[Ed. Note: Second in an occasional series]
Goddamn it, Pete Mackanin thinks. Most I ever got was 130 games, and I was 23. He had played wherever the team needed him, even if it meant making all kinds of errors at second, he still turned them double plays, and it wasn’t always so easy, that turf was fast, and those lonely vuvuzelas in Parc Jarry and the sounds of the public frolicking in the pool over the right field wall just added to this feeling that his head had conked that invisible ceiling the scouts all drone on about, and maybe baseball didn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. He gets that now, but it was hard then, and he tried hard, and he told Mauch he would go anywhere he needed him, and he knew Mauch liked it, liked his spirit, tried hard to see if he could stick somewhere, even in the cool damp of Montreal.
So to pole lash Neshek now...his only goddamned All-Star! Neshek! The same prick who selfishly stayed in his pristine little inning bubble to preserve his precious numbers when he was practically begging for help. Well, let the baby have his bottle. He guesses it’s all right by him and the game forces you to tip your cap to all kinds of assholes. But he swears by all that his holy he would have let the Mets grind him to dust on Saturday. Here’s your goddamned inning, Mr. All Star. Try to win a damn game and pretend it matters. When other teams come calling they’ll see who you really are when someone genuinely needs you. Your new GM ain’t gotta talk to me. I’ll just say: Watch that July first game. There’s your goddamned letter of recommendation from a former manager, right. There.
But he’s honest with himself, and he knows Neshek will get his, Pete thinks, it’s how the game works. But he’s been starving down here, he’s been lonely. He thinks of what it must have been like on Corregidor, waiting for help that never comes. He feels like that guy at the end of Bataan, just firing away on his machine gun as the Japanese pour endlessly out of the jungle.
Endlessly out of the jungle...endlessly out of the jungle. Ratatatatatatatatatat! And he knows his role is to play Wainwright, and for history to write him down as the loser. Some other lucky SOB, somewhere, will get to reap the benefits of my labor, and his neck will hurt once more, the ceiling will bump his head, just like it did to the sound of vuvuzelas. They’ll stick him on the damn float parade down Broad Street like General Douglas MacArthur himself. I’m not a bitter man, Pete Mackanin thinks. But I’d just as soon cram MacArthur’s corncob pipe up Neshek’s ass as I’d make that guy see everything I’ve seen.
He doesn’t want pity. He knows the gig was never supposed to be easy. But Pete Mackanin is made of flesh and bone. He hurts. He looks skyward for help, just like you and me. He prays, these days, though more like Pascal than a fervent believer.
Gods don’t answer letters, but maybe, Pete Mackanin thinks, maybe someday, we’ll get a little lucky sometimes.
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