Associated Press

Opening Day 2019: ‘Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’

35 Comments

Before he lost his air of invincibility — before he became a convicted rapist and then, ultimately, a side show — Mike Tyson was a greatly feared boxer. Whether it was because of his fierce style, the historic weakness of the post-Larry Holmes heavyweight division or some combination of the two, no one had an answer for him for the first four years of his career. He was simply unstoppable.

Back when Tyson was unstoppable, his opponents were invariably asked what they’d do against him. What they would do that the guy who was knocked senseless by Tyson a couple of months before did not do. They all had different answers.

Some said they’d use a lot of lateral movement. Some said they’d keep him at bay with jabs. Some said they’d get on their bike and use the whole ring in an effort to tire him out. Some said they’d tie him up. It never worked. At least it never worked until an out-of-shape and ill-prepared Tyson got knocked the hell out by Columbus, Ohio’s own Buster Douglas on February 11, 1990, but that’s another story.

One time, when Tyson was still invincible, someone asked him about his opponents’ strategies and how he intended to counter them. In response, he gave what is probably his most famous quote: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

I was never much of a Tyson fan, but my God, I love that quote. It’s a far better version of that old 19th century Prussian general’s “no battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy” comment. Pithier. More visceral. If you’re organizing an army, go with Helmuth von Moltke the Elder. If you want to tell someone they’re just gonna get smashed, go with Tyson. Either way, there is some serious friggin’ wisdom in those words. And Tyson’s words always come to mind for me on Opening Day.

Opening Day follows spring training which, in turn, follows the hot stove season and if those three things have anything in common, it’s optimism. Almost every team, and almost every fan of almost every team, convinces themselves between November and March that things are gonna be better than they were last season. If things were OK last season — and if they picked up a good player or two over the winter — they convince themselves that things will be great. If a top prospect is ready to contribute too, Katy bar the door, buy the jerseys and start stashing cash for the postseason tickets.

Then Opening Day comes, their starter gets shelled, their bullpen gets exposed and the heart of their order goes 1-for-11 with five strikeouts. Even if they know better — even if they know the season is 162 games long and one day doesn’t mean a thing — a lot of people reach for the panic button by around beer-thirty on Opening Day.

And I love it. I freakin’ love it.

Don’t get me wrong: that optimism is a good thing at first. It’s a nice way to transition from winter to spring. But I’d much rather see teams and fans deal with the reality of their roster and talent than play the “if everything breaks right” game. I’d rather they all gird themselves for the long, wonderful slog that is the regular season than get totally jacked up like they do for Opening Day. I love Opening Day, but as I’ve noted many, many times, the appeal of baseball comes not from its big events — especially its one-off events — but from its everyday nature. From the notion that no one game matters that much even if all the games, as they form the soundtrack to my spring, summer and early fall, matter more than anything. There’s bliss to be found in any one baseball moment, but the good stuff is all the baseball moments, taken in manageable doses with a decent amount of reality and self-awareness about it all, in the aggregate.

This evening, by roughly 10:30PM, there will be 15 teams and 15 fan bases that got punched in the mouth. By the end of the weekend, some of them will have been punched in the mouth a few times. They’ll know that their “two legit starters and some alleged depth” is not a plan for a pitching staff. They’ll know that the 15,000 words written about Joe Shlabotnik’s offseason workout regimen and new approach has done absolutely nothing to help him lay off breaking crap in the dirt. They’ll know that all the slogans and images spit out by the wannabe Don Drapers in the marketing department and all the faux-brainy cloudspeak spit out by the wannabe Steve Jobs in the baseball operations department aren’t any match for not having a stronger roster than the one we tricked ourselves into believing in back in mid-February. Reality will begin to creep in and we’ll begin adjusting ourselves to what the baseball season is as opposed to what we erroneously convince ourselves it will be when we’re staring out of our windows all winter long, waiting for spring.

Opening Day is glorious. Not because of what it means for its own sake. But for that punch in the mouth that snaps us all back to the highs, lows and day-to-day ins and outs of glorious baseball reality.

Hit me.

 

Major League Baseball threatens to walk away from Minor League Baseball entirely

Getty Images
1 Comment

The war between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball escalated significantly last night, with Minor League Baseball releasing a memo accusing Major League Baseball of “repeatedly and inaccurately” describing the former’s stance in negotiations and Major League Baseball responding by threatening to cut ties with Minor League Baseball entirely.

As you’re no doubt aware, negotiations of the next, 10-year Professional Baseball Agreement, which governs the relationship between the big leagues and the minors — and which is set to expire following the 2020 season — have turned acrimonious. Whereas past negotiations have been quick and uncontroversial, this time Major League Baseball presented Minor League Baseball with a plan to essentially contract 42 minor league baseball teams by eliminating their major league affiliation while demanding that Minor League Baseball undertake far more of the financial burden of player development which is normally the responsibility of the majors.

That plan became public in October when Baseball America reported on it, after which elected officials such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren began weighing in on the side of Minor League Baseball. Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball were not happy with all of that and, on Wednesday, Manfred bashed Minor League Baseball for taking the negotiations public and accused Minor League Baseball of intransigence, saying the minors had assumed a “take it or leave it” negotiating stance.

Last night Minor League Baseball bashed back in the form of a four-page public memo countering Manfred’s claims, with point-point-by-point rebuttals of Major League Baseball’s talking points on various matters ranging from stadium facilities, team travel, and player health and welfare. You can read the memo in this Twitter thread from Josh Norris of Baseball America.

Major League Baseball responded with its own public statement last night. But rather than publicly rebut Minor League Baseball’s claims, it threatened to simply drop any agreement with Minor League Baseball and, presumably start its own minor league system bypassing MiLB entirely:

“If the National Association [of Minor League Clubs] has an interest in an agreement with Major League Baseball, it must address the very significant issues with the current system at the bargaining table. Otherwise, MLB clubs will be free to affiliate with any minor league team or potential team in the United States, including independent league teams and cities which are not permitted to compete for an affiliate under the current agreement.”

So, in the space of about 48 hours, Manfred has gone from being angry at the existence of public negotiations to negotiating in public, angrily.

As for Minor League Baseball going public itself, one Minor League Baseball owner’s comments to the Los Angeles Times seems to sum up the thinking pretty well:

“Rob is attempting to decimate the industry, destroy baseball in communities and eliminate thousands of jobs, and he’s upset that the owners of the teams have gone public with that information in an effort to save their teams. That’s rich.”

Things, it seems, are going to get far worse before they get better. If, in fact, they do get better.