Fun times in the independent leagues:
Consider this week's action at the port city's historic little Blair Field, max capacity 3,238. There, two enigmatic pitchers who once drank deeply the major league good life were the main attractions for the Long Beach Armada, a 5-year-old team in the independent Golden Baseball League. On Friday, pitching in front of bleachers that were one-third empty, we found Jose Lima, the former All-Star known for creating wherever he goes a jocular, peppery, occasionally flaky and, to some, patently offensive way of being: Lima Time . . . And Saturday's pitcher? Yes, that was 40-year-old Hideki Irabu.
A former big leaguer playing in the lowest of the bus leagues means one of two things: (a) that the player has come to grips with the fact that being paid to play baseball for a living is a privilege rather than a right and will do anything to continue to do so; or (b) that he is completely deluded as to his worth as a ballplayer and feels that this is mere warm-up on the way back to the bigs.
At their heights, both Irabu and Lima were guys who carried themselves as though they were entitled to pitch in the majors, so you might guess that they both fall under (b). Only one appears to, however, with the other quite content to simply fling a ball and enjoy life. I'm not going to tell you which one is which, but I will say that I was quite surprised.