`I’ve been sick. Really sick. Sick enough to occasionally wonder if I’d ever get better. It’s been a grind. It’s caused me to do some things I regret. Which brings me to the subject of this particular piece: “Below Deck: Minnesota Twins.”
Until recently, I have lived such a charmed life that I really didn’t have to involve myself much in daytime television to distract me from my daytime life. I have a daytime job, good fortune, all of it. But then, I became so sick, that daytime TV provided a necessary distraction from daytime misery.
I was one of those (I assume) relatively rare people who had never watched an entire “reality” TV show. I, of course, knew that survivors survived and had to outwit and outlast each other, but I never watched an enough to fully understand how they did it (though apparently, the very first survivor winner, Richard Hatch, managed to do it while often wandering around naked being despicable to everyone and then ultimately evading taxes). All of which segues awkwardly, inappropriately, or quite smoothly, depending on your opinion, into “The Apprentice.” I knew that Donald Trump routinely fired people at the end of the show, some of whom were even B or C list celebrities, but beyond that, I avoided “reality” all these many years. Perhaps when Sean Spicer was pegged as a celebrity dancer, no better argument could ever be made for having had the good fortune of not even considering for a minute to watch it. Like when Indiana Jones chose the proper chalice, I had chosen….. “wisely.”
Bad dancing, bad singing, masked this, masked that, isn’t that what local pubs are for?
Until now. I mean, of course, I’ve watched some pre-season baseball, but more importantly, I’ve become embarrassingly “hooked” on “Below Deck.” For those of you, unfamiliar, it’s a reality show set on a super expensive yacht. Every episode features a group of spoiled, pampered, unimaginably wealthy, extremely annoying guests who, as you might expect, given the hundred grand or so they’ve dropped on a few days at sea, have rather high expectations of “the help.” The “help” consisting of the cast/crewmates fluctuate between wanting to sleep with each other almost immediately upon meeting or wanting to fling each other off the ship followed only by hyperbolic vitriolic antipathy…and the anchor. Rinse and repeat.
Occasionally, we get a glimpse of the captain of the boat, who is usually engaging in a profanity laced monologue regarding the absolute incompetence of the crew and his amazement of their utter lack of ability to achieve even the most fundamental of fundamentals. I suspect this is much how Tom Kelly felt during much of the decade of the 90s.
Anyway, it’s not good, I’m not proud of whom I’ve become. But it’s made me further reflect on the realities that seem to consistently present themselves all around us. Truly spoiled people are going to treat those beneath them (every other sentient being in their view) in truly horrible fashion. On the other side, those who audition for the “reality” format are willing to share their innermost secrets with millions of strangers who will willingly mock them forever more. It’s hard to pick a side, really.
Which, finally, mercifully perhaps, brings me back to baseball. What have we learned this spring? Spring training games, even for some of us most serious of fans, are simultaneously an utter waste of time, and yet they are an utter necessity as the team prepares for what really matters. Unwatchable for some, critical evaluation moments for others. We’ve learned (have we really) that baseball executives are sometimes (perhaps most times) told by ownership to keep their players in the minors even after they’re ready, and to generally treat “the help” as poorly as they can without completely alienating them. This plan, of course, would work more effectively, if they didn’t go before the rotary club and actually say things out loud. Of course, in Minnesota, we’ve known that sort of thing since the Calvin Griffith days.
“The help” in MLB, of course aren’t relying on the tips of utterly horrible people like they do on “Below Deck” and even the poorest of the “help” in MLB are making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, with most making millions…but still…the attitudes shown by the Seattle Mariners executive recently does give one pause. Just because you’re a millionaire doesn’t mean people can’t demean you. Perhaps if MLB had a reality show like the NFL does by following a pre-season team around and sharing their inner-most “secrets” with all of us, we’d see some things that couldn’t be unseen. Like, Below Deck, like my winter.
