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'A Crosby Carol' - adapted from Dickens

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Come to AN Day III!

Happy Friday! Nico is out today, so you're stuck with me. With hours to kill before tonight's game. Lucky you. So, instead of the short piece on the mating habits of South American monkeys that I had planned, I decided to go a different direction.

This piece was brought to you by the letters ChoCoBoCro, in the hopes that it will act as a reverse jinx and Bobby Crosby will somehow become Nick Swisher, version 04.06. Or Albert Pujols, any version; I'm not picky. I think it's already working; I decided to write about Crosby on Wednesday morning, right before the game, and not only was Crosby batting sixth that day, but he actually hit. Go me?

Starring:

Bobby Crosby as himself
Barry Zito as himself, shackled to the season he has been unable to repeat
Billy Beane as The Ghost of Talent Wasted
Ben Grieve as The Ghost of ROY
Ken Griffey, Jr. as The Ghost of the Fear of the Future

You didn't need to know Billy Beane at all--you only needed to read his stats--to sense that he left every on-deck circle in trouble. That he had developed neither discipline nor composure. That he had never learned to lay off a bad pitch. That he was easily fooled. That, fooled so often, he came to expect that he would be fooled. That he hit with fear. That his fear masqueraded as aggression. That the aggression enabled him to exit the batter's box as quickly as possible. One season in the big leagues he came to the plate seventy nine times and failed to draw a single walk. Not many players do that.

Moneyball

Once upon a time -- of all the good days in the year, in the spring -- a young boy from Southern California started planning for the major leagues. He had always loved baseball: his dad was heavily involved in the sport--and he had been told his whole life that he had `the gift'; the special, magical, intangible set of skills that would eventually separate him from the commoners and place him among the upper echelon of the sport. It was never a question of if, but rather only the circumstance of when. After all, few players in the major leagues looked more like the quintessential ballplayer than Bobby Crosby: tall, rangy; with a body that might have been carved from the finest marble, and a face the envy of any Greek god. Soft hands, broad shoulders, strong carriage. All as they should be.

Indeed, the kind of player that titillates even the most hardened broadcaster, and holds the attention of even the most desultory fan, Crosby's pure physical appearance is both a blessing, for he certainly looks the part--and a curse, for he is expected to be someone he is not entirely sure he is. His first chance at the show came with the departure of a verifiable superstar, and while the official announcement from the Athletics organization deigned Crosby as an auspicious prospect, nothing more; clearly he was the replacement. His first year in the league was a rousing success if one chooses not to look too closely. Home runs are remembered; impatient at-bats, quickly forgotten. The reward; neatly inscribed with the initials `R.O.Y', affixed more expectations to the already burdened shoulders, but no one quite noticed.

One bitter night, a fraction into Crosby's third year in the league, he was home, uncommonly alone, when he sat up with a start. He wasn't entirely sure he hadn't been dreaming; with great astonishment, he watched as the ethereal appearance of Barry Zito swept through the wall and into the room.

Crosby asked the question: "What do you want with me?"

"Much!" -- Zito's voice, no doubt about it.

"Who are you?"

"Ask me who I was."

"Who were you then?" said Crosby, raising his voice.

"In life, I was a season that may have well been a mirage. I wear the chain I forged years ago in setting expectations that I have been yet unable to fulfill. I will forever be seen as the player fraught with inconsistency. You are in danger of a similar fate; yet those who malign you do not realize that they hold you to a standard that you yourself never set; you are bound to the fickle temptress, Potential, and are measured against the success of Tejada. A cursory glance at your numbers should put aside such notions, but, alas, they do not. However; there is still a chance. You will be haunted by three spirits; without their visits, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread."

With that, Zito disappeared back into the night and Crosby went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.

-------

He awoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy One. Light flashed up in the room and Crosby, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor.

"Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?" asked Crosby.

"I am."

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

"Who, and what are you?" Crosby demanded.

"I am the Ghost of Talent Wasted" the Spirit replied.

"My talent?" inquired Crosby.

"No. My talent. The talent I was given, without my asking, nor my wanting. You are not me. You know the feeling of hitting major league homeruns. You know the feeling of hitting with pressure. You know the feeling of taking a walk. But just barely. You are in danger of using your head instead of using your talents. You must not over-think; you must allow yourself to succeed. And those who follow your career must realize that you are only perceived as a future star; you are not actually one. That path is yet for you to determine."

With those words, the Spirit departed. Crosby, conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness, had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

-------

Upon waking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Crosby had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One.

"I am the Ghost of ROY," said came the voice of the second Spirit. "Look upon me."

"Spirit," said Crosby submissively, "conduct me where you will. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it."

"I was once where you were, Bobby Crosby. I was considered by many to be a rising star; I was the Rookie of the Year and then...nothing. An empty career littered with the ghosts of second chances, left with nothing but a trophy for a season I could not repeat. I am your biggest fear; that you cannot adjust to the league and you cannot become who you think you should. You must have patience. You must adjust as the pitching does. You must raise your OBP. I do not fear your batting average. It is well-known, the negligible difference between averages; your .248 can be compensated for in other ways. But as it currently stands, you are dependant on hitting your way onto base, and if I may be quite frank, that has not been your strength."

As the Spirit departed, he inadvertently collided with another ethereal being making its way into the room. The new figure, as if he had done it many times before, fastened on a knee brace, which perfectly matched the one on his ankle, and hobbled towards the bed.

He spoke quietly. "I am the Ghost of the Fear of the Future. In baseball, much like life, things don't always turn out the way that we feel they should. Through minimal fault of your own, your rugged body so far has been as fragile as glass; a less-than-fortuitous coincidence to be sure, but frustrating, nonetheless. You must find a way to stay healthy. It is imperative to any hope you have at a true baseball career."

With these brief words, the Spirit vanished; leaving Crosby in its wake, contemplating the evening's events. Much to his surprise, he found that purging all suppositions and expectations left him rather lost as to who he was, an odd feeling for someone who, for at least the last decade, had been defined by the game itself. Bobby Crosby was suddenly left with nothing but the numbers on his baseball card to prove he belongs in the major leagues, which may have been the way things should have developed all along.

Luckily for him, all is not written. For the greatest part about the sport we all love so dearly, is that tomorrow is another day, and each game played is another chance to rewrite the future. And lest we forget, the best part of the game is watching it unfold.

Tiny Tim: Well, that and winning, of course. Go A's!

Subject: Bobby Crosby. Discuss.