You might or mightn’t have noticed, as you might or mightn’t have spent the past few weeks in a crowded Peruvian jail, that the baseball squad known as the Texas Rangers has experienced something of a medical catastrophe this season, with precisely 32,000 of its ballplayers – to be fair, just 30,000 have been starters – landing on the disabled list, in the ICU and/or in a Tommie Copper commercial.
Earlier today, in response to this graphic demonstration of human frailty, Texas manager Ron Washington opened a pack of Camels and considered his options for tonight’s lineup against the Angels, all the while pondering the Buddhist precept that “life is suffering” even as he blew a series of distinct but ultimately ephemeral smoke rings. Upon snubbing the final ashy butt he decided on the following lineup, primarily for its ability to withstand the daily threats – pulled hammies, strained obliques, scarlet fever outbreaks, meteorite strikes and spontaneous combustions – that turn players into casualties of the human condition and proxies for the impermanence that turns us all, ultimately, into role players, pinch-hitters, DFA’s.
1B – a wheel of Parmesan cheese
2B – a 28-lb. cinder block
3B – RoboCop
SS – a set of Calphalon AccuCore Cookware
LF – a 2012 Volvo S80 with passenger-side airbags
CF – a Norwegian rat
RF – a giant burrowing cockroach
C – a Petri dish containing the rhinovirus responsible for the common cold
P – a Hostess Twinkie
DH – Michael Young
Of the Parmesan the skipper said this, perhaps: “Ol’ Parmy is tough – tough on the outside, tough on the inside, tough all the way around. In BP yesterday, Parmy took a heater to the rind and didn’t even wince. I know Parmy is old – or, as some say, aged – but I’ve always preferred the proven vet over some young hotshot such as a can of Cheez-it Spray Cheese.”
Of RoboCop: “Ol’ Coppy, he’s a veteran, and he has proved on the big stage that he can take a lotta body blows – hundreds, if I recall – and still keep fightin’. Sure, he can’t charge the bunt like he once could, but I’ll always go with Coppy over the ED-209 infielder droid.”
Of the Calphalon Cookware: “Well, Calphy can really take the heat, which is important during these brutal Texas summers. And what I really like about Calphy is the fully clad five-layer construction and quad-riveted handles. You’re not gonna find a sturdier, more durable shortstop on the market today. And just between you and me, Calphy is also dishwasher safe.”
Of the rat and the cockroach: “Well, they’re gamers. They’re not afraid to get their uniforms dirty, mostly because they don’t wear uniforms due to the fact that one is a rat and the other a cockroach.”
Asked if the rat and cockroach could actually survive the apocalypse, Washington replied, “I don’t know. Ain’t never seen no apocalypse. But I did find them in the food-storage pantry of an Arlington-area Taco Bell, so, yeah, they’re survivors.”
Lineup note: On the mound tonight for the Angels is an M1 Abrams battle tank.
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.