Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Alyssa Virus: Can It Be Stopped? Is There A Cure?

As the Major League post-season begins, experts gather in Los Angeles, Boston, New York and San Francisco to put an end to the sport's most deadly virus.

Carl Pavano, Josh Beckett, Barry Zito, Brad Penny, Tom Glavine, Russell Martin. Between them you have a World Series MVP, 3 Cy Young Awards, 18 All Star Game appearances, and at least one future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet all of these pro athletes - these Major League Baseball players - have at least one more thing in common.

All have all contracted the Alyssa Virus.

In existence for only 36 years but seemingly only active for about the last 20, the Alyssa Virus has unleashed catastrophic destruction upon those who have come into close physical contact with it. Actors and musicians were the first to know first hand the result of unprotected contact with this unchecked destroyer of the American male. However, within the last 5 to 6 years, the Virus has spread to the last untouched outpost of the entertainment world - the world of professional sports, in particular the world of Major League baseball.

Ask any reputable cell/molecular biologist, The debilitating effects of the Alyssa Virus are undeniable, palpable, cutting men down in the prime of their professional lives, as the ravages of the disease bring about the sad, sudden end to the careers of these very public people, as they all are left to suffer their fates in silence.

The following is a chronicle of the lives of these men, and a timeline of the cautionary consequences of their ignorant involvement with the Alyssa Virus.
Fall, 2003: Florida Marlins pitcher Carl Pavano (Patient Zero) become the first known Major Leaguer to come in contact the Alyssa Virus at an unnamed club in New York City. His close contact continued until June of the following year when, inexplicably, the Virus disengaged with the pitcher in the spring of 2004.
Spring, 2004: The Virus is isolated in Central and South Florida, predominantly in the Marlin's spring training camp. Josh Beckett (The Carrier), Carl Pavano's teammate, who at the time was known to be dating lingerie model Leeann Tweeden, was infected when he came into close contact with the Virus while it was believed to be dormant. Unfortunately for Beckett (and for Tweeden, who's career went south at about the same time), the Virus flared, and the unsuspecting Beckett and Tweeden became its next casualties.
Summer, 2004: Dormant again for the first 50 games of the '04 season, the Virus flared again, this time in Hollywood, in Oakland A's left-hander Barry Zito. Reports indicate that The Virus remained active through late fall when, on the sidelines of a USC (Zito's alma mater) football game, only the quick thinking and brilliant second half adjustments made by Trojans coach Pete Carroll kept an outbreak from overtaking the entire team (including possible high-profile infectees Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart), and spared all of Southern California its devastating effects.
Because of the actions of Carroll, the Virus was temporarily arrested, and USC went on to an overwhelming victory in the BCS Championship game over Oklahoma, 55-19. The long-term physical and financial effects on Pavano, Beckett and Zito (now called The Lab Rat by most Major League players) from their exposure to Alyssa Virus will be discussed at the end of this report.
Spring, 2005: After an unexplained winter hibernation, the Virus once again became active, resurfacing in Los Angeles near where it had in 2004. This time, it was another former Florida Marlins pitcher, the Dodgers' Brad Penny. The 6'3" 260 lb. Penny (labelled The Unwitting Victim in reports) seemed physically strong enough to withstand an attack of the Virus, yet was also unable to fight its effects. After almost three years of battling the Virus - and its debilitating symptoms which include "tired arm", weakening and tearing of various tendons and ligaments, and mysterious, random Auto Accidents - during which Penny was place on the Dodgers disabled list 6 times until he was finally able to expel the Virus half way through the '07 season.
Sadly, after battling the Virus longer than any other Major League player, Penny now finds himself on the team's 60-day disabled list, and left off of the 2008 play-off roster.
Mid-Summer, 2007: On a bright , sunny Monday afternoon in San Francisco, the Alyssa Virus again re-surfaced, this time for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. It was there that a less-virulent strain of the Virus seemed to infect its first, and only, non-pitcher. Playing in his first All-Star Game, Penny's Dodger teammate, catcher Russell Martin came in contact with this particular strain while repeatedly text-messaging the Virus during the two day All-Star festivities. (This is the first incident where indirect contact with the Virus, however slight, caused an outbreak of this less-virulent variety).
Though contact was brief and maintained at a great distance, Martin would experience unexplained intermittent slumps at the plate and an ever-increasing wildness while throwing to second and third base (possibly a mutation of "tired arm", known as "wild arm"). To date, this is the only time a player, having contracted the Alyssa Virus, has not come into a full-blown case of late-stage Alyssa, called by some, "The end of my f****** career".

