(Something fun, and yes, a little weird, amidst the Erik Bedard speculation. Hope you enjoy…)
I am in the process of plowing through the Harry Potter series at the urging (insistence!) of my 13-year-old daughter, who is a Potter zealot. Yeah, I was the middle-aged man engrossed in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” on the flight home from Honolulu a couple of weeks ago. I tucked it inside “Esquire” but I don’t think I fooled anyone.
Anyway, as I read about the mini-controversy last week over the Hall of Fame’s decision to put an Expos hat on Andre Dawson’s Cooperstown plaque – he wanted the Cubs, but was overruled – I couldn’t help but think of Harry Potter
Specifically, I thought of the Sorting Hat that magically determines which of the four Houses at Hogwarts each first-year student should belong to – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. (Stick with me here – I’m going to bring this back to baseball soon).
When it’s his turn, Harry has an intense dialogue with the Sorting Hat, which is considering putting him in dreaded Slytherin but finally relents to his desires and puts him in Gryffindor. I forgot to mention, this is a talking hat, and it can read minds, too. When Harry puts on the Sorting Hat, their conversation goes something (OK, exactly) like this:
“Hmm,” said a small voice in his ear. “Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes – and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting…So where shall I put you?”
Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.
“Not Slytherin, eh?” said the small voice. “Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that – no? Well, if you’re sure – better be GRYFFINDOR!”
I’m not at liberty to reveal my wizard connections, but after much effort I was able to obtain my own Sorting Hat. The only proviso is that I agreed to use it solely for the purpose of determining which team that each of the six current or upcoming Hall of Fame candidates with strong Mariner connections should be associated with in Cooperstown. There won’t be any Andre Dawson-like second-guessing with this baby.
The six players eagerly agreed to gather at a top-secret location and don the charmed chapeau. Here’s what the Sorting Hat had to say. (I used a tape recorder):
“My, you are a tall one, aren’t you? By the way, why is Larry Walker cowering in the bushes? And why, pray tell, did that curly-haired man on the Baseball Tonight set – Krek, or Kruk, or something like that – just soil himself? You must have some powerful magic working.
“By the way, nice hair, big guy. If you had kept that mullet, I would have had to put you in Slytherin. OK, down to business. You were great with the Mariners, oh my goodness, yes. In fact, you won more games with the M’s than you did with the Diamondbacks. No one will ever forget you coming out of the bullpen against the Yankees in 1995. Some people say you tanked in 2008 – hey, stop twisting my brim, let me finish – but I have magical powers, and I can confirm that wasn’t the case.
“You won a Cy Young in Seattle – but you won four in Arizona. You pitched a no-hitter in Seattle – but you pitched a perfect game in Arizona. You came out of the bullpen to win a division series in Seattle – but you came out of the bullpen to win a World Series in Arizona.
“Apologies to Mariner fans, Big Unit, but for you it’s HOUSTON ASTROS! Ha, ha, a little Sorting Hat humor. Just kidding. Put down that bat. Of course, it’s DIAMONDBACKS!”
“Hmm, this is a toughie – NOT! I made this choice even quicker than I stuck Malfoy in Slytherin.
“You can relax, by the way. You’re not going to need me until 2016, but the good news is you are, indeed, going to get to Cooperstown, and you and Junior will go in together. It’s going to take some arm,-twisting, but the voters will eventually come around. As I peer into the future, I see that even Draco, I mean, Geoff Baker finally wises up and votes for you in 2013. I just watched his Podcast explaining why. Being magical has its privileges.
“Personally, I used to think there was no place in the Hall for a DH (it stood for Deathly Hallows, in my book). But then I took another look at your WAR and your VORP, not to mention your adjusted OPS-plus, and, oh, boy, was I wrong.
“Edgar, I’m delighted to say you go into the Hall of Fame as a MARINER.”
Ken Griffey Jr.
“Tee hee…quit tickling me!!! This is serious business. You are the biggest name in Mariner history…but you left, Ken. In your prime. You had to take care of your family, which the Sorting Hat understands. Hey, I’ve got three little berets of my own. But you broke a lot of hearts when you left, Junior.
“Ah, but you came home. You – I said quit tickling me! And put down that shaving cream pie – you realized that the grass is not always greener. Especially when you played the first 10 years of your career at the Kingdome without grass. That rock-hard turf did a number on your legs, kept you from hitting 800 home runs. But at least you can walk, or limp, away knowing you did it clean. I’m looking into your soul right now, and I don’t see any trace of steroids. Well done.
