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Monthly Archives: October 2003

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COOPERSTOWN CONFIDENTIAL

by Bruce Markusen

Final Postseason Edition

October 31, 2003

This is the final edition of “Cooperstown Confidential” for the 2003 season. Iíd like to thank all of the loyal readers, those who have taken the time to write and provide feedback, and especially those who have offered their kind support and encouragement. Iím not sure what the immediate future holds for “Cooperstown Confidential,” but hopefully Iíll be able to make periodic visits to this and other web sites during the winter. Any suggestions for improving the column are certainly welcome. Most importantly, thanks for reading.

[This article is being reprinted here at Bronx Banter with the permission of Bruce Markusen. For previous editions of "Cooperstown Confidential" head over to Baseball Primer. --AB]

YANKEES CIRCA 2004

Even before they lost the World Series in six games to the Florida Marlins, some writers had called for massive rebuilding to take place in the Bronx over the winter. Other observers, taking a different course, point out that the New York Yankees couldnít be that flawed, since they came within two games of winning their fifth World Championship under Joe Torre. In truth, the reality of the situation lies somewhere in between. The Yankees donít need to be rebuilt from top to bottom (even though George Steinbrenner probably has a differing opinion on that right now), but they canít afford to stand pat either, principally because of their collective age and the retirement of Roger Clemens. Instead, the Yankees need to perform some significant tinkering, not only in terms of acquiring outside talent but also in rearranging some of the current parts so that they fit better along the defensive spectrum.

While thereís always the question of what should be done, that often doesnít mesh with the changes that will be done. So with an eye toward the logical and the reasonable, hereís a plan of action

BOO

The more I think about it, the more frightened I am about the prospect of the Red Sox getting Alex Rodriguez. Think about it: A Rod and the Sox are a perfect fit. The Sox would land a great player who actually loves to deal with the media. Think he would wilt when the Boston press turned on him? Well, considering the kind of negative publicity that A Rod has endured over the past three seasons, I seriously doubt it. Whether you think he’s a phoney or not, Rodriguez is one smooth customer when it comes to media relations.

A Rod is also a better player than either Nomar or Manny. He’d be the greatest player the Sox have had since Babe Ruth. Then Boston would have the kind of marketable star who would not only match Derek Jeter in terms of exposure and popularity, but he’d most likely blow “Mr. Clutch” out of the water too. (Oh yeah, A Rod is also a much better player than DJ as well.) You’d better believe that Rodriguez would like to up the ante on his old pal, Jeteronomy as well.

How about 75 home runs? Think the friendly confines of Fenway Park appeal to Mr. Rodriguez? Here’s another question: Do you think Boston is on A Rod’s radar? Come on, now. Rodriguez would be able to escape Texas to a place where baseball matters more than life or death. He’d be smack dab in the middle of the most intense rivalry in the game, and of course, he’d still be the best player in the league.

Plus, he’d be able to ride shotgun as Boston’s marquee player when the Sox finally topple the Yankees (I should say “if”, but count me amongst those who believe the Sox will have their day before long). It’s almost too good to be true. (The thought of Curt Schilling or Billy Wagner in Beantown ain’t making me too happy either.) An’ that’s why I am ascared. But hey, I’m a jittery sort. I scare easily.

Meanwhile, two more Cuban ballplayers recently defected and plan to play professional baseball in the States. Maels Rodriguez is a 24-year old pitcher, and Yobal Due

HERE’S MUD IN YER EYE

The New YorkPost is reporting that Popeye Zimmer is close to signing on as a bench coach for Lou Pinella and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I’m sure Lou would love to tweak his old friend George by having Zim on his bench. It’d be the He-Man-George-Hater-Club.

