Eat that, Hemingway. The saddest thing in baseball this year could have been the abject surrenders in Oakland, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, or Washington, or the fact that the Yankees have the best record in baseball at home and on the road, which doesn’t leave much for anyone else. But no. The saddest thing in baseball this year is without question Joe Maddon’s haircut.
ESPN’s walking yarnspinner Tim Kurkjian told this story about Maddon’s last attempt to jolt the Los Angeles Angels out of their clubhouse-to-outfield-wall torpor, and it was a story worthy of Lifetime Television’s Kleenex Box Of Depression Theater.
I mean, imagine being 68 years old and out of normal ways to snap a team of excellent hitters out of a team-wide two-week slump. Imagine going to your local barber and saying, “Remember Travis Bickle? That’s what I want.” Then imagine getting called upstairs by general manager Perry Minasian and being told that you got the sidewalls polished for nothing. If there is a way to feel worse in baseball, it surely involves dropped pants during the National Anthem.
Frankly, Minasian could have at least allowed him to grow his hair out before canning him, just for services rendered. Not that the haircut would have mattered, frankly; the Angels have lost four of six since Phil Nevin and his more conventional haircut took over as manager, which suggests that the problem might not have been a managerial one. They’ve lost 20 of their last 25, so it’s no real surprise that the turnaround the Phillies are getting under Rob Thomson isn’t happening automatically for the Angels under Nevin. Maybe the Angels just, and stop us if you’ve heard this annually since 2015, stink.
But at least their shame doesn’t stare back at them every morning when they brush their teeth. Joe Maddon gave his scalp to a team that didn’t value it, and now he gets to wear his failure like a mug shot, either looking like an aging punk, wearing a balaclava throughout the brutal Anaheim summer, or staying inside until someone at Supercuts can work his or her 15-buck magic.
There is at least this, though. Joe Maddon almost made Tim Kurkjian cry on air. There are no greater tributes baseball can, or should, offer.