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November Rain

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Ferris wheels still cheer me up.
Ferris wheels still cheer me up.

I'm sitting in my living room staring out on a grey and very nasty November morning. Ordinarily, I welcome such inclement weather; I usually love the rain and the clouds and the cold whistling wind. However, I have an awful day ahead of me, including a trip to traffic court in Webster Groves this evening, and I just can't bring myself to work up any sort of real cheer.

This past weekend I went to see a movie at the St. Louis Film Festival with a friend of mine named Alex. (By the way, huge plug for the Festival; if you've never been, go and buy a ticket to something. Doesn't matter what. Just go and see something you wouldn't ordinarily see. I promise it will be a good experience.) Alex is a girl, and a remarkably pretty one at that. She's also most likely reading this, as she thinks the things I write are funny (even when they aren't meant to be), which makes what I'm about to dwell on potentially uncomfortable, but I don't particularly care.

 

It doesn't matter what the film was for the story; it was depressing and wrenching and about people thousands of miles away. It only matters the theatre was dark and warm and Alex and I were sharing a soda back and forth between us. And by sharing, I mean she was drinking what was supposed to be my soda. She had refused to pay the price for a soda of her own, claiming extortion on the part of the theatre, and refused my offer of a beverage, claiming she wouldn't allow me to try and extract the price of a medium Pepsi from her in sexual favours at a later date.  It only matters she said that last to me with a wink and a smile she knows could make me do anything in the world for her, if only she would say the word.

So there I sat, trying desperately to concentrate on genocide in a far-off land instead of the taste of cherry chap stick on the straw, and I found myself thinking about the decisions we make in life, and how sometimes no matter how right you think you are, you're going to lose either way.

I suppose it's fairly obvious by now how I feel about Alex, and to what extent those feelings are returned. She lives with a man, a decent and fine man at that, who gives her anything she could ask. They're planning to get married sometime early next year, perhaps March. I'm sure it will be lovely, and I'm sure I'll be invited. I'm also sure I'm booked solid whatever day it might be.

A couple years back, I had my chance with Alex. We had been friends for quite some time, but it had never gone any farther. I had met her when dating her former roommate, and that set the tone for the relationship. We were always friendly, mildly flirty at the most, and there was always a wall between us at the end of the night. I worked up my courage finally one night in August, and told her I wanted her. She feigned surprise, but she's a lousy actress. Still, I had my answer.

As the summer ended and turned into autumn, something very gradually began to change between us. We were both single at the same time for the first time since we had met, for one thing, but it was more than that. She seemed to have reconsidered, and decided maybe that wall at the end of the night didn't need to be there after all. She kissed me one night in late September, a quick brush on the lips only, and she pulled away when I tried to kiss her back. It was electrifying all the same.

At the same time, a girl named Angie came back into my life. We had dated years before; she loved me as much as a woman can love a man, and I loved her as much as I'm capable of loving anyone, which unfortunately isn't much. She told me she needed someone who actually cared about her, and our time together was over. I moved on, she moved away. Still, we saw each other every time she came to town, and somewhere along the line I just might have fallen in love with her for real.

It was the fall of 2007, and Angie called me up one night and told me we were going to be together. She didn't ask, as she had long ago learned asking me to live simply doesn't work. She had decided we were going to make a proper go of it, and now she was telling me, and that was that.

 I called Alex the next day and told her what happened, and asked her how she felt. She said the bravest thing I've ever heard anyone say, I think.

"I'll be here if you call, and we can be together. But I'm not going to wait for you and hope."

 I made my choice; I didn't call Alex back for a long time. When I did, I told her I was sorry, and she laughed at me.

"I told you I wouldn't wait around, Aaron. You made your choice." And that was all.

I moved on with my life and lost it all when Angie was killed. Alex moved on and found someone dependable and solid and not at all like me who makes her happy. And so now I sit in a darkened theatre with a girl I desperately wish was not my friend and try to ignore how her fingers touch mine just ever so slightly each time she passes my soda back to me. Her fiance knows how I feel and he doesn't care. He trusts both of us, which makes me so angry I occasionally see black spots in front of my eyes.

Still, I don't regret the choice I made. I did the best I could with what I had at the time. If I had known how short my time with Angie would be, would I have chosen differently? I can't answer that, but I don't think so. It was love, and it was good, no matter how brief. What would I have had with Alex? I don't know, and sadly, I never will. She long ago forgave me for choosing someone else, but to paraphrase Jenny Lewis, she'll never let me in again.

Why am I telling you all this? To be honest, partially because it's simply what I do. I may be almost impossible to get close to in real life, but I have no problem writing painfully intimate details down and sending them out into the void for anonymous consumption. I don't know what it says about me, but I'm sure it isn't good. However, I also had a point to this story.

 I had meant to relate a shorter version of this story to you and then use it to discuss the fast approaching free agency of Matt Holliday. The Cards made their choice with a player they coveted already, rather than seeing how things would work with what they had on the way, and now they have to live with that decision. They knew perfectly well there were no guarantees things would work out, but they chose to take that risk anyhow. But after telling the story, I don't want to talk about that now. It's November and it's raining and I am all alone in an empty house staring at a bad day. Writing this post has turned out to be an appallingly bad idea. So let's talk about something else, shall we?

*************

The Manager of the Year awards will be announced today in both the National and American Leagues; only one of them is really an interesting discussion. The National League award is pretty much a foregone conclusion by this point, I believe; Jim Tracy led his Rockies to an astounding turnaround this season after they had struggled badly under Clint Hurdle for the early portion of the season. When Tracy took over, the Rockies were 18-28. They went 74-42 the rest of the way, somehow riding a managerial change to temporary juggernaut status.

Fredi Gonzalez of the Marlins is probably the only other serious candidate for the award, as he managed the Marlins to an 87-75 record with a payroll just a hair above Alex Rodriguez' annual salary. He'll probably get a few votes based on the notion of him doing more with less, but I don't think there's any way Gonzalez beats out Tracy this year. Maybe in another year or two after the Marlins have traded Chris Coghlan and Josh Johnson and Cameron Maybin away and make a run at the wild card with the resulting pieces. Until then, Fredi will just have to bide his time.

I suppose our own Tony La Russa is a candidate, seeing as how all the national media sources are listing him as one, but I'm not really sure why. Years like 2002 I can see, when Tony had to pull a team back from the brink of disaster, or 2004, when he captained a team which just completely steamrolled everyone, but I'm not really sure about this season. The Cards were a very good, very talented team who were bolstered by a midseason acquisition and then fell apart late in the season. Nothing in there says to me, "This guy was the best manager in the NL this year." Maybe Mo could win executive of the year or something for doing so much to improve his team (though he did also potentially cripple it for the next few years, I suppose), but I don't think La Russa has any claim on the managerial award. Not saying he's a bad manager or never deserves to win MOY, but I definitely don't think he's that guy this year.

In the American League, there's a bit more in the way of interesting storylines, with Mike Scioscia seemingly the clubhouse leader. Personally, I would have to agree with that, and I'll even go so far as to postulate an axiom on the subject: When you have a player die during the season and you still make the playoffs, you win Manager of the Year. Automatically.

I don't mean to be flippant, of course; the death of Nick Adenhart early in the season was an horrific blow to the Angles, and Scioscia somehow managed to keep that team together and get them to excel. It's the sort of performance you hope never to have to see, and can only stand in awe when such a performance does, in fact, become necessary. Toss in the fact the Angels were absolutely ravaged by injuries for most of the season, and I don't really see how Scioscia doesn't win.

However, there are some other intriguing candidates, moreso than  in the NL, I think. Two Rons, no waiting, for instance. Ron Gardenhire of the Twins and Ron Washington of the Rangers both did outstanding jobs getting their teams to play ball that was probably better than their talent level. Washington should get some sort of award for moving Michael Young to third base alone. Gardenhire managed to push his team into the playoffs after losing one of their two best hitters for the stretch run and having a chronically undermanned starting rotation. Very impressive on quite a few levels.

I would also throw Don Wakumatsu in Seattle into the mix. He probably didn't go as above and beyond as some of the other guys on this list, he did manage to begin the process of getting the Mariners turned around, and that's no mean feat. Give him another year or two and he should win at least one of these awards when Seattle wins the division. I think Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik should get most of the credit this year, though, if only because he realised what a boon Franklin Gutierrez would be.(Also, I should get some credit for spelling his name correctly.) The Bill Bavasi era is quickly being forgotten in Seattle, and that is a beautiful thing.

I will say this, however: if Joe Fucking Girardi wins the AL Manager of the Year award, I will personally lay waste to the offices of Major League Baseball with my telekinetic powers. I keep hearing Girardi's name brought up, and it's really, really beginning to piss me off. Oh, so he had to deal with A-Rod's steroid story early in the season? Well, Jesus ate a can of beans, boys, that's tough! He also was given the largest payroll in the sport and the best roster and a golden toilet. Seriously. I read it on the web somewhere. And as for his brilliant tactical brilliance in the playoffs, I can't imagine it's really all that tough to say, "Here you go, Mariano." It's like one of those Ron Popeil cooking devices where you set it and forget it while the Rotisablaster 9000 does all the work. Managing the Yankee bullpen in October is the definition of autopilot, so don't use that argument. Do you hear me, so-called experts?!

So anyway, it should be Jim Tracy and Mike Scioscia, and I think it probably will be.

Oh, and congratulations to Zack Greinke on his Cy Young award. It's Actually Inspring (as opposed to Lifetime Original Movie Inspiring or  ESPN Saturday Morning Fluff Piece Inspiring, neither of which are nearly as good), to see someone with such serious issues able to put them behind him and accomplish something so amazing. I have to admit, I'm a little surprised the voters got this one right; I was expecting CC Sabathia to win it with the logic he was the Best Pitcher on the Best Team or some other such nonsense.

Sorry for the rather uneven tone of today's post, folks. It was not my intention when I set out. I've decided against deleting it, though, just because. It's honest, and that has to be worth something. Plus, it's not every day you get to witness someone go almost completely off the rails, right?

The Baron's Playlist for the 18th of November, 2009

 "On the Bus Mall" - The Decemberists

"Dishes" - Pulp

"If Loving You is Wrong" - Luther Ingram (The pride of Alton, Illinois, bitches!) 

"Chances Are" - Bob Marley and the Wailers

"Worm Mountain" - The Flaming Lips (After listening to the full Embryonic album, I've changed my opinion. It's a fucking masterpiece, plain and simple.)

Oh, and also: you could construe the title of this post as an addendum to the playlist if you were so inclined. Just saying.