August, 2007: Flushing, New York. This is the site of the last known outbreak of the Virus , and possibly the most devastating. Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, 41, came face to face with the Virus in the Shea Stadium dugout on a Saturday afternoon, two hours before the team would take the field.
The Mets were a team on its way to the National League Playoffs, a strong team led by rising stars Jose Reyes and David Wright, and veterans Carlos Delgado and Pedro Martinez. The Virus, in just a few weeks of casual contact with Glavine, embedded itself within the very infrastructure of the team. Possibly made more adaptive due to Glavine's advanced age (the Alyssa Virus usually attaches itself to late males in their mid-20's), and also from the long weakening of Glavine from his then 21-years of Big League ball. Whatever the case, the Mets held a 7 1/2 game lead over second-place Philadelphia with just 17 games left to play. By late afternoon on September 30th, the entire Mets team had suffered a total collapse, young and old alike, losing their lead, and their season, to the Phillies.
The team failed to make the post-season in one of the worst mass-failures in the history of the game. Glavine himself was the losing pitcher in the final game, giving up 7 runs in the first inning while retiring only one batter.
The Aftermath:
In the five years (2003-2007) that the Alyssa Virus was active in Major League Baseball, the careers of six Major League ball players went from the penthouse to the outhouse within a matter of months. All six saw their once-superior abilities diminish rapidly. Only one, Russell Martin, retained any semblance of their previous status as stars in the sport they loved.
In December of 2004 Carl Pavano signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the New York Yankees. In the four seasons, Pavano won only 9 games. He spent all of 2006 on the disabled list, suffered two broken ribs in a side-impact car crash, and was force to undergo season ending Tommy John surgery after the Virus took control of his weakened right arm.
On September 26, 2008, the club declined an option for 2009 - worth $13 million - and waived him, effectively making him an unemployed free agent.
On Thanksgiving Day, 2005, Josh Beckett was traded to the Boston Red Sox. Since that time Beckett has experienced both the highs (a 2007 World Series MVP with the World Champion Red Sox) and the lows (on the disabled list three times so far in 2008), and he enters the post-season in questionable health. His brush with the Alyssa Virus was so brief that the Virus even denies coming into contact with Beckett. Only time will tell if the effects of this limited exposure will have any long-term effects.
As an aside, Beckett's contract with the Red Sox paid the pitcher 6 million, 666 thousand, 666 dollars in 2006. Coincidence?
In 2002, Barry Zito won the American League Cy Young Award. In late 2006, after a full year in remission, Zito signed a seven-year contract with the San Francisco Giants worth $126 million, with a club option for an eighth season worth $18 million more. But it was too late. Zito's reccord before signing with the Giants was 102 wins, 63 losses. In his two seasons in San Francisco, 22 wins, 30 losses with a combined earned run average of almost 5.00.

For a time this season, Zito was even demoted to the bullpen to keep him from losing 20 games. In the two years Zito was in full-time, daily contact with the Virus, he lost 5-10 mph off of his fastball and was no longer able to throw his once-devastating 12-6 curveball for strikes. According to reports, Zito even considered switching political parties in an attempt to ward off the effects of the Virus.

Zito is a registered Republican.

The Dodgers' Brad Penny lost his battle with the Virus on July 11, 2006. That day, Penny was the starting pitcher for the 2006 National League All-Star team. In the top of the first, Penny struck out all three American League hitters (Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter and David Ortiz). By the top of the second, he was gone. After giving up a home run to the Angels' Vlad Guerrero, Penny left the game at the end of the second inning.

Except for a brief remission in 2007, since that All-Star start, Brad Penny has won only 18 games. In late September, Penny was on the disabled list four times in 2008, was placed on the 60-day DL before the start of the '08 post-season.

Tom Glavine's career ended that fateful day in New York when he first contracted the Virus in the Mets dugout. After the season-ending loss to the Florida Marlins, New York chose not to sign the 42-year-old left-hander, attempting to purge their roster off any possible lingering medical or emotional effects the Virus may have had on the team. Unfortunately, while Glavine toiled in relative anonymity in Atlanta in 2008, the Virus continued to hold the Mets in its grip. With 8 games left in the season, and holding onto a late-season lead over the Phillies for the division and the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Wild Card, the Mets faded sharply in the last two weeks of the season, failing to make the play-offs for the second time in the Alyssa Virus era.

Russell Martin is truly the one ray of hope Major League Baseball has in combating the Virus in the future. Martin, the Dodger captain and emotional leader of the team, seems to have developed a resistance to the acute symptoms the Virus has had on all other players who have come in contact. Experts have several theories as to why the twenty-five-year-old catcher has been able to fight off several periods of visible outbreak over the last two seasons.

1) The possibility that the Virus has no immunity to technology. Martin's initial contact with the Virus was through text messaging, not through other more traditional forms of contact (clubbing, publicity photo-ops, etc.) as with Pavano, Penny and the rest.

2) The fact that Martin is Canadian may show clues into a possible Geo-immune barrier not available to the others suffering from the Virus. It should also be pointed out that Martin spent almost three years living in France with his mother prior to returning to Canada for good at the age of 11.

The possibility that some form of immuno-enhancement experienced while living in Europe may be the reason for Martin's as yet unexplainable ability to fight off the worst of the Virus' debilitating effects.

And there you have it. Major League Baseball has no official statement on the Alyssa Virus. No sources deep inside the Commissioner's office will comment on it - on or off the record. It is as if none of the incidents in this report ever happened.

As for the Alyssa Virus, according to a Major League Baseball blog, the Virus is no longer in contact with Major League Baseball players, and has remained out of the spotlight since the resistant Russell Martin incident of 2007-08.

With an uncertain future for America's Pastime, and the men who call it their livelihood, the future is yet to be written. And what about the Virus? Word is that PETA, in support of the Alyssa Virus, may bring protests against any Major League team that attempts to eradicate the Virus, reminiscent of those against the Atlanta Falcons at the height of the Michael Vick dog killing controversy.

The possible financial losses by Major League teams in the face of these protests could climb into the billions.

Now what about you. Are you safe from the Alyssa Virus? Did you ever watch Who's The Boss as a child and say to yourself, "What are my chances of contracting the Alyssa Virus?" And what about a whole new generation of children, guiltily watching Charmed, wondering... or all those ballplayers on those long road trips, with nothing to do with themselves but read old hotel copies of FHM, and watch all those episodes of My Name Is Earl on DVD and Blu Ray. Wondering... wondering...

So now, it's up to you. What will you do when the Virus knocks on your door? What will you do to protect your friends and loved ones from this unseen killer of careers now that it has mutated into a line of professional team sports apparel for women, sold on the Internet, with the full approval of the mighty

Are you safe? Is Baseball safe? Is America safe?

Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday