Baseball, music and life

Friday, January 30, 2004

I'll Play Third Too
Inspired by Gary Sheffield's magnanimous offer, I too am willing to play third base for the Yankees this year. To begin with I've played third in numerous softball games over the past eleven years, so I'm not nearly as rusty as Shef would be. Secondly, I don't even need a salary, any internship I get this summer will provide me with three credits. While Brooklyn Law requires that my internship be with a public interest or government agency, I'm sure the Boss can work something out. I have less range than Aaron Boone and I would probably consider Tim Wakefield's knuckleball too fast, but I promise never to play basketball during the off season.
I think I stack up to some of the Yanks current options. I'm similar to Drew Henson in that neither of us can hit a curve ball. Like Enrique Wilson I'll struggle to hit over .200 against anyone not named Pedro Martinez (although I'd probably faint if Pedro threw high and tight to me). Like with Miguel Cairo, Yankee fans are going to wonder what the hell I have to offer the team in terms of positives. And to that I can only say that I have no problem batting ninth and Joe Torre will never hear a peep out of me if he wants to pinch hit for me. So if anyone see's Brian Cashman please let him know about my offer.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Boonie We Hardly Knew Ya'
Aaron Boone's short but eventful career as a pinstriped third sacker appears to be coming to a premature end. Reports are that he tore his ACL and will miss the season. If nothing else this will help solidify his place in Yankee - Red Sox lore as Aaron Fucking Boone.
While Boone's career highlight will always be his home run off of Wakefield in Game Six, it is important to note that he had a fairly important role to play for the Bombers this season. To paraphrase Casey Stengel, if it weren't for Boone there'd be a whole lot of doubles down the third base line. Boone was probably a bit over his head as an All-Star last year. And it does appear that his power numbers were aided by playing in Cincinatti. However, he was still an above average player, if barely, and would have been a good fit as a number nine hitter. Boone was also an above average fielder, something the Yankees are lacking.
Even worst is that the Yankees do not appear to have any viable options. There are some that hope that this may lead to Jeter playing third. That would be fantastic if it means that A-Rod is playing next to him. The idea loses some of it's luster if it means Erik Almonte playing next to Jeter.
The other potential third sackers on the roster are Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo...
In terms of the prospects in the Yankee system there's quarterback Drew Henson and Eric Duncan who according to Baseball America may have a bright future but at nineteen is probably too young for the Bronx.
I took a peak at the free agent scrap heap courtesy of ESPN and unless they unearth the corpse of Jay Bell there's nothing there. Nor does there appear to be any team brimming over with third baseman so a trade may not be easy to pull off. Of course trading requires talent to give up, usually young talent, and that is at a premium with the Yanks.
The Yankees could shift Gary Sheffield back to short, move Jeter to third, put Bernie Williams in right and Kenny Lofton in center...but if that happens we may see the first mutiny by a pitching staff because of an inability by their defense to convert a batted ball into an out.
Maybe tomorrow I'll have some better and plausible ideas.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

My Night at the New York Chapter Baseball Writer's Association of America
Tonight was like opening up a pack of baseball cards and finding that instead of being stuck on cardboard backing the players were real and appearing before me.
Upon walking into the lobby of the hotel we were greeted by the smile of Dontrelle Willis. He was surrounded by autographers who barely came up to his midsection and he patiently satisfied them all. We made it up to the ballroom and I got to take a picture with Michael Kay, who is much taller than I thought. Suzyn Waldman soon took Kay away, but we did see Charlie Steiner who didn't seem to be getting any love from anyone. Buck Showalter was making his way to his seat and judging by the pecking order that had assembled around him he was as popular as some of the players.
Inside the ballroom the dais was mobbed by kids acting like kids and adults also acting like kids. Sitting in front of us were Tom Glavine, Willis, Josh Beckett, Dennis Eckersley, Roy Halladay, Alex Rodriguez, Brian Cashman, Fred Wilpon, Keith Hernandez, Johnny Antonelli, Bobby Thomson, Lee Mazzilli, Art Howe, Jack McKeon, Tony Pena, Angel Beroa, Eric Gagne, Jim Duquette, Rusty Staub and Phil Pepe among others. Roger Clemens would be a late arrival.
The Rocket was there to receive the Joe Dimaggio "Toast of the Town" award. He was greeted by a smattering of booes, but when it came time for Cashman to present him with his plaque he got the only standing ovation. Rocket was also the only player who was broader than the podium. Clemens did mention the way he was treated by the New York press after signing with the Astros and there was a genuine sense of sadness to him. It was one of the few times that I've seen a crack in the Texas Gunsligner's front.
Jack McKeon stole the show as he was both witty and engaging. Before presenting Josh Beckett with the Babe Ruth World Series award he mentioned how before Game Six the press tried to "help him coach", by pointing out how poorly pitchers had done on three games rest in the World Series. McKeon admitted that they had already decided to pitch Beckett and you could tell he relished telling the reporters where to stick it. McKeon added that he always dreamed of winning a World Series in Yankee stadium. It's amazing how much the ballpark in the bronx has meant to the game of baseball, both to those who play and cheer it.
A-Rod proved charismatic and he made a point to shout out his appreciation for the Texas Rangers organization. With Showalter naming him captain it appears that he will at least start the season in Arlington. A-Rod told a story about how after the trade failed to go through he had gone to Europe to get away from things. At first he liked that no one knew he was, he didn't say where he went, but he admitted that after a few days he missed being recognized. (It's amazing, Babe Ruth had the same experience when he first went to Europe, and complained about his lack of attention bitterly. The players almost need to be reminded of who they are.) Finally, on his last day there were three kids who appeared to recognize A-Rod. He admitted that he was craved the attention and was excited as the kids approached him. However, instead of asking for an autograph all three kids, in broken english, began chanting "Let's Go Yankees!"
I should note that Cashman and A-Rod were sitting next to each other. And, A-Rod talked about how much he loved New York City. I honestly think that Boston, as a state would commit suicide if he came to the Bronx.
Tony Pena spoke slowly but lovingly about Beroa, stressing how much he had grown as both a player and a man It was immediatly apparent why his players love him so much. He spoke less like a coach and more like a proud father. Out of all the speakers, Pena seemed most touched by the experience.
There was a distinctly fraternal vibe to the players who shared the dais. On one end were the three wise men, Howe and Pena and McKeon, deep in conversation. On the other, Rocket, Eck and Hallady were deep in conversation, I'm going to keep pretending they were talking about the release point on thier fastballs. When Eck introduced Gagne he read his numbers out loud and showed a true respect for them. Finally, when Bobby Thompson took the stage all the players paid attention like the fans that they truly were.

Other notables: Brian Cashman actually smiling. Keith Hernandez's head, which is huge.
The fact that Hideki Matsui couldn't make it to accept his "Good Guy Award" because he had an appointment with the Prime Minister of Japan tomorrow. Tom Glavine getting the "Award for Community Service" and no one caring. Art Howe admitting that one of his goals was to appear at the dinner one year and not have to hear joke about the Mets. TBarry Bonds taping his thank you and wearing a goofy ski hat in it. The entire audience whooping it up when they showed Aaron Boone's homer in Game 7 of the ALCS.
Biggest Disapointment of the Night: Don Mattingly not being able to make it to accept his "Willie, Mickey and the Duke" award with Keith Hernandez.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

It's taken me a bit of time to gather my thoughts on Pete Rose's latest book, My Prison Without Bars, and now that they are somewhat coherent, here they are.

The biggest argument for letting Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame seems to be that on the merits of what he did on the field as a ball player merit his induction. The fact that Pete Rose is a liar, a gambler, a self indulgent asshole, and, judging by an excerpt from his book, an awful writer should all be ignored because he set the record for most hits. That argument is backed by the fact that some of the biggest assholes in the history of mankind, ala Ty Cobb, have not been barred from the Hall. There is a secondary argument that because he did finally admit to gambling he should also be admitted.

