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Bad Blood

Bad Blood

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Bad Blood

Länge:
253 Seiten
3 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
May 8, 2015
ISBN:
9781928150275
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Three men with big ambitions grapple in a near-future world where baseball could get bloody.

Felix Martinez started out running drugs in Petare, a down-and-out barrio of Caracas, Venezuela. Now, even with a murky, murderous past, he aspires to be a major league baseball agent. Errol Boghan is a second baseman who’s spent most of his career in the minors but is finally in the big leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays, though perhaps not for long. Enter Santi del Oriente, a superstar with a shady background who’s just been acquired by the Jays. All three men grapple in a near-future world where past and present merge, betrayal and love are intertwined, and dark secrets inevitably rise to the surface.

About the Author
Jack Drury is a world traveller whose articles have been published in the National Post, the Toronto Star, and Now magazine. He lives in Toronto and over a number of summers has visited twenty-seven major league baseball parks.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
May 8, 2015
ISBN:
9781928150275
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Jack Drury is a world traveller whose articles have been published in the National Post, the Toronto Star, and Now magazine. He lives in Toronto and over a number of summers has visited twenty-seven major league baseball parks.

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Bad Blood - Jack Drury

Title Page

Bad Blood

Jack Drury

For Elenka and Harley

Published by Tessellate Media

J Copyright © Jack Drury 2015

ISBN:978-1-928150-27-5

www.tessellatemedia.com

CONTENTS

Title Page

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Copyright

CHAPTER 1

CECIL CHANCE was preparing a cappuccino at the portable espresso bar in the commissioner’s boardroom of Major League Baseball’s corporate headquarters on Park Avenue when he felt the bothersome vibration behind his right ear. He passed his thumb quickly over his earlobe and listened. It was a message advising him that his new superstar would be arriving in Tampa tomorrow. He examined the tiny square spoon in his hand before shovelling an unhealthy amount of demerara into his cup. Square spoons! He rolled his eyes and tossed it onto the silver tray, then happily deleted the message with another quick finger flick of his earlobe.

Chance was in New York with the presidents of Major League Baseball’s twenty-eight teams. Still standing by the coffee bar, he looked around the room at his peers — twenty-five men and two women — already seated around the marble boardroom table. At forty-six, he was the youngest in the room. He took a sip of his cappuccino.

* * *

Errol Boghan was attempting to stare down a gecko that was perched on a palm frond outside his hotel room’s floor-to-ceiling third-floor window. The lizard won when Errol shifted his gaze to a series of gentle waves washing onto the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Nice. He tore himself away from the view and went to brush his teeth, taking special note of the bidet in his spacious bathroom. He’d seen bidets before, but never in any of the places he’d stayed. This time last year, his had been a life of cockroaches, leaky faucets, and country music. As he rinsed away the toothpaste froth ringing his mouth, he congratulated himself with a smile. He turned off the tap. No drip. He glanced around for scurrying roaches. There were none. The ever-present, godawful country whine that he’d come to detest over the years was absent, too. He thought of the piano and violin music echoing softly through the Ensueños Hotel lobby three floors below him. Spring had been almost too good to be true. After toiling in the minors for what had seemed like a lifetime, he’d finally made it to the big leagues. He’d spent the previous season with the Blue Jays’ Triple A affiliate in London, 200 kilometres west of Toronto, after being traded from the White Sox. He’d done so well that, by the end of the season, even bigwig president Cecil Chance was singing his praises. And now, here he was. In a week, when the team headed north to Toronto, he’d be the starting second baseman in his own hometown. Errol went back to the window, looked out at the gecko, and grinned.

* * *

The game of baseball had coexisted with one labour union or another since 1885. But it wasn’t until 1953 that the smartest and most persistent of the lot, the Major League Baseball Players Association — the MLBPA — was created. In the beginning, this union got little respect. The league treated the union’s leaders like pariahs. But the union wouldn’t be discouraged. It persevered for fifteen long years before making its first big mark: a collective bargaining agreement in 1968 that saw minimum yearly salaries increase from $6,000 to $10,000. Four years later, the first players’ strike occurred. In the years that followed, millions upon millions of dollars, plus countless fans, were lost through work stoppages.

