July 09, 2007

I Know Why The Caged Splitter Misses the Outside Corner

I was at the Stadium on Saturday for Old-Timers' Day and a painful, beautifully pitched, horribly defended thirteen inning loss to the Angels. God, I hate the goddamn Angels. Friday night was a wild, ugly win and Sunday's game was a satisfying rout, but because it's the Halos, that middle game lingers. The Yanks couldn't score -- looking back, I'm amazed they managed even the one run -- and made five errors, which makes it all the more remarkable that they kept the Angels to a tie for so long. But the Yankee pitching was just that good, especially Roger Clemens, who went 8 innings for the second start in a row.

It may very well happen one day, but I can't imagine Clemens ever pitching in the Old Timers' Game. The Game's pleasant enough on one level, but as an exercise in pure unadulterated nostalgia -- it's not for charity, there's no genuine competition or high level of play -- it's also melancholy. This is something I plan to write more about later, probably in the book (never too soon to start the hard sell!). But in any case I can't see Clemens, the pure competitor, the guy who backed his own son off the plate with a pitch towards the chin, suiting up in fifteen years, the uniform highlighting his potbelly, priding himself on still throwing 78. A refresher:
And that competitive fire never left — as discovered by Koby, who had the audacity to hit a home run off Dad in batting practice two weeks ago in Florida. He got the vintage Clemens brushback pitch the next time up.

"I figured I'd get strike one on the kid with a fastball, 92, 93 mph, and he runs into it," Clemens says. "So, of course, I was a little pissed. I said, 'OK, if that's the way it's going to be.' So next time up, I went in on him."

Says umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo: "When I umped, we used to always joke that Roger was so competitive that he'd knock down his own mom. Well, we now know that he'll at least knock down a family member."


Then again, Paul O'Neill was there Saturday -- another guy you don't want to picture taking a feeble cut at age 65. Fortunately it hasn't come to that, as O'Neill's just 44 and, to the naked eye, almost completely unchanged; in fact he's probably moving better than Damon these days. I was immensely relieved, when he stroked a single in his first at-bat, that he hadn't embarrassed himself.

There's nothing wrong with the Old Timers' Game, exactly -- the players want to be there, the fans pay to see it, it's all in good fun. And occasionally, as with Bobby Murcer's dignified, emotional presence, it provides some powerful moments. It's always great to hear the applause for Reggie (still hotdogging) and Mattingly, and the more respectful reception given to Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, who still looks sharp as hell -- my all-time favorite Yankee-I-never-got-to-see-play. This year, of course, Scott Brosius and O'Neill got a lot of love, and it warmed my cold, blackened little heart. But there's still something painful just under the surface. He tossed it off casually in a pre-game interview, but I thought O'Neill had the most revealing quote of the day: "Let's face it, when you get out on this field it brings back a lot of memories," he said. "And that's what you've got left."

***

On a lighter note, I came across this tidbit while looking at that Koby Clemens link:
"I was just trying to pick a good time to do it. Weekend or weekday?" says Clemens, who keeps a journal that he plans to turn into an autobiography.
Oh man, what's Clemens' journal like? "7/7: Guerrero got three hits today - great, now have to pitch next year too, and K him. Or Plan B: kill with shattered bat fragment. After game, rented Rambo II with Andy, even better on 14th viewing. What you choose to call Hell... Mr. Splitty calls home."

More tomorrow on the Mets' schizo series against Houston, and Carlos Beltran's catch of the year. And hey, it's the All-Star break! A time for contemplation, reflection, wondering how it all went so terribly wrong... much like Yom Kippur really, only instead of being forgiven for your sins, you have to listen to Chris Berman call the Home Run Derby.

1 comment:

Al said...

OKay. I signed up for the book.

I have an alternate title: "The Year of Living Dangerously: ARod Duels For New York."

Can't wait, "The Bronx is Burning" kicks off tonight.

Em, I think you hit gold; a Rocket parody blog. Very funny, Grrl. You had me laughing louder than usual. Have you seen the Manny parody site site.

On Roger, I've got soft spot for that big Mama’s boy

Clemens even has a treehouse on his property. It's the size of a North Carolina mountain cabin. It's for his four sons, presumably, all of whom are also big for their ages. Only Clemens's wife is little, about 5-3 and barely 100 pounds. ''I would have liked to have had a little girl,'' Debbie Clemens says, smiling. But the boys keep me busy. Roger is my biggest child.''

Clemens looks up. ''I'm trying to be the best dad I can,'' he says. ''Not to break the chain or anything. Not because I grew up without a dad. My mom's been my father figure. Still, I see my teammates' dads come into the clubhouse and give their boys a hug and. . . . '' His eyes tear up. He blurts out: ''I have a big heart. I'm sensitive.'' NYT, 3.4.01