By Nick Gillepsie
Politics and sports, especially baseball, don't mix. Just ask President Obama, who can neither toss a ball a mere 60 feet, 6 inches nor name any players of his supposedly favorite team.
The sad-sack intersection of horsehide and horse's asses typically presents itself as a comic variation of Pete Rose barreling through Ray Fosse (read the true story about that less-than-apocalyptic crack-up, btw). Consider just briefly the idiotic nature of a 2005 congressional committee, its bench groaning under the combined weight of splinter-pickers who themselves were doubtless on 50 different sorts of magic pills just to get through their next trip to the bathroom, grilling slugger and one-time Viagra pitchman Rafael Palmeiro about whether he'd ever used performance-enhancing drugs. That Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame stats belie his absolute lack of impact on the game, lied about not using steroids is secondary to the point that Congress should not concern itself at all with baseball's internal workings. If Congress wants to get into the urine-collection business, well, that's what interns are for.
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Fast forward to the Ohio governor's race, where Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland and Republican challenger John Kasich are sucking wind like Ernie The Shnozz Lombardi ambulating to first base with Greg Luzinski and Harmon Killibrew on his back. Each was asked by the Columbus Dispatch to name the greatest baseball player of all time.
Strickland picked Cal Riplen, Jr. and Kasich made the call for "Roberto Clemente, hands down." Take it away, Greg Calcaterra:
I'd let it go if I didn't suspect that something other than baseball ignorance was afoot. No, I smell calculation. I smell Strickland trying to message the concept of perseverance, of keeping going no matter what faces you in the Ripken choice, thinking that it's a smart move for a guy trying to keep his job despite a budget crunch and the state's economy being in the toilet. I smell Kasich going with Clemente as a means of messaging "charity" and -- maybe -- diversity, which would be useful for a guy who needs to move a bit towards the middle in order to secure the election....
I've met and talked to both Kasich and Strickland and I find it hard to believe that if you asked them point blank, either of them would say Ripken or Clemente. Even if they were total baseball ignoramuses I'd figure they'd say Babe Ruth or Willie Mays or something because -- setting aside the fact that those would both be great answers -- they're way more well-known names. Ignorance actually helps you with this question! And if they know a little about baseball then they know that the answers they actually gave are dumb.
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And you know what else? Even if this is political calculation, it's dumb political calculation! Kasich is a Republican, and Republicans have a hard damn time getting votes in northeast Ohio. Go with Bob Feller or Rocky Colaovito! They're just as bad an answer as Clemente, but at least there's a percentage in it! People in Cleveland hate Pittsburgh! Likewise for Strickland, who will be hard pressed to get votes in southwest Ohio: Go with Pete Rose! They love Pete down there! You might push someone into voting for you! If you're going to be political animal at least do it right!
Just limiting ourselves to the 21st century, we have with all the justification in this world and the next given up on our politicians as being anything other than glad-handing, self-interested fools who will do their best to screw us more than Margo Adams during a Wade Boggs hitting streak. As Calcaterra's reaction underscores, we are reduced to only one last, final illusion: That they might at least be good at it.