Now the league was at a financial turning point. And not one in favour of Major League Baseball. It was a bitterly cold January morning when a group of baseball executives, headed by MLB’s aging commissioner, Lexus P. Logan, brought their case before the executives of the players’ association on the MLBPA’s home turf on Manhattan’s East 49th Street, and bluntly demanded the union’s dissolution. Their initial argument was that players negotiated contracts with their respective baseball clubs through their own agents and were therefore contracted businessmen with no concrete right to membership in a workers’ union. They also argued — more statement than argument, really — that while the union may have been a good thing in the mid-1900s, when players were underpaid, the need no longer existed. They produced statistics showing that the average player on the Buffalo Nickel, the team with the league’s lowest payroll, still made more money per year than the average working American did in a lifetime. Like high priests in their own temple, the union leaders listened poker-faced until the league execs had finished stating their case, and then broke into laughter.

The executives waited calmly for the guffawing to stop, then introduced a document proclaiming that if the players’ association refused to co-operate, Major League Baseball would take the necessary steps to turn the game of baseball into an entertainment organization with a defined salary structure. The union heads looked at one another in disbelief and then began to protest. Every working American had the right to unionized protection, they proclaimed. Then they promised a long and vicious strike.

But the executives had achieved their goal in the first stage of their plan. They had stated their case for the record. Having received the expected response, they excused themselves from the meeting, walked directly out the front doors of the union offices and straight to a pre-arranged press conference.

Commissioner Logan introduced Cecil Chance, the Toronto Blue Jays’ young president and general manager, to the waiting reporters. Chance was calm but firm as he explained that Major League Baseball was standing at a precipice. Attendance was down by an overall twenty-three per cent. Work stoppages, he said, were leading the game down a path toward financial ruin. The game could no longer exist in its present state. Then, after a lengthy pause spent studying the faces of the newshounds, he lowered the boom. Cecil Chance vowed before God and every broadcaster in America that all players would retain their present contracts, rights, and benefits, provided they carefully listened to the league’s proposal and made the right choice. They could dissociate themselves from the MLBPA, a choice that meant very little would change for them, or they could become employees of a new organization called Major League Baseball Entertainment. He assured his audience that any player who wished to pursue other personal or professional endeavours would be honourably and fairly released from his contract. He reiterated that if the players chose the entertainment route, they would become employees. His voice warmed with compassion as he told the assembled group that MLB recognized that baseball players’ careers were limited by their physical capacity to perform. He explained that as employees, the players would be fairly compensated. He then showed the firmness of a general leading troops into battle when he warned that Major League Baseball, as they knew it, would cease to exist in America if the players refused to change the status quo. He finished by saying that the players would have two weeks to decide and vote.

Sports reporters and bloggers had a field day. Fairly compensated. The term had been left hanging in the air like a dagger and these were the words that captured the imagination of American and Canadian fans alike. Thus, the entertainment plan was the topic that was most bandied about. The union people smugly pointed out that, even if the players’ association ceased to exist and the players became entertainers, they would, as employees in the new entity, have the right to form a union. The game’s most reputable bloggers —itsnotonlyagame and ballnuts — leapt into the fray, ballnuts saying, There is consensus among Internet America that the top-rated, or A-list, players would collect a salary similar to that of a top surgeon or corporate lawyer. B-list players would draw salaries comparable to junior lawyers and doctors just out of medical school.

Twenty-four hours passed before a little-known sports columnist with the Cleveland Plain Dealer gave everyone a collective shake by explaining that it would be better to make millions of dollars without a union than to go the entertainment route and make hundreds of thousands of dollars with one. The newly attentive MLBPA screamed bloody murder at the effrontery of the major league owners, at their toady commissioner’s office, and at sports columnists in general. All the while, there was a palpable silence among the player population.

One week to the day after MLB’s ultimatum, a press conference was called by lawyers representing a newly organized group called the Major League Baseball Players Coalition. The lawyers confirmed that in eight days’ time, a vote would be held by the players to decide their fate. Cecil Chance watched the proceedings on a screen in his office at Blue Jays corporate headquarters. He’d demanded that a vote be held within two weeks. The players’ response was that they would do it in a week and eight days. When the broadcast was finished, Chance chuckled. To get what he wanted, he could live with the extra day.

America breathed a collective sigh of relief when the players voted 97 per cent in favour of cutting loose the MLBPA. Hardly any player, it seemed, would be content making wages similar to the country’s lawyers and doctors. Consensus among the crow-eating bloggers was that baseball as entertainment had been a hoax. The notion that baseball might have come to its end was, from the get-go, inconceivable. Interviewed on camera, fans and even those with a more vested interest agreed overwhelmingly that baseball could live without the union.

