Listening to Dave Neihaus call Jose Padiagua’s last pitch to Alex Rodriguez was like nothing else.
To anyone listening on the radio, that pitch took a full minute to cross the plate. It was held up in the thick fog of boos emanating from the hometown crowd – boos that for one three-game series usurped the blaring train horn that is the aural hallmark of Safeco Field.
The pitch. Aloft, floating, it took forever to cut through the catcalls of the bloodthirsty fans.
The Rangers were already ahead but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the hitter.
A-rod. Nobody (save the Rangers) wanted to see him reach base again. The ball was on its way.
And then there was contact, a cheer – he popped it up.
Two-hundred fifty million dollars or no, it really doesn’t matter. Sure Seattle showed its working-class roots by showering the field with Monopoly money every time the man came up to bat, but c’mon, he’s the third superstar to have left. Nobody was angry when Randy Johnson was traded, or cried sell-out when Junior took off.
The grouches should just admit that they want a star to worship. At least now we have a team.
A team of players, with a solid pitching staff. (Finally, thank you – after so much painful long relief I’ll take pitching over a home-run heart throb any day.) And besides, maybe it wasn’t the money.
Maybe Rodriguez, like Junior, wants to play in a sunnier climet. Or maybe, just maybe, he wants to play in a more ethnically diverse region. (Yes, the Northwest does like pat itself on the back in the name of tolerance, but c’mon, let’s get real.)
But all of this aside, we have a new man to cheer, a man by the name of Ichiro Suzuki. Yes, the first Japanese-born position player in the Major Leagues is everything he was touted as being, and so much more – fun to watch, talented and hard working – this fan is in love.
The A-rod/Junior/Martinez/Buhner/Johnson days were fun, but good old-fashioned run-generating gamesmanship, combined with actual pitching, will always win games.
Solid. That’s what this team is, even with Norm Charlton hanging around in the bullpen.