HAPPY ANNIVERSARY . . . WHAT’S NEXT?
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY . . . WHAT’S NEXT?
It seems like just yesterday – but it was actually more than a year ago – that I started writing this blog.
As I am certain you all recall, it was the A’s-Royals Wild Card game that inspired me to put fingers to keyboard and share my thoughts and musings with all of you. I guess history will be the judge of whether or not that was a good idea.
In any event, I have now reached my Paper Anniversary. When I first started writing, my goal was really just to share my random thoughts, and to see if I could tie them in some coherent manner to something related to pop culture, raising kids, middle (ahem) age, and, of course, baseball. Again, history – and you all – will be the judge of whether or not I was successful in that endeavor.
So here I sit, at a crossroads. Do I delve into Year Two, or close up the laptop and call it a career? I arguably have now published more words than J.D. Salinger; so maybe now is the time to head into seclusion (don’t think I didn’t hear those sniggers). However, before I head off to Cornish, I need to figure out “what’s next?”.
Starting on Friday, we will again see the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs – that ain’t news. They have won the NL Central three years running, and, for good measure, they won 100 games this season. And they did that while losing huge swaths of their lineup to injury. Here is a brief sampling of starters who were out of action for considerable periods of time:
- Adam Wainwright (P): Tore his Achilles in his fourth start, and then missed the next five months. He has miraculously returned as a reliever for the post-season.
- Jaime Garcia (P): 3 stints on the DL.
- Randal Grichuk (LF): 2 stints.
- Jordan Walden (P): 60-day DL.
- Jon Jay (CF): Two stints (which may be a record low for him).
- Matt Holiday (LF): He only went on the DL twice, but he was hobbled at all times in between.
- Matt Adams (1B): Two stints, including the dreaded 60-day.
- Lance Lynn (P): He escaped with just one appearance on the 15-day DL.
- Carlos Martinez (P): He’s gone for the season.
- Jason Heyward (RF): He goes on the DL at least once a season, and this year was no exception.
- Yadier Molina (C): He avoided the DL, but that is just because his injury happened too late in the year. They are somehow retrofitting a robo brace for the torn ligament in his thumb to allow him to catch in the playoffs. Mike Marshall he is not.
- Stephen Piscotty (LF): This guy somehow avoided both death and the DL after a massive collision with Peter Bourjos during the last week of the season. In case you haven’t seen it:
Suffice it to say, it was a rough year for the Cards. But no matter. Mike Matheny, the no nonsense, play ‘em as they lay, even-keeled Midwesterner just said, “Next man up”. The team responded to adversity each and every time by looking forward, rather than behind. Their goals never faltered, even when their health did. That approach culminated in a division championship, a return the playoffs, and home field advantage through the NLCS (if they make it that far).
My favorite television show of all time – as anyone with whom I have ever discussed this topic knows all too well – had a lead character whose catch phrase was “what’s next?”.
As the series progressed, this “what’s next?” question was asked with considerably less derision, but it signified that, as the chief executive, he was done and ready to move ahead.
Can’t we have Jed Bartlet in the next presidential debate? Sorry, I digress.
As I mentioned in a postscript to my last posting, I lost the stepfather of a dear friend last week. Amongst this man’s many and varied qualities was his want/desire to keep looking forward. After hearing of his death – as we are want to do – I began reminiscing about my interactions with him over the years. Recall that I first met this man when I was 10 or 11 years old. He housed me, fed me, drove me, and never missed an opportunity to parent me during my preteen and teenage years. But, later in life, when I saw him less frequently, he never missed an opportunity to impart some pearl of wisdom. The following is a story I related to his wife after his funeral: I ran into Allan shortly after I graduated from law school. He gave me a handshake that he twisted to assert dominance, and then turned it into a hug, and said “congratulations”. He then said his version of “what’s next?”. I remember in vivid detail his telling me that I had accomplished a great deal, but now I have to set new goals. 1 year, 5 year, 10 year goals. He said the only way to accomplish anything in life is to look ahead and push yourself to achieve. He wanted to know “what’s next?”.
At many times in my life I have had no choice (okay, I did have a literal choice, but not one a rational person would make) but to look ahead and ask “what’s next?”. It was in the moments of doubt, of fear, of confusion, when the only way out was forward; the only salvation was what was next. Even if it was just a short-term goal – a week, or a day, hell, even a few hours (newborn hours can feel like days and weeks), I had to keep moving. In the words of W.H. Auden, I had to “stagger onward rejoicing”.
Now, I am no paragon of forward movement. I, like everyone else, take time to wallow in the past, to have little pity parties, to remember with longing an easier time. But I try not to dwell there.
Allan gave me great advice that, in my mid-twenties, I didn’t actually heed. In fact, it wasn’t until my early thirties, when Martin Sheen – making what was supposed to be a guest appearance in the pilot episode of Rob Lowe’s new NBC drama – looked at his team in the Oval Office and directed them to push ahead.
Athletes, like pretend White House staffers, need to have a short memory. They cannot dwell on prior failures, they need to look forward to the next shot, the next pass, the next at bat.
The Astros didn’t look back at three straight 100+ loss seasons between 2011-2013; they didn’t look back at their near collapse (14-16 in September) that forced them to play in the Wild Card game rather than winning the division outright; and they didn’t look back at the 27 World Series championships that their opponents has previously won. They got in, and they won on Tuesday, and then they said, “what’s next?”.
For us, what’s next is an epic battle: Cubs v. Pirates; Arrieta v. Cole; NL Central v. NL Central. By the time some/most of you read this, that game will be over. And what’s next will be the rest of the playoffs and the Fall Classic.
For me, what’s next on this page will be more musings, more rants, more posts. The laptop is open; the MLB post season is here; the stories will write themselves.