mason Williams? Ben Gamel? Odds are, at least two of them will be back in Scranton come April, staring at a summer when the Human Cannonball is the most exciting thing on the docket. I really hope that - for their sake - (and for that of the fans in Scranton,) the Yankees don't send them back. Because they will really envy Greg Bird.


KD said...

I recall reading somewhere that the Yankees did actually succeed in sucking the love of baseball out of Cervelli. That took some doing, didn't it? It was only his parents that talked in out of throwing it all away. No look at him. Free from us and loving life in MLB.

Francisco Cervelli said...

I owe it all to a pep talk from A.J. Burnett.