5 Degrees of Bacon Bacon

On my own and on the road at dinner hour this evening, I stopped at
a National Sandwich Chain. Upon reaching the counter, I was greeted by
a fresh-scrubbed American male of the youthful college variety. “How
may I help you?” he asked rabidly. I jumped back.

“I would like the turkey sandwich,” I said, “but hold the bacon, please.”

“Well,” he said, obsequiousness giving way to consternation, “That’s a
problem. See, the sandwiches, they’re premade in, I think, Eastern
Europe, and we just stick them in a panini press to heat them up. So if
you don’t want the bacon, you need to give us permission to go in and
get it.”

“Go in?”

“Break ‘er open.”

“That sounds invasive. How about you just give it to me as is and I’ll pull of the bacon myself.”

“Why don’t you want it?”


“Why don’t you want the bacon?”

“It’s just not my thing.”

“Just personal taste, or…”

“It’s part cultural, part nutritional, it’s — I’m not discussing this with you. Can I just have the sandwich?”

“You don’t want us to remove the bacon? Because we can just excavate that sucker –“


“You don’t want the sandwich?”

“I do want the sandwich. I don’t want you to touch it anymore than is strictly necessary. I will remove the bacon myself.”

“You see this button?” He pointed to the register. “It’s the bacon button. I’m going to press it.”

“Okay. You do that.”

“It’s a shame to let it go to waste.”

“Then make your sandwiches fresh and don’ t have them shipped over the Silk Road with the ingredients soldered in.”

He ignored me. “Well, that’s done. Now … What would you like to drink?”
I steeled myself for a debate about the merits of diet vs. regular. The
rest is a blank. I might have blacked out from the stress. I
half-suspect that I’m not really writing this. I’m still there, trying
to get a little poultry and two slices of bread and failing miserably.

The AL Gold Gloves
I’ve never tasted a Gold Glove, but I bet they have that same chewy consistency and flavor as a Cadbury Easter egg. I normally get frustrated with
pundits that pompously pout about awards, crying that they’re so
watered down as to be ludicrous, because while it’s mostly true that
(a) the awards validate their recipients in the eyes of the mainstream,
and it’s important to keep speaking up for quality players when the
awards pass them by, and (b) this is the lame, corrupted world that we
live in, so engage with it already.

The need to joust with the Gold Gloves is particularly acute, since so
much perception of defense seems to be based on how many times the
hometown announcer shouts, “Great play!” There’s more to it than that,
and while zone-based rating systems aren’t foolproof, they take some
of the subjectivity out of defensive appraisals by providing us facts
that at their most basic level show how many balls were hit towards a
fielder and how many he picked up. If you don’t cope with these figures
when ranking defensive players, you’re left with cases made on the
basis of “I thought he looked pretty good.” Your friend Barney could
say that about his wife, and he wouldn’t be any more right or any more
wrong than someone who held a contradictory opinion (Sorry, Barney, but
we’ve gotta be straight with you about this).

That said, in this sense, the Gold Glove award voters didn’t
necessarily err in giving Derek Jeter his chocolate-y citation, number
four. Jeter was at his best this year, and made his usual quotient of
heady plays. But the days of “past a diving Jeter” have hardly
vanished. Jeter deserves credit for somehow improving his fielding at about the time that most shortstops are being banished to other
positions or retiring, and if he wasn’t the best defensive shortstop in
the league, he gave a championship club what it needed. This was also
not a great year for defensive shortstops in the American League, and
while Elvis Andrus of the Rangers probably deserved a shot at the
award, he made 22 errors in 145 games — the second most in the
league. He’ll trim that down as he gets older and the Cadbury Gloves
will come his way.

The big oversight, which everyone with two nostrils has pointed out, is
the omission of Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez from the
awards. Gutierrez has been the best outfielder in the league for a few
years now, and having gotten away from Cleveland he finally got to show
what he could do in the central pasture. It’s not clear how the voters
missed this, given that you don’t need the stats (which support
Gutierrez) to prove his excellence. It was there on the field and in
the nightly highlight reels. This might be the biggest miscarriage of
justice in these awards since Rafael Palmiero was given one for being
the best-fielding DH.

A quick to the mats with reader comments: Defending Branch (Who Doesn’t Need it)
Keep the team intact. Replace the parts when they weaken. And with all
respect to Mr. Rickey, his teams were wonderful, but they were not
World Series Winners, literally or metaphorically. Ultimately, they
were the Pittsburgh Pirates. So, to sum up, let us not, even in print,
be so all knowing and arrogant that we wish to destroy the unit that we
all admire.
— Barry

Barry, you’ve been misinformed. It is true that Branch Rickey was
General Manager of the Pirates from 1951 to 1955 and couldn’t do much
with them. However, the Buccos were a very small part of his career.
The two teams for which he did the bulk of his work, the Cardinals and
the Dodgers, were crazy successful. Rickey ran the Cardinals from 1919
through 1942. In that time, the Cards won six pennants and four World
Series. In two of those series the Cardinals defeated the Yankees. In
the immediate aftermath of Rickey’s departure, the team he built added
another three pennants and two more championships. The Dodgers
franchise he took over had had some recent success, but had been
derailed by the War and needed to be rebuilt, and rebuilt cheaply,
because as much as the Dodgers were beloved in Brooklyn they were not
that successful in the revenue department. The necessity, combined
with Rickey’s strong morality, created the conditions in which the
color line could be broken. Rickey remained in Brooklyn through 1950,
winning two pennants. He also deserves a large share of the credit for the
other pennants won by the Dodgers in the 1950s, as well as the 1955
championship. Let us also throw in his last job, as the power behind
the throne for the World Series-winning 1964 Cardinals, another team
that beat the Yankees.

The word genius is tossed around far too lightly, but Rickey was a
baseball genius, and was responsible for as many pennants as any
executive not named Ed Barrow or George Weiss. If his advise was to get
rid of a guy too early rather than too late, we have to heed what he
said. The issue is not whether or not Rickey was correct, because he
was; the issue is whether or not the Yankees can find the replacements
that allow them to pass on their soon-to-be old timers.


  1. barrylane@sympatico.ca


    Thank you for a thoughtful, intelligent response. Nothing less was expected, and while all of your points are accepted, you missed mine. First, The Yanks are the gold standard, not the Cards or Dodgers. Second, and of more importance, at least to me, is that some teams you can fall in love with, others, not so much. This season, this post-season, as well, took the team to another level. Being part of them, as a member of the congregation, was an existential religous experience. They provided more than entertainment, but rather epiphany. And for more than just me. I am not alone in this. And, I am in no hurry to lose the love. In any case, there seems to be little or no justification on a practical level to do so.


  2. laib87@optonline.net


    What’s your thoughts on the Yankees retaining Wang? Even if he doesn’t return to form, based on his last month before he went on the DL the second time he’s still a serviceable pitcher, if not the ground ball wizard he used to be. Couldn’t they keep him to use him as a trading chip? A 5 million dollar contract wouldn’t scare away too many teams come July.

    – Vinny

  3. paulo720

    Hate to be pedantic here but why is it that no one can tell the difference between the words ‘advise’ (verb) and ‘advice’ (noun) anymore?

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