No. A rare, abrasive, FOG dissipated in the Phoenix valley giving way to a cloudless sky. Parts of last year's model had been deteriorated and sloughed off. The incessant abrasion seems to have roughened the surface leaving gouges in places that never should have existed. Even the most jaded of sourpusses, witnessing the players pitch in the pasture, agree the plague on the house had been lifted and having him gone we have gained nothingness once again!
The void will fill with something else but in the exalted shutout of the present there are rejuvenating properties. The players take one crisp breath of air at a time; second by second they realize their existence and their purpose, which had been concealed from them the past several years. There is now room to stretch within the enthusiasm of a paradise regained. In order to find the respite of an earthly heaven, one sometimes has to trudge through a metaphorical hell.
The beast has been slain but he wrote a bestselling fiction with his two mouths. The one good thing about revisionist history is that you don't have to try to not repeat it because it never happened in the first place. The date-rapist can't harm you anymore, he's behind palm tree bars and he's off the streets. His threats against your family no longer merit any concern, he is gone forever…
"I know this is a lil' off-base but iss a whole 'nother ballgame Paul," breathed Gordon.
"It’s a whole 'nother ballgame within a ballgame, within a ballgame. Let's not forget that," hummed Konerko between a catch…and a throw.
"Shoeer Paul. I'm juss glad to be here playin' catch with 'bridge, that's all. I mean, I'm playing catch and that’s it, there's nothin' else 'cept the future. The lass few years I ben feelin' like I ben constantly missin' third base. Now it feels like I'm coverin' all bases no problem but I'm feelin' aimless like there ain't no direction."
"Gordon, breathe once will you? You smell that?"
"Huh, smell what?"
"Quit playing hardball, Gordon. The freshly cut grass, the oil on your glove, your uniform, Danks' chaw…its called freedom! You can breathe once again."
"I remember this feelin' back in Joejah, I think but I doan think its right, I'm a professional, I'm not supposed to feel free, he was doing right by me" quiet tears streaming down his face.
"Its called Stockholm Syndrome, you're expressing empathy for your captor and even defending him, you need to purge yourself of these demons. He can't hurt your OPS anymore."
Gordon begins to weep hysterically and Paul embraces him like a father figure, personalities DO exist on this team, "Let it all out Gordon, let it all out. There, there."
Lillibridge leans awkwardly, hand on hip, with an affectionate smirk on his sympathetic face. Suddenly, his body went rigid and he began looking over his shoulder but then reminded of the fresh calmness in the air. He relaxed his muscles and soaked in the moment. He couldn't help thinking about the present as it would have been in the past. This kind of display of affection would have frowned upon. In times gone by, affection and understanding were empty words with no action unless the action was to belittle or threaten in the future. There was no trust or collaboration once the lies were exposed and the mouth opened to say, "look at me." Maybe Jenks, Swisher and Javy didn't deserve it. As the first few sentences in this new chapter are written, the players actually have a say in what happens in the story or at least that is the current perception.
Robin, watching from the perch of his unicycle, wheels over to the scene. "What the hell do you guys think you are doing!?! This is a baseball field we're on here; do you not have any respect? This should be a group hug! Everyone dog pile!" As Robin reached the apex of his jump, eclipsing the morning sun in all its glory, all the players begin to realize Robin is actually serious about not being too serious. Slowly, players throw their hats and gloves into the air and start hooting and hollering and following Robin into the dog pile. The collective feeling of captivity that somehow oozed into Spring Training 2012 from the previous season began to dissipate in that 40-man dog pile. The energy and overall feeling of well-being and optimism became almost euphoric.
Deep in the depths of the dogpile, AJ army crawls through the mish-mash of bodies and thrashing limbs, stalking his way towards Rios like a pirate scaling a rope ladder with a knife in his mouth. He had received his directive and he aimed to accomplish it efficiently. AJ grabs Rios from behind and puts his right arm into an armlock, quickly he hyper-extends his elbow until it gives away, letting out an anguished pop. Rios screams and writhes in agony, not understanding how this could have heppenedhappened. Parent steps in, yelling at everyone to stop and brushes players off the pile like a normal human would brush dandruff off their shoulders.
"What is it Alex? A charley horse?" asks Robin, intentionally putting his foot in the bucket.
As the team settles down the euphoria still exists but there on the ground in short right field is poor Rios with his ulnar collateral ligament permanently disfigured. No one on the team enjoys seeing a teammate in excrutiating pain and everyone starts to feel a modicum of blame for the injury but in the recesses of their consciousness, each and every one of them breathes a sigh of relief. Herm drags Rios off the field as he whines like a little bitch and no one ever sees him again. He retires to his palatial estate in Puerto Rico with his moneys.
Later that night, Gordon, Robin, AJ and Paul sit at Don & Charlie's wolfing down the surf & turf over a couple bottles of Malbec with their wives.
"You guys hit the ball out of the park today, excellent execution as always, AJ. It was admittedly bush league but whatever, that sac of shit is filthy fucking rich...Paul...Gordon...I think you might have learned something from Oz after all. That acting job was of Golden Globe quality. Way to go to bat for the team, everyone thinks the injury came completely out of left field but in reality we were able to get Alex out of left field, thank Christ," quipped Robin, right off the bat.
"I'll take the award for Best Supporting Actor, chief," smiled Paul.
"I wuddnt actin' guys, those tears were fer real, boys. Let's get ur done this year, huh? It was my turn tuh step up to the plate for once, boys. Its time to spend all my time worrying about Gordon Beckham not some lunatic manager"
Paul puts a hand on Gordon's shoulder, patting it gently saying, "So far, you're batting 1.000 this year Gordon...you're batting 1.000. Looks like nice guys don't finish last after all."