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Thread: Brooklyn Blues

  1. #16
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    I took a sip of water, settled in. "I feel like grandpa telling stories from the war," I said.

    The kid looked puzzled. "Didn't your grandpa Karl tell stories on the radio for years? Was he in the war?"

    And we all turned back to look at her, and not...quite...say anything. "Anyway, game seven was tight. It was in Wrigley, and we had Benson going. Their ace was Trey Moore, but he couldn't go for them. But somebody forgot to tell Jason Marquis that he wasn't the ace. They scored in the fifth - fourth? - no, fifth, and it was something like two singles and a groundout, just a scratch run. Other than that, Benson was fantastic. But so was Marquis."

    I looked at Lampere now. Every time I'd seen him in the two days I'd been here, he'd been sweating and flushed. Now he looked pale, as though there was a ghost behind me. I guess there was. I took another sip.

    "So we got to the bottom of the ninth. They brought in Damaso Marte, who had saved something like 40 or 50 games that year. And he was on his way to another one. He struck Baker out looking, then got Allen swinging. I managed to get some wood on it and sent it to left for a single. Then Marte uncorked a pitch that was so wild that even my slow ass made it down to second. So we still had two outs, but I was the tying run in scoring position." I looked around - I swear even the roaches had stopped and were listening now.

    "Skip brought in Rob Makowiak to pinch hit. He had some ankle problem or something, or he'd have been in the game the whole way. And it worked - took one, then sent the second pitch to right, good clean single behind the runner. Just what he was supposed to do. I took off for third, but everybody knew I was stopping there." That brought a very definite wince to Lampere's face, and in glancing around, I saw it echoed on Mal's and Frank's.

    "And then I looked to the coaches box, and there was Bill Kyser. And he was waving me around." The tension released for everybody who knew how it turned out. Which I guessed was everybody in the room.

    "Now, I was not a bad ballplayer. I could hit, I could hit for power, I had a good glove. I played first, so I didn't have to throw much, but when I had to I could do it. But one thing I was not, was fast. Sure, I was fast enough to easily make it to third. But home too, from second, on a routine single? But there it was. And suddenly I remembered - Juan Encarnacion was a good fielder out in right, but he had hurt his shoulder earlier in the year, and his arm still wasn't all the way back. There was a chance, that if he was watching the ball and not me, and if he didn't notice I was rounding third, and if he hurried his throw and it was a little slow, or a little off, then maybe we could surprise him."

    Just nods now, from everywhere.

    "So Kyser gave me the sign, and I took off with everything I had in me. I had no idea where the ball was, I just ran for the plate. Orlando Hudson, he was on deck, he was waving like a madman for me to slide, so I did." I stopped and took yet another drink. Then put it down, made no move to pick up the story. Both because I was teasing Dara, and because it really wasn't my favorite.

    Dara asked. "And then?" I swear, she sounded as though she thought this had a happy ending.

    "I caught my spike on something. Never did figure out what. Tore my leg apart at two or three places, just snapped it like a twig. My body hit Eli Marrero blocking the plate, but I wasn't in control of it by then. And he had the ball. I was out, and I couldn't even get up and walk off the field while the Oaks jumped around and partied on our field. I just had to lay there."

    The look on Lampere's face? I'd seen it before. At funerals. Dara was looking at my legs, apparently trying to figure out which one had broken. It was my left, for the record, and there was enough metal in it that I was delayed on commercial flights now. I figured I owed her the rest. "Hell of it is, to my dying day I'll say I would have been safe. Anyway, it took me over a year to heal properly. The Cubs were great about it, but when I got back to rehab games they'd moved on, and when I was a free agent, I found that the rest of the league had too. Of course Kyser had been 'allowed to resign' right after the Series. A year later, we were both out of baseball."

    I turned to face them all, trying to get everyone into my view at once. "And now we're both back. And we're both together. And we've both got something to prove to baseball, and we're by God going to prove it, and if anybody doesn't like it, then they had just better get out of our way right now. Understood?" I was talking to them all, but I was by that point looking at Mal. I kept up the look until I saw her nod silently. I had seen the others do the same already.

    "Mal," I said as I got up from the table, taking an apple from the fruit bowl, "Bill Kyser will be here tomorrow at 11 for a press conference where we'll announce him. At 1 he, you, Frank, Adam and I will be meeting to go over this roster and see if we can do anything about it. Good enough?"

    I hoped nobody noticed how much I was sweating.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  2. #17
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    "What a goddam mess." Bill had said those same words at least three times in the past two minutes. Of course he was looking at the rosters. Mal laughed - after all, she'd lived with it longer than Bill and I had. Adam looked as though he wanted to be defensive, but even he couldn't defend this. Frank Scurry looked like he'd found something very interesting on the floor.

    "No argument there. Let's try something different. How about we look at what we've got that's good?" I knew the glass half full would annoy my manager.

    "Well aren't you just little Mary goddam Sunshine. You want me to find something good in this? Fine. We're going to get some damn good draft picks for the next five years."

    I thought I saw something on Adam's face. It was hard to tell, and I don't really know the man all that well, but I was pretty sure..."You have something to say, Adam?"

    "No! It's...no," he muttered the last. Now I was sure.

    "Adam. What was it that you were not going to say?"

    "Oh for God's sake, Adam, just tell him!" Mal said. "It's not like you have to protect him anymore."

    "Protect...who?" I asked, though again I thought I knew.

    "What in hell are you people talking about?" Kyser asked.

    "Adam?" I demanded, with a glare toward him. Really didn't want to see him shrink into himself the way he did.

    "Well, it's just that you said we were going to get good draft picks, and Mal knows that I know and she knew that that was exactly what Ray wanted to do," he whined. Everything on his face screamed "please don't make me talk any more."

    I turned and looked at Bill, ignoring Adam. "Terrific."

    For the first time since our initial meeting the day before, Bill looked almost happy. Then again, Bill was always most happy when he could be miserable. "So he figured he wasn't gonna get anybody worth having in the draft, and he might as well tank so he could get some top draft picks for the first five or six years. Probably was counting on being Nomen's buddy to keep him from getting fired until they were good."

    I nodded along. "Right, and by the time they were good, everybody would forget how bad they'd been when he started. Or if they remembered, he'd get all the credit for making them better. Actually not the dumbest plan I've ever heard," I had to admit.

    "Well it's easy for you to say all this, both of you!" Mal interjected. "You weren't here. You didn't see the list of players we could get, either in the minor league or the major league drafts. A sorrier bunch I've never seen in my life, and we were supposed to make a team out of them. It couldn't be done, and you couldn't have done any better."

    She was seething by this time. And I didn't figure I had time to play to her ego the way Grandpa Karl taught me. And to be honest, I didn't feel much like doing it anyway.

    Then Bill surprised me. "Let me guess. You three all knew how bad the choices were, and he made them all without consulting you much." She swiveled on him, as did Adam and to a lesser extent Frank, and I expected the outburst to come, but they all looked shocked.

    "How did you - ?" she asked.

    "And when you confronted him about it, he just said that if he made all the decisions by himself then none of you could get blamed for it when they were terrible. He was protecting his people, like a good manager should." Bill was quiet, not at all his usual gruff self. It was almost as though he was talking to a daughter.

    Said daughter was, in this case, just thinking. The room got very quiet. After almost thirty seconds, she looked at Bill, but spoke to me, in saying "Okay, you're right. He's good."

    Figuring we should leave this behind, I just said "Of course he is. I wouldn't have hired him otherwise. Or rounded third, for that matter." There was another pause, and another glare from her, as we all waited to reset the conversation. To be honest I'm coming to think that "glare" is her default facial expression. We have a name for that.

    I went first. "Okay, so we're bad at pretty much all positions. Our Gardner Scale ratings - wait. Frank? Do our scouts use the Gardner Scale from 1 - 100, or the 20 - 80 scale?"

    "Gardner. I think it allows more detail and nuance in the reports."

    I nodded. "Current and peak ratings, or just the peak?"