The changes didn’t stop there. Divisions within the leagues were dissolved. For years, divisional scheduling had brought about unfairness. Teams in strong divisions had to play far too many games against powerful rivals. Whereas strong teams in weak divisions were often guaranteed entry into post-season play right from the outset. And out of that came a fairer, more practical structure. Each team now played every other team an equal number of times — twelve matchups over the course of a season. The schedule was designed so that there would always be two three-game series away and two three-gamers at home.

Players — and, more important, fans — enthusiastically embraced the changes. In its inaugural season, Pete Dunnell, pseudo-workingman, joker, and Yankees’ beat writer for the New York Post, wrote in excerpt: This is something the working fan can relate to. In fact, I’m personally going to call it, ‘Mondays Off.’ The day after tomorrow, the Yanks start the season by playing Tuesday thru Thursday in Los Angeles. Then it’s Friday thru Sunday against the Athletics in San Jose. After their Sunday matinee, they will fly home for a day of rest before welcoming Boston for three, followed by three against the Buffalo Nickel. Six days of work, then Monday off. The next week it’s another six days of work, followed by, you guessed it, Monday off. The new scheduling alignment will bring structure to the league, to players’ lives, and, no less importantly, to mine. I’ve polled a number of the Yanks players and they feel no less excited. For Wyoming wunderkind Rudy Glaus and his girlfriend, Mondays will be camping days. I told Rude not to try pitching his tent in Central Park, the boys in blue might frown on campfires in Manhattan. As for me, my wife, Louise, has the entire summer planned. On Mondays, after I get home from the golf course at four o’clock sharp, we’ll be off to dinner with the kids at the local Chuck E. Cheese or Boston Pizza, then to the movies. ‘Monday nights will be movie nights,’ Louise has declared. How can I argue? Thank you, Cecil Chance, heir-apparent to the commissioner’s throne. It was through your insight, and if I can be bold, leadership, that we have this new structure. Not just for the league, but for all of us who live the game and love the game.

With the death of the divisions, each team entered the season on a level playing field, so to speak. The game had developed a righteous, more genuine, feel. From coast to coast, Americans and Canadians alike seemed to be talking baseball. Cecil Chance, in his office in downtown Toronto, was pleased but not nearly finished. On a scale of one to ten, he reckoned the cloud he was riding on was about a seven and a half — but his aim was higher.

He bided his time. Then, during the following pre-season winter meetings, he was at it again, arguing for an extended post-season. Smiles and handshakes convinced him that he’d have all the backing he needed to get his proposal approved. When it came to the actual vote, however, his plan was defeated 15–14, even though he’d had the support of twenty teams just a week earlier. Bowed heads showed him who had changed sides. But he knew it was the man at the head of the table, the man who refused to make eye contact with him, who was responsible. Chance knew he wouldn’t soon forget the pain of the blade in his back as he stared fixedly at Lexus Logan.

* * *

Cecil Chance carried his cappuccino and a couple of cookies to the table and took the empty seat at the end opposite Logan. The commissioner had already opened this ridiculous late-afternoon meeting, which, given the lack of an agenda, amounted to little more than a — bow to us in reverence, America — coffee klatsch. Logan shifted about in his chair and gave him a sour smile. Chance ignored him.

He looked around the table again at the team presidents, all pleased with their good fortune. He wondered if these same fierce leaders would be able to maintain their composure on the day he introduced the Evolution of Baseball. In a month — two, tops — he’d be ready. Stupid damn meeting, he thought to himself again, with just a week to go before the first pitch of the season. Still, he liked his back pats as well as the next dog.

* * *

In the bowels of Dunedin Stadium, a stone’s throw from Florida’s gulf coast, Doc Teacher, the Blue Jays’ field manager, was hunched over his desk, pencilling in the day’s lineup. He’d barely begun when Cecil Chance walked in and pulled up a chair. Teacher looked over the top of his reading glasses at his diminutive GM, in dark blue suit, white shirt, and all-too-bright tie, then swung around to pour a cup of water from the cooler. He took his time and even stopped to watch a palmetto bug with a missing leg hobble along the floor beside the cooler.

