When Lou Piniella had ended his career in a Cub uniform, in the entire crowd was there nobody, young or old, who did not say it was a noble history and worthy to be called to mind; and especially each of the gentle people. “Back-to-back playoff appearances!” one shouted. “Four and seventeen score wins in the Year of Our Lord 2008!” another heralded.
But the Millar, who had drunk himself so completely pale that his skin was nearly as white as his stupid-ass fake teeth, would not take off his hood or hat, or wait and mind his manners for no one, but began to cry aloud in Pilate’s voice, and swore by arms and blood and head, “I know a noble tale for the occasion, about Lou Piniella.”
I saw that he was all drunk with wine spritzers and said, “Wait, Kevin, dear brother, some better man shall speak first; someone like Doug Mientkiewicz or Lyle Overbay or Jeff Conine; wait, and let us work thriftily.”
“By God’s soul!” he said, “I will not do that! I will speak, or else go my way!”
“Oh, please do leave!” I answered. “Get penis cancer! You are a fool; your wits have been overcome. But since the MLB Network gave you a fucking microphone, I suppose we must hear. Tell it quickly.”
“Now listen, one and all! But first,” said the Millar, “I make a protestation that I am drunk, stupid, and horrible at analysis; I know it by my voice.
And therefore if I speak as I should not, blame it on the Zima of the MLB Network studios, I pray you; for I will try to destroy a legend and a life of a coach, and how a Millar tried to make a fool of the coach.”
“Shut your trap!” I answered and said, “Set aside your rude drunken ribaldry. It is a great folly and sin to injure or defame any man, and to bring any coach who ever had the misfortune of having to coach you into such bad reputation. You can say plenty about other matters. Also, shave that stupid fucking not-really-a-goatee.”
This drunken Millar answered back immediately and said, “Kermit, dear brother, he is no disgruntled former player who has no coach. But I do not say, therefore, that you are one. There are many good coaches, and always a thousand good to one bad. That you know well yourself, if you have not gone mad. Why are you angry now with my tale? I had a coach as well as you, by God, yet for all the oxen in my plough I would not presume to be able to judge myself if I may be a loudmouth jackass; I will believe well I am not one.”
What more can I say, but this Millar would withhold his word for nobody, and told his churl’s tale in his own fashion. Stupidly. I think that I shall retell it here. And therefore I beg every gentle creature, for the love of God, not to judge that I tell it thus out of evil intent, but only because I hate the Millar and legitimately wish a blimp would fall on the Intentional Talk set. And therefore whoever wishes not to hear it, let them turn the leaf over and choose another tale; for they shall find plenty of historical matters, great and small, concerning noble deeds, and morality and holiness as well. Do not blame me if you choose incorrectly. The Millar is a churl, you know well. Think well, and do not blame me, and people should not take a game seriously as well.
Here ends the Prologue.
Here begins the Millar’s Tale.
In Spring Training of 2010, there dwelt in Arizona a churl fellow at the end of a mediocre career. He was a baseball player by trade, but a dipshit by skill. This fellow was named Millar. He was well skilled in loudmouthery and not much else. He smelled of licorice and hand sanitizer. He had been invited to try his luck at making Lou Piniella’s ballclub, and had been given the courtesy of some playing time throughout that spring.
His wit was rude and, arguably, not even remotely amusing, and he didn’t know the old baseball adage that instructed that men who sucked at baseball should not flap their lips about the legends of the game. Men should be aware of their own station in life, for stupidity is often at odds with wisdom and experience. But since they allow microphones in Arizona, Cubs fans must endure this pain, like other people.
The Millar’s Old Ball Coach was cranky, and his body moreover was as round and weathered as any rhinoceros. His belly hung over his blue belt, and his legs were as slim as knitting needles, all straight pinstripes. His stubble was white and gray, and, embroidered on his jersey, were the block letters, “PINIELLA” and the number “41.”
And surely the Old Ball Coach had a heralded career. Less than one score prior, his club had slain a far-mightier club in a mere four games. His post-game interviews were more delicious than honey dripping from the breast of a beautiful young virgin. In his back pocket sat a lineup card, and the Millar’s name wasn’t in it more often than not.
