An Open Letter to My Losing Streak
I know you’re gone, and I know you’re eager to forget all about your home here and start your new life in a place like Houston, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to say a few words about what you’ve meant to me, and how you’ve changed my life. I couldn’t be more proud of you, streak.
Before you came around, I was a lot different. I had totally different priorities; I was hanging around with Texas and LA… I just…look, I thought I might be a contender. No, no, seriously. Don’t laugh. I was hanging out with those guys at the Division Race every single night. You probably can’t imagine it, but it’s true. We’d get bored of the daily grind, and we’d just start pushing each other – I dared Texas to have Hamilton slide head first into home, and boom, they were messed up for a while. Los Angeles kept using Jeff Mathis, and we all thought that was hilarious, so I would occasionally use Chris Gimenez, and then LA came back with Bobby Wilson, and we’d all just fall over laughing.
I think over time, I just gradually lost control. The bartender there asked me one day, “Hey, Gutierrez doesn’t look right,” and I mumbled something like “Your FACE doesn’t look right,” and I went back to beating the A’s again. In retrospect, I was just ready for a change. I remember feeling strangely empty after just unloading on some hapless Padre back around the first of the month, but I didn’t think much of it. I noticed Texas wasn’t hanging around as much once they had Hamilton back, but I didn’t put the pieces together. Then, it happened. It was July 6th, and we were facing Guillermo Moscoso. We got blanked on two hits, and there you were. There, in the sterile environment of the whatever-they-call-it-now Oakland Coliseum, everything changed.
The next day, we went down to Anaheim to face Weaver and the Angels. Of course, they didn’t know that I’d changed. At some point, LA said, “Hey, what’s up with Smoak? You might want to get that checked out.” I just smiled politely. We finished out the series and it was abundantly clear that we just wouldn’t be hanging around anymore. My priorities were completely different, and I didn’t care that I wasn’t down at the Division Race, competing with Texas (who was so *clearly* slumming it anyway). I haven’t seen LA since before the All-Star break, and I don’t miss them. I often wonder what would’ve happened if you hadn’t come along, and I was still down there with those guys, making a fool of myself. I probably wouldn’t have this Pineda anymore, I can tell you that.
At first, I was just stunned. After you were born, I had a feeling about you, but I just wanted to be sure – I called up Seager, I juggled the line-up. It may seem like I didn’t know what to do with you, and it’s true. But after we lost 9-3 in Anaheim, and Torii Hunter hit those two home runs, everything just fell into place. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken me that long, but it did. After that, I watched you grow and develop with pride. Texas came by, and we got along perfectly – gone was this silly competition between us; you rolled over and cooed, they patted you on the head and told you your pitchers were special. I was thrilled; I thought it might get awkward, especially since we’d just come from Anaheim, but Texas couldn’t stop gushing about you, and how they wished they didn’t have to go.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing, of course. Pretty much immediately after I took your Peguero away, you starting acting out. That 5-1 lead on July 19th in Toronto? I thought that was reckless, but you were so defiant, there was no use arguing. You kept scoring and scoring, and I know you were probably as frustrated with me as I was with you. Now, looking back, I just marvel at your self-confidence and your poise. You were so much more intentional than an adolescent has any right to be. I underestimated you, I think, and while I still didn’t approve of that ridiculous game-tying grand slam, I know now that you probably had all sorts of contingency plans up your sleeve.
I didn’t know how you’d react when you had the spotlight on you, but I guess I shouldn’t have worried. Better you than me, that’s for sure. For a little while waaaay back in 2010, I was in the spotlight a bit too, and I froze. Just collapsed. You’re a part of me, so I was nervous – any parent would be. Then I watched you swing through 86 MPH Freddie Garcia slop, then come back and nearly get no-hit by Sabathia and you didn’t break a sweat; I almost feel guilty about being nervous. Everyone’s watching, and you get *more* efficient. In pressure situations, you made it look like it was early July and we were losing to Joel Pineiro with almost no one watching. I love the way you always deflected attention – making it more about the other team, the other starting pitcher. You were never cocky, you were just easily impressed, and I (and the entire country) find that charming. There was no sniping, no upheaval in the clubhouse – it was a bit more sedate and businesslike, just like Eric Wedge’s face.
At this point, I can’t believe I created you, and neither can anyone else. Those days in the Division Race seem like another era, and I guess they were. I’m proud that whenever anyone thought of me, they thought of you. Still, all great things come to an end. I know you’re ready for a new challenge, and you’ve learned all you can learn from me. I can happily say that you don’t belong to me anymore – you belong to baseball.
It’s going to be tough on both of us for a while. Everyone knows me now as “the team with the losing streak” and I’m going to have to fashion a new identity. I’ll be focusing on education and mentoring in the community just to stay busy. You’re going to face a lot of rejection too. You’re so advanced, many teams don’t have the personnel to utilize someone like you. But it’ll happen; something’ll open up in Houston or Kansas City. Wherever you end up settling down, I hope you think about your time here fondly. We didn’t always agree, but I hope you understand that I made a pretty nice home for you. We didn’t have anything, but we had enough raw material for you to take your first steps and grow. You’ve changed me forever, and I’m so happy that you’ve given me such clarity. Thank you, and good bye. You’ll always be a part of me.