THANKS, BUT NO THANKS

George Steinbrenner will not fall for the Rope-a-Dope ploy the Red Sox set up for him when they placed Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers. The Yankees, along with the Mets, will pass on Manny’s services. The rest of baseball isn’t chomping at the bit either. According to The Boston Globe:

“Who’s going to take that deal?” said one major league team executive. “There aren’t many teams that can afford him. The guy is not a National League player, for one. He can’t play defense, and his contract goes forever. And he’s a disruptive guy on a good team; what would he be like on a bad team?”

The Red Sox were banking on George’s impulsiveness, but the old man won’t bite, thank goodness. Regardless, Dan Shaughnessy likes how the Sox are thinking:

The Sox have made a bold statement to their 31-going-on-12-year-old slugger. Next time Manny and his greedy agent, Jeffrey Moorad, start talking about Manny not being comfortable in Boston and wanting to be traded, the Sox have an answer. We couldn’t give you away, Manny. Not with that contract. Not with your childish history of Manny being Manny.Forget the idea that the Sox have embarrassed Manny. Ramirez and his agent asked for this. They’ve been begging the Sox to trade him to the Yankees. The Sox have told them the Yankees won’t pick up his contract, never mind part with players. To prove their point, the Boston ball club is demonstrating the Yankees won’t pick up Manny’s deal even if there’s no trade involved. Nice going, Sox.

John Harper and Joel Sherman think that George is doing the right thing too. Kevin Kernan floats a rumor that I feared from the start: Boston plans to move both Manny and Nomar and trade for Alex Rodriguez. It makes sense to me. I don’t know whether there is any truth to it, of course. But I always imagine the worst case scenerio and run with it.

CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP

Just because the season is over, doesn’t mean that the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry has slowed down any. There is plenty of excitement around the blogging community this morning. Red Sox fans seem particularly excited about Boston’s willingness to rid themselves of Manny Ramirez (Peter Gammons has the inside scoop). Check out what (Fox-free) Edward Cossete, Ben Jacobs and Larry Mahnken and David Pinto have to say (Pinto actually makes several points about what moves the Yankees should make that I agree with, i.e. moving Mr. Clutch to the hot corner).

Meanwhile, Bryan Smith has his own ideas about what the Yankees should do for 2004 over at Wait ‘Til Next Year. Bryan likes the idea of keeping Felix Heredia. I am fine with that, but the reliever I truly covet, is Shigetoshi Hasegawa. For starters, I would just love to hear Bob Shepard announce his name at the Stadium.

BRONX BANTER INTERVIEW: PAT JORDAN

CULT FAILURE

Pat Jordan is from the Old School. He is not politically correct. He drinks booze and calls women broads, and frankly, doesn’t care if you like it or not. He also writes in a clean, succinct style that is clearly old fashioned (God bless him). That may explain why you mainly see his work in The New York Times Magazine. Jordan was a bonus baby in the Braves organization in the late 1950ís. He was a promising young pitcher but never made it even close to the Majors. He later became a journalist, and a decade after his playing career ended, Jordan released “A False Spring,” a memoir about his baseball life (and death). “A False Spring” went on to become a minor classic. Less than ten years ago, Jordan wrote a follow-up memoir, “A Nice Tuesday,” in which he continued to examine what went wrong with his career as a jock. Jordan has also written several other sports books, as well as a thriller series, that according to the author, “isnít so thrilling, but there is lots of sex and violence.”

I had the opportunity to speak with Jordan late this summer. He is a blunt but funny guy, a real straight shooter. Some of our conversation may seem dated, but I doubt that will be a problem for the reader. The Hot Stove is here, and this is a long one, so dig in and enjoy.

Bronx Banter: You are most famous for your first baseball memoir “A False Spring.” But I actually prefer the second one, “A Nice Tuesday.”

Pat Jordan: So do I. Nobody else does. I thought “A Nice Tuesday” was much better, but thatís the way it goes.

BB: I felt that the second book actually made the first one richer, deeper.

