(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Here's to You, Mr. Robinson

He manages in a baseball wasteland, perhaps the last stop on the road to diamond hell. He manages a team that nobody wants, that its owners neglect, that its home city could care less about. He's a Hall of Famer who played during a time where ballplayers didn't make the megabucks they do today, so perhaps he really needs the money he makes, but you wonder whether he does this for any other reason than he just loves the game.

His team flirted with some glory for the first half of last year, only to then wilt during the final turn the way 6 of the past 8 contenders for horse racing's Triple Crown found mortality during the home stretch of The Belmont Stakes. Secretariat or Affirmed -- or even Rocky Balboa to mix the metaphor -- the 2003 Montreal Expos were not to become.

So why does Frank Robinson continue to manage a team that has no chance of winning? And how does he manage to do it with such conviction? Last night in Montreal, before 3,700 or so true baseball fans, the T-NOWs Team No One Wants) lost to the Minnesota Twins, another franchise just a few steps ahead of baseball oblivion, on a controversial (read: bad) call by the umpires who somehow deemed Luis Rivas' foul ball a fair ball and a home run that gave the Twins the game, 5-4.

Did Frank Robinson simply bear the bad call by the Men in Blue? Why didn't he just say, "Aw, heck, had we done x, y and z, we wouldn't have been in a spot where that hit should have mattered?" Isn't that what some coaches and managers do?

Instead, Frank argued vociferously, taking on each member of the umpiring crew before getting ejected after he made choking gestures to the umpires. Instead of going quietly, as, supposedly, the T-NOWs are supposed to do, their skipper gave 'em hell.

He gave 'em hell because to him each game does matter, and no one will tell him that his team or their games really are just filler for teams with new parks or teams with much better traditions. He knows how to approach the game only one way -- with great fire.

Here's to you, Frank Robinson, for doing your job in the only gear you know how to do it. You could simply have taken the job as a caretaker, mailed in your lineups and your baseball knowledge, and no one would have thought twice about it. No one expects much out of the T-NOWs, and most would have understood.

But not you. You didn't make it to the Hall of Fame by just going through the motions, and SportsProf, for one, is glad to see that you're making your opponents know that a game against the T-NOWs isn't the same as a free space on a Bingo card.

You wouldn't have it any other way, would you?