I don’t like to admit when I’m wrong, and I don’t do it too often.
But in this case, I was wrong.
It started last July, when Manny was suspended for steroids.
It festered, as he offered no explanation for his actions. Fans had put their hard-earned money into Dodger tickets, hoping to see their hero, and what had he done?
Manny let them down. He let all of us down.
Yet while that overpaid cheating heathen sipped Mai Tais on a beach – did we ever find out what he was really doing? – feeling no remorse, we were left with a void.
A void in left field, and a void in our hearts.
Yet with the season spiralling out of control, up stepped a man diminutive in stature, yet with a soul bigger than any ill-begotten bicep Man-child could show.
I’ll just say it: Juan Pierre, long-forgotten, saved the Dodgers season.
Despite doing nothing wrong – doing exactly what he was signed for – Pierre had been bypassed by other outfielders. But he handled his demotion with the kind of class you rarely see in the world of today’s spoiled crybaby athlete.
You say he showed class? I say he was the head of the class.
Pierre started every single game during the cheater’s absence. He asked for no time off, for all he had ever wanted was a chance to play. And isn’t that what we all yearn for? A chance?
In Pierre’s 50 games back where he belonged, at the top of the lineup and receiving our adulation, he hit .318. .318! You can toss out all the fancy stats you want, but you simply cannot argue that .318 doesn’t help the team.
Get back to me when there’s a stat that measures heart, because the size of this man’s heart far outweights the 180 pounds he’s listed at.
Sure, some might say, but the team actually had a lower winning percentage with Pierre than Manny. That’s shortsighted; baseball is a team sport. The pitchers didn’t pitch, the fielders didn’t field - most likely, the team was in shock over Manny’s pure betrayal.
That’s what it was, a betrayal. All the while, Pierre kept hitting singles and stealing bases, just like the baseball I remember in my youth.
Yet upon Manny’s return, Pierre was rudely sent right back to the bench. Manny received cheers as if nothing had happened. Pierre received nothing but the foolish cheers of bloggers who claimed he had actually hurt the team.
Hurt the team! Of all things! Despite hitting .318! And showing up and playing hard every day!
In late September, I was the best man in a wedding. Part of the gift I received was a “Juan Pierrewood” shirt. It was intended as a joke, but little did my friend know how I would cherish it.
I’m glad I have that shirt, for it’s all memories, now. Pierre is now in Chicago, part of a team that appreciates a true leadoff man, without falling prey to the fallacies of things like “on base percentage” and “VORP”.
The cruelest fate of all is, the White Sox share a spring home with the Dodgers. Every day, we had to watch Pierre trot out to left field in the unfamiliar silver and black.
Black is appropriate. For his absence from camp makes it feel like a funeral.
Now he’s in Chicago, wearing #1. We’re left with a man who may wear #99, but who is #2 in so many ways.
I was wrong, Juan. You were never appreciated while you were in town. And we’re all poorer for your loss.