PJ: The other thing with the first book is that I assumed a persona. You know what I mean? And some of it doesnít ring true to me today because it was a persona that I was working on. Whereas with “A Nice Tuesday” I didnít have any persona. To me, it was much more natural. In other words, I wasnít trying to create a character, it was just me. In “A False Spring” I created myself as much harder-edged than I really was. I wasnít stupid enough to go up to two girls and say, “Oh, who are the cunts?” I wasnít that dumb. It was too stylized as far as I was concerned. Whereas with “A Nice Tuesday” I didnít have any motives other than just getting it all down.

BB: There was self-consciousness about the writing in “A False Spring” that didnít exist in “A Nice Tuesday.”

PJ: Absolutely.

BB: You were in your early 30s when you wrote “A False Spring,” and the book is about you trying to figure out what happened to you in your early 20s. It felt as if you still didnít really know what had happened yet.

PJ: Absolutely.

BB: “A Nice Tuesday” has the advantage of perspective. Also, you only hinted at your family story in the first book, and that is fleshed out much more in the second one.

PJ: I skipped over it in “A False Spring.” I think itís only in the first chapter. The second book was really a memoir that had very little to do with baseball. You know, we had reviews that complained because it wasnít “A False Spring.” One review out in San Diego by an ex-ballplayer complained there wasnít enough baseball, and there was all this bullshit about dogs.

BB: I liked the stuff about your dogs.

PJ: Well even if you donít like dogs, it was part of the whole thing. I was trying to use Bubba, for example, as a stand-in for me.

BB: He was the dog who got so unruly that you had to get rid of him. But you sympathized with him because he was just being his natural self.

PJ: Exactly. I was trying to say that at least I could change my personality a little bit as a human being, but poor Bubba was trapped into his. The difference between the two books is that “A False Spring” was plotted, and it was mechanical. In other words, I was going to touch every base: what it was like to be in Yankee Stadium, what it was like to be in spring training. “A Nice Tuesday” wasnít plotted. I never planned on writing about dogs when I started the book. The original book was to be about pitching at 56. And then I started this stuff, and I called up my editor and said, “Do you mind if I put in this drag racing stuff?” He said, “No, go ahead.” I said, “What about this dog stuff? The dogís keep popping up.” So what I learned with “A Nice Tuesday” is be less disciplined and more open to mystery, and to let things come that intruded themselves whenever they wanted to.

BB: Was “A False Spring” your first full-length book?

PJ: No, the first book I wrote was called “The Black Coach.” It was a book about a black football coach who took over a white high school football team in North Carolina in 1971, I think it was. 1972. That was really the first book I had ever written.

BB: Was it a novel?

PJ: Oh, no. It was a non-fiction book. Itís a good book. Itís pure reporting. On e-bay, they want a fortune for it. Iíve seen it go for $175-$200 for the book. All of my books are like leaves of grass. If you are lucky enough to have an unsigned copy, you are in great shape. I tell my friends who want it signed, no, keep the unsigned copy, itís worth more.

BB: Did you write “Suitors of Spring” next?

PJ: Yeah, that was the second book. It was a collection of Sports Illustrated pieces. Then “A False Spring” was the third one. I had a three-book contract with this publisher, Dodd Mead, and “A False Spring” was the one that they really wanted. They wouldnít give me enough to write it, so I said, “Do a collection of my Sports Illustrated pieces.” This way Iíd get paid twice. That way I was able to write “A False Spring.” Which didnít do well. It didnít sell many books. None of my books have sold anything. Iím sort of like a cult failure. You know the guy from New Orleans who wrote “Confederacy of Dunces?” He was a cult success. Iím a cult failure.

BB: Hey, at least youíre alive to see your own failure.

PJ: Yeah, they either drink themselves to death or kill themselves. I canít afford to, Iíve got too many bills. I have to keep working. Every time I think, “Oh, I can shoot myself,” Iím like, “But who is going to take care of the dogs and Susan? Who is going to pay the mortgage?” I canít afford it.

BB: Susan, your second wife, is Meg Ryanís mom.

PJ: Thatís right.

