Robinson Cano capped another in a long line of dismal postseasons with a record-setting 0-29 stint at the plate, yet maintained that “I’ve been hitting the ball hard, just right at people. There’s nothing you can do.” Then there was Nick Swisher, who, considering the number of opportunities he’s had in 11 different playoff series, has established himself as likely the worst player in major-league postseason history, this year adding a critical flub in the outfield to his lifetime .169 October batting average—which falls to .054 when there are runners in scoring position.
In the midst of his latest flop, Mr. Swisher expressed profound disappointment—not with himself, but with the fans in Yankee Stadium’s right field seats, who subjected him to the sort of invective the Bronx is famous for.
“I’m one of those guys, give me a hug and I’ll run through a brick wall for you,” said Mr. Swisher, who was so upset by the fans’ reaction that he reportedly warmed up by the infield to escape their wrath. “The last thing I ever thought [was] that people would get on you in this ballpark that bad, especially at home, where your heart is and where you’ve been battling and grinding all year long.”
Back in 1938, the Yankees’ front office held no less than Joe DiMaggio up as an object of public ridicule, because he wanted more than the raise from $17,000 to $25,000 they were offering. The fans obliged, booing the most graceful player in the history of the game unmercifully during those Depression days. DiMaggio never forgave and he never forgot, but there was no question of him hiding in the infield or complaining to reporters. He burned inside, and channeled that fury into his play.
Mr. Swisher, according to baseballreference.com, made over $10 million dollars this year, and has made more than $36 million in his baseball career. A free agent, he stands a good chance of making over $75 million before his playing days are through—enough to put himself and generations, even centuries, of future Swishers into the very top percentile of the richest humans who have ever lived. Yet he would like credit for showing up every day. And, oh yes, a hug.
Nick Swisher is, in fact, a highly likable, personable individual. Yet he does not play right field for dear old State, but for a professional ball team. One which, like all other professional ball teams, extorts large subsidies from the general public and charges its fans enormous sums for even the worst seats in the playoffs—money that, in part, goes to pay his staggering salary. You would think he might understand how such circumstances would extentuate any fans’ loyalties, but no dice.
His obliviousness, and his bewildered sense of injury, now seem to define the wealthy and powerful in this country, whenever they are held to even the most minimal standards of performance or responsibility. Another case in point is Leon Cooperman, the 69-year-old former Goldman Sachs partner whose pompous, condescending, and mind-numblingly tedious letter to President Obama, accusing the president of promulgating “class warfare,” has made him a folk hero among his fellow stock finaglers.
Mr. Cooperman and friends feel much aggrieved by even the exceedingly mild rebukes Mr. Obama has issued in their direction, though their shenanigans nearly melted down the world financial system, set off a global recession and left them running to the taxpayers for rescue. The last time they pulled a stunt like this, back in 1929, they were hauled before Congressional committees for months of grilling, and a few of them even went upriver for much-deserved jail sentences. But now it seems that even the mildest slap on the wrist is unbearable. If any shred of personal or institutional responsibility remained on Wall Street, these Masters of the Universe might, like the adult DiMaggio, have swallowed their wounded pride, taken a good look in the mirror and tried figuring out how they could do better.
Instead, like the boyish Swisher, they went crying to the media. For that matter, the object of their derision has too often displayed his own peevish contempt for the rules and restrictions the rest of us must abide by. President Obama began his presidency by scorning the need to get things done in the traditional, “First Hundred Days” of his administration, even though both history and the economic crisis mandated such alacrity. He turned his back on his most dedicated supporters, abstained from taking part in the critical 2010 midterm elections and, according to many accounts, has adamantly refused to engage in the sort of schmoozing, glad-handing and personal relationship building that is so much a part of that oh-so-revolting business known as politics.
What looks increasingly like the last straw for Mr. Obama was his remote, disinterested first engagement with Mitt Romney, a still-unexplained failure that led to the worst debate loss in presidential history, one which enabled Mr. Romney to transform himself overnight from national punchline to contender. The messiah punted. Most remarkably, though, the president actually thought he had won—an exercise in self-delusion now par for an American elite so removed from common concerns that it feels free to do everything on its own terms and by its own schedule, wants credit just for clocking in and feels terribly put upon by even a few harsh words from the bleachers.
The rich and mighty no longer require a little patience. They now need ’round-the-clock coddling. And, apparently, a great big, 24-7, cosmic hug.