The Seeds of Spring BLOG

Lessons From the Garden

Averting a National Shutdown August 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Seeds of Spring @ 6:47 pm

The Seeds of Spring Blog has just learned that Stephen Strasburg, the phenomenal baseball pitcher for the Washington Nationals, will not be shut down in September. Repeat: Will not be shut down! Remember, you read it here first.

Sources close to someone who claims to have knowledge of sources close to someone who knows Strasburg tell this writer that there are several contingency plans under consideration, despite the consistent and firm statements to the contrary from the general manager and manager of the Nationals, who have the best record in Major League Baseball. These sources, who insisted on anonymity, say the details are still being worked out.

Unless you have lived under a rock for the past year or have no interest in baseball, you know that one of the big sports stories of the year has been the plan to have Strasburg stop pitching sometime in September. Barely a year removed from Tommy John Surgery, which involves an elbow ligament transplant, Strasburg is being shut down in an effort to prevent further injury to his powerful right arm, which is responsible for the fastest average pitch among starting pitchers in the known universe.

[Interesting fact: The first player to have Tommy John Surgery was a pitcher named … Tommy John! What are the odds of that?]

But with the Nationals facing a great chance of making the playoffs in 2012, the prospect of shutting him down right before the postseason has prompted almost unprecedented angst inside the Washington Beltway. Even crusty, world-weary political operatives who don’t even blink at the prospect of a government shutdown have been known to sob uncontrollably at just the sight or mention of the Nationals’ Number 37.

The five scenarios for keeping Strasburg in the game go by the following secret code names, as related exclusively to the Seeds of Spring Blog:

 

THE DISGUISE

This might be the simplest and cheapest of the five. On his off days, Strasburg has been seen frequenting The Spy Museum and certain shops in D.C. that sell theatrical costumes and other disguises. His roommate would not deny that he has seen Stephen modeling fake beards, wigs, glasses and even dresses—not that there’s anything wrong with that—in an effort to take on the appearance of someone else.

“If he shows up in the clubhouse in disguise, he can claim to be Fred Jones or some other minor league call-up from Frederick or Hagerstown,” one source said after being plied with a couple of shots of cheap gin. “Once he gets in a couple of games and Davey [Manager Davey Johnson] sees how well he’s throwing, he’ll probably get a few starting assignments, and he’ll be off to the races.”

THE MISDIRECTION

The odds of success for this scenario are a little lower. But it goes like this: Strasburg and his agent try to persuade Johnson and the team’s brass that it was John Lannan or Henry Rodriguez or some other pitcher who’s in the minors or on the disabled list who had the Tommy John Surgery, not Strasburg. “Hey, there are 40 guys on the 40-man roster,” noted our source. “There’s bound to be some confusion. And even if the manager or general manager suspects that this is a little deceptive, it gives them cover to do what they really want to do—which is to let Stephen pitch.”

 

THE SCALPEL

Plastic surgery is quick and painless. Why not try it on Strasburg? That scruffy little beard has got to go anyway, and the ears could use a bit of a trim. Might as well rearrange some of the facial furniture—with the input of his wife, of course. We’ll need to come up with a new name to get him through the postseason, of course. Who knows—maybe it could even be reversible during the off season.

 

THE COPYCAT

My sources were a little short on details about this option, but the theory goes like this: Back when Strasburg was taken as the top draft pick in 2009, he had to undergo a thorough physical exam before the Nats agreed to sign him and give him that big signing bonus. Surely, during this exam there were skin cells or swabs of fluids taken—enough to capture his DNA and replicate him. Yes, they have had about three years to clone Stephen Strasburg. A tight timeline, admittedly, but such a clone would not have even had the elbow surgery and should be in even better position to fire 98-mph bullets past flailing hitters.

Of course, we would have to hide the “original” Strasburg for a few months. Area 54, or someplace secure like that. Fix him up with a big-screen TV and lots of chips and dip. It could happen.

 

TIME FLIES

This one’s a stretch, too. But no plan should be discarded out of hand when something as vital to our emotional wellbeing is at stake. We’re talking very limited, very controlled time travel. Reach about 14 months into the future, and bring the Strasburg of December 2013 back to October 2012 and have him pitch with an extra year of recovery. After all, he won’t need to be throwing baseballs in December 2013.

“It can’t work,” you say. “There are no time machines.” “Time travel is impossible.”

Well, that’s just the kind of negative thinking that brought us disasters like the financial crisis of 2008 and most reality TV shows. I mean, someday someone will invent a time machine. Give those crazy scientists enough time and money, and tell them to stop trying to find meaningless subatomic particles with those cyclotrons and whatever machines that cost billions of dollars and are hidden under Swiss mountains. They’ll come up with a time machine eventually. Then they’ll use time travel to send it back to us because, as they will realize with the perspective of time, no need ever was or will be greater than that of the Washington Nationals in 2012.