BB: I really liked your observations about Meg Ryanís acting. About how she plays it safe.

PJ: Oh yeah, she plays it safe. And at first I was putting her down. But when it came time for me to pitch again, I realized the kind of fears she must have to branch off into something different. Actually, my wife is doing a fit, because Meg Ryan is doing a movie called “In the Cut” which she has naked sex scenes in. I said, “Maybe sheíll blame that on you Susan, she blames everything else on you.” Iím dying to find out what kind of body she has. I said, “Iíve only had your body, maybe hers is better.” But I understand her completely. Itís like when you get that sliver of success, you are terrified that you might lose it. So you never do anything different. One of the problems with what Iíve done over the years is that Iíve never done the same thing. I didnít do what George Plimpton did and write the same book five times. I have a novel out right now, and nobody has any idea that itís me. Itís called, “AKA Sheila Weinstein.” Itís the second novel in a trilogy and there is no sports in it. But it keeps me interested.

BB: How long did you write for Sports Illustrated?

PJ: Seven or eight years. 1970-í78, something like that. Then I did books for a couple of years, then I worked for GQ for a couple of years. I write mostly for The New York Times [magazine] right now. I write for everybody, you name it. I had a piece in Playboy last month. I do whoever pays.

BB: The piece you did on Clemens a couple of years ago really changed my perception of the guy.

PJ: Roger? What did you think of him before you read it?

BB: Well, Iím a Yankee fan.

PJ: Iím a Yankee fan.

BB: Yeah, well, then you should know how I feel. I rooted against him for all those years. I hated Clemens. I just thought he was a big prick from Texas, by way of Boston and how much worse can you get than that for a Yankee fan? But I felt that you painted him as this big, goofy narcissist.

PJ: Yeah, heís a total narcissist, but heís also

CALL TO ARMS

The Mets officially hired Jim Duquette the other day as their GM. According to the Daily News, the Metropolitans will also hire Rick Peterson as their pitching coach. Peterson, who made a name for himself with the Oakland A’s, gives Mets fans a reason to look forward to the next couple of seasons. Peterson is a progressive thinker, and it will be interesting to see how he develops the young arms in the Mets system.

SOX DANGLE MANNY

The Boston Red Sox have placed Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers, hoping that there is a team out there that will scoop up their star slugger. However, it is unlikely that there will be suitor for Ramirez, who is due $104 million over the next five years. According to the New York Times:

“It’s a weird thing, to be honest with you,” said one of the executives, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. “I don’t know what they’re thinking, other than they want to get out from under that contract.”

Even if Ramirez isn’t picked up by midnight Friday, the Red Sox have sent a message here. They don’t want Manny, and I’m assuming that they will eat a chunk of his contract in order to move him before next season. Rob Neyer opines:

My read of the situation is that the Red Sox desperately want to relieve themselves of their $100 million obligation to Ramirez. But why put Ramirez on waivers now, just three days after the World Series?

Because 1) there’s only one team that will seriously consider claiming Ramirez, and 2) that team’s owner is never going to be more frustrated and more aggressive than he is right now.

Will Steinbrenner rise to the bait? I doubt it.

…What makes all this so fascinating isn’t that the Red Sox have placed Ramirez on waivers. That’s just common sense. What’s fascinating is that the Red Sox are essentially offering a great player to their sworn enemies, gratis. The reports I’ve seen mention a number of teams that might be interested in Ramirez, but unless the Red Sox are willing to send a significant sum of money with Ramirez, there’s only one team, one owner, that might have serious interest.

Never a dull moment, huh?

MISS YOU

One of the things I look forward to most during the off season is being able to sit back and read baseball books. Of course, I love all the Hot Stove activity too

MISERY LOVES COMPANY

There is a fine post about the misery of being a baseball fan by Flynn over at Redbird Nation. He talks specifically about St. Louis Cardinals misery, but he’s really talking about all of us (well, maybe not Yankee fans, who rate at the top of the list in terms of Fan Enjoyment):

Each year 29 teams go home unhappy and one gets to enjoy it all for about five minutes before the speculation begins about whether they can do it again.

Misery? Fans need misery. Misery begets hope. Hope generates interest, interest turns to obsession, and obsession turns to ecstasy on those rare moments when it all goes your way. Hereís hoping weíll know what that is again, next year.

Here, here.

CHANGE IS GOOD

I don’t know what moves the Yankees will make this off-season, but I’m excited about next year’s squad. The 2003 Bombers had a great year, but there is plenty of room for improvement. John Haper suggests that Yankee fans remain calm:

A little perspective, please. This team got to Game 6 of the World Series in a year when virtually all of their stars – except perhaps Jorge Posada – had average or even below-average seasons, at least partly because of injuries.

…They were a flawed team, to be sure. Their weaknesses have been analyzed to death in recent days…But as long as George is free to keep spending, and as long as Torre stays on to maintain sanity in the clubhouse, the Yankees will continue to be October mainstays.

This isn’t the ’80s, when he threw money at name players without rhyme or reason. Steinbrenner’s surrounded by smarter baseball people now who, if nothing else, have made him understand the importance of investing in pitching.

Harper goes on to delineate the moves he would consider making if he ran the Bombers.

YOU GOTTA BEWEAVE

I have flip-flopped on the subject of “Jeff Weaver: Yankee pitcher” all season long. One the one hand, he’s been infuriating to watch. His demeanor is less than inspiring, but there is something about him that I like too. I think it’s because he comes off like a slacker with a chip on his shoulder, or a spoiled and tempermental child, but part of me likes his foolishness. Weaver has been labled as a guy who can’t pitch in New York, the new Eddie Lee Whitson. But Whitson was a veteran when he came to the Yankees, and he truly hated pitching for Billy Martin in New York.

Weaver is young, likes it here and wants to stay. I don’t know whether he will ever pitch well in New York, or if the Yankees are willing to give him another chance, but it seems like he’s got enough ‘stuff’ to be able to pitch well somewhere. I like how Weaver hasn’t completely caved in on himself either, despite being a favorite target of the fans and the media.

The Daily News ran a piece on Weaver’s wanting to remain a Yankee yesterday. The headline ran: “Weaver’s Pitiful Pitch.” So much of objectivity. And this is a guy who wants to do the right thing:

“I like it here,” he said. “I love the stage that we get to play on, and I like the focus and competition. … It’s taken a little bit longer than I hoped to get things going, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I can get things going here.”

…”I went out there and pitched the best I could,” said Weaver, who hadn’t pitched in a game for 27 days. “I hadn’t been out there in a long time, and then you get your first taste of it, right in the mix. I was hoping for the best; I felt confident going in there. I know that I could probably throw the same pitch again, and it could be a ground ball to third base.

“It’s something that you never want to really second-guess,” he said, “but at the same time it ended the game and changed the complexion of the Series.”

Will the Yankees be willing to give this string bean another shot? I would say it’s a 50/50 chance at best. But as a number five starter? I would like to see it happen.

LIFE IN HELL

Travis Nelson has designed a very amusing diagram of what Yankee Hell looks like right about now. Head over to Boy of Summer and create your own version of Yankee Hell. (Don’t forget to include the photo of Zimmer wearing Cliff Huxtable’s worst nightmare.)

AROUND THE BASES

AND ON AND ON AND ON

There is still plenty of great baseball writing out there, man. Here is a sampling of some of the more interesting articles I’ve run across this morning:

1. David Pinto links Ira Berkow’s sympathetic piece on Joe Torre from Tuesday’s Times.

2. Aaron Gleeman is back with another installment of “Rating Derek Jeter,” a juicy topic that is sure to keep the traffic flowing.

