On Saturday the Phillies won a double-header in route to a series sweep, and a filly ran the Preakness in route to a sweep of the field.
What’s the difference?
Nothing really, until you look at the failure of Chan Ho Park.
Something has to be true about Chan Ho: he has to have something that comes close to resembling an intangible phenomenon called “talent.” The MLB didn’t go all the way to South Korea to get a pitching prospect because we lack talent right here in the US.
Something had to catch someone’s eye and I’m sure it wasn’t because they had money burning a hole in their pocket. Even Charlie Manuel doesn’t look at a prospect and say, “Does he wanna make a load of dough?”
No. He says, “Does he have talent?”
Because Charlie says, “If you don’t, it’ll be an uphill battle,” (only he won’t say it clearly and he’ll stutter a bit, but you get my point).
So what’s up with Chan Ho Park? Well, we’ve established it can’t be lack of talent.
The population of the United States is 306.5 million (give or take the Phils fans who fall on and off the bandwagon). And the 40-man rosters of all 30 MLB teams total only 1200 players.
So the ratio of players to population—just in the United States alone—is such a small figure my calculator only spit out a decimal ending with an “e." I don’t know what that means except it’s astonishingly small (insert your own penis joke here). And that doesn’t include the minors because we all know everyone else is simply vying for a spot in the show.
What’s my point? It better be good, it’s taking me a while to get to it.
Rachel Alexandra doesn’t know someone paid $10 million for her last week to see her win at Pimlico. She just runs. It’s something she can’t help but do. And Calvin Borel was so sure she would win he broke a jockey's unspoken pact and predicted she would.
So what’s she have that Park doesn’t have? Heart.
It’s not about having to perform; it’s about wanting to perform. And frustration, impatience, and excuses never accomplished anything.
Personally I can attest to this because those three words never wrote an inspiring blog, created an unforgettable character, or produced an amazing experience in bed. But one thing’s for certain—I never did any of those for the money (although the last one had crossed my mind).
I can’t help it that ballplayers are paid extraordinary salaries to perform. The market mandates this. Major League Baseball just so happens to exist in an economy where free enterprise directs salaries. And, you and I support this.
Fans want to see their teams win, and you can’t win without talented players, and you can’t attract talent without money, and you can’t get money without fans. It’s a vicious cycle.
Society has moved from an existence of subsistence to sustaining our addiction to entertainment. We wanted it and we got it. It’s an economy we hail.
Personally, I think the sport had more heart before money became such an instrumental player. I’m not saying we need to go back to how it was—why, gracious no—I want to see my team win. I just think the pressure for players to live up to their paychecks is a bigger obstacle to overcome than being a filly in a field of stallions.
Rachel Alexandra didn’t think much when she ran that race. She just had talent that her jockey organized with technique.
That’s all Chan Ho has to do—of course without the tiny man atop his back. He needs to stop thinking and start doing what he wants to do—pitch—not think, or fret, or bellyache, or obsess, or complain. Just throw.
He should stop coming to the ballpark thinking he knows what he’s going to throw, like he did on Sunday. That four-seam didn’t work because it wasn’t supposed to, and he couldn’t place his slider.
What’s that tell you? It wasn’t meant to happen that way. Come prepared to pitch. Come prepared to believe everything that comes your way has a purpose. And, when life hands you lemons, juggle them; it will help your dexterity. But definitely don’t walk in a run. That’ll just bring Charlie to the mound.
You can’t control how prepared the batters will be, or what the umpire will call, or even if the sky will fall. All you can control is what you throw and how you react.
Harvey Dorfman will even tell you that. But I don’t know if he’d tell you to watch a horse race to learn how to pitch a game. I might be the only wacko who can make that connection.
As a fan I have no attachment to what Chan Ho will do this season. I can’t control it, so I don’t worry about it. I know the Phillies want to win as much as I want them to. Park’s not doing anything to me, and the only thing he’s not doing to himself is remembering why he plays professional baseball.
He’s one of only 1200 guys in the United States who are fortunate enough to do that—who are talented enough to do that.
If there’s anything I know about life, it’s that once you think you have it all figured out, it’ll throw you a curveball. Whether you hit it or not depends on what you’re thinking. If you’re thinking you won’t, you won’t. But if you’re prepared to not think at all, you will.
It’s like writing a story. You can’t force it, you can only feel it; it has to come from the heart.
Chan Ho doesn’t feel it, and you can tell by the look on his face; he’s heartbroken.
Just break from the gate and run the race. You might get bumped, crowded, or have dirt kicked in your face, but if you keep your eye on the finish line, great things can happen.
Like ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh said in the best baseball movie of all time, “Don’t think, just throw.”
Or just watch Bull Durham. It’s enlightening and entertaining, especially on a night with no Phillies baseball.
Enough said. See you at the ballpark.