    He replied "Both. Every player gets two numbers - where we think he is on a scale of 1 - 100, and where we think he might get to some day."

    More nods. My neck was beginning to get sore. "Major league average at 75?" This time it was all three of them who nodded.

    "Okay," I said. "Then as nearly as I can tell, we're good at right field. Nolan Mowett is 79/79, and James John is 75/75. That's the only position where we have two players at or above the major league average."

    "You're going to trade one of them, aren't you?"
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  3. #18
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    "You're going to trade one of them, aren't you?"

    "If I can," I agreed with Bill.

    "Why?" asked Adam. He was still whining, but it wasn't quite as bad as before. "Why not just put Mowett as the DH, or move John to left? We don't have anybody there either."

    "That's quite true. Gustavo Amella in left is terrible, barely a 67/67. But he's popular in New York, and I'm hoping that playing him will help us to fill the seats. That's why Andres Blanco is playing short for us too." That was my reasoning, anyway. But I expected to be challenged on it.

    And there was Mal, proving I could count on her. "The fact that Amella, and to a lesser extent Blanco, both were playing in the Giants' farm system when you were working your way up it in the front office doesn't enter into it, right? Come on, Jack, nobody's going to believe that!"

    "And yet, it's true."

    "Settle down, you two," Bill interjected. "I wouldn't mind keeping all of them. You know, I do have to have somebody to stand out on the field during the season, right?"

    "Grant Goodall is 66/66, only one point below Amella, and we both know when my scouts are one point off on their ratings they mean they really don't know. Plus he came from the Yankees, so he's got a fan base in New York too," Frank said. I could see that he was going to be my voice of reasonableness. We'd have to see how that went. Still, I did give him a point for admitting that some of the precise numbers of our business were bull.

    "I understand, but the Yankees are in our division, where the Giants are not. Plus, the Yankees are New York, while even though the Giants are called New York, they're on the Island with us."

    A brief pause, before Mal said "What in hell does that have to do with anything?"

    "Anything on the field? Nothing at all. Anything in our marketing? Plenty. The Yankees are our natural rival, in a way the Giants just aren't. Jill and her people are going to push that hard. We're going to have both Andres and Gustavo, and any other Giants we get, as practically the big brother helping out little brother against the neighborhood bully. The bully, of course, being the Yankees."

    There was a brief pause as they all chewed that over. Slowly, beginning with Bill, I saw nods. Good enough for me.

    Good enough for Frank, too. "Well, probably our best position player is Brian Desimone at third. 24 years old, rated 78/79."

    "Right," I said. "And making $15 million this year, and asking for at least $16 million next year. We can't afford him. He's trade bait."

    "You gonna put on a uniform yourself and take the field, boy? 'Cause I don't see anybody else who can play third worth a damn in the whole organization."

    I kept my face completely serious. "No, first was my position. And look, Tharrington is 58/58 and Tinker is 59/59 over there. I figure I'll start working out after the Winter Meetings." Everybody looked at me as though they couldn't figure out how to get the straightjacket on me. "I'm kidding, people."

    "I wasn't sure," Bill said. The others agreed.

    "Come on, I'm 41 years old and haven't played in the majors in thirteen years. I'm not going to put myself on the roster, all right?" They agreed, but they didn't look like they were sure I meant it.

    "No," I changed the subject, "we can't afford Desimone."

    "But we can," Mal said. This time she wasn't angry, she was more confused. "Our payroll is," she called up another doc on her pad, "27th out of 32 teams in the league. And several of the teams below us are probably going to pass us when we get to Free Agency. Even the most pessimistic estimates say we've got several millions more in salary room. Why not keep him?"

    "Mostly?" I replied. "Because he played in 22 games last year, and spent more time in the minors than the majors. And while that's fine for a young player, and terrific for our squad, it's not enough for one I'm going to spend 15 million dollars on. We can do better for our money. Hell, we can put it in the bank and wait until we have somebody worth paying that much for."

    I could see that they didn't completely agree with me, but could at least understand. I decided that this was the time to put it out there. "You don't like this, do you?" I asked the room in general. Nobody was willing to say anything, one way or another. "That's okay. Now let me tell you something one of my old coaches used to tell us. The great thing about being the boss is that you don't have to listen to people's advice just because you asked for it."

    Mal looked angry. Frank looked doubtful. Bill looked bored. Oddly, Adam looked happy. I gave him a look that I hoped said "Do you want to explain what you're thinking?" And he did.

    "That was from Star Trek. Captain Kirk. 'One of the advantages of being Captain, Doctor, is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it,' he quoted.

    "Sure," I agreed.

    He wasn't stopping. "Dagger of the Mind. Episode nine, in the first season. Costarring - " I cut him off.

    "Well, I'll listen to advice from anybody in this room. But it doesn't mean I'm going to follow it. Desimone goes." I stared at each of them. Bill looked as though he couldn't have cared less. Adam was still excited to get to quote Star Trek. It was mostly intended for Mal and Frank anyway. And one by one, Frank first, they agreed.

    "Good. Because you're really going to hate what I do with the only good relief pitcher we have in the whole organization."
    Last edited by birdsin89; 05-27-2020 at 11:55 AM.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  4. #19
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    "No!" Mal cried. "Guerreb was the one good thing that fell to us in any of the drafts. You can't!"

    It was all I could do not to stand up and go nose to nose with her. I managed not to, but it was close. "Like hell I can't. I can, and I will."

    "Just to prove that you're in charge now and not Ray Bernard! Just to prove - "

    "Stop." I said it quietly. Well, I thought it was quiet. "Mal, I thought we just finished up on how I feel about taking advice. If you would like to listen to me, I am sure I can explain myself to you." Then I glared back at her. "I don't have to explain myself to you, but I will. If you don't like it, you know where the door is."

    "If you haven't traded it for a two by four to be named later," she said. I had to admit, it wasn't bad, so I laughed.

    Then I started talking, from memory, because I'd thought this was going to happen and wanted everyone to know that I knew what I was talking about. "Jose Guerreb is 23 years old. He just finished his fifth season, all with the San Francisco Earthquakes. He has 171 saves in that time, and that's against only blowing 13. Opposing batters have a .172 average against him. His earned run averages each year have been 1.29, 2.70, 2.60, 1.72, and 0.67, and his total is 1.88. Frank's scouts have him rated at 95/96, which is a Hall of Fame rating, and I don't doubt it for a second."

    I looked around, saw that they were with me so far. Mal had even quietly sat down. I didn't know her well, but even I could read the look on her face. It said "With all this being the case, why are we even considering dealing him?" What the hell, it beat the look on her face saying "You're an idiot." And so I answered. "And he's currently making only ten million, but this is his contract year. His agent wants 27 million per year to even talk to me, and it will go up from there. He does not have anywhere near the endurance to convert to being a starter. The sad and simple fact is that what we need now, he isn't."

    "It's not like we're going to need a closer for the first couple of years. We may not have any save situations for him to come in for," Bill said.

    "Very true. And aside from that, once the World Series is over, I can get actual value for him. Value that I can't get for the other marginal players we have. Or even for Brian Desimone."

    There was a pause. Then the best sound I'd heard yet. "Do you want major league ready prospects, or a couple of years down the road?" she asked.

    "If we do this right, we'll be able to keep all our actual prospects in the minors for a year or two to give them time to develop."

    "That shouldn't be too hard," Frank said. "Trade Guerreb right, you can get a whole team full of scrubs to take a beating for the next couple of years."

    "You're going to make me the dumbest son of a ***** who ever managed, aren't you?"

    "What do you mean, Bill?" Mal asked. I noticed that it was the first time she'd used his first name.

    "There was a manager a long time ago who told his players that he was going to be the smartest man to ever manage a team, because they were so good that his job was going to be easy." He pointed to me. "This boy is trying to make me the dumbest."

    The meeting went on long past quitting time.

    * * *

    The Stars bested the Twins in game seven, taking us almost into November. I hear it was a good World Series. Couldn't tell you. I was busy.