I think those arguments wring false for the following reasons:
1. There is no rule against being an asshole. There is a rule, Major League Rule 21(d) that states: "BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible."

2. The fact that he admitted that he gambled does not seem to be sufficient to warrant a lifting of his ban. The closest situation to the one Pete Rose is in is when a defendant strikes a plea bargain with a District Attorney because they know the evidence against them is overwhelming. In those situations the DA strikes the deal because they do not want to take the chance of letting a guilty person go free because of some idiosincratic jury and/or there are administrative pressures to resolve cases as quickly as possible. None of those apply to the Pete Rose case. To me Pete Rose is like the murderer, who after ten years in the pen, finally admits, "Yes, I did do what I'm accused of." While this may signify that the inmate's rehab is working, it does not produce a get out of jail card.

3. Anyone who writes as poorly as Rose does should never, ever have gotten a book deal...oh wait, this is off the topic. Still, it was really bad, akin to a 4th grader writing a complaint about the teacher who took away his cookies for being bad. Maybe this isn't Pete's fault, after all if he was a masterful writer he might not have needed to resort to betting for cash. The editor obviously sucked too.

The simple fact is that Pete Rose broke a cardinal rule of baseball. Admitting to it, after years of denying it and attempting to disparage those who called him on it, does not make him a saint. It makes him a desperate man attempting a last grasp attempt to gain what his own poor choices denied him.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Friday Musings...
Ivan Rodriguez signing with the Detroit Tigers has to be the biggest joke ever. Talk about selling your soul. Imagine going from accepting a World Series trophy to playing for the worst team in baseball - yikes!
There's some speculation that the Yankees are going to sign Cuban defector Mael Rodriguez. Considering the questions surrounding every Yankee pitcher not named Mike Mussina this might make good sense. Furthermore, Rodriguez is only 24 (or claims to be) and supposedly throws 100 mph. However, after being burned by Andy Morales and with the jury still out on Jose Contreras I can't see the Yankees being eager to break the bank on this kid. If he's affordable though it could be a good pickup.
The Orioles blew it by not signing Vlad. Suddenly, the luster of Tejada no longer shines so bright.
I'm surpised that the Cardinals have not been more aggressive about trying to sign Greg Maddux. A front three of Maddux, Woody Williams and Matt Morris could easily compete with Houston's big three and is probably a tad worst than Chicago's.
I picked up the new Phantom Planet and I'm a little confused. They're last record "The Guest" was a full blown tribute to the melodies and harmonies, though not the psychedalia, of the Beach Boys. Although they were helped by the presense of Jason Schwartzman, of Rushmore fame, the songs were able to stand on their own merit. The new self-titled album is a departure from all that made "The Guest" so good. It's noisy and cantankerous like a teenager having a fit. Unfortuntately it seems more like a teenager throwing a tizzy over not being able to stay up late, than the kind of anger supported by real conviction. Somone burned these boys, I'm guessing it was a lady, and honoring a time-honed tradition they're using their six strings and amps to let the world know about it. Unfortunately it seems to come at the price of new listeners who may not embrace the cacophony so readily. We'll just have to see.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Roger's Un-retiring Party

There’s been a lot of hub-bub about Roger Clemen’s decision to end his two and a half month retirement to pitch for the Houston Astros. A lot of it seems to be based upon some notion that Clemens betrayed the Yankees and their fans. Admittedly that was my original take on his decision, however after some deliberation I’ve come to realize that this might just be a good thing.

Up until now it was clear that Boss George had all intentions of shoe-horning Clemens between the plaques that make up Monument Park. Up until now most of the fans would probably have gone along with the idea too. Now, because we all know hell hath no fury like the Boss scorned, that will probably never happen. That, I think is a very good thing.

See Rocket was never really a Yankee legend. Sure, he won his 300th in the Stadium. Yes he notched strikeout victim 4,000 on those hallowed Bronx grounds. And he certainly had his moments like his 15 strike out performance against Seattle in the ALCS. Or winning Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, even his performance against Boston where he managed to maintain his cool and strike out Manny Ramirez. But all the while he was never our big game pitcher, that title went to Andy Pettitte, and before him David Cone. To some extent we always relied on Boomer Wells more than we did Rocket Clemens.