3. Ben Jacobs and Edward Cossette weigh in on the Boston’s decision not to retain Grady Little.

4. Rich Lederer offers an interesting look at Josh Beckett and Roger Clemens.

5. Steve Goldman gives his take on the World Serious and the Yankees’ 2003 season over at The Pinstriped Bible.

6. And of course, don’t sleep on the latest from two of my favorites: Jay Jaffe and Will Carroll.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Bob Klapisch reports from Tampa and speculates on what moves the Yankees will make this off-season. Larry Mahnken and I were interviewed via e-mail by Bryan Smith about what we would do if we ran the team. I am no expert in this field. In fact, I am a rank amatuer. But that makes me like just about everybody else with an opinion about what should be done. I’m sure I’ll be changing my mind about fifty times in the next month. But for my initial, off-the-cuff reactions, head over to Wait ‘Til Next Year.

MOANIN’

Derek Zumsteg of Baseball Prospectus is another excellent journalist who can be labled as a Yankee-hater. He had a piece on Prospectus yesterday about the run-of-the-mill Yankee fan (subscription is required). I like what he wrote about Jason Giambi:

Dogged by a knee injury that affected his swing, Giambi only hit .250/.412/.527 on the season. Sure, towards the end of the year he tailed off (badly) and when (if) he comes back on a surgically repaired leg he’ll need to establish he can hit strikes. And yeah, he’s a big guy who likes his women and fast food and we’re told, fast women and fast food on fast women, but there’s a crazy desire to bury him, to ship him off to the remotest corner of baseball and eat his salary for the remainder of that crazy deal they gave him, all because he had a year that wasn’t as spectacularly amazing as the previous three. But he’s Jason Freaking Giambi, one of the most feared hitters for years! Turning his hitting struggles into character issues and his character issues into proof he’s not a Yankee and thus needs to be exiled–it baffles me.

Derek, I’m less baffled than simply vexed. This is the way it works around here—produce and you are a saint, fail and you are a bum. Oh, brother.

DOWN-SIZING

The Yankees fired hitting coach Rick Down yesterday. The only surprise is that Down lasted through the entire season. Joe Torre–who was invited to Boss George’s Tampa Summit for the first time–spoke with Down yesterday and wished him the best of luck.

The season really feels over this morning. Not because Down was canned, but because the baseball articles in the papers are dwindling rapidily. We were spoiled in New York once again with a long post-season run. The papers were filled with all sorts of Yankee news on Sunday and Monday and yesterday as well. But today, vacations start, and the dearth of baseball news begins. Anybody ready for the Knicks? (Insert agonizing screams here.)

Still, I think we’ll find something to talk about. Somehow, someway.

no title

NAKED IN NEW YORK

Aaron Gleeman evaluates the past four post-seasons only to discover that Derek Jeter may not be so “clutch” after all. Jeter fans: brace yourselves.

HATE

Rob Neyer has a column on the history of hating the Yankees over at ESPN. You mean everybody doesn’t adore the lovable and huggable Bronx Bombers? What gives? I’m shocked.

In the final analysis, here is Neyer’s take:

I would suggest that people hate the Yankees for one reason: they win. Yes, there’s some hometown antipathy, and management could show a bit more humility when the Yankees do win. But how many people hated the Yankees in the late 1960s or the late 1980s, when they were struggling? I don’t remember paying them any mind at all; they were just another overpaid, under-performing team that happened to wear pinstripes.

So, yes, for most of us it’s simply the winning. Sour grapes. For me, though, it’s more than that. I honestly believe that when the Yankees win, it’s unhealthy, because when the Yankees win that becomes the topic of conversation. The Yankees haven’t won since 2000, and yet people still tell me all the time how horrible it is, that the Yankees win every year.

…There’s a fine line between hating the Yankees and hating what the Yankees mean. I don’t exactly know which side of the line I’m on, but I do know that Josh Beckett is going to be one of my favorite pitchers for a long, long time.

Before Yankee fans get too steamed here, just remember that Rob roots for the Royals.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver