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anxiety is contagious; or, this kind of team chemistry requires a fume hood

scene - john mozeliak's office.

MOZELIAK is sitting at his desk, head tilted back, pulling first one eyelid down and manipulating what one presumes to be a contact lens, then pulling the other down and repeating the gesture. he lifts a small eyedropper first to one eye, then the other, apparently depositing drops in each eye.

Mozeliak returns his head to a normal attitude, blinking fiercely, eyes red. He touches a button on his desk.

MO: Janine?

Voice: [from intercom] Yes, Mr. Mozeliak?

MO: Did Cindy show you how to use the fax?

Voice: Yes, Mr. Mozeliak.

MO: Did Cindy show you how to use the forward function on the phone system? 

Voice: Yes, Mr. Mozeliak.

MO: Did she explain that I can't see anybody this afternoon? My eyes are just on fire. I don't understand how people deal with contacts.

Voice: Yes, Mr. Mozeliak.

MO: Sorry to be a pest. It's not that I'm anxious about you doing a good job while Cindy's away. . . .

Voice: [a beat] Yes, Mr. Mozeliak.

MOZELIAK returns to trying to put eyedrops in his reddened eyes for several minutes. MOZELIAK gives up, touches the mouse to the computer on his desk and squints at the screen. He brings his face closer and closer to the screen until it is inches away.

The intercom squawks suddenly.

Voice: Mr. Mozeliak, I know you didn't want to be disturbed, but it's Mr. La Russa. He says it's very urgent.

MO: [sighs heavily] What now? Oh, just send him in; if I ignore him, he'll just go tell Joe Strauss whatever his beef is and it will be ten times the headache.

A tall figure dressed in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, featuring a jersey with "LA RUSSA 10" on the back enters. The figure wears a suspicious looking goatee.

"LA RUSSA": Um, Mr. Mozeliak. I .  . . uh . . . I hate to bother you.

MO: [still blinking fiercely and squinting at the figure] Since when?

"LA RUSSA": Um . . . well, it's about m. . . it's about Kyle Lohse.

MO: I have told you and told you. He's in the rotation. You have to deal. And no, the Indians still do not want to trade us Fausto Carmona. I asked, and they said they'd only take Lohse if we threw in Shelby Miller. And before you ask, the answer is no.

"LA RUSSA": See, I just wanted to say that Kyle tries really hard and he's an important part of the rotation and he really doesn't want to get traded.

MO: I'm sorry, what?

"LA RUSSA": I . . . He really didn't mean to mess up those last few games, and he really listens hard to what the coaches say, and he tries his best to pay attention, but sometimes the pitches just don't end up where he wants them to go, and he promises to try extra hard this month if you please please don't trade him to Texas because he is totally afraid of rattlesnakes.

MO: What happened to "get this [motherhugger] out of my rotation by next Tuesday"?

"LA RUSSA": I have never even once seen him talk to anyone about pitching except for Dave Duncan.I . . . I once saw a scout walk up to him and talk to him about his arm slot and he put both fingers in his ears and said "Lalalalala I can't hear you because I only listen to Dave Duncan and nobody else and please don't try to show me any video because my eyes are shut too." So. He's really good at listening to coaches and none of his problems are related to his father who is  . . . um . . . on a space station for the next five years. 

MO: I thought they shut down the shuttle program.

"LA RUSSA": He's a contract cosmonaut with the Russians. Yes, the Russians are very strict and won't even let him talk to Kyle on the phone. State secrets or something. So, even if my. . . his father wanted to tell him something about baseball he couldn't. 

MO: I'm really not sure why you're even telling me this. I mean it's great that you're getting along better, but it's not like some team . . . Arizona or whoever, is going to pick up that monster contract. They'd have to be idiots.

"LA RUSSA": Oh god. Not . . .  whatever you do, not Arizona. Their mascot is snakes. Their name is snakes. ["LA RUSSA" begins to look ill.] I mean, just that uniform. You can't trade Kyle there.

MO: No, no, you're right. I'm glad you're figuring this out. I can't trade Kyle anywhere. I did explain to you this whole "no trade clause" business last time, right? I mean you've been in baseball since the Teapot Dome scandal, so I'm sure you're familiar with the concept. He's UNMOVABLE. I could offer him to Colorado and tell them I'll pay his whole contract, and I still wouldn't get the deal done if Lohse won't waive that clause.

"LA RUSSA": [panic in his voice] I'm pretty sure there are snakes in the mountains, too. Kyle can't go there.

MO: No, not if he doesn't want to. I'm really kind of tired of hearing about this. I've told you all this six, seven times. I'm sorry that the contract turned out this way. And you know what? I'm getting kind of sick of all your second-guessing me. Like you could do a better job. If you were running this place, we'd be paying Brian Fuentes $15m a year, and have Corey Patterson starting full time in right field. You act like I could just snap my fingers [MOZELIAK snaps his fingers.] and, boom, Kyle's in Atlanta.


MO: And I don't even care if you tell Joe Strauss or frickin' Bill DeWitt! I'm sick of this! You may be a hall of famer in waiting, but I'm still the GM of this club!! [shouting] Do you hear me? I'm not taking any more of your crap!! [A look of panic comes over MOZELIAK's face.] Oh my god. What have I said? I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Tony. I'm really, really sorry. It's just . . . there's a lot of pressure. And things at home, and . . . it's been a long summer. And my eyes are killing me. Really, the world's just a big fuzzy blur. I can't believe I let my wife talk me into getting contacts. You know what I need? I need to just take the afternoon off, have a glass of wi. . . a glass of very cold water and a nice juicy stea. . .  tofu dog. Tomorrow, I'll come back. It will be a new day. I'll wear my old glasses, my favorite scarf, and you know what, we'll talk about the . . . uh . . . Arthur Rhodes situation. I know you've had your eye on him, and I know Mitch Boggs would [MOZELIAK makes air quotes with his fingers.] "benefit from the chance to work on his pitches in Memphis." Or maybe Springfield, am I right? [MOZELIAK offers a nervous, forced chuckle.] And . . . uh . . . maybe you and I could forget this blowup happened. It's not like Joe Strauss or Mr. Dewitt have to hear about this conversation. And it's not like I spat in your face, or anything. ["LA RUSSA" stares at MOZELIAK, uncomprehendingly.] No, no, you're right. Too soon. I shouldn't make light. Spittle flies, as we all know. So, I appreciate you being understanding about Kyle and about my little outburst just now. 

"LA RUSSA": So, you're not trading Kyle?

MO: No, no. We just can't. Lohse is a Cardinal for the foreseeable future.

"LA RUSSA": Can I go now?

MO: Yes, and I want to thank you for taking the time to share your opinions with me. I really treasure the chance to learn at the feet of someone with your distinguished background. You know, really, how many GM's get to learn from a first-ballot hall of famer in their first job?

"LA RUSSA" leaves.

MO: I hate this job. [MOZELIAK touches something on his desk.] Janine, get me Texas on line 1.