On Wednesday, a mysterious cube-shaped package arrived in the mail for me. There was a return address, but no name. The package was coming from inside Milwaukee!
Inside the shipping cube was another cube, this one faux-gold and real-fancy:
Any baseball nerd would be sure at this point — as was I — that inside was a baseball. And sure enough! It was a baseball! And on it, the head of Carlos Gomez!
At first, I thought it was a special Valentine’s gift from my belovéd betrothed. Which, I suppose the enclosed card could have supported — though it would mean, maybe, that she was trying to tell me something.
But then I read the back of the card.
For a minute, I smiled, thinking about ol’ Joshy and ol’ Carlitos stretched out on comfy chairs in a big office at Miller Park, brainstorming this note and promotion, just for me…
“Robert J. Baumann, that guy, man: we need him back in the stands this year,” Joshy says.
“But what can we do? He has no money,” Carlitos replies. He eats an almond from a dish on Joshy’s desk, makes a funny face; he thought it was a peanut M&M. “Hey, maybe we give him the money for a ticket package?”
“Nah, he wouldn’t take it. He wouldn’t even take his own side in an argument.” (Joshy knows me very well, see; I purchased 20-game packs from him for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.)
“Well, what kinds of things does he like?”
“He likes getting things in the mail –”
“We could send him the money in the mail.”
“Too dangerous. Mail bandits run rampant in Riverwest, where Robert lives.” Joshy pauses for emphasis. “He also likes baseball.”
“Maybe just put my head on a baseball, then, no?” Carlitos affects a Midwestern deference. “He wrote a pretty nice poem about me, once. So maybe he likes me, too?”
“Yes! We’ll make it a gold ball, suggesting your Gold Glove Award!”
“That seems kinda crazy, but you’re the marketing guy, Joshy.”
In the end, this minute-long flight of fancy left me feeling guilty, as many things do. Couldn’t I find a way to purchase a ten-game pack, at least? Couldn’t I use my tax return, open a new credit card, publish another best-selling chapbook by Dayn Perry? I want the Brewers to succeed, don’t I? Don’t I want to help their bottom line, secure their future?
Yes, it’s silly to think that one person purchasing a ten-pack will affect the future success of a Major League Baseball franchise in any significant way, but as a self-diagnosed Sartrean existentialist, I believe that, in choosing and acting, I choose what I want all people to do in the same situation. Would I have thousands of Brewers fans accumulate more and more debt to finance a club, in whom I do not trust, but to whom my irrational loyalty is affixed nonetheless?
By the same philosophy — one that, admittedly, I probably misunderstand or misuse — I believe that in seeking advice, one often seeks out a person or persons who one knows will confirm the decision that one has already for oneself. So, I seek no advice here. I will be alone in this decision, alone with my imaginary Carlos Gomez, earnest and generous and glowing. Alone with that guiding force of guilt.
Last night, @cushbomb remarked to me how player contracts are dubbed “good” or “bad” based on the team’s perspective. Implicit in this — and thus at the very heart of fandom, even “informed” fandom — is a preference for ownership and management. You want your team to have team-friendly contracts, so that they have maximum flexibility. In those cases, players are often underpaid. (You might be excited if your team signs Robinson Cano for $240M, but, simultaneously, you might be embarrassed that your team couldn’t find a way to win without spending a quarter of a billion dollars for one player who’s already on the wrong side of 30.) Depending on your historico-sociopolitical affinities, such a realization might disturb you — it disturbs me — realizing that you are almost always rooting for ownership to win the battle with players, at least with regards to player contracts.
Cush’s provocative insight, however, is of little help for my decision at hand. If I do not purchase tickets, I do not support ownership, but support of ownership is the only way to support the players — the earnest-if-imaginary Carlos Gomezes among them — in the deranged trickle down of baseball economics.
So what will I do? I will contact Carlitos and pay him directly, and ask if he can get me free tickets that he doesn’t have to pay for himself, either.
Or, I will make a kickstarter.
Hire Robert J. Baumann to live-blog your next birthday party, family reunion, or corporate event. You will not want to forget it soon.