Man, what a difference a year makes. Last spring, Rangers hurler C.J. Wilson created a tiny buzz around the sports blogosphere when his MySpace comments to teammate Brandon McCarthy revealed something more suspect than a shared love of Chromeo. Today, however, John Rocker nemesis / Page 2’s Jeff Pearlman annoints Wilson as a notable exception in Texas’ army of clubhouse apathy. “While ballplayers are bound both by their disparate backgrounds and an uncompromised love of the game,” writes Pearlman, “they are also united by one not-so-great characteristic: political indifference.” Yeah, well, that and none of ’em will profess to loving
Savatage cock, either.
In this remarkable year of presidential politics — when John McCain has risen from the dead, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are engaged in a historic struggle for delegates; when dynamic figures like Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul and John Edwards fell short but fought passionately — baseball players kick back and, ahem, read their Maxims.
“It’s frustrating,” says C.J. Wilson (above), the 27-year-old Texas relief pitcher. “I’d say there are two reasons. One, there’s a general lack of education among us. But two — and most important — you’re talking about a population that makes a ton of money, so the ups and downs of the economy don’t impact whether we’re getting paid. Therefore, we often don’t care.”
In saying “we,” Wilson is speaking about nearly every Ranger — except himself. A free-thinking Californian with an appreciation for Obama, a dislike of Bush, a hatred of the Clintons, a detestation of SUVs, and a longing for a grass-roots political movement that would truly represent the needs of the people, Wilson stares blankly when asked who among his teammates he can talk with about Decision ’08.
“No one,” he says. “I keep it to myself.”
While a few Rangers profess moderate interest (“Obama’s inspired me,” says outfielder Jason Ellison. “I have a 2-year-old daughter and I want her to grow up in a healthy country”), most merely shrug their shoulders or offer a half-hearted “I’m just focused on playing ball and helping the team win,” when asked about the upcoming election. Some call themselves conservatives, others call themselves moderates, but few seem to actually know what the two terms mean. “It’s not that complex,” Wilson says. “Baseball players think about baseball.”
Not that this is simply a Rangers phenomenon. Throughout spring training clubhouses in Arizona and Florida, politics fail to generate interest. Finding someone who has participated in a state primary or caucus is slightly harder than finding a cinematic role for Meeno Peluce. The majority of players are almost certainly not even registered to vote. On the morning following last Tuesday’s highly publicized Wisconsin Democratic primary, nary a Ranger nor Kansas City Royal could be heard talking about the results. Heck, no one even seemed to know the event took place.
Indeed, a top 10 list of spring training topics discussed by ballplayers would look something like this:
2. Free sunglasses
4-5. Jesus/golf (tie)
6. Dinner options
7. The Kyle Kendrick YouTube video
8. Britney Spears
9. Strip clubs
10. More Jesus/golf (tie)