Saturday, July 28, 2001

Rico Got a Raw Deal by Josh Rutledge

I should be disgusted with myself, but I’m not. Not at all. I have descended into depravity, and I feel no shame. In honor of Rico Brogna, the internationally-neglected baseball star, I’m willing to soil my soul.

Every time I see Brogna step up to the plate, I hope he hits the ball out of the park. I read the box scores every night to keep up with his progress. And when he goes up against my beloved Phillies later this season, I’ll wish him nothing but luck. I am firmly in the man’s corner. I anticipate his assault on National League pitching with unabashed zeal.

So what’s so wrong with my unbridled Ricomania? Is it really so bad for me to cheer for a non-Phillie? After all, there were never any ethical questions regarding my admiration for the likes of such diamond greats as Tony Gwynn, Tim Raines, and Ron Gardenhire. Right? Right. So why can’t I be an ardent Brogna devotee?

Well, the problem is NOT that Brogna is a non-Phillie (not to mention an ex-Phillie). The problem is that he’s a.....(The mere thought of this next word has me on the verge of vomiting)....BRAVE!!!!!!!! How could I possibly deign to behave in a manner that would suggest that I want good things to happen to bad people?! If Rico does well, that will aid the efforts of his team, The Evil Ones!

Am I really willing to be responsible for The Evil Ones’ continued domination of the N.L.? After all, we’re talking about the organization that has nearly RUINED professional baseball as we know it! They’ve made a mockery of parity by monopolizing their league’s talent pool! Some credit the farm system, but I know better! Other teams make deals with the devil in hopes of buying a year or two of contention. But Ted Turner doesn’t have to make deals with Satan-----He IS Satan!

The Braves are filthy, slimy, debased, midget-humping swine. Am I out of my mind for cheering for one of their starters? Can there possibly be an excuse for my colossal error in moral judgment? I believe so!       

Here’s the deal: Not even The Evil Ones can taint Rico Brogna. He’s not just an unheralded baseball standout-------He’s also a SAINT! His rude expulsion from the Phillies’ organization last summer made him a martyr for neglected greats everywhere. So many others have felt his same pain----countless musicians, writers, painters, actors, mimes, mountain-climbers, and pimps have brought forth brilliance into this world only to be ignored in favor of their inferior peers. Perhaps you, dear reader, appreciate the magnitude of Brogna’s feats. But sadly, the Philadelphia Phillies did NOT.

Numbers don’t lie: In 1998 and 1999, Brogna anchored the middle of the Phillies’ lineup by driving in over 100 runs. (Please note that Scott Rolen, the celebrated cornerstone of the franchise, has posted only ONE 100-RBI season in his entire career.) Then in 2000, the club threw this great man into the trash. They waived him! That’s right: WAIVERS! He was dumped. Abandoned. Left to rot. Discarded. Spat upon. I wept for him.

Even in this noveau lively-ball-era, 100-RBI ballplayers are not easy to come by. And when your record for chronic ineptitude is as sorry as the Phillies’ is, you can’t afford to toss aside big-time hitters. Brogna was given the boot to clear a lineup space for Travis Lee, an ex-phenom who’s currently in contention for Bust of the Century honors. (The Phillies acquired Lee in the Curt Schilling trade disaster that also brought 19-game loser Omar Daal to the City of Brotherly Love. One could sadly expect such shenanigans from an organization that was once so desperate to swap Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus that it “threw in” Ryne Sandberg.) A year later, The Phillies are banking on a big season from Lee and plugging the woefully inadequate Daal into Schilling’s #1 spot in the starting rotation. Is it any wonder that this team has posted 13 losing seasons in 14 years?

Brogna was a top-notch swinger for the Phillies in all three of his seasons as a full-time starter. Rolen, Bobby Abreu, Mike Lieberthal, and Pat Burrell may get all the press in Phillieland, but Brogna put up the numbers year after year. In ’97, he hit 20 home runs, cracked 36 doubles, and drove in 81 runs. The following year was even bigger: 20 homers, 104 RBI, and 36 more doubles. In ’99 he hit 24 home runs, drove in 102, and posted a .278 batting average.  A year later, he was given his walking papers after a mere 129 at-bats. This overlooked STAR then wound up in Boston, where he got little chance to do his thing. Now he’s surrounded by pure wickedness, and he’ll finally have the chance to shine in the spotlight!

I would love for The Evil Ones to receive the vast benefits of Brogna’s big stick and STILL find a way to lose. So far we’re four games into the season, and the dream is almost a reality. The Bad Guys are only 2-2 (an extremely sub-par mark given their prior achievements), but Sir Rico is ripping it up! He has played in three games, and he’s hitting .455! That’s right! In 11 at-bats, he has slammed out two doubles, driven in a run, and scored twice. And check out that slugging average: .636! No joke! 

Cynics will ensure me that there’s no way that the man can keep on bashing it out at such a frantic clip, but I know better! As a platoon player, he may not have the chance to post a third 100-RBI campaign. But he’ll deliver the goods as he makes the most of his limited playing time! Every screaming base hit, scorching stand-up double, and monstrous home run that explodes from his potent bat will strike a blow for every unappreciated, tortured soul that has ever excelled in the shadow of society’s superficial gaze! And if his productivity DOES benefit The Evil Ones, so be it! Rico Brogna’s trials and tribulations have transcended the narrow-minded confines of wins and losses. Never mind The Evil Ones; it’s humanity itself that will celebrate this great man’s triumphs!

I hope he hammers the Phillies’ lightweight pitching staff.

No comments: