1182 for publication September 23, 2016
Harbinger. It’s a word you rarely hear these days. Look it up, I did, in a diligent effort to be concise in what I thought of today’s top-of-the-line sports menu.
“Harbinger, a forerunner, indicating or foreshadowing what is to come.” There’s yer basic harbinger and none of these harbingers are omens of anything good.
Harbinger 1. Seeing a regular outfielder screw-up a routine fly isn’t an acceptable occurrence in any setting. Sure, sometimes it’s the sun, or night lighting. But in today’s game it’s putting all your eggs in one basket, the absolute trust in a big glove, with total disregard for making sure of the catch by using the second bare hand to seal the deal.
Most recently the Jays Melvin Upton Jr. comes to mind. Melvin was standing still, with glove at the ready when he bungled the kind of play that out-lives any excuses.
Or, how about catchers who have an aversion to getting their chest-protector marked-up, preferring to backhand short-hop balls in the dirt, rather than getting in front of the pitch. The result? Can you say “extra bases?”
Then there’s the bare-hand infielder brigade, who consider it time-saving to pick-up the ball with one hand and hurriedly throw without planting their feet. That extra split second would be well spent making sure the ball wouldn’t be bounding down the right field foul-line.
The point being, you can see this variable brand of 80-percent baseball in both leagues, in all divisions, and every day.
Harbinger 2. If you need a new glove, don’t get a yellow one.
No, I’m not talking esthetics. Take the case of Josh Donaldson, Toronto’s darlin’ of the diamond, who’s having a difficult time ever since he received the new glove he sent away to Walmart for… like a decoder ring.
Since first noticing the new glove in late August, the usual sparkling earmarks of Donaldson’s work at the hot corner have taken a hit. By my count, since the new glove arrived, in a plain brown envelope, the Rainmaker’s errors stat has gone from 8 to a team leading 13.
Maybe dig the old glove out of storage. There’s plenty of shoemakers in TO that would contribute a makeover for a nice pair of tickets. In October.
Hey, maybe relief on the field could ease your at-bat problem too.
Harbinger 3. This is a case of let sleeping dogs lie.
Team USA punched their ticket to the sidelines of the wildly successful World Cup of Hockey. According to my insiders who have turned in their reports on time, the American side fell victim to a lack of firepower.
But for others, the blame went even further, back to the influence and will of front office executives like Dean Lombardi, and Brian Burke. Still others were critical of the coach, mild-mannered John Tortorella.
At Team USA’s worst moment, enter Phil Kessel, a player who had his career validated, finally, with a Stanley Cup last season, but was left off team USA for valid reasons. Looming hand surgery.
You would think Kessel would have seen the hornet’s nest of criticism stirred by Jeremy Roenick, and Mike Modano, former American players, bellyaching about Team USA’s performance.
Roenick’s invective didn’t surprise many, including me. Modano’s did. But at least his criticism carried some weight. Unfortunately, Kessel, with his whiny, look-at-me message wasn’t capable of seeing how his petulant remarks would come back on him.
Apparently, Phamous Phil harboured loitering problems, and when passed over by U.S. Hockey’s brain-trust, felt it necessary to air his cryptic grievance on-line. It was a short and bitter sentence about “sitting at home” and “trying to think of something interesting to do.” The shot was aimed directly at Team USA. It was both dumb and unnecessary.
There’s a lesson in this farcical, petulant acting-out. You’re supposed to be professional. Stay off social media, don’t wash your personal problems in any public forum, and try to think of yourself as nothing more than an iota in the overall picture. Frankly, no-one needs to be burdened or enlightened by what you think.
So, keep your typing-thumbs in your pocket and leave the instant messaging to high-schoolers and selfie-misfits who no-one pays attention to anyway.
Consider it a harbinger. From me, to you.