An Ode to the 2003 Detroit Tigers Starting Rotation

Sometimes, when I feel alone

Or tired, or hungry or sad

Or happy, or healthy, or sassy

But mostly when I feel alone

I like to look at you.

The first time I saw you, it was like my eyes

Crossed a line.

I can never go back. But I don’t want to.

I can’t believe you’re real.

You should not be real.

And yet.

So sometimes, when I feel alone

I like to look at the Baseball Reference page for the 2003 Detroit Tigers starting rotation.

There is something so pure about the abject failure.

Would Bart Simpson even bother to give you a cake hastily iced with the words “at least you tried?”

But you did try. I know you did.

Because the type of failure you experienced can only be experienced by someone who tries.

Each one of you.

When it was your turn, you stepped into the arena.

They would release the savage beasts, and the beasts tore you limb from limb.

But over the next four days, you’d sew yourself back together

Over. And over. And over.

You died more times than any man has a right to

But you are not the perversion. They are.

The ones who chained you, and mockingly slapped the word GLADIATOR across the top of your cell.

You are warriors.

You are champions.

Six. Nine. Six. One. Three.

The amount of times each one of you got to have the word “win” attached to your name, delivered with a sneer from the talking heads.

Twenty three. Twenty five. Twenty. Twenty six. Twenty six.

Your ages, when they threw you to the dogs.

Young men, barely alive

But deemed old enough to die

Again and again.

And for what?

Ultimately, only one of you made it out alive

And even that one is only relatively speaking

But you weren’t made for the standard glories of men.

You and I know that. But do they?

No, you were made for something more pure.

Something darker.

You didn’t exist to be “good.”

You didn’t even exist to entertain.

No, you were created to show us the things we don’t want to see

But must see.

The terrors within us all. The chronic pain.

The endless failure lurking beneath the surface, that we refuse to acknowledge.

But you held our eyes open, and made us look

Into that abyss. Into ourselves.

And no one could have done it except you.

So why am I drawn to you, moth to flame?

Is it to feel better about my own failure?

Is it to sympathize?

Or is it simply a fascination with the macabre?

I suspect it lies somewhere between the three.

All I know is I’m cursed to remember you

To love you, even

I’ve absorbed you, somehow.

And maybe I’ve absorbed a fraction of your strength

To fight through my own endless failures

I wish I could let you rest. But I don’t know how.

Nate Cornejo. Mike Maroth. Jeremy Bonderman. Adam Bernero. Gary Knotts.

You stood in the flames like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and two other appropriately named men of valor.

But your crime wasn’t refusing to worship a false god.

No, you stood in the flames simply because of the time and place in which you existed.

You are warriors.

You are the starting rotation for the 2003 Detroit Tigers.

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