You don’t know me, but I know you. I watched you play at Ohio State, and I kept track of you everywhere you’ve played in the majors. I even watched your dad play for the Cubs in Three Rivers Stadium. He was in the bullpen in right field one night when we were heckling Dave Kingman for the upper deck. Kingman got mad and the cops came up to our section, but we hid and they threw some other guys out.
One reason I feel like I know you is that you always have your feelings out there for the world to see, and that you’re not afraid to show the world what you care about. Like when you got your hair cut as a tribute to your grandmother in Oakland. One result of that is that people pay attention to you and watch what you do. That’s why I’m addressing this to you, instead of some other guys who could also be included.
The biggest problem I have with you, Swish, aside from scraping up against the Mendoza line most of the season, is that enormous wad of tobacco stuffed inside your lower lip whenever you play. Reading about Tony Gwynn made me think about all the guys on the Indians who chew. But especially you because of your grandmother and your baby girl. Gwynn was only about twenty years older than you when he died. If you die in twenty years you might not see your little girl graduate from college or get married. I have two daughters, so I know you think about things like that.
I have lots of friends who chew (and smoke), and I hear the same answer a lot when I ask them why: “we’re all gonna die of something”. You know better. Since you watched your grandmother suffer from cancer, you know that it can be a hideously slow and painful process that robs you of your spirit, your dignity, and your independence. You also know that cancer affects more than just the victim. It takes over the lives of family members, who feel the physical pain second hand but the emotional anguish every bit as bad as the victim, and who also see their lives disrupted, sometimes for years, with doctor visits and care-giving.
People see you as a leader, so I figure if you quit, maybe Carlos Santana takes the hint and quits. Then maybe a few fans quit, or some boys that idolize you never start. Maybe the son you have someday doesn’t see you do it and think it’s cool. But if you’re the only one who stops, that would make me happy. The way I see it, you’ve got a pretty sweet life. Gorgeous wife, little girl, tons of money, and you get to play baseball every day. Plus, you seem like you wake up every morning happy about life in general, which is not as common as you may think. People like you deserve to live long, fulfilling lives and die quietly in their sleep at a ripe old age. Let’s see what we can do to make that happen.