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The Crimson Hour: Off the Scrap Heap

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Wherein we try to disguise the things essence by revealing its accidents.

He's not wincing in pain. He's wincing at the baseball because he knows the Phillies have to keep playing it.
He's not wincing in pain. He's wincing at the baseball because he knows the Phillies have to keep playing it.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When fans' feet on the pavement quicken toward the gates, we cease to measure the length of the day with clocks, whose ticks and tocks now distend ever more noiselessly until we count beats and rhythms in pitches and swings. We frame periods in innings and recover a more intimate acquaintance with beginnings and endings, with the origin of finitude. This is the hour for hushed vitality, for precise attention, for active sensation—sight, sound, touch, but most of all smell and taste. This is the crimson hour.

Once again, the Hour lapsed last weekend. But unlike what most of the Phillies roster deserves, it has not been scrapped.

The coming weekend portends ire and eye-rolling. The Cardinals, recently revealed to be the target of an FBI investigation for hacking the Astros proprietary system, will come to town with the best record in baseball. They have great scouts and coaches that have spared them any competitive lags when they're most talented players age. Their GM refuses to burden the team with albatross contracts or forfeit draft picks for an immediate competitive boost. Their fans gloat about how friendly and supportive they are (while taunting protesters of racially imbalanced police violence). And they will probably suffer minor consequences for violating federal law* as well as ostensibly cheating and raising the specter that front office espionage is yet another threat to a free and open field for MLB competition.

Would that the Phillies had a proprietary system for the Cardinals to hack. (Suddenly my mouth tastes of something sour and metallic. I better have a drink.) Instead, the current ownership and front office have called on every junkyard in the Tri-state area to convert their Porsche into a jalopy destined for one of those same junkyards. As even the salvaged parts fail at an unforeseeable rate, the Phillies continue to visit the junkyard in search of enough scrap metal and spare pistons to drive the team at least to the All-Star break. Maybe, by some bizarre catastrophic miracle, they won't have to play after that.

Of course, in baseball, as in life, the scrap heap can also be a source of overlooked gems. We all know that the Phillies recent golden era might never have begun if not for Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, and J.C. Romero. For various reasons--underwhelming development, injuries, and disappointing MLB performance--these players were available. And good for the Phillies that they were able to find gems (well, not so much Romero but the results were great!) where others saw granite.

Similarly, the Pirates, one of the teams that has recently victimized the Phillies, have made an art out of reviving the careers of seemingly washed-up pitchers. The list is surprisingly long: A.J. Burnett (twice now), Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, Vance Worley (sort of), and... Jason Grili. By pairing these revived pitchers with a slew of young hitters, the Pirates turned the corner from perennial pretender to contender. Soon enough the Phillies will be in a position to need to find these cheaper sources of production to augment their cadre of exciting prospects.

But for now they dive into MLB dumpsters primarily in search of fodder for filling out the roster. Rather than pulling out an R.A. Dickey, they are finding Kevin Correia. And now that Jerome Williams is out for some indefinite length of time, the Phillies will need to pull yet another bit of pitching fodder. Here's a list of pitchers that have or will make a start for the Phillies this season (warning - neither complete nor ordered): Severino Gonzalez, Sean O'Sullivan, David Buchanan, Phillippe Aumont, Ben Revere, Jerome Williams, Dillon Gee, Jeff Weaver, Kevin Bacon, and Manny Pacquiao. Resigned to this year's fate, perhaps we can hold our noses at the scrap heap stench without complaining too much.

On the other hand, we could also replace the stench with the aromatic pleasures of a salvaged liquor. Of course, just as not all MLB salvages are equal, nor are the salvaged liquors. Whereas a Jayson Werth reclamation would be something akin to finding a Talisker 25 for $5 because the bottler was not sure whether a drop of another malt had accidentally landed in the bottle, the Shane Victorino success is like taking cheap firewater and making it palatable, which is just what I want to do for this weekend.

I'm sure you all know what rail liquor looks like. It usually comes in plastic containers and costs as much as a sirloin at the grocery store for 1.5 liters. In this case, look for a cheap American or Canadian whiskey. I usually choose Windsor Canadian, but it won't really matter which you go for. Then head over to the spice aisle--or better yet head over to your local Indian or Pakistani market--to get some cinnamon sticks. (Aside: when I lived in Chicago I lived very close to the Indian immigrant neighborhood and bought all my spices there. I bought a lifetime's supply of cinnamon sticks for $5. What I'm saying is, you should do this.) When you get home take out a clean 16 oz. jar (I usually use evacuated pasta sauce jars), put three sticks in the jar, and fill it with whiskey. Let that sit for three days, shaking every once in a while, then pull out the sticks. Voila! You now have something that tastes great as a digestif after dinner or as the base for a cocktail. For example, the following cocktail.

Tools: Mixing Cup, Strainer, Martini Glass, Spoon, Muddler

Ingredients: Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth, Orange Bitters, Maraschino Cherry, Orange Wedge

  1. Place Glass in freezer.
  2. Put Cherry and Orange Wedge in Mixing cup.
  3. Muddle with Muddler. Careful not to press any of the pith from the Orange into the muddle mixture.
  4. Fill Cup with ice.
  5. Pour 2 oz Whiskey, 1 oz Sweet Vermouth, and 3-4 dashes of Orange Bitters into Mixing Cup. Stir until ingredients distribute evenly.
  6. Remove Glass from freezer. Strain contents into Glass.
  7. Spoon out Cherry and place in drink. Enjoy!

And now a toast in haiku form:

Heap on the spices
You'll not see nor smell nor taste

the scrap underneath

* It's worth nothing that one of the federal laws in question is written with such broad language that you probably violate it every time you use a computer. Knowing that diminishes one's glee in the potential prosecution of the Cardinals hackers. When they lose their freedom, we do too.