Posts Tagged ‘Power’

Lightening in a Bottle: Washington’s Teenage Outfielder

The Bryce Harper Topps' Rookie Card

Sometimes you just know it when you see it. Like the friend of mine who remembers watching a young Yankee shortstop take the field for the first time in 1996. It didn’t matter that he was a rookie playing his very first game in the big leagues; it was in his carriage and attitude and demeanor. It was obvious and it was Derek Jeter.

In DC, the Bryce Harper era has begun…ahead of schedule. The young man who was all of 15 when he crushed a 500-foot exhibition homerun at Tropicana Field in Tampa and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16, got called up from the minors after a barrage of injuries beset the Washington Nationals.

So there he was in left field Saturday night, clearly taking in the sights and sounds of Dodger Stadium as if pinching himself that, at last, here he was, at The Show. We all collectively worried- would the 19-year old prodigy wilt under the pressure? Are they ruining him by bringing him to the majors too soon?

Are you kidding? In his first game, he scorched a double over the centerfielder’s head that landed at the foot of the wall. Later, in left field, in a tight scoreless game, he threw a 370-foot laser beam- a perfect strike to home plate that would have easily thrown out the runner if the catcher hadn’t dropped the ball.

Ok…flukey first game. Let’s see how the kid does Sunday. This time in center field, he made a leaping, wild catch that led him right into the outfield wall. He got another hit, a solid single to left field. Then while his teammates were striking out 13 times against suffocating Dodger pitching, he coaxed a walk to get on base late in the game. He showed more maturity and patience in that base on balls than any of his older teammates that day.

He doesn’t walk to the field to take his position- he hustles. He’s known for his power, but he runs like a gazelle. He fears nothing- not outfield walls, not the glare of the spotlight, not failing amid some of the highest expectations ever held for any young prospect in the history of the game.

National’s manager, Davey Johnson has been here before. He was the one in the New York Mets organization who back in 1985, successfully argued that a young pitcher with the most amazing stuff he’d ever seen should be brought up to the majors and it didn’t matter to him one hoot that it was a 19 year- old teenager. That was Dwight Gooden. The next year, that kid helped lead the Mets to a World Series title. It is no wonder Davey Johnson was suggesting out of spring training, that Harper too should move up to the big leagues…NOW. He saw this a quarter century ago. Which seems about right for a player like that who only comes along once or twice in a generation. The Nationals have the other once-a-generation guy too- Stephen Strasburg.

But in Harper, I imagine this is what it must have been like to see a young Mickey Mantle, who when he wasn’t hitting monster homeruns, was flying like the wind, running from home plate to 1st base in just over three seconds. The Mantle I remember was already a busted up mess with an alcohol problem and knees so damaged he had to be taped up like a mummy before games just so he could walk out to the field.

Because people like me don’t put enough pressure on Harper– comparing him to the likes of Derek Jeter, Dwight Gooden and Mickey Mantle- let me also add he reminds me of Secretariat as a one-year old thoroughbred. Grace and power and speed; running like a young colt in a Virginia meadow just for the joy of it.

Harper’s meadow is the outfield at National’s Park and the joy is not just his, but ours as well.

Congress: Where Failure is Always an Option

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Chart courtesy of the office of Senator Michael Bennet

Already less popular than Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez, BP during the oil spill, Nixon during Watergate, lawyers, the IRS and Paris Hilton, Congress seems intent on finding a new bottom in the hearts of the public. The so-called congressional Super Committee’s failure to find even modest savings and revenues to address the federal deficit is just one more example why people seem to really despise Congress.

There is plenty of blame to go around on both sides and this is not an opinion forged out of a need to sound non-partisan. The combination of cowardice and partisanship is very, very powerful and both Democrats and Republicans are proving that, in this Congress, playing politics trumps national interest every time.

Democrats have not been serious about addressing the cause of much of our deficit-spending- entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Why? Because the choices are painful and politically unpopular. Republicans, to their credit, finally gave in a tiny little bit and for the first time in recent memory, agreed to a modest rise in tax revenues but then sabotaged the whole thing by demanding that the Bush tax cuts not be allowed to expire at the end of the year- without identifying ways to pay for them.

With this failure, Congress has now opened the door to more failures over the next couple of months. Extended unemployment benefits may not happen. Keeping payroll tax cuts going into next year are, inexplicably, at risk.

Worst of all, Congress is expected to debate over the weeks ahead, whether to water down, delay or eliminate the triggered cuts that were supposed to take place if the Super Committee failed to do its job. The idea was that these cuts, many of them amounting to deep slashes in Pentagon spending, would surely pressure lawmakers into making a deficit deal. After all, who wants to be blamed for weakening America’s military?

If they try to weasel out of those triggered cuts, you can kiss even our AA+ S&P rating goodbye.

Clearly, no one cares up there on Capitol Hill. They don’t care if America is downgraded by credit agencies. They don’t care about endangering national defense. They don’t care about the unemployed. They don’t really care about reducing deficits. They give all the above considerable lip service- but the results tell the real story about the priorities of our politicians. They care about only two things; immediate political survival and getting on the gravy train when they leave Congress so they can continue to enrich themselves.

Representatives from both sides took to the Sunday talking-head shows to blame each other and finger point. No last-minute emergency negotiations. No burning the midnight oil. No college try. Nothing.

They are, however, working on the statement expected today- describing their failure to reach a deal. Maybe they won’t find a way to agree on that either.

Ruminating on Rupert

July 19, 2011 1 comment

No matter how tough a day I’ve had, and I’ve had a few rough ones recently, I can still connect to the World Wide Web and thank God everyday that I am not Rupert Murdoch.

I am going to assume you have read the daily developments and know each day brings news of arrests, resignations, back-room corporate intrigue, and tanking Newscorp stock prices- all stemming from the phone-hacking scandal in Britain. Tuesday brings his appearance before the House of Commons for which the private rehearsals have reportedly raised concerns.

I’ve read a lot about Rupert lately. Here’s a piece from Steve Forbes suggesting he’s a swell guy who will pass this latest test with flying colors. Ethically, Forbes concludes his column by revealing he has a show on the Fox News Network.

Then there is this by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. In comparing Murdoch to Citizen Kane and William Randolph Hearst, Cohen sees this melodrama as an instructive display of the dynamics of power-wielding. Cohen also points out the surprising fact that though the newspaper industry may be dying, tons of ink and reams of paper still provide those who control print media what they crave most of all- primal political power.

The practice of bestowing daily good press on “friends” while thrashing “enemies” on an equally consistent basis- still works! It creates the fear that leads to power and influence. There is one problem with this approach, however. Everything’s fine as long as you’re on top of the world. The second the world rolls on top of you, you discover you’ve made very powerful enemies along the way.

As Murdock is learning, those who were once in fear are now the ones to be feared. No one stays on the top of the world forever. Not even Rupert.