“So let’s take stock. You were the first superstar in Seattle, saved the franchise, spent a decade as the biggest star in baseball, if not all sports. Cincinnati was one big pain. The fans never embraced you, you never seemed completely happy, never could stay healthy. Then you came back to Seattle last year, and it was one big joy ride. So much fun, in fact, that you’re coming back for one more tickle-fest. They don’t just love you in Seattle, they revere you.
“This is an- I SAID QUIT IT – an easy one. Junior, you go into the Hall of Fame, first ballot, as a MARINER.”
“Oh, I see you fell victim to some powerful dark magic. They put a spell on you, didn’t they – steroidsarmus. That one was quite popular for a time. Only the most powerful of bat wizards were able to resist.
“Yes, A-Rod – may I call you A-Rod? — you are going to get to Cooperstown. With 833 home runs, how can they keep you out? Especially after He Who Must Not Be Named admits to using steroids in 2013. That pretty much will open the floodgates for all of you juicers.
“Sorry to hear about you and Kate Hudson, by the way. A little piece of advice from a humble millinery: Stop trying to be everyone’s friend, and be yourself. OK, end of lecture. Back to the Hall of Fame. You had five great years in Seattle, and should have won the MVP in 1996. I’m still not quite sure why they treat you like the devil himself whenever you come to Safeco Field. Like any one of them would have turned down $252 million.
“You didn’t disgrace yourself in Texas, at least not on the field. Won an MVP, had some great, ‘roid-aided years, even if the team pretty much stunk – thanks to you hogging all the payroll.
“But congratulations, you are now, finally, a true Yankee, and you have the ring to prove it. But you’d better do it again next year, or they’ll go right back to booing you.
“Still, you will go into Cooperstown as a YANKEE.”
“You thought I had forgotten about you, didn’t you? One of my favorite pieces of trivia – yeah, us magical lids love the trivia – is to name the four potential Hall of Famers who were rookies in Seattle together in 1989. That would be Junior, Unit, Edgar and Little O.
“And then they had to go and trade you to Cleveland for…oh, this still hurts – Felix Fermin. What the heck is a Fermin? Sounds like that stain on my brim. You became a star in Cleveland, the best fielding shortstop since Ozzie, and I ain’t talking about Canseco. I know some of those sabermetrician dudes scoff at your Hall of Fame credentials, but not to worry, you’re riding your leather straight into Cooperstown. Too bad UZR wasn’t around in your heyday, or we wouldn’t be having this debate. Yeah, I know the advanced defensive metrics. What can I say? I thought with a name like Tommy Tango, that stat dude must be a wizard, so I started doing some research. I’m partial to UZR/150 myself, but that’s another story.
“The Mariners tried to get you back in 2005, but you flunked their physical. Odd, considering you had a fine year with the Giants in ’05, and you’re still going strong at age 42. At least it worked out OK for the M’s. They signed Pokey Reese instead.
“Even though you had those stints in San Francisco, Texas and now Chicago, there’s no suspense here, Little O. In Wizard World, we call this a no-brainer. You’re going into Cooperstown as an INDIAN.”
“Ah, easy choice, very easy. Yes, there will be those two years with the Yankees, 2016 and ’17, but at least you come back to Seattle to finish your career. As I recall, you said (through a translator, of course), “If Junior can do it, so can I.” And I don’t want to give anything away, but you’ll find Griffey to be a very enjoyable manager to play for. Just beware – when you break Pete Rose’s hits record in 2018, he gives you a tickling that almost kills you. But you get your revenge when you win the seventh game of the World Series against the Portland Beavers (formerly the Washington Nationals) for Seattle’s first championship in their history in ’19. That double off eight-time Cy Young Award winner Stephen Strasburg won’t soon be forgotten. I mean, I’ve never seen Trey Griffey run so fast, scoring from first base. Awesome. And then you tickled Junior until he begged for mery.
“But I digress. Ichiro, you will go into Cooperstown as AN ORIX BLUE WAVE!
“What’s that? It wasn’t that funny the first time? All right, all right. Everyone’s a critic.
“You will go in as a MARINER.
“Now put me back into my box. I’m exhausted. And I’ve still got to figure out what to do with Mark McGwire.”
(Thanks to Will Bassin for the fantastic photo illustration, and to Robert Wickwire for his help on that)