Gaetti Project: Yuni at The Bat

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of The Gary Gaetti Project, a nine-part series to ring in the beginning of the Royals’ 2010 baseball season. Why Gaetti? Well, let’s just that anytime we can honor a guy that was nicknamed The Rat, wore a mullet… AND went to Northwest Missouri State, you gotta do it. Adding to the legend, Gaetti hit 35 homers for The Kansas City Royals in 1995… at age 36. And miraculously, he did it all while wearing a batting helmet with no ear flaps. Yep, we could all use a little more Gaetti in our lives.

Some people call Yuniesky Betancourt the worst every-day player in baseball.

You probably know that his WAR (Wins above replacement player) in 2009 was a historically awful -2.2, the worst in all of baseball.

You probably know what that number means. Just in case you don’t, WAR adds together the total contribution (offense, defense, baserunning, pitching) of each Major League player. A player with a WAR of 0 or 1 is easily replaceable. If your WAR is negative (like good ‘ol Yuni’s) you should be replaced.

So, yes, some people call Yuni Betancourt the worst every-day player in baseball.

I call him an inspiration…

*****

Yuni at the Bat

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the KC nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Bloomy died at first, and Kendall did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the partiers at The K.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
clung to that hope which springs from a Stroud’s chicken breast;
They thought, if only Yuni could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Yuni at the bat.

But Getz preceded Casey, as did also Rick Ankiel,
And the former had no slug and the latter was no Emil;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Yuni’s getting to the bat.

But Getz let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Ank, the old southpaw, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Ankiel safe at second and Getz a-hugging third.

Then from 20,000 throats and more there rose a lusty cry;
It rumbled through Westport, it rattled the plaza-wide;
It knocked upon Okie Joes and recoiled over Gates,
For Yuni, mighty Yuni, was advancing to the plate.

There was ease in Yuni’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was WAR in Yuni’s bearing and VORP on Yuni’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Yuni at the bat.

40,000 eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
20,000 tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Yuni’s eye, a sneer curled Yuni’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Yuni stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman, the ball unheeded sped-
“That is my style,” said Yuni. “But ya wiffed,” the umpire said.

With a smile of Christian charity great Yuni’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But this time, Yuni ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Yuni and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Yuni wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Yuni’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Yuni’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in KC – mighty Yuni has struck out.

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