    California Angels get: 3B Brian Desimone (78/79), RF Nolan Mowett (79/79), SS Max Acuoa (58/58), SS Todd Raube (56/56)
    Brooklyn Barons get: C Ryan Thelen (75/82), SS Ken Yoshimura (56/87)

    This was not my first phone call. This was not even in my first dozen. And the original deal didn't have Nolan Mowett in it. But between clearing salary space with Desimone, and getting a starting catcher and a future shortstop, I felt pretty good about it. Thelen is 24, Yoshimura 21. They may be here after I'm gone. Then again, I may be gone next week.

    I still had the big deal to make, and was getting no shortage of inquiries about Guerreb. For a guy who was never going to wear a Barons uniform, the Barons were hearing a lot about him.

    But the most important email I had in my inbox was from Mr. Nomen. He apparently writes emails as though he's paying by the word, but I could live with it when it was basically telling me to spend money. "Free agency starts today. Make a splash for the team." Couldn't argue with that. Until I went a bit further up my in box, and found his reply to his own email. "But don't break the bank." Which pretty much put me back where I'd been expecting to be - not buying former Phoenix Rattlers first baseman Jamie Kane (93/93) for $25 million. Or any of the other top free agents.

    I kept looking at the roster. It kept not getting better. And especialy in my infield. I was going to have a lot of players to be named later. Apparently Ray Bernard had thought that you could never have too many bad-hitting, not-much-better-fielding middle infielders. As my first trade indicates, I did not subscribe to this point of view.

    On the other hand, I went out and added less than 2 million to this year's payroll, and hopefully bought myself a starting rotation. In 2025.

    Signed:

    - SP Mike Horon (79/92): 22 years old, left handed starter. One year, $900k, plus option years. Not sure why he was sitting out there, and don't care.
    - SP Tyler Mullens (68/92): 20 years old, left handed, probably could start, currently a long reliever. $500k, should be six years. Not my fault if he decided to negotiate for himself. Was playing in Puerto Rico and the Dominican this past year, as was Horon.
    - SP Nathaniel Hunt (66/92): 21 years old, righty, starter. Fastball needs a little work, comes in around 91 or so, but he's got a decent curve and gets ground balls over 40% of the time. Four years, $400k.

    And the one about whom I should feel the most guilt, and somehow don't.

    - SP Godfrey Player (65/91): Another 21 year old, right handed, middle reliever who can be stretched. And we've got ten years to do it, for only $500k per year. Couldn't believe it when his agent said ten years, and didn't much care.

    So that's four, all kicking around in the Dominican and Puerto Rico. I surely hope our scout there is a good one. I suspect he's not. Because I can't imagine four players with potential like that all sitting in international ball and not already on somebody's roster. So I can either assume that 31 other GMs are too dumb to see what I see, or that one scout is too dumb to see what they see. I know which is more likely. I had had a meeting with Scurry just for that purpose, and told him to get to work on making our scouts the best in the game. It makes no sense to have the money to spend on a deal and have to guess who's good among who's available.

    I'd also met with Adam Talbot one on one to talk about our minor league system. And then personally went over every coach he had hired, planned to hire, or was committed to. Then we went hunting for better ones. My major league team is going to play like a minor league team, but my minor league teams should be coached like major league teams. They should be the best.

    If only I can get rid of the crap on their rosters.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  5. #20
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2021

    Emma left the conference room, her lips pursed in frustration. The meeting had gone far longer than she had expected - and even further longer than it had any reason to go. There was very little that frustrated her more than pointless meetings. Perhaps local news. And people who voluntarily voted away their freedoms. Also those who explained things to her that she already knew. Oh, and people who assumed that because of her looks she couldn't do her job well. People who misused the word "irony." Or "literally." The Department of Motor Vehicles. The concept of a Department of Motor Vehicles, and in fact the concept of a state presuming to license an activity freely engaged in by its citizens. Most churches. Seth Myers. Social media. And -

    Pointless meetings were definitely in the top ten things that frustrated her. Or at least the top fifteen.

    As meetings go, this one hadn't really been as bad as most. It should have required ten minutes for her to explain to Kelly Halliwell, the Director of Facilities, and Loretta Jefferson, the Director of Stadium Maintenance, just how much she needed some of those security features she's presented oh-so-respectfully to them. She knew she wasn't going to get the camera coverage on every square foot of the park, the way Ray Bernard had wanted. She also knew she wasn't going to get the 100% lack of camera coverage, the way her freedom-loving soul wanted. She thought she had worked out a decent compromise. She'd also compromised on the full scale jail and Common Pleas Court she'd originally wanted, and the NYPD sub-station was right out. But she thought she should be able to get some things to make her security staff's job easier.

    Then she was reminded of why she should never compromise. Started the meeting with all that she had ever wanted. Kelly argued how it was all impossible, every square foot of stadium space was accounted for, it couldn't happen. Loretta...Emma wasn't sure what Loretta had said. She never was. Even when the sounds that Loretta made could be distinguished as speech, they rarely made sense. It had taken about twenty minutes between the two of them to wind down their objections.

    So Emma had tried again. This time, with a bit of a concession to the other two. Who hadn't budged (she thought - Loretta might have, but who would know?)

    None of this was overly difficult for Emma. She hadn't expected the first two offers to be accepted anyway. Not for the first time she wished that Ray Bernard had hired more men. At least for the jobs that would force them to interact with her. Men were so much easier. Most of the time. But he hadn't, and here she was. So she made the third offer, the one that she took seriously. And then found out that Kelly and Loretta were suspicious. "Why would you give in to us? You must be hiding something. I don't believe it." "Yeah, I can't suspell my disbelievement" (or something like that).

    It took a little over an hour. She didn't even get all that she had really wanted. This was not the way her day was supposed to go. But at least she was mostly done, and could go sit in the office and not think about it.

    On the way she saw Weston. Sneaking out one of the side doors, heading down into the stadium proper. She was very good at her job - she knew "sneaking" when she saw it.

    There was only one proper response to sneaking. It wasn't to leave alone the person doing the sneaking.

    She followed him through the vast, empty main concession area. Empty of people, but also empty of taps, and refrigerators, and ovens, and everything else that would make it a concession area. They'd all be in...some time. Over the next few months. Despite her earlier headaches from Kelly, she felt sorry for her in her dealings with the delivery people. Nobody was quite sure why, but all items that had been ordered well in advance had then been shipped back before arrival, to be replaced at some indeterminate point by the exact same items, but sold by nobody-quite-knew-who.

    Emma had it on her list of things to investigate. Or rather, she had had it there, until Mr. Nomen himself had made one of his relatively rare appearances and told her not to worry about it. He'd put his best people on it. She didn't know who Nomen's people were, but she was existentially certain that his best people weren't as good as she was. Then again, she was sure about that in regard to almost anyone in the world.

    Shaking off her thoughts, she continued to follow Weston. If anything, his sneakiness had gotten more pronounced as he went into areas where, if caught, he would have no reasonable explanation for being there. "Which is silly," she thought. "He's the GM. He can be anywhere in the place and nobody will complain." Which meant...what, exactly.

    Eventually she came out of the door he had left. And found that he was getting into a beat-up sports car. She wasn't a car person, and didn't know what kind it was, other than that it looked expensive, and somewhat old. She couldn't tell if it was his or he had borrowed it, and realized that she didn't know if he owned a car. This bothered her more for her lapse in knowledge than anything else.

    She also couldn't follow him any more. If she'd seen him driving off normally, if he'd parked in the employee lot and not in the construction lot where he was, if he hadn't been sneaking, she'd have never thought anything of it. She'd have catalogued the information in her "could be useful someday" file, but not really have thought about it. But he was definitely sneaking.

    And she wanted to know why.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  6. #21
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    I feel a little presence of the ghost of Charlie "cheapskate" Aaron. I say that with much love.

  7. #22
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    jshaw: And it is received in that spirit. Plus, I agree, it took me a little while to feel that I'm "getting" the characters, particularly Jack, and the ways in which he isn't Charlie. If I was revising these instead of basically posting as is, I'd be going back to the first twenty or so and making some changes. But his baseball strategy is Charlie's is mine, so that (as you'll see today) isn't likely to change. Hopefully you (and I say you because I kind of suspect that you're the only one reading this ) will begin to see Jack's character take shape in the future. And thanks as always for checking in!

