"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Observations From Cooperstown–MLB Network, German, Sample, and Zimmer

What a wonderful surprise to turn on the TV at 7:30 on Wednesday evening and find a live baseball game being broadcast from Florida! Not only did the spring training telecast of a Red Sox-Twins lidlifter from Fort Myers signify the start of the exhibition season, but also the coming of age of the new MLB Network. With the Grapefruit and Cactus League seasons kicking off Wednesday, the Network now has a real opportunity to shine. By providing local broadcasts of a variety of spring games, beginning with the Boston feed of that Boston-Minnesota matchup, the network has brought back terrific memories from the early 1980s. That’s when our local cable outfit in Yonkers aired local broadcasts of the Braves (on SuperStation WTBS), the Red Sox (on Boston’s WSBK), the Cubs and White Sox (WGN), and the Pirates. Except for the Chicago clubs, all of those teams have now disappeared from a majority of cable outfits. By airing exhibition games this spring, the MLB Network will not only show us a similarly wide range of teams, but also give us the local flavor of the hometown cable broadcasts. And that’s going to make this one of the more enjoyable spring trainings, even if I’m stranded in 20-degree Cooperstown.

The 24-hour baseball network has picked up a large volume of steam over the last ten days, starting with the unveiling of its “30 Teams in 30 Days” series, consisting of comprehensive hour-long previews of each major league club. The MLB Network also rolled out a fresh set of old-time games a week ago, including Tom Seaver’s 300th win from 1985, Carlton Fisk’s triumphant 1981 return to Fenway Park, and Gaylord Perry’s 300th victory from 1982. Two of those old games involved the Yankees, who found themselves on the short ends of the milestone losses to Seaver and Perry. Even though both games ended in defeat, these are broadcasts that I would like to see the YES Network show from time to time as parts of “Yankee Classics.” There simply is not enough variety currently being offered by Yankee Classics. I mean, how many times can I watch Dave Righetti’s no-hitter, or another game from the 1996 World Series, within the same calendar year? Even as a Yankee fan, I have my limits when it comes to victorious repetition.

Frankly, the sting of those losses to Perry and Seaver wore off years ago. Neither game cost the Yankees a division, a pennant, or a World Series. More importantly, there is historical value in seeing those games. The Seaver game coincided with “Phil Rizzuto Day” on a beautiful afternoon at Yankee Stadium, complete with a pre-game ceremony that saw “The Scooter” knocked to the Stadium curb by an overzealous cow. How great was that? And then the game itself provided us with a chance to watch Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly, and Dave Winfield—two Hall of Famers and a near Cooperstownian—all on the same stage. As an added bonus, we had the opportunity to see old favorite Oscar Gamble wearing those ghastly red, white, and blue White Sox threads from the mid-1980s. Even the 1982 loss to Perry provided some interesting memories. It was a kick to see the crouching Gamble come to bat as a DH, watch Big John Mayberry wearing Yankee colors, and eyeball Bobby Murcer, who absolutely hated facing Perry’s assortment of puffballs and spitters, as he pinch-hit for Bucky Dent.

Heck, if a tape existed of the final game of the 1960 World Series, the Bill Mazeroski game, I would enjoy seeing that. Even though it ended up as a heartbreaking Yankee loss, it still stands as one of the most theatric games ever played. Besides, it would provide the rare opportunity to see players like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Roger Maris in something other than isolated highlights, all the while playing against the nostalgic background of the wondrous Forbes Field.

Now, as for the Pine Tar Game, that’s one I’m still not ready to see…

With regard to the current day Yankees, I wonder if the front office might take a flier on veteran infielder Esteban German, who was designated for assignment by the Royals over the weekend (so as to make room for free agent Juan Cruz). The Yankees badly need infield depth, a problem that is highlighted by Angel Berroa’s non-roster presence in Tampa. German, 31, had a dismal offensive season last year, but did well as a part-time player in both 2006 and ’07, when he put up on-base percentages of .422 and .351, respectively. German is primarily a second baseman-third baseman, but has played a pinch of shortstop, too, along with a good measure of left field. If nothing else, German would be an upgrade over the zero-tooled Berroa and could serve as an insurance policy at Triple-A Scranton…

Finally, here’s a postscript to my earlier feature on former Yankee Billy Sample. In nine major league seasons, Sample played, rather remarkably, for eight different managers. The cross-section of skippers included Billy Hunter, Pat Corrales, Don Zimmer, Darrell Johnson, the eccentric Doug Rader, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin, and Chuck Tanner. The transition from the laidback Berra to the fiery Martin to the ever-optimistic Tanner must have been sufficiently traumatic. The identity of Sample’s favorite manager might surprise you. That would be Zimmer, the onetime Yankee guru who guided Sample’s Rangers in 1981 and part of ‘82 before being given the boot in mid-season. Sample liked Zimmer’s honesty and directness, specifically his willingness to talk “straight” to his players when questioned about roles and strategy. Unfortunately, that’s a managerial tendency that is becoming more and more outdated.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Bruce Markusen

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1 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 3, 2009 4:02 pm

The MLB Network has exceeded even my most hopeful expectations. It has quickly become my primary sports viewing destination and I think established itself as the go-to place for baseball news, quickly surpassing ESPN. If the latter hopes to hold onto to the baseball fan, it will need to seriously change its coverage of the game.

As for Yankee Classics, I agree that it would be nice to have a more diverse collection, but that might be a product of what's available. Also, while benign games like Seaver's 300th make the outcome irrelevant, I do think most Yankee fans want to watch games in which the team wins. Personally, I wish they had access to any game from the 1980s. I have a few such games on DVD, and it's a pleasure to watch Donnie in his prime with Rizzuto and White at the mic.