In fact, most of Clemens big performances were individual. His stand off with the Mike Piazza and the Mets always struck me as something personal. Even his 300th, was a reflection of his Hall of Fame career not that of the Yankees.

The truth is Clemens was always that Texas Gun Slinger who rode into town with his blazing fastball and eye cheating Mr. Splitee. Although he tried to adopt New York, New York never took to him the way it did to Cone, Wells or Derek Jeter or Bernie Williams. It’s the same problem Jason Giambi has. In New York we love our stars because they become part of the city. Usually it is because they came up in our system and we felt like they were born from the same stuff that we are. Those are guys like Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, and Don Mattingly. Sometimes it is because their persona was so right for the City, like the Babe or Reggie. The others we love because they became unlikely heroes – guys like Bucky Dent and Louis Sojo.

We sure appreciate what Rocket did for us. He showed up everyday and pitched to the best of his ability. He was always prepared and professional and never cheated himself. Those are all the things that you can ask from a pitcher. But he never seemed to live and die on the mound the way that Cone or Pettitte did. Besides, as Jeter pointed out, by pitching for Houston Clemens is about as far removed from the Yankees as possible.

A small part of me has always known that Rocket should wear a Boston Red Sox cap into the Hall of Fame. And we all know anyone with a B on their Hall bust can never, ever have a space in Monument Park.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Some random thoughts...Alfonso Soriano reminds me of Nuke LaLoosh, not Hank Aaron. I think he needs to think less, and live by the following credo "See the ball, hit the ball."
I'm happy for Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley, however it's a crime that Bert Blyleven, Goose Gossage, Ryne Sandberg and Bruce Sutter are on the outside looking in.
Gary Sheffield once hit more home runs in Dodger stadium, Chavez Ravine, than on the road. That my friends is serious power.
Is there anyone who needs a hug more than George Steinbrennar?
With the signing of Juan Gonzalez, the Royals have an offense that has the potential to create many a donut night in Kansas. Krispy Kreme consider yourself warned.
According to Bill James, Derek Jeter has a 28% chance of getting 3,000 hits...that will be a grand day in Yankee Stadium. The players who have a greater chance of reaching that magic plateu are A-Rod - 45%, Garret Anderson - 30%, and Albert Pujols - 29%. (Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro are close enough to almost be considered shoe ins.)
Will Fred McGriff become the first player to hit 500 home runs and not make the Hall of Fame? I sure hope so. The Crime Dog was never the best at his position, and besides, when I was a small boy and saw him in Florida he snubbed me.
On days when the baseball goes from Javier Vazquez to Tom Gordon to Mariano Rivera there's going to be a lot of high cheese in Yankee stadium.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Wishing Andy was still in pinstripes.

As a baseball fan I’ve gotten used to change. Suddenly you’re favorite first baseman can’t quite get their bat around on the high heat, and he’s replaced by the hot new rookie out of Triple A. Or, the ace of the staff’s curve is no longer curving and there’s a shiny new free agent taking the mound every fifth day for your team. Through the years I’ve said goodbye to Don Mattingly, David Cone and Paul O’Neil, they were the ones that created a lump in my throat. Giving best wishes to Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, and Scott Brosious wasn’t easy either. However, Andy Pettitte’s leaving may be the toughest for me. Seeing him in an Astro’s uniform is going to be like returning home from college and finding out that your favorite pizza place has been turned into a Laundromat.

I usually tell people that Andy became my favorite pitcher when he out dueled John Smoltz in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. It was one of the best games I’ve ever seen pitched, right next to Roger Clemens’ dominate playoff game against Seattle when he struck out 15. It was certainly the game that really made Andy stand out in my mind, but at that point David Cone was my favorite. Cone was the prodigal New York son who had come back to the right franchise and pitched them into the first World Series I would witness. Pettitte was the young lefty who represented the future of Torre’s burgeoning dynasty, but in 1996 he wasn’t the one fans turned to in those desperate October hours when all we hope for is seven quality innings.