    * * *

    November, 2020

    Mr. Nomen wanted to know why I didn't have a couple of expensive free agents on the roster after the first day of free agency.

    Cal Mifflin, the so-called "Dean of Brooklyn Sports" on WJRO-TV Channel 8 Brooklyn ("The Station That Serves Brooklyn First"), wanted to know why I didn't have a couple of expensive free agents on the roster after the first day of free agency.

    The rest of the local sports media wanted to know why I didn't have a couple of expensive free agents on the roster after the first day of free agency.

    My dad wanted to know why I didn't have a couple of expensive free agents on the roster after the first day of free agency.

    Ranked in terms of obnoxiousness, I'd go with my dad as the worst, then Mifflin, the general media, and Mr. Nomen. He just seemed kind of clueless about how to run a team. Which I would have said explains why he hired his secretary to run the team, but then, he later hired me.

    Truth was, I had no plans to take a team that might, at this point, win 45 games at a payroll cost of a million dollars a game, and make it a team that might win 60 at a cost of two or three million dollars a game. Which doesn't sound so bad that way, but rephrase it as 'I'm not going from a $45 million payroll to a $120 million or more payroll' and you begin to get the point. At least, Mr. Nomen did. I basically told him that I would spend this year and next to build a solid foundation, so that when the good players got here, they had something to support them. I may have used "I will build it, and they will come".

    The other truth was even simpler, and it's one that the sports blowhard seemed to accept. Nobody else had signed big free agents on the first day either. Detroit had picked up a teammate of some of my new kids when they were down in the Dominican. The other new team, the Massachusetts Resistance, had signed Oscar Serrata, a 28 year old never-would-be who had exactly one thing going for him - a pitching endurance rating of 94/100.

    An innings eater, in other words. I wondered what Tom was thinking.

    Oh yes. Tom. The general manager of the Resistance. A man who I'd known personally for almost twenty years, since that brief time when I'd played on his team. His World Champion team, the only ring I had. The only one he had as well, though he'd played a lot longer.

    Long enough to hit 745 home runs. And long enough to be caught using steroids, and kicked out of the game in disgrace. Barred from the Hall of Fame forever. But somehow not banned from being hired as the general manager of an expansion team.

    The basic information sheet tells one part of the story. Drafted out of the Universty of Arkansas with the 81st overall pick in the 1982 draft by the Los Angeles Stars. A very short stay in the minors, and then Rookie of the Year 1986. Ten time All Star. Four time MVP, in the mid to late 90s.

    And, of course, it all came back to the steroids. As it must, forever, with Tom.

    Tom Slade right now is 58 years old. He stands 6' 1", about the same as me. Still at playing weight of about 180, which I am most decidedly not. (To be fair, my playing weight had always been closer to 225, so my current 240 isn't that far off. Or so I tell myself every morning.) Slade had action hero looks to go with his action hero name. When I'd been basically a rookie on that 2001 champion team, he was 37 and looked like he should be leading a charge into enemy fire. He used that when it came time to motivate, especially in that Series. We should NOT have beaten the Orioles that year. But Slade wanted that ring, and he knew what buttons to push to get us to play beyond ourselves. And it worked.

    Then the scandal. Being named in Senator Aaron's report. The shunning by baseball. And he'd disappeared from everybody's radar for more than a decade. Until the day the Massachusetts Resistance were announced as the National League addition, the same day the Barons came into existence. Resistance owner Wellington Northcutt had brought Slade out on stage right there at the winter meetings, announced him as his new GM, and literally dared anyone to say anything. "You've mistreated this fine man long enough. Unfortunately for you, you did it incompetently. My attorneys have assured me that you badly worded his ban from baseball. Mr. Slade is completely and totally eligible to have any role he can get hired for in the front office of any team who will hire him. As of today, that team is mine. And those attorneys welcome any challenges you may have."

    The thing is, Wellington Northcutt could get away with that, at least in Massachusetts. He was one of those peculiar men who owned more money than God and could use it to make advertisements decrying how all rich people are something that he himself is not, and people either didn't see or ignored the conflict. And for his time owning a team all he had to do was convince the mob that he was on their side and sticking it to The Man, and they would love him all the more. As well as they would love anyone he told them to, which meant they adopted Slade as one of their own.

    This amused me, because I knew that Tom Slade would disagree with everyting Northcutt stood for in just about any way possible. Apparently he'd learned to stay very, very quiet when necessary.

    And to be honest, he did know baseball.

    Then again, so did I. Maybe not much else, but baseball. I still had Guerreb to deal, after all. I could do this.

    Until two days later, when Slade signed Chuck Trinkle, a 15 game winner or more for the past four years, for $28 million. "With this deal, we announce to the world that the Massachusetts Resistance are here, and do not intend to be anybody's doormat," Slade said at the presser.

    Well, crap.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  8. #23
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    I might be the only one reading, I'm not sure but I am loving this story so far. So you have one fan

  9. #24
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    jshaw: Which is one more than I have if I just keep it on my computer. Glad to have you along, glad you're enjoying it. Thanks.

    * * *

    November, 2020

    Emma walked to her desk at the stadium. She had the best office in the organization, and she knew it. She deserved the best office in the organization, and she knew that too. Still, it wasn't a source of satisfaction for her - it simply was. She looked at the top report on her desk, left for her after she'd gone home for the day before.

    Something was missing. She frowned, in a way that she knew most men would have said started at "adorable" and went from there to "I must have this woman". Then again, most assessments of her ended at "I must have this woman." It too wasn't a source of satisfaction for her - it simply was.

    Well, it was a source of some satisfaction.

    She glanced at the clock on her desk. 0802. Which meant that he was -

    "Sorry I'm late, dearest," Drew said as he hurried into the room. He placed the coffee mug on her desk, on the coaster set aside for it. The mug, blue and pristine, with white letters on one side that said "Of Course Your Opinion Matters, Just Not To Me." She had told the office that it was a gift. She would not say from whom. Everyone in the office would have recognized the name, and would have started to pry. She hated people prying into her business. That was her job.

    Drew was standing, bouncing slightly, waiting for her approval. She was feeling magnanimous this morning, so she bestowed on him a smile before sampling the coffee. She allowed a bit of perfect white teeth to show. Another person in the office might not have noticed his shiver of response, but she did.

    The coffee, black and strong, was just as she liked it. She ran her tongue over her upper lip and said, "Thank you Drew." Quietly she chastised herself for giving him too much so early in the day.

    It threw him off as well. Stammering "you're welcome", he backed out of the office, holding the papers in front of him. As he got to the door, she reminded him that he'd brought them in for her. He berated himself until she told him to stop, and dropped them in her in box, and beat a retreat to the hall.

    Putting the report down, she looked through their personal mail. Bills, that she would have him pay. An invitation to a party across the river - flattering, but she didn't want to give the Secretary-General the idea that she approved of some of the things he was doing, so she would decline. And a letter from the State Highway Administration. This was new.

    And annoying.

    * * *

    Trade:

    Twins get: SS Pete Gorby (57/57), SS Scott Vaughn (58/58), 2B Ephraim Velenzuela (57/57), 2B Phillip Rheaume (56/56), RP Jose Guerreb (95/96)
    Barons get: 3B Aaron Miller (79/79), RP Vinnie Treisman (85/85), 1B Matt Delahanty (85/86), $1 million

    Why yes, the first four players were part of the cost they had to pay us to get Guerreb. They were never going anywhere, and I'll bet they're on the voluntarily retired list before next July. Or another way to look at that would be that they took all four of them and gave me a million bucks. And then we made the real trade.

    Miller is 31, and recovering from a dislocated hip. He'll be fine by the spring. He's not a great contact guy, but did hit double digit home runs in limited action a couple of years ago. I wouldn't have taken him except as a throw-in, but now that I dealt Desimone, our top third baseman is Jody Montanye, and he is a 69/69 who I'd rather have on the bench than anywhere near my starting lineup.

    Vinnie is only 24. He's been the setup man in Minnesota for the past couple of years. He's got a fastball that will blow them away, and a pretty good circle change. He's also got extended family in Brooklyn, and is from upstate New York, so he knows the place at least a little bit. Jill has already told me that she's planning a "hero coming home" approach, which is a stretch, but I told her to go with it.

    The biggest part of the deal is Delahanty. 26, just off two full seasons and parts of two others, and he has 143 home runs already. Down a bit to 40 last year - poor kid, only hit 40 dingers. The year before he hit 63! Everybody is happy that we got him, especially since, before that, I seriously was the best first baseman in the organization.

    Your turn, Tom Slade.

    * * *

    Natalie could see Emma sitting in the corner of the break room, reading what looked like an official paper of some sort, and fuming. She rolled her eyes skyward - not at the woman, but at the semi-circle of men (and the one persistent and ever-hopeful woman from payroll) around her who were doing their best not to be the first to come and offer Emma condolences, assistance, and possibly the keys to his (or her) car.

    Downing the last of her tea, she rolled her eyes one more time before rising and approaching Emma. "What's that?" she asked, pointing to the paper and ignoring the scowls from the semi-circle of men (and the one persistent and ever-hopeful woman from payroll).

    "This, my dear friend, is another sign of the decay of the American Constitutional Republic."

    Natalie had heard Emma's pronouncements before. She looked at the paper. "Seems smaller than that."

    "It is not, I assure you." Emma handed her the paper, and waved the rest of the crowd away. Begrudgingly, they left.

    The paper included a photo of a very nice sports car. Red, and shiny, and exactly the kind of car a woman who looks like Emma should drive. The kind of car that should be bought for her by a gentleman admirer, but that Natalie knew was something Emma had bought for herself.

    It wasn't a particularly good photo, seeing as how it was focused on the rear of the car. A few words under it cleared it all up for Natalie.

    "You were speeding in a work zone and this took your picture."

    "I was moving at exactly the right speed for that particular stretch of road at that particular time. Those in the state government who are unable to feed their own greed and corruption by overtaxing the populace and must bring in even more, have unfairly established a freedom limit in that area that is below the natural driving speed."

    "You were speeding in a work zone and this took your picture, and now you've got to pay..." she glanced at a box at the bottom of the paper "500 dollars. Seems a bit much. What's the speed limit in that area?"

    "The speed limit is set at 45. The freedom limit is the fact that a speed limit exists at all. And the Constitutional Republic dies a bit more because of my inability to confront my accuser in open court."

    "Why don't you just pay the ticket?" Natalie knew she was teasing. Well, bear-baiting, more accurately. Trolling, perhaps.

    It worked. Emma turned to her, a full stare that Natalie distantly realized would have caused traffic accidents had it been turned on someone operating a motor vehicle, and bit off, "I will fight this to the ends of the earth. This. Shall not. Stand."

    Natalie rose, dropped the paper on the table, and patted Emma on the shoulder. "You do that, sugar."
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  10. #25
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    November, 2020

    Okay, so Tom took his turn. Signed Orlando Marston (88/88), a 28 year old shortstop who hit 57 homers back in 2017 for the Brewers, but everybody says that's a fluke. Still, a solid pickup, and for 10 million. I really should do some more like that. I don't want to, and would much rather grow the players and then have the money in the bank to pay them what they're worth, but I'm going to have to put something on the field or when they're ready they'll be playing in front of nobody.

    And there sits Manny Machado. 26 years old. From Miami. Darned good fielder, no complaints there. Lifetime BA of .251, which isn't much, though he was smart enought to bring it up 25 points in his contract year last year. And he hit 42 home runs. He's a shortstop and has been playing in the bigs for seven years, and has 239 homers. Why am I not jumping on him? Well, because he wants $19 million just as a starting point. And because his agent is...is...I can't even say it.

    Okay, it's Heck. Fran Heck. The Evil One.

    I made a decent offer. He wants to find his next home, starting with seven years. I started him with three, for less, but gave him the player options for a couple of years after that, which would have been worth more. The whole deal, that is, it would have been more money for him by the time it was done. I wasn't even reserving the Team Options, went straight for Player. Fran's response? "That's nice. I want to thank you for letting me truthfully tell the other 31 teams that I'm fielding offers for him."

    "Would it have made a difference if it was truthful or not?" I asked.

    "Are you challenging my integrity?" she countered.

    "Of course not. I don't have a strong enough microscope to even find your integrity, Fran." Yeah, we have a history, Fran and I. Maybe someday I'll tell you about it.

    She wants five years at 18, three more at 22, and a no trade clause. None of those are going to happen.

    Well, maybe one of them.

    So while I was waiting, I filled the other position that was giving me heartburn. I picked up center fielder David Morgan for six mil. He's 32, and I have no plans to still have him on the team by the time he's 35, but he doesn't know that. Meantime, Frank's scouts have him at 83/83, and he's got some decent speed. Is he great? No. Is he good? We can hope.

    Is he better than Curt Mills, who at 57/67 was my starting center fielder? Oh goodness yes.

    Thanksgiving came and went, and my biggest hole continued to be shortstop. Machado was still out there, as were a couple of others. I could get Todd Wink for a lot less money, and his ratings are about the same. Except for his fielding. And his power. And I really don't want to. Kyser wants me to - keeps saying "I need somebody to play now while you're building your World Series team for 2027, boy." Actually he usually has several expletives mixed in there. He'd settle for Wink. He wants Machado.

    But...Fran.

    Jorge Turrubiates would be a better shortstop, maybe. Not as good a fielder, but much faster, much better at getting on base. But he wants $25 million. And besides, on November 27 he signs with the Phillies. Todd Wink goes to the Rangers on the 30th.

    And there, sitting at the top of the free agent list, waiting to be talked to, is Manny. Meaning, Fran.

    I call again. We cordially trade insults. I swear the old bag enjoys it. As far as I know, Machado has no idea it's even happening.

    The winter meetings come and go. I'm not shocked when nobody comes to me making offers for my players. Why would they? I don't even want them. I do get lots of sympathy, and the occasional well-intentioned offer of a job when I get fired from this one. At least I think it's well-intentioned.

    December 16. It's getting cold out. I sign Justin Verlander. After I make the deal, I'm told point blank that if he hadn't signed with me, he was going to retire. He's 37, has tons of post-season experience with the Oaks and Nationals. Yes, he pitched for Oakland in that World Series I was in. At least we beat him personally. And along with his experience, he has 200 wins - to go with 198 losses. Kyser practically demanded I grab him once his price came down to a decent range. "I'll have an extra pitching coach. If he can put up some innings too, even better."

    And then he said "When are you going to suck it up and kiss Frannie's ass and get me a shortstop?"

    Turns out the answer was Christmas Eve. For four years at 19.5, and a player option for one more at 21.5. Million, in both cases. Final offer.

    Which she greatly appreciates. As it drives the offer high enough for him to sign. Not with us. San Diego. For eight years, at $23 million, and a no trade clause.

    I hate Fran.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  11. #26
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    December, 2020

    "What's the next case, Bob?"

    "People versus Emma Lee Davis, your honor."

    After looking around a bit, Judge Russell asked "And where is Ms. Davis, Bob?"

    "I don't know, your honor. She was here a moment ago."

    At which point, a commotion was heard in the back of the courtroom, as a crowd parted, and Emma, looking somewhat more dolled-up than usual (though it was hard to tell through her stylish coat) burst through. "I am she." She dramatically took off her coat and handed it to Drew, who had just managed to beat his own way through the crowd. She stood for a moment, allowing the 1970s sitcom live studio audience that occasionally existed in her head to hoot and say "Woo!" It would have been earned - she was stunning, dressed to reveal rather than conceal, showing off everything that God had been so generous as to bestow upon her.

    The judge looked confused. He turned to his clerk and asked, quietly, "Is she waiting for a response?"

    "She has been all morning." But it must be said, both judge and clerk were staring at her as they said it.

    Emma approached the bench, fully in charge of proceedings. Her own attorney, as well as the prosecutor, followed in her wake. So did several of the bystanders from the crowd, until she waved them back with a smile.

    Blinking to clear his head, Judge Russell began matters. "Mrs. Prosecutor?"

    That worthy, a smartly-dressed professional woman who was much closer to 50 than 30 and not dealing well with it, stepped forward, file in hand. "Simple speeding ticket, your honor, 66 in a 45 work zone. By contesting, charges are automatically increased to include Reckless Endangerment."

    "Which is, of course, also blatantly unconstitutional, as you should know," Emma added.

    The judge glared at her for a moment, then turned to the public defender standing next to Emma. He was in his late 20s, very new to the court and the proceedings thereof, and was doing nothing so much as staring at Emma. There may or may not have been a bit of drool at one corner of his lips.

    "Defense?" said the judge. There was no answer.

    "Defense?", repeated the judge. There was still no answer.

    "Mister Anderson? Hello? Are you there?"

    No answer.

    With a sigh, Judge Russell turned to Emma. "Ms. Davis? If you would release my public defender from your thrall, I'd be greatly appreciative."

    "Certainly." She turned to Anderson, blinked. He returned to the room, looking confused. Before he could say anything, Emma turned to the judge. "He's not necessary for these proceedings though."

    "I'm fairly sure that defending counsel is required."

    "Not in this case. I have no plans to contest anything."

    There was a brief pause, and the judge reached for his gavel. "Well, in that case - "

    "Except the Constitutionality of this entire proceeding," Emma finished.

    "Ah," said the judge, as he put his gavel back down.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  12. #27
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    December, 2020

    "So let me get this straight, Ms. Davis. You admit that you were speeding in a work zone?"

    Emma's public defender tried to shake her off from answering. It didn't work.

    "I admit that I was driving that car faster than the 45 miles per hour recommended, yes."

    Smiling, Judge Russell replied "I don't think a speed limit is a recommendation, Ms. Davis. It's a limit. That seems kind of...limiting."

    Emma returned his smile. She was better at it, and she noticed a light sheen of sweat break out on his brow. "Of course it's a recommendation. A limit would be something in my car that would prevent it from moving faster than a given speed. This is a sign. It recommends that I go below 45. I chose to ignore it, placing my own human decision-making abilities ahead of a piece of painted sheet metal." The crowd in the back of the courtroom began to cheer quietly.

    The judge reached for his gavel again. "That's enough," he said, waving it around breezily. Turning his attention back to Emma, he continued. "So you're saying that because you were given a choice, it's not really a limit? That's...not how they taught it at law school," he concluded. Again, with a light smile - he was clearly being friendly.

    "Of that I have no doubt. Teaching any such thing would be entirely too much in keeping with basic common sense and human dignity for any law school to be interested."

    For the first time, a frown crossed the judge's face. The clerk involuntarily backed away a step. "Well since you admit your actions, Ms. Davis, I'm afraid you leave me with no choice," he emphasized the final word, "but to find you guilty and levy the full fine." He reached with his gavel to bring it down, but stopped when he heard her comment.

    "Very good. Exactly as I wanted."

    He stopped in mid-gavel. "What was that?"

    "I said it was exactly as I wanted. You find me guilty, and then I can begin the process."

    "And what process would that be?"

    "The appeal process."

    "You're going to appeal a speeding ticket?"

    "That was my intent all along. I was certain that you would be hidebound and jurisprudentially constipated enough to be able only to rule in one way, regardless of whether I am able to confront the witness against me in this case. Which, as your law school would once have taught, is my Constitutional right."

    "But the witness against you is a camera, Ms. Davis."

    "And I do not see this camera in this courtroom. Therefore, I am not being given my right to confront and cross-examine."

    The judge shook his head slightly, as if to clear cobwebs. He wasn't aware of doing it. "You want to cross-examine a camera?"

    "Is this camera the only evidence against me?"

    "Of course it is."

    "Then it is my right to cross-examine it."

    The judge turned to his clerk, who shrugged. He turned to the prosecution, who scowled. He turned to the public defender, who continued to drool a bit while appraising Emma.

    He turned back to the clerk. "Bob?" he said quietly.

    "I don't know, your honor," Bob answered just as quietly. "I'm sure this has been appealed when we first started using the cameras, and I guess if we're still using them, it must have passed."

    Turning back to Emma, the judge spoke loudly, for the whole room. "Cameras are not people, and you cannot confront it in court. But these cameras have been found to be Constitutional before. Therefore - "

    "Falling back on precedent. As I knew you would."

    Cut off in mid-declamation, the judge faltered. "Of course I'm falling back on precedent. What's wrong with that?"

    Emma stood a bit taller, threw back her shoulders just a touch. A passing bailiff grasped a railing to avoid fainting. "Precedent merely allows the less-competent jurist to be wrong with historical backing. It has nothing to do with justice."

    The crowd drew in its breath collectively. There was a low murmur of "whooo". All other motion stopped, except for the smile on the judge's face slowly, glacially, dropping to a scowl. Emma stood, waiting, defiantly.

    Finally the judge spoke, in what he liked to think of as his Voice of God. "That was uncalled for, Ms. Davis. You will not speak in that way in my courtroom."

    "Then there's a very simple solution to your problem. Find me guilty and let me move on to the next level. To a place where I can begin to get actual justice."

    The scowl deepened. "You will find nothing but justice in my courtroom, Ms. Davis. And you are well on your way to finding far more justice than was called for in a speeding ticket."

    "Then prove it. Get it over with. Find me guilty and let's go. Bring it on."

    "I will move at my own pace, Ms. Davis."

    Rolling her eyes, Emma spoke to the crowd. "Just what I thought. His seat is three feet higher than anybody else's in the room because he's compensating for something." The crowd began to laugh.

    The judge turned an interesting shade of red, and banged his gavel, demanded order. "I will have no more of that!" He turned to face Emma, stood, loomed over his desk. "You want to appeal this decision? You will not get a chance. I find you not guilty. Case dismissed!" He banged the gavel again, ending it.

    She looked stricken. "You can't do that!"

    Smugly, he sat back. "Watch me. I just did. You're not guilty. Get out of my courtroom."

    "I'm guilty as can be, and I demand that you find me guilty, so I can appeal to the Supreme Court!"

    "I say you're not guilty, and what I say goes. Get out or I'll have my bailiff throw you out."

    "I'd like to see you try. I'm guilty."

    "Bailiff, remove Ms. Davis from this courtroom."

    The bailiff, a strong, strapping young man who had never been accused of being the most intellectually gifted in the court, was thoroughly lost by now. It vaguely seemed to him that something had gone very wrong. But he looked at Emma, who had turned from staring angrily at the judge to staring angrily at him. He knew what he had to do, walked across the room, grabbed her by the arm, and said "This way, ma'am."

    "Don't you go being polite to me!" she snapped at him. "I am a guilty criminal and I will not be treated with respect in a court of law." She let her eyes close a touch, and almost whispered, "You'll have to treat me roughly." Those of the crowd who had heard it found themselves shivering.

    The bailiff picked her up and carried her from the room.

    A few minutes later, on the street, Drew joined his wife. She looked angry enough to storm back into the courtroom and continue her crusade. Indeed, the bailiff had had to restrain her very pleasantly from doing so.

    Drew approached her. "I'm sorry about the way that went, love."

    She turned and took her coat from him, giving him the special smile she reserved only for her husband. "Oh my dearest. I got out of the speeding ticket, didn't I?"
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  13. #28
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    January, 2021

    I thought it was too cold for a protest.

    As we continued to try to build a team that anyone would have any interest in seeing, while still not spending any money on it, we'd moved into the new year. Fortunately we'd had decent weather into mid-December, which meant that stadium construction had progressed nicely. No, there still wasn't grass on the field or anything, but by the time of our first snow storm, at least the basic shell of the stadium was up and secure. There was still plenty of work to be done, but it would have to wait until later.

