Monday, July 4, 2016

Replacing the Irreplaceable: Why Bud Norris Is A Hero

Danville, Kentucky - How does one replace that which is irreplaceable? It is a question, by nature rhetorical, that has been screamed into the void by many disciples and foot-soldiers following the departure of a respected leader. It is a question that the irascible New Englander and former Vice President John Adams asked himself upon succeeding George Washington as the young American republic's President in 1796. George Washington, the father of this great country, shepherded the nascent nation through many trials and tribulations. General Washington was a larger than life figure, who steadfastly guided America through both bitter defeat at the Battle of Long Island and joyous triumphs at Saratoga and Yorktown. The General's steely resolve and cool demeanor secured the Jay Treaty of 1974; he was truly "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

The General
Enter John Adams - the man tasked with replacing the young nation's quasi-divine paternal figure. Washington stood tall and proud, a decorated military hero; Adams was Danny DeVito-like in stature and temperament. How could any man hope to succeed General Washington? How does one replace that which is irreplaceable?

Adams and Bud Norris: Kindred Spirits
It is a question that Bud Norris, a former member of the Atlanta Braves recently acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers, will ask himself this holiday weekend. Bud was acquired by a pitching-starved Dodgers organization reeling from the news that superhuman ace Clayton Kershaw would be heading to the disabled list. The Dodgers rotation is a shadow of its former glory without Clayton, the only winner of 10 or more games on the staff this season. Kenta Maeda has been a revelation, but remains fragile and injury-prone. Scott Kazmir sports a 7-5 win/loss record but has failed to eat innings, having gone more than 6 innings only twice so far this season. Alex Wood is on the disabled list as well. Young Julio Urias may yet be the salvation of the Dodgers franchise, but at age 19, he cannot be asked to anchor the rotation, just as it was irresponsible of John Adams Sr. to send 14 year old John Quincy Adams on a diplomatic envoy to St. Petersburg.

Young John Quincy
As Bud Norris prepares to take the mound against the Baltimore Orioles - one of his former teams - this Wednesday, he will privately acknowledge that he cannot hope to replace Kershaw; a Cy Young winner and lock for 20+ wins every season. Nobody expects Bud to replace the irreplaceable Clayton Kershaw. Surely Bud is aware of how little faith in him the Dodger fanbase has.

John Adams was hailed with a similar hail of insults when he assumed the office of Presidency. In October of 1800, Treasure Secretary Alexander Hamilton wrote a public letter slamming President Adams as egotistical, jealous, vane, and unfit to represent the Federalist Party. Bud will react as President Adams did to these insults; by putting his head down and doing his job.

I rarely agree with roster moves made by Andrew Fraudman, sabermetric saboteur of the Tampa Bay Rays and now the Los Angeles Dodgers. But the acquisition of Bud Norris must be applauded. Bud is a winner, having guided the Orioles to postseason success in 2014. The triumphant return of Clayton Kershaw remains pivotal to the World Series hopes of the Dodgers. Yet, every winning team requires role-players to complement the talents of other-worldly heroes like General Washington. Kershaw and Washington are both fearless and indispensable leaders. Just as America learned to survive in the absence of President Washington's steady leadership, the Dodgers must learn to win without their ace. On this 4th of July, let us not forget the irreplaceable contributions of unsung heroes like John Adams and Bud Norris.