“What the fuck?!” Chase Utley yelled from the clubhouse computer.
As was the custom when Chase was walking, and especially shouting, everyone immediately stopped what they were doing. Raul stopped staring inquisitively at his bat, as if he didn’t know what it was. Shane stopped manically pressing the buttons on his Nintendo DS. Chooch refrained from diving into his third bowl of ice cream. It took immense restraint. The only audible sound in the Phillies clubhouse was Roy Halladay carving up an apple with an extremely dangerous hunting knife.
“What is it, Chase?” Kyle Kendrick piped up. Chase’s slow stare rotated around to where the fifth starter was seated. The others watched the exchange as if it was the part of a nature program where falcon slaughters the nest full of rabbits.
Kyle bowed his head.
“S… sorry. What is it, Mr. Utley?”
Chase turned back to the computer and began speaking as if Kyle did not exist.
“Some asshole just totally called us out on his blog. Said our offense was inconsistent, and was always letting the starting pitching down, and we’d been reduced to ‘small ball.’ He says our lineup can’t decide if it wants to step up or let down in any given inn-”
The remainder of the blog post was to be forever left as a mystery to the Phillies, as a baseball bat the size of a small tree came crashing into the monitor, a boisterous bellow accompanying the violence. Chase, barely eliciting a reaction, stared at the mess of wires and glass that used to be a computer. He calmly picked up the bat responsible for the disaster. In giant elegant letters on the side were the words “The Big Fucking Piece.”
“What a rational response, Ryan,” Chase stated, returning the bat to its owner.
Ryan nodded. “Those words were like starving crows ripping apart my ears,” he announced to the clubhouse.
Nobody disagreed. Like Chase, Ryan was one of those guys in the locker room who was rarely disagreed with.
“I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of this team at all,” Chase continued. “I mean, so maybe we don’t come through for a quality start from our pitcher now and then. It’s not like that screws any one person. It screws us all.”
Across the room, Cole Hamels slowly rose out of his seat, an appalled look of disgust pasted to his face. His eyes fixated on Chase, and he went to speak–but the hand on his shoulder stopped him. Turning around, he saw Roy Halladay sympathetically shaking his head and munching his apple, now sans hunting knife. Cole wordlessly nodded and returned to his seat. It was for the best.
Within seconds, Mike Sweeney had his arms around him in a soothing embrace. Cole smiled gently at the gesture, and all storm clouds of tangent immediately dissipated.
Chase looked at the wall directly to the right of him. A nanosecond prior, he’d felt a silent whisper of wind zip past his ear. Sure enough, someone had precisely hurled a hunting knife across the room. He knew exactly who it had been; and if it had been meant to hit him, it would have. This was only a warning.
“So the way I see it, we don’t have a choice,” Chase continued, wisely ignoring the attempt on his life. “We are going to show this brainless, slack-jawed loser and his head full of fart jokes just how the Philadelphia Phillies offense plays ball.”
A cheer went up from his teammates, but Chase quieted the arena with a wave of his hand.
“But let’s make him squirm. Tonight, let’s fall behind, then wait and score a ton of runs in one of the late innings, just to dick with him.”
An even more raucous cheer went up. Brad Lidge stood up out of his seat some distance away, clearly worked up from all the emotion.
“And then us in the bullpen will let the seemingly safe lead become way, way too close again, just to further the dicking!”
No one cheered but Kyle Kendrick, who was really just a fan of being heard.
“No, that’s stupid,” Chase replied. “Don’t do that.”
Brad sat back down dejectedly, but after a moment, looked at the rest of his cohorts in relief.
“Let’s do it anyway,” he said in a whisper that everyone could hear. The rest of the bullpen nodded simultaneously.
“Whatever,” Chase continued. “Maybe only people who get to hit the ball should be talking.”
“Yeah!” Greg Dobbs shouted.
His jubilant chant had been muffled by the fact that it came from inside Ryan Howard’s gym bag, which he had been hiding in sincebeing DFA’d. Realizing what was going on, Ryan began slowly kicking the bag over and over again, until the chorus of pained yelps became an eerie silence.
“Fuck yeah, high score!” Shane chanted, and ran around the room, demanding really intense high fives from everyone.
Raul eyed Shane’s DS curiously. There wasn’t even a game inserted.
“Tonight, we slam this blogger into submission!” Chase exclaimed, fist in the air, and everyone from Jimmy Rollins to Brian Schneider joined him like revolutionaries preparing for a raid.
“TBOH sucks! TBOH sucks!” they cried.
Jayson Werth stumbled out of a nearby closet in the middle of a smoke cloud.
“C’mon, Jayson!” Kyle Kendrick shouted over the din. “We’re going to show a blogger whose boss tonight!”
“Sweet,” Jayson replied, and grabbed a half empty bag of Sun Chips out of his locker and habitually shoveled them into his mouth.
Kyle ran out the tunnel, filled to the brim with enthusiastic fervor, shouting a horrendous war cry, arms flailing.
Everyone else went back to their ordinary pregame tasks. They still had two hours to game time, and sometimes it was best to let Kyle run off some of his youthful steam by scampering around the base paths for 45 minutes. Ryan Howard would eventually go and get him, like he always did, and find him fast asleep on third base, quietly suckling his thumb. He would carry him inside like a baby and place him gently back in front of his locker.
Dom Brown and Roy Oswalt sat on opposite sides of both the locker room and their careers. Dom, a talented newcomer, and Oswalt, a proven veteran, had not spoken, but would often exchange confused glances as to what was going on. Today was no exception, as their knowing stare was interrupted by Ryan Howard hurling a bloodied gym bag into the trash.
“Somebody remember to take that out at the end of the day,” he roared. Turning back to his locker, he snorted intimidatingly and inspected his bat for damage from the “computer incident.”
“We don’t need Dobbs stinking up the place anymore than usual.”