"Can I carry your groceries to the car?" Jose Canseco asks.
"No thanks," I say.
Really, Jose had already done enough. He had double-bagged the perishables and ripped the coupon out of the circular to make sure I got a buck off the Tide. And escorting me through the express checkout lane, that was special. "No problem," he says. "Glad to do it. Anything to help."
Major league baseball players—like my new best friend, Jose—have been just swell since they ended their strike. They have been greeting fans, posing for pictures, wearing yellow "smile" patches on their uniform sleeves, buying rounds for the guys in section 216. Jose didn't have to be so nice. Really, I only expect that he'll hustle, hit some moon shots over the Green Monster, register his guns and drive at something near the Massachusetts speed limit.
"But how can I bring you a pizza in 30 minutes?" he asks.
"Jose," I say, "what's this all about?"
"The players are just trying to do a little fence-mending."
"Too late. George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner came over and replaced all the rotting posts yesterday."
So that's it. Guilt over the 232-day baseball strike. Players. Owners. They're trying to get back on our good side. Two hundred and eighty-six million letters of apology, one for every Canadian and U.S. citizen, might have been a start, but the players and owners have decided to make peace in their own way. Owners roll back prices to 1958 levels and invite Little Leaguers to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Players discover the things kids wave under their noses are pens, not switchblades, so they are pausing to sign something other than seven-figure contracts. After canceling the World Series for the first time in 90 years, after failing to find a way to divvy up a $2 billion industry that has made them all rich, after compromising the integrity of another season by trimming 18 games from the schedule, after resuming under the old work rules as if the strike had been no more than a dream sequence from Dallas, players and owners have finally agreed on one thing: sucking up.
The apple-polishing is transparent, their behavior obsequious.