Generally, this time of year, my thoughts turn to Byron Buxton. Last year, I wrote that the Twins should trade him. This thought, for the most part, went over about as well as Sean Spicer’s dancing career (I saw clips, I knew the ending). Most who commented on my Buxton thoughts probably thought I should have turned to daytime TV much, much sooner. But, here we are again. The Twins are obviously better with Buxton in the line-up, and conversely, and utterly logically, so much worse without him. So, what kind of lunacy would involve trading him? Then again, and often through no fault of his own, he’s all too often not in the line-up, always being the unluckiest luckiest guy in the world. He’s complicated, no doubt. Great player, great teammate, straw that stirs the drink, all of that….except that every year, without fail, the drink that is the line-up goes unstirred for long periods of time.
Soon enough the Twins ownership will be faced with extending him…or not. Even though the Twins brass was smart enough not to say it out loud, we know they, like the Mariners, and probably most teams, do everything they can to keep “the help” down as long as they can and limit their service time before free agency. It’s good business. It’s got to be frustrating to the players to whom it happens. It happened to Buxton. Is he more parts angry about that, and about being sent down a year or so ago, and not brought back up in September, or is that frustration counterbalanced by the Twins devotion to him and the kind things they say about him, even though he’s hurt every single year? I don’t know. Falvey and Levine probably do, and they are smart enough not to tell me. Why would they? I can’t even figure out why “reality” shows are so popular when they’re so fundamentally bad…even AFTER having become somewhat addicted to one of them myself. Perhaps I just answered my own question there, but I digress.
Similarly, we are addicted to Buxton. He’s so good, he’s so valuable…he’s so….almost certainly going to get injured again and again. But then again, maybe his luck will turn, this time he’ll stay in the line-up all year. Rocco will manage him effectively, give him the necessary days off and come play-off time he’ll be himself and we can win a game. I hate to sound negative, and I, like most Twins fans truly, truly believe this team (if healthy of course) is good enough to win a playoff series, maybe even multiple playoff series. But, as with all “realities” the other side of me still says that before we talk about winning a playoff series, maybe we should focus on winning a playoff game. As the “Common Man” might say…. “win something, and then get back to me.”
So, in the end, this year, I say let’s not trade him. I’ve suffered enough the last couple of months, I don’t need the comments telling me what an idiot I am, my newfound addiction to “Below Deck” has already convinced me of that salient, if painful, fact. Let’s see how this year plays out, maybe Buxton will be as great as he can be for the entire season and then we can decide on an extension. Of course, if we do that, and he’s really that great all year, history suggests we’ll never actually extend him for the kind of money he’ll be making, but that seems more logical than extending him now when we “might” be able to afford him, given his injury history. It’s a bit of a conundrum for Falvey and Levine for sure.
Perhaps the best of arguments is simply to leave him alone, hope for the best, and if we win a playoff game, and then we win a playoff series or two…well, then he will have once and for all shown his value. He’s the captain of the ship, and we clearly sink without him. I love him, I am frustrated by him. I don’t know what he might possibly do next, in terms of something amazingly good, like making a routine groundball to short into a game winning hit, or another truly amazing catch at the wall...or freakishly injurious….I just don’t know what will happen next. It’s kind of like your typical episode of “Below Deck” when it comes right down to it. So until the next episode of “Below Deck: Minnesota Twins”…for this year, I say we ride him out, we don’t even consider trading him, and if he carries us to the promised land, we give him everything he wants, and if he doesn’t, well….next year, about this time, I’m going to suggest a trade, I won’t be able to help myself. Some things, like death, taxes, and bad reality TV shows are just a part of life.
We’ll have plenty of time to regret whatever decision we make. If he plays all year, and we win and win some more, we will regret not having extended him while we might be able to “afford” him. If he gets hurt again, then…well…come on people, how many times? Either way, we can accept the results, and either way the tooth will probably hurt (cheap shot about a root canal), but seriously….he’s been hurt from his toes to his hair…if I got on a boat with Byron Buxton, he’d either be the best, ablest captain taking me to the finest port….or we’d go the way of the Titanic….here’s hoping for the former. Win Twins, and Falvey, Levine, the rest of you…keep on keeping on, and for the love of all that is good, when you are invited to speak to a public group, think of “reality TV”….we can hear you.