Today the Mets finally released Oliver Perez, and there was much rejoicing. Perez, who was heading into his third year of a horrid contract, and two and a half years as a punchline about the recent Mets administrations’ ineptitude, joins fellow scapegoat Luis Castillo, who was released Friday and promptly picked up by the Phillies (whose fantastic pitching staff will have to hope the grounders they induce avoid second base). Both Castillo and Perez were the targets of intense fan dislike, which was thoroughly earned from a baseball perspective though not from a personal one. Castillo was often accused of being sulky or half-assed when, in fact, he simply had no working knees. Neither he nor Perez can be blamed for taking the ludicrous contracts Omar Minaya offered them, but you also can’t blame Mets fans for their palpable relief at no longer having to watch those two.
Anyway, certain players on certain teams are destined to be the butt of jokes, the target of fans’ unhappiness. I bring this up because the Yankees are primed to have a few of those this year. Though there is obviously a major difference in that none of these new players have especially large or unreasonable contracts –and so shouldn’t garner the level of contempt that Perez of Castillo did — don’t wait too long to get your Colon jokes ready. When you have three real major league starters and are just hoping to get by in the last two rotations spots, you’re going to have some clunkers. Clunkers are an enjoyable part of the game too, though, if you can bring the right expectations and attitude to it. I know as someone writing about the games, I am grateful to Tony Womack and Sir Sidney Ponson for the material.
This has been coming since that fateful week Cliff Lee decided to head to Phillie and Andy Pettitte decided to saty in Texas. The Yankees haven’t named their 4 or 5 starters yet, less than two weeks before the season starts, but if I had to guess I’d say we’re looking at Ivan Nova and Bartolo Colon, who seem to have the edge over Sergio Mitre and Freddy Garcia. And there’s no way those two will stay in those spots all season, so there’s more to come. Once in a while you get an Aaron Small or Gustavo Chacin – sometimes you even get both at once! – but mostly you don’t. And that’s okay. Even the Yankees have to make due with baseball’s scrap heap sometimes.
I’m reminded of a tale from some baseball book or other that I was reading, years ago, about minor league life. A coach was described who would always console struggling players with comforting words along the lines of, “Relax, kid, don’t blame yourself – blame the dopey scout who signed you”. Yes, it’s important not to make things unduly personal. The Yanks are going to deal with some clunkers this year, no way arund it. But if we approach this in the right spirit I think we can have some fun.
So, what do you think – who will we be making agonized jokes about come June?