I was flipping through the channels last night and came across Al Leiter, of all people, on Spike TV's Pros vs. Joes. Now, granted, all I know about this show is what I've read on Deadspin... but seriously, Al Leiter is no John Rocker. In fact, last I heard he was considering running for Congress! What happened?
Not that Leiter embarassed himself -- the "Joes" only got a couple hard-hit balls in many attempts off him, and the Spike TV radar gun clocked him at 91 and 92 miles per hour, once even 93. (Since I can't recall him ever hitting that as a Yankee in his last season, I'm a bit skeptical, but I'm willing to let it pass). Weirdly, the guy who won - by hitting 1 triple in 10 swings, and later getting down a nice bunt - was named David Ortiz.
(UPDATE: Per this SI.com interview Leiter gave on the topic:
This was his opportunity to get back at every beer guzzling, hot dog chomping, chain-smoking blowhard that taunted him during his 18-year career. Although Leiter does wish this chance would have come a few years ago while he was in the visiting bullpen in Philadelphia.So... he's not looking for money, but revenge? I guess I can get behind that.)
"This is as close as you're going to get to getting back at them on the field," says Leiter, who is the first pitcher to have defeated all 30 MLB teams. "You couldn't get an active athlete to come out here while under contract and really get after it. That would be the best. Having a guy that yells at you at Veteran Stadium, 'Leiter you suck!' and then say, "Come on down." That would be the best reality show ever, but this is pretty close."
Getting a little off-topic, I found it odd that the "Pros" -- in this case, also including Nick Van Exel and Warren Moon -- all root for each other. I mean, as far as I know they weren't friends before this; why not root for the regular dude to win some prize money? Do they feel the reputations of all aging ex-athletes hang in the balance? Or do they just support other rich and famous people on general principles?
Anyway, speaking of retiring pitchers who played for both the Mets and Yankees...Newsday's Dave Lennon reports that El Duque's offseason foot surgery was not for his bunion, as previously thought:
The bunion on his right foot is still there and its causing him problems this spring.
El Duque had surgery to fix a dislocated second toe, which is now actually shorter, affecting his balance. Because of that, Hernandez is lagging behind the other pitchers as he tries to adjust. At the moment, he's planning to face hitters on Saturday.
Duque also talked about retirement for the first time saying its 50-50 after this season. He jokingly slid out his nameplate and said, "Someone else next year."
Jeremy Cothran of the Ledger has further disgusting details. Last year it was arthritis, then bunions... shingles and gout can only be next.
I absolutely love seeing El Duque pitch, and as the only current major leaguer to regularly throw the eephus, for both the Yankees and Mets, he's sort of the patron saint of this blog. After ten years of watching him, and a few group interviews, I still have basically no feel for his personality -- he doesn't much enjoy speaking to reporters and is hilariously shameless about pretending not to speak English, often mere seconds after speaking it perfectly well -- but Hernandez is incredibly inventive on the mound. These days he usually gets hitters out with nothing but rubber bands, thumbtacks and chewing gum, as his fastball is now practically the same speed Joba Chamberlain's changeup, but if anything it's made him even more interesting to watch.
But the guy's a lot older than he claims, and it looks like he's finally reaching the end of the line. There are few players I'll miss more... but I never want to see him on Spike TV.
Pedro, on the other hand, will need his own show.