2 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2009 4:05 pm

Yeah, that was loudly demonstrated by the way Steinbrenner and his cronies ran Zimmer out of New York...

Berroa might make the issue of his presence a moot point if he continues to show why he's a non-roster invite as opposed to a starting shortstop somewhere. Still, I'd rather see the Yanks be more proactive in finding free agent rookies than squirreling away retreads from other lousy teams.

3 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2009 4:06 pm

[1] Agreed on all counts.

4 thelarmis   ~  Mar 3, 2009 4:53 pm

i'd rather have ray durham than german. but who knows how much and what kind of contract would get durham into camp...

5 randym77   ~  Mar 3, 2009 8:25 pm

Yeah, I think Yankees Classics have to have the good guys win.

But there are other games they could show, that were lower-key victories. Mussina's 200th win?

Anyone watch the game today? I was at work, unfortunately. Looks like it was a good game, though. Gardner was 3 for 3 with a double.

6 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 3, 2009 8:26 pm

[1] I really, really wish I could get the MLB Network over here..though Buddha knows I spend wayy too much time on baseball already..that Perry game must have been somthing to watch

7 OldYanksFan   ~  Mar 3, 2009 8:57 pm


I just hreard from Keith Olbermann of 'Countdown', that ARod has discovered a 'cyst' on his hip on is going in for an exam.

Let us pray this is not serious.

8 randym77   ~  Mar 3, 2009 9:08 pm

Yikes. From the Times:

JUPITER, Fla. — Alex Rodriguez has an injured hip and may not play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, according to a person in baseball who has spoken to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is expected to fly to Colorado on Wednesday to meet with Dr. Marc Phillipon, a hip specialist. Before he left for the W.B.C., the Yankees’ medical staff examined him, and he had a magnetic resonance imaging test on Saturday. The M.R.I. showed that Rodriguez had a cyst.

9 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 3, 2009 9:20 pm

[7][8] I don't like the word "cyst"..bad connotations of hearing "it's only a cyst" and then finding out there was cancer...why would JUST a cyst mean he couldn't play in the WBC??

10 Dimelo   ~  Mar 3, 2009 9:24 pm

ARod's Cyst said he wants Reyes on the Yanks. That Cyst says pretty amazing things!

11 OldYanksFan   ~  Mar 3, 2009 9:25 pm

[8] [9] PeteAbe has more info and a release from the Yankees, over at Lohud. It does not sound bad.... but of course, cysts can come from injection sites.... so rev up the steroids bus.

12 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 3, 2009 9:25 pm

In other shocking injury news, Brad Penny and JD Drew were scratched with shoulder and back issues..Sox can miss those guys and still compete, without A-Rod we're #$%&ed..even a hint of injury with him scares me!

13 randym77   ~  Mar 3, 2009 9:36 pm

[9] Pete Abe thinks the Yanks may be just using it as an excuse to pull A-Rod out of the WBC. They don't like the WBC. But MLB and A-Rod may fight them on that.

14 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2009 9:40 pm

There are various forms of cysts, some benign and some malignant. I've had abscesses removed twice last year; painful yes, but not cancerous. Sadly, OYF has a chance of being correct as that could be a cause. I wouldn't speculate or jump to any conclusions about this though until all the facts are in, however many years that may take.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 3, 2009 9:58 pm

[11] I guess you can't blame anyone for such speculation, but the fact of the matter is cysts are a very common result of the repetitive nature of most baseball activities, and seemingly much less common as the result of injections. Also, while there has been a link between steroid use and the development of cysts in the liver, what Arod likely has is a bone cyst, and the most common cause of those seems to be wear and tear.

16 Mattpat11   ~  Mar 3, 2009 11:15 pm

Pull him out of the Bud Games immediately.

17 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 3, 2009 11:30 pm

Just read about the Wash.Nationals and their blunder with the Carlos Alvarez signing..this story should be getting more play I think. I wonder what legal steps the team is going to take, but it seems that it's buyer beware when signing these poor kids in the DR..Reading about some of their backgrounds, I can empathize with their decision to falsify their ages and get that signing bonus..

Jim Bowden, by the way, easily joins Bavasi from Seattle and the Pirates GM from a few years back (Bonfay??) as worst GMs of this era..sad that the franchise is such a mess

18 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2009 11:51 pm

[17] Frank Wren's making a run for the title so far...

19 Mattpat11   ~  Mar 4, 2009 12:01 am

Ed Wade has to be in there somewhere. I remember when everyone heard Chacon attacked the GM, they were appalled. When they realized it was Ed Wade, less so.

20 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 4, 2009 12:12 am

[18][19] Was Steve Phillips as bad as my Mets friends say? He did "lead" the, to the Subway Series after all..then again, I think he traded for Mo Vaughn..

21 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 4, 2009 12:19 am

making Michael Kay sound like Vin Scully... http://tinyurl.com/askuwa

22 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 4, 2009 12:36 am

[20] Yes. Steve Phillips' brain went cat poo after 2000 and he basically ran himself out of town. Still, he was no Jim (Kazmir for the which Zambrano?) Duquette.

23 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 4, 2009 12:42 am

[22] damn, that Kazmir deal was awful..

Steve Phillips by far my least-favorite "analyst" on the mothership..

24 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 4, 2009 12:52 am

[23] Yeah, shaping up to be this era's 'Buhner for Phelps' >;)

25 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 4, 2009 1:09 am

[24] Actually, reading what Bill James wrote about Ken Phelps before the trade, he might have been a solid 1B/DH on the Yanks; but the Yanks had Donnie at first and Jack Clark DHing and no regular time for him, so it was moreso George's meddling stupidity than anything that Phelps was a flop after the trade. Bear that in mind next time someone calls for platooning the DH spot with OPP/never-was players.

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