Baseball Card of the Week: Miles to Go Before I Sleep

To begin this new and shiny year of 2009, I want first to take a quick look back at a small bit of the Cardinals' past. I know, this is a time to be looking forward, but hey, I am nothing if not a contrarian. 

So in this baseball card format reminiscence, we take a look back at the Aaron Miles Era. 
Here we have a 2007 Aaron Miles card from Topps. On a purely card-related note, I have to say that I really like the design of the Topps cards from this year. The photos really pop against the black background, and the colored squares are just enough of a flourish to keep the whole thing from being boring. Quite a nice design, if you ask me. 

Anyhow, enough about the cardboard, what about the man? Well, I actually included some of my own thoughts about Miles himself in my post about him signing with the Cubs, but as part of the 2006 Championship team, I think he probably deserves a bit more ink. 

See, Miles is the kind of player that people just fall in love with, and with just cause. When it comes right down to it, a guy like Aaron Miles shouldn't be playing professional baseball. He's about 5'7", and not some sort of weird, bizarro-world 5'7" that just makes him more compact and powerful than the rest of us. Just 5'7". He isn't hyper-athletic, he doesn't run the 40 in four seconds flat. He doesn't have much of an arm, though it's apparently good enough to be a relief pitcher now and again. And all of those things are why people love Aaron Miles. 

I remember when I first met with our editor here at the RFT, Mr. Tom Finkel. We met at Blueberry Hill, just a few blocks away from the paper's offices, to discuss me possibly joining the family on a more permanent basis, as it were. I had written one story for the RFT before, in the baseball preview issue, and they were looking for someone to start up a more full-time writing situation covering sports. Hang on, I'm going somewhere with this. 

Well, we talked quite a bit about the format for the writing and all of those things, but eventually our talk turned to the subject, rather than the coverage. We sat and talked baseball for quite a while, about how good Anthony Reyes was looking in spring training, and how it was probably all just a tease again. We talked about the offense, and how worrisome it was looking. (Remember, this is in March. Trust me, back then, the offense looked really iffy.) And finally, we talked about some of our favorite players, and Aaron Miles came up. 

Now, first off, I admit, Aaron Miles used to drive me nuts. In fact, he's just the type of player that drives most of us who love all the new age stats and hate batting average nuts. I'm not going to turn this into an angry rant, but I'm sure most of you have heard it all before anyway. He doesn't take a walk, he doesn't have any power, his range sucks. Yawn. But what really irks we stat-obsessed types is just how much people love the guy. We hate the word scrappy. We hate the word gritty. We really hate the word clutch. But then Tom said something that made me pause, just a little. I remember it word for word. 

"I suppose that since having kids, I appreciate a guy who isn't the most talented or the most gifted a little more. It's easier to relate to a guy like that when something doesn't come easy, and you can point to him as a good example." 

Like I said, I paused a second when he said that, then filed it away for later examination and continued on with our conversation. We both eventually finished our beers, said our goodbyes, and I left with a preliminary job offer to mull over. 

What Tom said about Aaron Miles that day comes back to me now and again, and I've actually thought about it much more than I'm sure the source of the quote would probably have ever dreamed. And I think that I understand why people love Aaron Miles. 

Most of us are nothing special, really. We like to throw around platitudes and try to convince ourselves that everyone is unique, everyone is special, but that's mostly crap, to be perfectly honest. When it comes right down to it, we're all just guts, water and fear. So what do we do about it? Well, we get up every morning, and we go to work. We start a family. We have kids that are no more and no less special than us, and pass on our platitudes. After all, they mean the world to us, don't they? Why shouldn't the rest of the world see the same in them? 

We can all look at a guy like Aaron Miles and see ourselves there. He may not be tall, and he may not be fast, but he's still living a dream that so many of the rest of us had at some point. He works hard at what he does. He may make more money than 90 percent of us could ever dream of, but in the hierarchy of professional athletes, Aaron Miles is about as blue collar as you can get. So when your son, or your daughter, or maybe just you, get to thinking that you aren't anything special, that you aren't tall enough or don't look like the people on television, you can look at Aaron Miles. You can look at Aaron Miles, and think that hey, he's not so special either. Or maybe, just maybe, he is special enough. And maybe everyone else is too. 

So I'm not going to tell you why Aaron Miles isn't a good ballplayer. There are plenty of other people to do that. Hell, I imagine I'll end up telling you at some other point in the future. But not today. Why not? Because Aaron Miles is just the sort of baseball player that makes every kid, no matter who they are, dream big dreams. And that means something.  

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