KANSAS CITY—You see it on the highlights, even if you don’t quite hear it: Player A, afflicted by a long-term power drought, at last hits a home run, yet upon returning to the dugout he is greeted with what experts call “the silent treatment.”
For the baseballing Royals of the city of Kansas City, the tradition has presented a challenge. As of this writing the Royals rank “dead-ass last,” as those same experts call it, in team home runs, but with a playoff berth in sight, the players are expecting a team-wide surge of adrenalin to quickly increase their power numbers and create an immediate need for well-crafted expressions of noiselessness.
The problem, players say, is one of silent-treatment inexperience.
“First, we’re just not trained in the silent treatment,” third baseman Mike Moustakas shouted above the sounds of a poetry slam on Tuesday. “Even in Spring Training, we don’t do a lot of drills. Sure, we do this one drill called ‘Stunned Silence,’ where Ned (manager Ned Yost) tells us he’s pregnant, but beyond that, we’re always joking and laughing and talking about the weather, which is typically warm and dry. We’ll say things like, ‘The weather is warm and dry, which is typical.’
“Second, as you know, we just haven’t had a lot of practice of late. Granted, early last week, we sat in midsized storage closet with our lips taped shut, but that’s like running halfway around the block to prepare for the Ironman. It’s also like sitting in a midsized storage closet with your lips taped shut.
“The point is this: We want to concentrate on winning ballgames, not on executing effective silent treatments. At the same time, we worry. What if, just as Escobar descends the steps, Dyson blurts out the chorus from Climb Ev’ry Mountain? What if Gordon imitates a screech owl? What if Perez shares the recipe for his frisée and radish salad with goat cheese croutons?”
To that end, the team has devised a novel strategy.
“Basically,” said pitcher James Shields, yelling above a spirited rendition of 99 Bottles of Beer, “we’re going to pipe in the silence. Instead of relying on players to enter a monastic state of soundlessness, we’ll have a team of sound engineers – actually, no-sound engineers — transmit the quietude via a system of Bose loudspeakers. Our hope is that this will free the players to say things like, ‘That was a nice home run, Alcides,’ without doing damage to baseball tradition or our own late-season mojo.”
On the playlist:
– the sound Ned Yost makes when informed he actually is pregnant
– the sound the Old-Schoolers Baseball Federation makes whenever Yasiel Puig hits a home run
– the sound Pat Burrell used to make when tiptoeing out of a hotel room at 4 a.m.
– the sound Shawn Chacon’s agent’s phone has made for the past six years
– the sound Adam Dunn makes when told, “Sorry, we’re all out of the beef ribs.”
– the sound Ron Washington makes when asked to discuss the pitfalls of bunting in the first inning when his team is down by five runs
– the sound B.J. Upton’s bat makes on a hit-and-run
– the sound Christopher Russo makes when the mute button is on
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.