Sometimes the gesture seems futile, sometimes not. The least the Yankees could have done for one of their best-liked and most productive players was to sign him for a day and let him retire as a ‘Striper. Which is exactly what they did with Hideki Matsui Saturday—on a day his old teammate and friend Derek Jeter returned from the disabled list with a Matsui-like bang, hitting the first major league pitch he’s seen all season over the right field fence.
Let’s see. A harmless Milwaukee Brewers fan disgusted over Ryan Braun shows up at Miller Park last Wednesday. She shows her contempt for Braun’s duplicitous behaviour by wearing a T-shirt replica of Braun’s uniform jersey—with “F” and “D” replacing “B” and “N” in Braun’s name above the familiar number 8. And Miller Park security offers a choice between turning the shirt inside-out or leaving the ballpark.
Apparently, not everyone was happy when the Washington Nationals signed Rafael Soriano in the offseason. And at least one Nat suspects the signing was a kind of punishment levied against Drew Storen, the now-former closer whose struggling thus far has finally landed him back in Triple A, sent to Syracuse after the Nats split a doubleheader with the Mets Friday.
Storen can begin his rehorsing knowing that fellow reliever Tyler Clippard, thought to be his best friend on the team, has his back. “You know, you basically send a guy a message this offseason, for having one bad game, that he’s not the guy for the job. He’s only human. I mean, it’s going to get to anybody,” Clippard told CSNWashington.com.
The Yankees have never been shy about giving second comings to former stars, useful spare parts, or even managers. Enos Slaughter, Bobby Murcer, Billy Martin, Goose Gossage, Yogi Berra, Tommy John, David Wells, Ruben Sierra, and Andy Pettitte could tell you that.
But I can’t recall any of those men, with the exception of Berra succeeding Martin in 1984, being brought back to the field in what might well be part of a plan to move a continuing pain in the ass to one side.
By now it’s a waste of space to suggest Bob Costas should be baseball’s next commissioner, simply because he doesn’t want the job, and never really has, no matter who’s thought how highly of his mind and love for the game. Unfortunately, the Man Who Wouldn’t Be Commissioner doesn’t help his own anti-cause by saying things that cause people to think he ought to be dragged into the job by any means necessary when Bud Selig decides at last that it’s time to retire.
Things have just gotten very interesting, very fast, and the first Monday following the All-Star break isn’t even close to over. A former All-Star gets himself suspended for the rest of the season; the Texas Rangers finally land a pitcher for whom they’ve had eyes for four years; and, the hitting-moribund Washington Nationals execute their respected batting coach.
When was the last time you could remember a pitcher taking himself out of a no-hitter in the making, however the game might have been progressing, never mind a pitcher with ten punchouts to mitigate five walks? And, never mind that he’s a pitcher with a history of shoulder trouble including three surgeries, thus a little more mindful than many of the absolute fragility of his profession?
Jim Leyland’s magnificent All-Star Game play, involving baseball’s all-time closer of closers, is barely in the books, and his Detroit Tigers—whose need for a closer of even elementary reliability isn’t exactly baseball’s best-kept secret—have eyes for a man who helped keep them caged in last year’s World Series.
Who’d have figured Neil Diamond to be The Mariano’s setup man? And who’d have figured The Mariano, in his farewell season and at his final All-Star Game, hearing Diamond warbling “Sweet Caroline” somewhere other than Fenway Park when the Yankees visit the Red Sox, before going to work with just one unforgettable disruption?
But who’d have figured American League All-Star manager Jim Leyland thinking he could perform the marriage of sentiment and sound strategy in a single gesture and get away with it because, damn it, it worked, the American League held onto a 3-0 win? With nobody but the sourest puss believing Leyland should be crucified for his trouble?
Barring a move by National League manager Bruce Bochy (naming a replacement for an injured player), there’ll be no Puigmania in Citi Field for the All-Star Game. The bristling Dodger rook was edged out in the fans’ final man vote by Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman. Freeman’s having a fine season, but if you’re looking at the All-Star Game as a baseball showcase you know, and maybe even Braves fans know, that Freeman hasn’t got a third of Puig’s early star power.