It was watching Pettitte over the next 120 or so starts that he became my favorite. I root for different players for all types of reasons. I root for Jeter because of how cool he always seems, he’s Indiana Jones in a baseball uniform, and I admire his leadership and the way he always seems to make the winning play. With Mariano Rivers, it’s his dominance, just once I’d love to dominate something the way Rivera does hitters in the ninth inning. With Paulie O I understood his frustration when he didn’t deliver to the best of his ability. I respected Tino for the way he stood in for Donnie Baseball, my all-time favorite, and delivered. Knoblauch for his last name, Cone for his ability to beat the odds, and Clemens for his fearlessness. But, Pettitte somehow seemed more human.

For as many good games as Andy pitched, there were those games when Bad Andy would show up. When most pitchers are having an off night, it’s immediately apparent. However when Andy had a bad night it unfolded over the course of four or five innings. It wouldn’t be a thunderous homerun, but a string of line drives that were allergic to leather. Two runs in the first, one in the second, than Andy would settle down for a couple of innings, before the ceiling collapsed and he would curse into his glove waiting for Torre to escort him from the field. Then there were the nights when Andy would simply glare from behind his glove, pulled up to just below his eyes, daring the batters to do anything but pound his cut fastballs into the ground. Of course I’m obligated to mention Andy’s pick off move, the almost balk, that would grind running games to a halt. When he was at his best, if anyone did make it to first he would simply keep them chained there while he trudged through the game.

Over the years Pettitte also developed a reputation as the Yankee’s money pitcher. It was never more apparent than this past post season when he won Game 2 of every series, after the Yankees had dropped the opener. Stat heads will tell you there’s no such thing as clutch. But stats lie, they betray those who abide by them at the most crucial of moments. Go ahead and ask those who really know baseball, go ask any bleacher creature who the Yankees big game pitcher was and they’ll all tell you it was Pettitte. Unfortunately Boss Steinbrenner did not understand that and now we have Kevin Brown and his magic elbow instead of our favorite lefty.

Donald Hall wrote an essay called “Baseball and the Meaning of Life” in which he compared the life cycle to the cycles of the hallowed game. Andy Pettitte would have fit into that chapter. You see Andy also had those bad days on the mound where everything seemed to get slapped into the hole for a double. He also had those magnificent days when he was every bit the best lefty ever to wear a Yankee uniform. Just like Andy, some days everything goes our way and we throw a shutout to beat the Cy Young winner. Some days everything goes wrong and we manage to give up ten runs without giving up a hard hit ball. But everyday we take the mound and stare down life, even if we have to peak from behind a glove before we start. I’ll tell you Kevin Brown may be good, he may be great, but he’ll never be Andy.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Zimmer's Way is a mostly baseball blog with postings coming from a twenty seven year old law student who loves the Yankees. Along the way I'll also write about music, a secondary passion, and anything else that wonders through my mind. Part of my goal is to write with a passion that may occasionally override rationale, think more Ring Lardner and less Bill James. Not that I don't know, understand or appreciate Bill James...it's more that I'd rather read Roger Kahn, Roger Agnell or even Nick Hornby as opposed to Win Shares.
I've been going to games all my life, and I still get a goose bumps when I see the green of the field for the first time each spring. The crack of the bat, the smell of the stadium, the line for the bathroom...all important. The drama that takes place between each pitch, the chess match between a runner on first and the other team. The "holy crap" feeling of watching Kirk Gibson circle the bases, Derek Jeter make the flip or Mark McGwire hitting 62 are all the moments that make the baseball season so vital to life. I watch games for the chance that I will witness something like what happens at the end of the Natural...I find that it happens more often than one would think.
My goal is to bring some of the passion that can get lost in the maze of statistics to this blog. It will mean that I will sometimes sound irrational, blatantly partisan, or plain dumb. So be it...

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