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Spring Is Here And They're Playing Hardball In Washington

Washington, D.C., after a 34-year absence, has another major league baseball team: the Washington Nationals. The team is the transplanted Montreal Expos, doormat of the National League for many years. The newly christened Nationals are enjoying their new home and are playing pretty good hardball. Unfortunately for the Republicans, there is another pretty good hardball team in Washington these days: the Democrats of the 109th Congress.

In sports, it is often the case that a team with inferior talent can dominate a team with superior skills because of intangibles like teamwork, desire, perseverance, and that little thing known as ‘heart.’ It is becoming more and more apparent that the Democrats, and, to a lesser extent, the Nationals, have found a winning combination of those intangible attributes. The Nationals, at 11-11, are not necessarily going to the playoffs, but are playing some inspired baseball. The Democrats, on the other hand, are playing flawlessly. Using teamwork, a good game plan, and a never say die attitude, they look like they are ready for the World Series. Skippered by co-managers Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the Democrats, with a willingness to do whatever is necessary to win, are swinging for the fences.

Meanwhile, the muscle-bound Republicans, with their great ideas and all-star line-up, are struggling to stay in the Major Leagues. The Republicans remind me of the 1962 NY Mets. An expansion team, the now infamous Mets, with an aging Casey Stengel at the helm, had the likes of former all-stars Richie Ashburn and Gil Hodges; colorful players like ‘Marvelous’ Marv Throneberry and Choo Choo Coleman; and a cast of other relatively talented players like Frank Thomas and Charlie Neal gracing their lineup. Nevertheless, the Mets lost 120 games while winning only 40. There were many days when it was difficult to tell which team the Mets were playing for. It took 8 years, a new manager, and a new attitude to get them to the World Series.

One of the highlights for those hapless 1962 Mets occurred when ‘Marvelous’ Marv, the team's first baseman, hit a shot off the wall in the Polo Grounds. Never noted as a speedster, Marv nevertheless 'flew' around the bases and ended up at third base with an apparent triple. As he was standing on third base, the opposing team threw the ball to the second baseman, claiming Marv hadn't touched second base on his way to third and was therefore out. As Mets’ manager Stengel roared onto the field to dispute the call, Solly Hemus, the Mets' third base coach, stopped him. Hemus told Stengel not to bother arguing the call at second base, because, as it turns out, ‘Marvelous’ Marv had missed first base as well.

In many respects, the Republicans in Congress are much like those Amazin' Mets. They show up every day to play with good intentions. Unfortunately, for the American public, they seem to have no teamwork, no game plan to carry out the good ideas, and someone is always missing either first base or second base on the way to third.

The saga of the Republican team is long and troubled over the past decade. While the Democrats, to a man, stood shoulder to shoulder with President and Hillary Clinton during their scandals, and to everyone's amazement, ultimately won the argument with a few Republicans actually playing with the opposing team. Republicans Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott and Bob Livingston all missed a base after hitting a shot off the wall and no one on their team was willing or able to kick some dirt on the umpires' shoes on their behalf. Instead, all three were ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike like conduct.

Currently Tom DeLay is in the batter’s box, John McCain is in the on deck circle, and Bill Frist is 'in the hole.' If history is any indication, Tom ‘Terrific’ will hit a towering drive that will ultimately fall just short of the center field fence, landing harmlessly in the centerfielder's glove. McCain will hit a tiny pop foul to the third baseman, and Frist is going to hit a dribbler to the shortstop who will throw him out at first base 'by a mile.' There will be no smash line drives up the middle that just miss the pitcher's head; there will be no hard hit balls to the left field corner; there will not even a well placed bunt for a base hit. The Republicans are having a hard time just getting their bats on the ball. In fact, they may end up holding the league record for most strikeouts during the regular season.

The Republicans have great uniforms, bats with lightning in them, and potential golden glove candidates at almost every position, but the well-coached Democratic team with less talent seems as if it will prevail on Social Security, the judicial and the United Nations nominations, and even the budget fight. Right now, neither team is willing to play the illegal immigration game. That game will eventually be played, but only because overwhelmed state infrastructures and bankrupt state coffers force the two teams to play.

The Republicans: do not have a winning attitude; are not playing as a team; and, are not swinging for the fences. They are destined to end up like the 1962 Mets - in the cellar with the league's worst won-lost record. The Republicans need a manager like Billy Martin, former Yankees great who served as both a player and manager. Billy 'The Kid" knew that 'winning isn't everything...it's the only thing,' and he was willing to do whatever it took to win. Unfortunately, Billy Martin is unavailable, having died in 1989, and neither of the Republican co-managers, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) or Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN), have the temperament to win, much less win at all costs, as the Democrats do.

Posted by Rick | April 29, 2005 12:47 AM

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