Around the bases: Adrian Gonzalez at the plate

Notes from the back of a worn envelope and/or other such flotsam & jetsam:

Regarding the Red Sox latest thunderous coup, the acquisition of N.L slugger Adrian Gonzalez for a parcel of unproven kiddies who may or may not be heard from again. If there’s a lesson to be learned from a lifetime of doting on such trivia it is this: Beware of lofty pronouncements. Rhetorical backflips can prove injurious to the journalistic reputation.

Which is not saying they should not have done the deal. They had to. It was irresistible, especially for a team like Boston which has both the means and the need to gamble and there’s a reasonable probability that it will pay off. Note the use of the word “probability.” It’s different from the word “certainty.” Is Gonzalez doomed to fail? Of course not! But does that mean, ergo, that he’s a lock for greatness? Don’t be silly.

A key concern is the fact he’s a big and heavily muscled character and in baseball they tend to wear out sooner than lithe and limber average-sized chaps. You should look it up. Adding significantly to the concern is his recent shoulder surgery. In the short term, his value might best be judged by how his production compares with that of Messrs. Martinez and Beltre, both of whom were clearly greased to make room for Gonzalez. Here’s betting it will be no more than a wash.

If I’m Theo, I make the deal. But I’d bet he, too, is saying that the gales of ecstasy pouring from the local towers of radio babble and raging on the sports pages might be premature.

So much for the hope that the new system for electing worthy venerables to Baseball’s Hall of Fame would be an improvement. The new procedure graced with a first-class panel of electors came up short again. Maybe there’s no way to get it right.

Not that Pat Gillick, the superior front office operative who alone was tabbed, isn’t deserving. He’s always been progressive and classy bringing only honor to the game in a half century of service. But what most recommends him is the fact that he’s an insider’s insider, a devout member of the lodge, and as safe as Connie Mack. In the end, they simply can’t stand controversy.

Still, Boss Steinbrenner will have his day some day. It’s inevitable. Letting a little time pass was hardly an insult. Ancient Marvin Miller is quite another matter. It’s a needless snub for the weary old baseball Bolshevik. The argument has worn thin. It was put-up or shut-up time. For him to be denied for the third time in four years by a single bloody vote is just plain crummy.

By the way, have you too wondered when exactly Cliff Lee, the much- sought-after lefthander, became the second-coming of Sandy Koufax?
After being traded to Texas by Seattle early last summer, Lee had a record of 4-6 with an earned run average of 3.98 while missing a full month in the stretch with a bad back. In the post-season he was 2-2, smartly performing brilliantly against the Yankees in the playoffs but failing twice when it counted most, in the World Series.

While plainly gifted, Lee’s ballooning image as the signature lefty of his times -- one who combines the raw power of a Lefty Grove with the guile and artistry of a Warren Spahn -- seems a bit of a stretch. He has won 102 games in eight seasons and one season even won 20, which is nice but hardly off the charts. In his first eight seasons, Robin Roberts won 160 games, posting 20 or more wins six times. Now that is off-the-charts stuff.

Might Lee be over-rated? Everything is relative and Mr. Roberts pitched a half century ago. But you ought to wonder. Especially if you have any intention of meeting his ridiculous price.

In still more evidence of the seismic change sweeping Global Sport we have Serbia, that ancient tennis power, besting France in the illustrious Davis Cup. And where do we find the U.S in this discussion? Nowhere! Get used to it, fans.

In that same spirit, we have the lordly sachems of FIFA bestowing World Cup favors on the entirely obscure but fabulously wealthy Arab Emirate of Qatar. It seemed comparable to the IOC awarding the Olympic Games to Liechtenstein or Andorra, while having fabulous playgrounds like Paris, Rome, or New York as choice alternatives. The rebuff to the United States, prime loser in the competition for soccer’s 2022 epic tourney, was painful. Not so long ago, it would have been equally unthinkable.

You can’t quibble with FIFA’s choice of Russia for the 2018 tourney. The Russians, who are rather deeper into the game of soccer than Americans, have never had the honor. But to argue that Qatar -- about the size of Vermont with a population of only 1.7 people soaked in oil -- deserved it on any other grounds but their fabulous wealth would be grossly cynical even by FIFA’s exaggerated standard for such low deportment.

More, maybe much more, will come out in time but many are already convinced Qatar bought the winning bid. Among the rumors already rife is one saying the oil barons of the Gulf purchased Argentina’s critical vote with a $178 million gift that bailed out their national soccer program. Money still talks but ours no longer talks loudest. Before you get angry, bear in mind it’s the game within the game that we invented.

There’s an explicit understanding the winner should be a solid citizen. Much of the award’s historical luster derives from the high character of the vast majority of its recipients. The recent dreadful embarrassment of having recent-winner Reggie Bush stripped of his laurels makes it imperative this year’s choice be squeaky clean.

Yet the Heisman Trophy voters can still be expected to select Auburn’s heavily tainted and deeply controversial Cam Newton for amateur sports’ most prestigious accolade, probably by a landslide.
That’s because no process in sports is more fallacious than the Heisman balloting. The ranks of the voters are dominated by the cheerleaders of college sport. The sophomores at your neighborhood high school would be more responsible and discerning. It’s all about sis boom bah; rah, rah, rah!

It would be a pleasure to eat these words but I highly doubt I’ll get the chance.

And while on the subject of the poppycock prevalent in the contemporary sports media there’s the matter of some puzzling reaction to Derek Jeter’s contract struggles. As he is deservedly liked and respected, no one is going to hammer Jeter. But it takes a humongous leap of logic to make the case that the poor lad has been insulted because his employers, the N.Y Yankees, felt obliged to play hard-ball in the effort to bring common sense to the contract negotiations. One very prominent national columnist weepily proclaimed relations between Jeter and the Yankees to be irrevocably damaged, predicting, “They will never again be the same,” An influential tabloid columnist angrily swiped at the Yankees for showering “indignities” on the darling shortstop. A third who also speaks from a lofty national stage decried the Yankees indifference to “civility.” (Yikes!) A fourth asserted Jeter would soldier on while “never” being able to forgive his team. All pronounced the Yankees ingrates. If it’s not the majority position, it’s widely enough held to give the issue an unpleasant twist and if it’s really how Jeter feels, it’s downright absurd.

A lack of perspective would seem clear in any grief expended for someone who, with this new contract, will have made more than a quarter of a billion dollars for playing a game and will with his fame be able to parlay his riches even more. Maybe those of us who write about these games need to get a life almost as much as those who play them.