    Yes, I'd been a little bit surprised to hear it the day the foreman came to tell me that everything was "up and secure"...since we'd been using the offices in the stadium since I got there. Yes, that did mean that it wasn't particularly secure before that. Yes, that did mean that we'd been in a building that technically wasn't ready for human occupancy. It was what we were coming to call the Baron Way.

    We weren't proud when we said it.

    Anyway, the park that had now been named NomenTech Park was coming along relatively nicely. It wasn't a surprise to any of us when Mr. Nomen announced that his tech company had bought the naming rights. None of us had any idea what the price had been. It didn't matter to us. It was just taken care of, by someone in Mr. Nomen's office, we assumed.

    "I'm not talking about the stadium name, Jack. Personally, I'd like to know how you managed to get a state park converted to private ownership, and built out into Gravesend Bay, without a peep from the government."

    That was my friend and wannabe mentor, Daniel Aaron. Actually he was more than that - he was some kind of distant relative. Third cousin, some number of times removed? I knew he would know if I asked him. Problem with that was that I really didn't care. What I did care about was that he was the current General Manager of the Baltimore Orioles, a position that had almost become hereditary for the Aaron family. With some reason. Great-grandpa Willie's uncle Charles (see, I told you it was a distant relation) had been the first GM of the Orioles, back in the dark ages a hundred years ago. His grandson Chuck had been GM fifty years ago, and made the team good again, before going off to be the Senator who led the steroids commission. The team went into a decline again after his farm system played through, while the next guy didn't keep it up. Then about fifteen years ago they gave up and just decided to keep the job in the family, and gave it to Daniel. And sure enough, who was that hoisting the World Series trophy in 2014, but the Orioles. Although, to be honest, that was more of a fluke than anything else, and they have been more bad than good since. Last year was second place for them, 86-76. Still, with 23 they had the second most pennants in baseball history (the Yankees had 25), and with 12 the second most World Championships (the Yankees had 13).

    And both of those teams were in my division now. Yippee.

    "I don't know, Dan. That was all done before I got here, so I haven't paid any real attention to it. Why, do you think I should?" I hoped my tone would make it clear to him that I really didn't care. Unless he wanted to give me a couple of pitchers to make things more fair this year. He did not.

    "Well, I'd be curious if I were you. In my experience," which was probably the one phrase he had said most often to me, and yes it grated, "things like that don't just happen without somebody paying somebody off in some way."

    "Maybe that's how things happen in Baltimore," I said quietly. "But you know, things are different in Brooklyn. We're a much more honest, open city."

    It hung there for a second or two, and then we both got a good laugh. Fact was, neither of our cities was exactly a civics lesson given form. Baltimore, like most big cities, had hit its peak in 1950, and then followed it with 70 years of corruption, bad decisions, and worse government, to eventually lose 4/5 of its peak population. It was now known as much for its boarded up houses and crime-ridden streets as for crab cakes. Kyle Aaron, third-generation owner of football's Baltimore Colts (and yet another distant relative - I told you they kept things in the family on that side) had recently come up with the "innovation" of a heavily armed private police force around his stadium to allow the fans to get to the games. Cousin Dan had not been able to convince the owner of the Orioles to follow suit.

    Brooklyn was far safer - and much more corrupt. So much so that there was now a fairly strong secession movement afoot, hoping to break it away from New York City proper and return to its long-ago status as a separate city on its own. I didn't actually think much about politics, but my Grandpa Karl had ranted last Thanksgiving about how people somehow thought that this secession would make the city less corrupt, instead of just changing the nameplates on the offices. Then again, Grandpa Karl was a Grandpa, and therefore we expecting him to rant at Thanksgiving.

    After our laugh, Dan went on. "So, have you decided what you're going to call yourselves yet? We'd love to get our marketing materials ready, you know."

    "So would we. Bernard wanted to go with Barons."

    "Brooklyn Barons would work. Even sounds a little bit royal, so you could use those horrible purple and gold colors."

    I looked around my office. I've seen purple and gold work well together. No regal name was going to make this version work.

    "Yeah," I said, "but we've got people protesting that Barons are leaders of the privileged classes and we shouldn't keep that system going."

    He laughed. Of course he would, nobody was going to protest Orioles. Well, not in his city anyway.

    "But Boston, excuse me, Massachusetts, can go with Resistance and it's not a problem?"

    "My marketing director pointed that out in a meeting with the protestors. She was told that that's different because shut up, fascist."

    He laughed again. I wasn't laughing. "So then we thought of something with a local appeal. The Brooklyn Bridges. You can almost see the logo right now, can't you?"

    Somehow, across 200 miles of phone, I could tell that he was still smirking. "I can. What happened to that?"

    "The secessionists hate the bridge because it connects us to Manhattan. Half of the hipsters love it because it's old and retro, but they're the ones who want us to make all the players wear waxed handlebar mustaches and pitch underhand. No, Bridges was out too."

    "Did you ever consider something safe, like an animal? Lots of animals start with the letter B. Bears, Bulls, Bobcats..."

    "Stop right there. Maybe that works where you are. Here, it just gets the animal rights people on us. Especially if we'd be dumb enough to have a mascot."

    More audible smirking. "You could go with the historical team names."

    "You mean like the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, or Superbas, or Robins, or Trolley Dodgers?"

    "Sure."

    "Derogatory to the single-by-choice, promoting tobacco use, another animal, and creating negative impressions of mass transit." The smirk became a laugh. Again, not on my end of the call.

    "You're going to give up and call yourselves the Brooklyn Woke, aren't you?"

    "No, we're going to give up and call ourselves the Brooklyn Barons. Because that seems to get the smallest number of protestors outside the park."

    "And you probably thought that your toughest job there would be to build a decent team, didn't you?"

    My chance. "Speaking of which, Dan, I've been looking at this Kerrigan kid you've got down in double A. Any chance we could talk about him coming up here?"

    The laughing stopped, and he said the same thing I've been hearing from every team, any time I approached any of them. "And what would you send my way in return for him?"

    Sigh. "My resume, probably."
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  14. #29
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    February, 2021

    "Natalie?" Mal asked. "Do you have the contracts for the radio team?"

    Natalie looked away from the computer on her desk. Even at her age, she felt vaguely guilty when caught by the team's de facto assistant GM while shopping online. "Though," as she'd always told herself, "if they want me to work and not play online they should give me more work to do. It's their fault, not mine."

    Sometimes she wondered if that line of reasoning would work if they wanted to fire her for it. But she knew that as long as she did her job and didn't make enemies above her, nobody would say anything.

    Besides, it was nothing but the truth. There really wasn't wasn't much to do. Any media that was going to want to talk about the team was bothering her to find out where they should be getting ready to go for spring training. She found it distasteful at best to have to admit that nobody seemed to know, that the decisions had not been made, and that somebody who presumably got paid more money than she did to make such decisions had not done so. She had done her best to manage them.

    "Why?" she asked.

    "Because I need to get them set up to sign when Chris Bailey and Fred Lewis come in to sign. Then we do the presser, anounce them to everybody, everybody cheers, you know how this works." Mal looked annoyed to have to explain to her Media Relations manager.

    "Of course I know how it works," Natalie replied with a bit more sharpness than was strictly necessary. "What I don't know is why you are doing this part. Aren't you the Director of Player Development? How is the broadcast team your responsibility?"

    Mal came up short, and looked a touch embarrassed. "Well," she hesitated, "Jack sort of decided that he needed an assistant GM, and..."

    "Mal?"

    "Yes?"

    "Jack deciding that he needs an assistant GM doesn't quite explain why you need to know about the radio contracts. Unless there is something else to add, to maybe link the two statements?" Natalie stood, so that she was looking slightly downward at Mal. She rather enjoyed the opportunity to be a pedant. Normally it went far over everyone's head when she did it, which wasn't as satisfying as she was looking for.

    But this time was different. Just from the look on what she could see of Mal's face that wasn't looking down at the floor, it was different.

    "Well, he kind of also offered the job..."

    "Yes?" Natalie interjected when it became apparent that Mal wasn't going to continue. "To you, right?"