Case closed. It will happen.

There is one other scenario, though my sources would neither confirm nor deny it. Using holograms or just good 3D graphics, the team could project a fake Stephen Strasburg warming up in the Nationals’ bullpen during a close game. Watch the manager and players in the other dugout freak out and totally botch the game. Heck, they might even forfeit.

Next week, we’ll return the Seeds of Spring Blog to its regular programming. Until then, Go Nats!

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Monsters August 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Seeds of Spring @ 5:55 pm

When I was very young, my father assured me regularly that there were no monsters hiding under my bed or in my closet.

While that might have been true at the time, it’s no longer the case. There are monsters all around us. We don’t know exactly where they are or what they will do or when they will do it. What we do know is what they look like.

They look like you and me.

In a way, they are worse than the imagined monsters of our childhoods. Those, we knew, were indiscriminate. They sought opportunities, captured or consumed whoever happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I can’t recall how many times I watched Tokyo being flattened by legendary behemoths rising from the sea or hatching in remote mountains—just because the city was right there for the stomping.

Back on U.S. soil, we were sure that ghosts haunted the occasional old, boarded-up house. And we tried to stay away from these places, except perhaps on Halloween.

We kept a nightlight burning in our bedrooms until we were absolutely sure that that worrisome noise in the closet was just our imagination. And we could identify, or at least picture in our minds, many of the bad guys. Our teachers warned us about talking to strangers offering candy or a ride home. It seemed like we, and our parents and teachers, could see trouble coming from a mile away.

Sure, some bad things happened, but it generally seemed like these were relatively rare and random. Until the sixties, anyway, with the Kennedys and King.

Still, we had heroes back in those days. Superman and Batman. Our friendly local cops and firefighters. Even Lassie saved the day now and then. There was a sense that justice would prevail and that evil would be dealt with.

Today, evil springs forth from any house on any street, without warning, without shame. A Michael Page blows away peace-loving Sikhs in Milwaukee, including a priest who recently came to the U.S. A Jared Lee Loughner opens fire on a member of Congress and other innocent people spending their Saturday at a shopping center. A James Holmes carries assault weapons into a movie theater full of people seeking only a little fun late one evening, leaving a scene of unimaginable carnage. A Seung-Hui Cho blows away 32 people at Virginia Tech during a two-hour rampage. In Norway, an Anders Behring Breivik engineers two attacks that claim 77 souls in a single day. Fifteen perish at Columbine High School. One hundred and sixty-eight die in Oklahoma City. And, of course, 911 is imprinted permanently on the minds of everyone old enough to vote. On and on the slaughter spreads.

Insanity might explain some of it, maybe most of it. But there’s an undercurrent that cannot be denied.

The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was just the start of a series of senseless killings.

It’s hate. These people hate. They hate me. They hate you. They hate people different from themselves. They hate people like themselves.

So much hate. Why? Can anyone tell me why?

What has changed in our country, in our civilization? Or has the hate always been there, under the surface?

I would like to know where this hate comes from, how we can begin to understand it, how we can dare to hope to minimize it or change it. Is it the other side of fear? Is it just a product of ignorance?

I would like to believe that incidents of hate-fueled mayhem are cyclical, that after so much bloodshed in recent months we can anticipate a period of reduced violence, of greater restraint, of renewed confidence that our world is for the most part a good and safe place.

But I have no evidence on which to base that hope.

The family is still the backbone of life in the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world, but it seems like it’s not enough. So we go about our daily lives inured to the dangers. We hunker down, hoping that the odds of the evil striking us are still long. After all, there are so many threats—terrorism, plane crashes, natural disasters—that we drive ourselves crazy with anxiety if we deal with them all the time, front and center. If we live in fear, the monsters win.

But there are times, particularly when the evil seems unabated, that we must ask ourselves: What more can we do?

I’m largely at a loss. For the moment, my best thought is that each of us can set an example, an example of living our lives with at least some measure of grace and dignity and respect for ourselves and for others.

I choose to tend a garden. That’s my contribution, my example. It’s a peaceful pursuit. It’s a small thing–a terribly small thing and a terribly inadequate thing. But it’s a start.

You might choose a different contribution. It really doesn’t matter what it is. But please, try something. Hug your children a little tighter. Say hello to your neighbor when you pick up your morning paper. Thank your waiter or letter carrier for exemplary service. Smile now and again.

We can’t conquer hate. But we can choose to rise above it, to diminish the monsters in our midst just a tiny amount every single day by the sheer force of our wills.