It’s good to be back, Doc. New York can be absolutely miserable in March, Chance said, rubbing his hands together as though they were cold.

Teacher, all of six foot five, savoured the likeness he discerned between his two small visitors. That’s not what the ear-to-ear grin’s about, is it, Cecil?

Come on, Doc, we’ve signed Santi del Oriente.

Leaning back in his chair, Teacher just glared.

It was just like I said, crowed Chance. The Buffalo Nickel simply couldn’t afford del Oriente anymore.

What about Boghan? He’s played his heart out for us.

Boghan? Yesterday’s news. Del Oriente’s the best second baseman in the game and now he’s ours.

Last week, Boghan was your hometown gladiator.

Chance gave his field manager a dismissive look. Take away the sword and shield and the gladiator’s just another Christian in the lion’s den. And to hell with the hometown sentiment. After the fans have seen what del Oriente can do for us, they’ll forget all about Boghan.

Doc Teacher loathed Cecil Chance when he started spouting that kind of shit. There were two Cecil Chances — the craftsman who had taken America’s broken pastime and resculpted it, and the boss who cared so little about the men who played the game. It was a callousness Doc had learned to live with but could never get used to. You think money’s the only reason the Nickel didn’t re-sign del Oriente?

We’ve been riding a decent wave for two seasons, Doc. Why can’t you be happy?

Teacher frowned at the evasion. Del Oriente is trouble.

You’ve always been good with trouble, Doc. Chance paused for a moment. But if you don’t think you can handle it . . . With a shrug he let the veiled threat hang in mid-air.

Whores, booze, and a general disregard for authority. Add drugs and you’ve got Santi del Oriente.

All hearsay.

So, the entire Buffalo media’s full of shit?

Please, Doc. I’m growing a little tired of your negativity." Chance began to rise from his chair, then settled back down and rubbed his palm up and down the side of his clean-shaven face.

Doc Teacher looked at the dozen or so photos high on the wall behind Chance. Dave Stieb, George Bell, Toño Márquez, Roy Halladay. History. Halladay’s nickname was Doc, the moniker he himself had inherited when he came up as a rookie with the Phillies. Teacher sighed and looked back at Chance. Do you think disruption is what this club needs right now?

Hold that shit with me, Teacher.

It’s your shit, you hold it. Del Oriente is going to be trouble, my trouble. You bought him, but I’m going to have live with the consequences.

Lower your voice —

Up your ass, Cecil. Are you at all aware that Esteban Ortiz, Devo Biely, and Bobby Ridge all exceeded their career-slugging percentages last season? Or that Ortiz, maybe big Dos Santos, too, could very well lead the league in home runs this season? When these boys came to spring training you could see it in their eyes. They felt like winners and looked like winners, right from day one. And Boghan, your goddamn gladiator, has been nothing short of amazing. In less than a week the season begins. By signing Santi del Oriente, you’ve dropped a turd in the soup, Cecil.

This club is prosperous, Doc, and this move was made for the betterment of the Toronto Blue Jays. Chance stared squarely into Teacher’s eyes. Santi del Oriente will be this team’s second baseman. Doc Teacher or no Doc Teacher.

Teacher looked down at the handicapped palmetto bug as it drank from a splash of water on the floor. Then why in hell don’t you just fire me here and now, Cecil?

"Doc, Doc, Doc. You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think you were the best. Hell, I might not be here if it wasn’t for the way you manage the team. I just really need you to be with me on this."

Doc Teacher’s backside felt uncomfortable, as if his condescending boss had somehow managed to lubricate it as he sat. He gave a sigh If you don’t mind, I need to finish today’s lineup. Picking up his pencil, he went back to work.

CHAPTER 2

SANTI DEL ORIENTE tossed a bloodstained tissue into the wastebasket, reached for a fresh one, and dabbed again at his neck. The bedroom of his Scottsdale, Arizona, hotel suite was illuminated only by the glow of a street lamp. He squinted at his Tag Heuer wristwatch; the sun wouldn’t be up for another hour. He turned and looked at the sleek, dark-skinned girl on the bed.

N-I-C-K-E-L, Maná only, he said, reciting his password and placing his early-morning music request. Moments later, the melodious sounds of Mariposa Traicionera, one of the venerable Mexican rock band’s softer tunes, filled the room.

Vampire woman, he said to the girl in Spanish, "you

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