    "Yes." It was a squeak.

    "Why is this a problem, Mal? Do you deserve the job?"

    "I was kind of afraid that you were going to be upset that he didn't offer it to you," she replied.

    "Again, that's not actually an answer to my question. Do you deserve the job?"

    After a pause, Mal said, with a touch more confidence. "I haven't even taken the job."

    Natalie's eyebrow went up. "But you're doing it. You asked me for the contracts because you're doing the job. But you haven't accepted it?"

    "No! I mean, well, yes, but..." Mal trailed off again. "I'm just not sure I should."

    Natalie began to circle Mal slowly. "You deserve the job? You can do the job? You're qualified for the job?" To each question, which was more a statement, Mal nodded slightly. "Then why won't you take the job?"

    "I don't know!" Mal finally said. "I don't know what I should do."

    Natalie gave it a moment's thought. "And you're waiting for me to tell you. Whether you admit it or not. Which I'm not going to do. If you can't decide whether to take a job that requires you to, among other things, make decisions, you've probably answered the question." Deciding to move on, she reached to the top of a stack of papers on her desk and handed them to Mal. "The contracts for Chris Bailey and Fred Lewis," she said, handing them to Mal.

    Mal exhaled loudly. "There's part of the problem right there."

    "What?"

    After the moment of seeming confidence, Mal hesitated again. With a gulp, she finally answered. "Fred Lewis. Ex-ballplayer. He and I have...um...a history."

    Natalie nodded. "I see. And is that why you offered him the job?"

    "No! Actually, I didn't even bring his name up. Frank did. He apparently knows him."

    "Presumably not in the same way that you do."

    And Mal blushed again.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

  15. #30
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    MD
    Posts
    1,532

    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    February, 2021

    I had some interest in signing Adam Jones, to play left field for us. He had spent his career in Colorado, was decent though not spectacular, and was actually out of baseball last year. Decided to make a comeback. He went to Baltimore.

    I had some interest in signing Anders Brooks, to play left field for us. He had spent his career in Baltimore, batted .267, hit almost 200 homers. They released him, which made room for Jones. Not thinking that he would be a starter in most other teams, but for us? Surely. And California picked him up.

    Rico Ruiz went to the Cubs. Preston Brightman, to the Angels. Neither, to me.

    It came to this. Cole Hamels is 37 years old. He started one game for the Red Sox. In 2002, when he was 18 and the Next Big Thing. He got hurt, went back to the minors, got playing time, and was somehow never the one to come up when it was time for someone to come up. He retired. In 2010. Last anyone heard, he was coaching a JuCo team back home in San Diego.

    Somewhere along the way, he developed the kind of control that lets you sign your name with a pitch. And I'm not actually exaggerating much when I say that. Frank Scurry tells me that he sent one of his scouts to a workout that the JuCo hosted, and that Hamels' movement "looked like a Bugs Bunny cartoon."

    So this guy whose major league career ended before even mine did, was signed by Phoenix. And not, you'll note, by us.

    Ian Desmond has a similar story, only he's a shortstop and instead of coaching, he went to the independent leagues and Japan. He's 35, and hasn't played in the majors for ten years. Still isn't - he'd rather play on Baltimore's Norfolk AAA team than be our shortstop.

    Then there are the deals like the one the Giants and Indians worked out just before spring training started. Where Cleveland gets three nice prospects, and further out the island from us the Giants will have Anton Avery, a 23 year old first baseman who we've rated at 82/91. I don't have anything to offer for any of the players in this deal. As the Cleveland GM informed me.

    I guess the league expansion was just causing people who haven't been playing in the majors for a while to give it one more try. So I was able to get another right fielder, for backup and depth. Guy named Nick Markakis, who we had at 72/72. Yeah, at age 37, he wasn't going to get any better unless it was pharmaceutically. He had actually been a regular in Milwaukee in 2015 and the first half of 2016. He won the NL batting title in 2015, which was the time to turn it on, because that was his contract year. But he got hurt about fifty games into 2016, missed 2017 entirely, and played in one game each at the major league level in '18 and '19. Last year was all independent leagues, and Where Are They Now articles. And now, worse. Brooklyn.

    Apparently me hiring a new right field backup was too much for someone to take, though. Gustavo Amella. 30 years old, been on the Giants all his career. Ridiculously popular in New York. Not for his baseball skills. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't terrible. Decent glove, played for eight seasons - in his prime, could hit 30 or 40 dingers a year. Trouble was, his prime was 2014 - 2016. That was five years ago. What he had done for me lately was sell tickets, as I'd thought he would. Not a really big number of them, because we weren't selling a really big number of them no matter what. But Jill, true to her word, had been marketing the heck out of him, and we'd actually seen a small spike.

    My secretary Colt buzzed me that Amella was waiting to see me, just before we were all due to report to spring training in Arizona. I still, after several months, couldn't get used to Colt. I also couldn't get him to stop telling me that he wasn't going to have sex with me no matter how nicely I asked. So far I hadn't asked.

    "Mister Weston," Amella said as he entered my office, his hand outstretched to reach me. The word "smooth" immediately came to mind, and I began to understand why he was so very popular. Most of it came from local TV commercials and public appearances, after all. I sized him up - 5' 10", about 190 pounds. Graceful in his movements, with every hair in place and cut exactly to the right length. Even the ones that made up the thin mustache. He reminded me of a guy I'd played against back in the 90s - I was on my way up, he on his way down - named Rafael Palmeiro. Come to think of it, from what I remembered, they had a similar swing - beautiful swing, but Palmeiro had never quite been able to connect it to the ball on a regular basis, while Amella at least had his couple of years.

    "Mister Amella, thank you for coming by. What can I do for you?"

    He smiled as he sat in the more comfortable of my guest chairs. "I would like to establish that I will be the starting left fielder for this team in 2021," he said. Smoothly. I was in the presence of a late night DJ. One, apparently, with a sense of humor.

    "Well, that's just fine, Mr. Amella, just fine. Of course, we haven't had spring training yet, and there are quite a few youngsters in camp who would like to challenge you for that. And of course we - "

    He chuckled politely to interrupt me. "No, you misunderstand, Mr. Weston. I would like to establish that I will be the starting left fielder for this team in 2021." Suddenly, under the velvet of the voice, there was steel.

    I'm not unfamiliar with the technique. So, making it clear that I'd only been temporarily interrupted, I continued. "And of course we have Grant Goodall in left, and we just signed Nick Markakis. But you will certainly get a chance to compete for the position." Now the steel was in my voice.

    He recognized it, I could tell. He had been looking at me somewhat like a leopard eyes some fat, slow, prey. Now he was still a leopard, but one who saw that the prey was only pretending to be so slow.

    "I was afraid that this might happen," he said after a moment's pause.

    "What might happen?" I asked.

    "You might mistake your title for authority on the team."

    I couldn't help it. I laughed in his face. "Gus - can I call you Gus?"

    "No."

    "Okay Gus. I am not mistaking my title for anything. My title literally gives me no authority, no power, no position whatsoever in this world. Except in one very specific case. In dealings with matters which affect the Brooklyn...baseball team" I hoped he hadn't noticed my hesitation, "I do not have to assert my authority. I actually have authority." I was careful not to tell him that he didn't, but really, this was silly.

    He rose from his seat. I could see that I could have saved my breath. "I am far more popular than you in this city. If you give me what I want, we will not need to discuss it further. As it is, I will be seeing you at the end of the season to negotiate my next contract. I will expect a substantial raise. However, I'm willing to let you have my services this year at the bargain rate at which I'm currently signed."

    Normally I would respond to this by asserting my own authority. To be honest, I didn't this time only because I was too shocked by all of it to even know what to say.

    Then, when he'd left, I went to my desk, got on my computer, and in about twenty minutes had signed 27-year-old R. J. Chenault (68/68).

    By 6 PM, local sports talk radio had exploded. The most polite thing said was "Who does Weston think he is?"

    I need a drink.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Never-to-be-Completed Sequel: Brooklyn Blues

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