The Page 2 All-Stars
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

Every once in a while I get the question: "What's Page 2?" (Sad, isn't it? People wandering in the wilderness, unaware of the special brand of enlightenment we cook up every day ...)

So I say it's edgy and analytical, goofy, but in a grounded, get-to-the-heart-of-the-matter sort of way. It's sarcastic and smart, newsy but not stuffy, I say.

But these are just abstractions; they don't really answer the question.

Page 2 is best defined in concrete terms. So let me deal in the real and lay out a special Page 2 All-MLB team for 2003, just as an example. (Be advised, there's no position-by-position breakdown and no balance between the leagues here -- we're not that organized.)

For starters, Dontrelle is obviously Page 2. It's the high knee kick mostly, but the cockeyed hat and the too-young-to-know-any-better fearlessness are part of it too.

Brandon Webb, good as he is, not so Page 2.

Page 2 is Wily Mo Peņa, because his name drips Delta Blues, and because when he got his shot he took his shot.

It's Sammy's bat, Sammy's apology, and Sammy's second-half flourish.

It would be A-Rod, on the weirdly under-appreciated tip, but he's got that big fat paycheck rolling in every month, which, you know, says nothing so much as "we appreciate the living daylights out of you," so it's Magglio Ordoņez, Carlos Beltran and Edgar Renteria instead.

It's …

Shawn Green playing hurt with his mouth shut.

Mike Maroth taking the ball (32 times), taking the Ls (21 of them), and knocking Brian Kingman down off Loser Mountain like a man.

Roy Halladay, not for the wins, but for the brave, I-swear-my-girl-likes-it, Cliff-Claven beard, and for having a full name like Harry Leroy Halladay, which is right up there with Eric Serge Gagne.

Speaking of Serge, he and those pajama bottoms are very Page 2.

Page 2 is further exemplified by the uncensored, barely considered shots coming from Pedro's hip and fingertips.

The Page 2 double-play combination meanwhile looks like this: Tejada, who got up off the mat, to Boone, who always gets his cuts in, to Sexson, who kind of reminds us of Charlie Sexton, only taller, and with not so much hair, which gets us to wondering whatever happened to the young guitar slinger, and whatever happened to his hair, is it still all poofy we wonder, and so anyway, 6-4-3, bing, bang, boom, you're out, Page 2 style.

You might be thinking Jeter, but he's a little too clean. Now Nomar, with those crazy tics, and that stunning world-class-athlete icon of a wife (who dropped two on Nigeria last night, thank you very much), that's the stuff.

It's Pudge, too, for wanting to stay in Florida.

It's Rocco, for reaching the highs (180 hits, .290 BA) and lows (125 strikeouts, .327 OBP) of youth in one fell swoop.

And it's Johan Santana, who's letting everyone get all excited about Shannon Stewart when all along he's been the guy who's made the difference.

Page 2 wishes it was Bonds, because we swing hard and we like to take a dip in the Cove every once in a while, and because he's amazingly good at what he does, of course, but then we get to thinking Barry sort of belongs to history and we don't want to look like we're tugging on the hem of his garment and such. Plus, we're pretty sure he'd never talk to us anyway.

David Wells publishing that book and alienating teammates and coaches? Got to admit, that's a little Page 2.

La Russa's cool, calculating shades? Um, no. Bobby Cox getting tossed nine times? That's closer. Sweet Lou blowing gaskets over a 61-win team no one expects anything of? There you go. We'll take that.

Perhaps the essence of Page 2 is in David Ortiz playing like maybe he is the Bambino.

Or it could be in Kerry Wood, or more precisely, in that instant in the arc of a Kerry Wood curveball when things get nasty, when Derek Bell, sitting at home watching on TV crawls under the coffee table and cries like a baby.

Or it might be in Esteban Loaiza turning everything we've ever known about him, everything he's ever known about himself, on it's head and shaking every last nickel and dime from its pockets.

Ditto Livan Hernandez who is suddenly, like, good.

Anna Kournikova, she's it. (She doesn't play baseball? Are you sure? Not even in her spare time? If you can prove she's never tossed a ball around at a picnic, never brought a glove to a ballgame, and never taken an imaginary cut with her racket, then I'll take her off the list. And replace her with Jennie Finch.)

Time was, Gary Sheffield would be Page 2 for saying or doing something selfish and clumsy we could make fun of. This year, he's the thing for saying the following humble words about tying Hank Aaron's Braves' single-season RBI record: "That's a record I don't want. That's a guy I grew up idolizing. My grandfather taught me about him. I don't want his records. He deserves to keep all his records. I wish I could reverse it, to be honest with you."

Manny Ramirez can have Gary's old spot, by the way.

Alfonso Soriano's got a bit of Page 2 in him, partly because he's lean and wiry and yet still good for three dozen doubles and homers, but mostly because the other day he popped his 13th leadoff home run, breaking Brady Anderson's major-league record. It's not that we care so much that he got a record (though sure, the 13 is impressive), it's that he knocked Brady out of the books. Seriously, Brady Anderson held a major-league record? What, were the baseball gods all goofy on the Mary Jane or something when that went down? They knew about the sideburns, right?

Don't ask me about Bernie Williams -- smooth jazz records mean a lifetime ban from the All-Page 2 team.

But Jamie Moyer is what I'm talking about, because he throws 40-year-old junk that makes 20-year-olds age.

And Rod Beck is what I'm really talking about: he's got a 1.87 ERA and stories of trailer living out back of the stadium in Des Moines.

Francisco Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Vlad Guerrero, Jeff Bagwell, and Matt Stairs: yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Jim Thome and Todd Helton: Afraid not.

All right, I'll cap it there. These are the guys who define the concept in '03.

You hear a lot of talk about the MVP, Cy Young and ROY awards this time of year, and it's true, those are prestigious awards. But if you ask around, I think you'll find most of the players are talking about the unique sense of pride that comes from making this team.

Of course, I only say that because that kind of delusional thinking is, you know, Page 2 all over.

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.



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