"Just when I thought I was about to make a clean getaway..." Great line by Jack Nicholson at the end of Terms of Endearment, the only movie that made me cry in 1983 (it was E.T. in '82).
Jack had just paid a visit to Shirley MacLaine, whose daughter was dying. Jack and Shirley had had a little affair together earlier in the movie, and as she drops him off at the airport, she tells him she loves him. Jack continues on, poised to walk into the terminal, when she shouts out to him, asking if he heard her. It's then that Jack says, "Just when I thought I was about to make a clean getaway." Remember his answer? Scroll to the bottom.
Thus, my story today begins with that line. Well, the line it really begins with is one of my final lines of Friday's post, in which I alluded to our front office personnel as "vermin." I don't actually know what vermin are. I just know they're probably yucky. My use of the term was not one anyone could consider endearing.
I didn't think much of my use of that word. It was hidden inside a paragraph and it just flowed out of me. That's what I told my wife, Vanessa.
Me: Like water from a river.
Vanessa: Like stupidity from an idiot.
Me: I like my simile better.
Vanessa: Do you ever think before you do these things? Or do you just hope nobody notices?
You see, Vanessa read my post. She doesn't usually read them, claiming not to have "the time." Somebody in the front office read my post, because that somebody told others in the front office. Of course, the media caught hold at some point during this process, which spread to newspapers, television, the internet... I can't think of any other media. Billboards. No, nobody's going to reprint portions of my blog posts on a billboard yet. They'd need my permission. But I digress. Lots of people ended up reading my comment about the front office being composed of "vermin." Vanessa eventually became one of the "lots of people" and her frustration with me was proof.
I didn't answer her questions, by the way. Still in search of the perfect psychiatrist/psychologist mix, I don't feel I can answer anything deep without consulting with someone who'll give me the right answer to repeat to people like my wife.
So, of course, I'm not speaking to the media, which makes my line blow up even more. And more questions are raised: Do I think all people in the front office are vermin? Even the interns? Even the people from the cleaning service who empty trash cans after 8PM? Or was there one or two specific folks I considered vermin? Either way, didn't I owe an apology to the entire front office, including interns and cleaning service people?
To me, it was clear, if you read the entire post, which most people probably didn't, that I was not calling interns, cleaning people, assistants, assistants to assistants, or the DHL guy, vermin. Those are fine people who don't need to be offended because they should know I was not referring to them. Still, I'll be a big man and apologize to them, their families, their ancestors and their descendants. The front office people who make the front office run are not vermin. They're very nice people with fancy haircuts and nice shoes.
It is clear I was referring to our General Manager, Alvin Kirby, who's been called a lot worse than "vermin" by a lot worse people than me (or is it I?). Alvin is a big boy who can handle a rogue player like me call him a name. Sticks and stones, right? The line it was a little quip I embedded into a much larger post that might have stung a little, from Alvin's perspective, but he's got much bigger problems, such as the sexual assault lawsuit, his pending divorce, the fact that the Vets are 14 and 16. I mean, if he hadn't tried to screw around with my super agent, Jack, and me a week ago, none of this would have ever happened. Needless to say, I apologize to Alvin for the public mockery of his title. He is a respectable man who has overcome a lot, especially racism, to become the first black GM of the Veterans and one of only two black GMs in baseball over the past 6 years. He should be proud of himself. I write that not to patronize, but to point out a point. I'd be damn proud if that were me.
However, the firestorm was in full swing by Saturday night. We blew away Salt Lake at home and were feeling good after winning two games in a row. I pitched an inning, gave up a hit but struck out two. Nice effort, if I do say so myself (and I say it a lot lately). After the game, I showered and walked back to my trailer in the parking lot with Andy, my personal trainer turned security liaison. Guess who's waiting there?
Alvin: Hi, Jimmy. Am I vermin?
Me: Not literally.
Alvin: I'm upset with you.
Me: I guess I can tell, since the team is in Phoenix, your office is in New York, it's Saturday night and you're standing in a Nashville parking lot with somebody who insulted you.
Alvin: Everything's a joke to you, isn't it? Wait, don't answer.
Me: Not answering.
Alvin: May I see this famous trailer of yours?
I bid Andy a good night but told him to stick close in case he hears me scream in terror. Then he could run away.
Alvin followed me inside. He commented on my accommodations, but I couldn't tell if he was insulting me or not. What do you think "small like your pea brain" means? Then he got right down to it. He flew into Nashville that day, a planned trip, to see me pitch and check out some of the team's AAA prospects. He thought I pitched well, better than the reports he'd been getting. I told him I'd been pitching better than the reports he'd been getting for a while. That's why he shouldn't have negotiated to have me play in Nashville for two more weeks. He told me I was $1 million richer because of those negotiations. I agreed and told him I would have settled for $250,000. He smiled. "I would have paid $2 million." I made a mental note to fire my super agent.
Alvin: You've got to stop making controversy with your blog.
Me: You've got to stop doing controversial things to me with the power of your position.
Alvin: I could release you in a heartbeat. Then you'd have nothing to look forward to this year, no seeing your wife and kids after home games, no rapport with the fans who've supported you for 14 years.
Me: It's not good to make decisions like that purely on emotion.
Alvin: Which is why you should think before releasing your stuff.
Me: I see you've been speaking to Vanessa.
We argued a little bit more, but it wasn't really too intense. He knew he was right and I knew he was right. I also knew that I'd probably make the same mistake again.
Alvin: Why can't you learn from your mistakes?
Me: I can as a baseball player. Hit a grand slam off of me and I'll know to throw high and tight to you for now on. But as a human, I am merely mortal.
Alvin: Most people know, eventually, that if they hurt others with their words that they shouldn't do it anymore.
Me: Okay. I won't bring up how you've tried to screw me and my contract twice in the last six months.
Alvin: Good. I won't bring up how you didn't rehab for the first six months after your injury.
Me: I was depressed.
Alvin: I was angry.
Me: As an aside, I'm not going to kiss you when we get to the make-up stage.
Alvin smiled at that. He really has had a rough go of it personally since February, and I assume since before then. Like me, he's made mistakes and probably said some inappropriate things in her non-baseball life. And like me, he just wants to put that behind him and win a world championship this year. If he doesn't, this is probably his last as our GM. And if I don't pitch well, it's probably my last year as a player. Vanessa won't like that. She thinks the controversies I'm going through this year are a direct result of my fear of the future. If I'm driving her crazy now, what's our life going to be like when I'm home every day for the rest of my life?
Alvin Kirby left around midnight. He was going to fly to Phoenix first thing Sunday morning. I had a game Sunday afternoon (we won again, I pitched another shutout inning). Today, Monday, we have another one of those 10:30 AM games. Weird timing. But today is also Halloween Day at Pepsi Field. Show up in a costume and get a free hot dog, courtesy of Ballpark Franks. Looking forward to seeing you at the ballpark today.
Oh, I found out what vermin are: Animals or insects, like cockroaches or rats, that are annoying and destructive.
No wonder nobody considered that a term of endearment.
Jack Nicholson's answer: "I love you too, kid."