In all this world there was no man so wise as the Old Ball Coach. He had transformed a horrible team to a good one. He had demanded that his players be held accountable for both their offense and their defense. When fools doubted the Old Ball Coach, he always had an answer; always had a logical reason for his decisions. He was a primrose, a pig’s-eye, for any ballclub lucky enough to hire him as the skipper of their organization.
Now sir, and again sir, it so chanced that this Old Ball Coach chose to play and romp in the spring with his good, young players, to see how they could help his club instead of using the Millar. And secretly he didn’t really care what the Millar thought, and said: “Whaddya mean, ‘When am I going in?’ Shut the fuck up and sit your ass down until I tell you to stand up. This ain’t fucking Little League.”
The Millar sprang back like a colt in the halter, and whined about it to his fellow. “How am I supposed to know when to ‘Cowboy up’ when I know not when I will again put the pig’s hide on my hand?”
But, even though the Millar was obnoxious, the Old Ball Coach still treated him fairly and gave him a good chance to make the club, much to the dread of everyone involved.
“I didn’t get a chance to play with Lou, but I mean, there definitely was something missing,” the Millar said.
“How can thou make that assertion, then, when never an inning passed when thou actually played with the man?” I inquired.
“I know all things,” said Millar. “Listen, I played 12 years in the big leagues, and I sat there for nine innings in a spring training game and didn’t know if I was playing or not playing.”
“Are thou not a professional baseball man, though? Why would not thou always be prepared to play?” I said. “And are thou still a babe at the teat? Are thou not aware that there is no inherent right to play at the game of baseball?”
The Millar continued, “There’s just common courtesy, to use an example personally. You know, ‘Hey listen you’re going in the fifth inning after Derrek Lee.’ OK perfect. So you know to go get loose in the fourth or whatever it is. It’s little things like that. The lineups were a big issue.”
“Are thou not just like the hatchet wound between the legs of a common peasant girl?” I asked. “Thou are the four-legged cat that skulks in the shadows and whines when his dish of milk is not at quite the right temperature.”
“I’ll tell you right now, Mike Quade is a baseball guy,” the Millar said. “The first thing speaking with [Cubs pitcher Ryan] Dempster [is] he loves this guy. It’s a different feel.”
“Ah, Dempster,” said I. “I’ve heard of his foolery in my travels. Tales are told that he is almost as large an ass as thou art.”
“Nothing against Lou Piniella,” said the Millar. “He managed a lot of years and you get to the point where you don’t think about those things, but it was a little frustrating from the player’s side — period. There were no lineups, Lou didn’t know who was playing and who was going in, and it gets old. So then what happens … you get guys in bad moods, and then what happens is you’re kind of like, ‘Whatever.’ That’s the way the Cubs kind of played to an extent.”
“Were thou not a professional ball-man?” I queried. “Should thou not have held thine self responsible for playing as hard as possible despite thine insistence that thou needs thine days carefully scheduled?”
“Like I said, I never played a 162-game season with Lou Piniella, so I can’t comment [on how many other players shared the same sentiment].” the Millar whined.
“Yet thou feel that is is acceptable to intimate that other players may have shared that same sentiment,” I said.
“I was in there trying to make the club,” the Millar said.
“And how didst that work out, twat?” I inquired.
“But there was something missing. Guys were talking about it and the whispers and that’s the stuff that brings down a club,” the Millar spewed.
“And bad playing of the baseball also brings down a club,” I informed him. “As does using one’s tongue to hurl barbs at one’s former coaches and teammates.”
“I mean you want to talk baseball, you want to talk how you’re going to beat this guy today. You want to go out there and root each other on,” the Millar said.
“One wants to engage in a game of grabassery and make light comments about the passing of wind,” I finished for him.
“You don’t want to worry about why this isn’t going on, what’s he doing here, what’s this going on and that’s the simple thing of a lineup, get it up. It should be up there at 7:30 in the morning. Guys have to prepare,” Millar excused.
“And thou needs to know in advance whether thou will be wearing shoulder pads and playing this game with fifteen characters this day?” I asked.
“This is the major leagues,” the white-toothed jester said.
“Not for thee,” I replied.
“And that’s what people forget. You have to prepare, there has to be a mindset — period,” the Millar said, swinging and missing at a pitch in the dirt.
“Even the Cowboy is laughing at thee,” I said.
Here ends the Millar’s Tale.