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Baseball Notebook: A crying shame? Oh, just quiet down

Sunday, June 08, 2003

By Steve Ziants, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Obviously, George Steinbrenner was out getting popcorn or swinging a deal to have his YES Network installed as part of a rebuilt Baghdad when Tom Hanks uttered the 11th commandment:

“There’s no crying in baseball.”

There doesn’t seem any other way to explain his rant over the fact that the Yankees had to play the Reds and Cubs in interleague play this week while the hated Red Sox had the allegedly inferior Pirates and Brewers. “Now what’s right about that?” Steinbrenner asked a reporter from The New York Times.

Maybe the disparity finds root in the fact that George didn’t want to give up his home-and-home money-printing orgy with the Mets every year, thus making it impossible for schedule-makers to balance the books. But far be it from The Guy In The Stands to interject reason into the middle of a good whimper.

“I don’t think there’s any equity or fairness,” boo-hooed Steinbrenner.

Well, doh! Get in line. But be advised: There may be a wait. The That’s-Unfair-I-Wuz-Screwed Line starts, The Guy believes, somewhere just after the discovery of fire and before The Father In The Stands took away the keys to the ’74 Matador.

In Chicago, slammin’ Sammy took on heretofore unimagined meanings. How many wanted to damn an entire career over a single broken bat? How many wanted to discount his entire stock of 76 “good” bats as testified to by baseball’s Matrix squad Wednesday and instead believe they’re now stored away in Area 51 next to every UFO to have landed since 1954, Lee Harvey Oswald’s address book, Amelia Earhart and a vial of aged Gaylord Perry spittle.

Cries of the spoiled. Cries of the self-righteous. This was the week that was.

But if you want some real unfairness, let’s look beyond the headlines and the Boss yuks and the fallen idols. Contrary to what George believes -- as reality often is -- the fates and Katy Feeney have not stockpiled weapons of mass inequity around the Bronx. And for all the moral outrage, Sammy Sosa is not hiding Saddam Hussein in the right-field ivy at Wrigley.

Want unfair?

Bruce Chen, once heir to the Braves’ pitching dynasty, had to pack up all his belongings yet again after he was released by a third organization in 84 days Sunday when the Red Sox designated him for assignment.

Want unfair?

The six games the Yankees get vs. the Mets means the Pirates got this bonus weekend series in Atlanta against the National League’s best team.

Want unfair?

The orphaned Montreal Expos, who’ve already been on the road since May 26, must get on a plane in San Juan tonight for an eight-hour flight to Seattle to play the hottest team in baseball as they continue their 22-game, 25-day odyssey (on which they were a playoff-chances-killing 4-8 through Friday).

Want unfair?

One start after taking a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning and losing, Padres pitcher Brian Lawrence Tuesday took a four-hit shutout into the ninth vs. the Tigers and -- you guessed it -- lost, 3-2.

Want unfair?

San Diego’s Carlton Loewer, heretofore known as the only pitcher in baseball history who nearly derailed a promising career by falling out of a hunting tree stand, beat the Diamondbacks Monday, 4-1, for his first win since May 1999. What did it get him? A regurgitation of the hunting jokes.

Want unfair?

Because of Tuesday’s rainout at PNC Park, Pirates broadcaster Bob Walk had to wear that swell Prof. Harold Hill turn-back-the-clock suit twice this week.

Want unfair?

Jason Giambi couldn’t sleep, wondering whether the ball Sosa hit to the top of Mount Everest that beat him by inches in the new Pepsi commercial was legitimate or corked.

Want unfair?

By virtue of their position in life, when 13,227 San Diegoans wanted to go out and see professional baseball Wednesday night, they had to go see the Padres play the Tigers.

But you want the greatest unfairness of all?

Sosa and The Boss overshadowed the buildup to yesterday’s Belmont Stakes and Funny Cide’s bid to become the first gelding to win the Triple Crown. Which means he got no love beforehand, and worse, he wasn’t getting any after, either.

So, so likable

The only people more interested in how the “cheater” label sticks to Sammy Sosa than those on Waveland Avenue are those on Madison Avenue. Just last week, a survey of 2,000 Americans done this spring by Marketing Evaluations/TvQ Inc., which compiles “likability” scores for celebrities in terms of advertising marketability, rated Sosa the most likable among the game’s best-known players. He scored a 32 (out of 100). Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Derek Jeter and Greg Maddux round out the top five. The lowest rated? Roger Clemens.

Oh, Sammy

The reverence with which Sammy Sosa is also held by fellow players was manifested in the reaction of Toby Hall, who was catching for the Devil Rays when Sosa’s bat exploded Tuesday night. Hall said he noticed something but didn’t know -- or didn’t want to know -- what it was and tossed the bat toward the bat boy. “Obviously, someone else saw it,” Hall told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. “I didn’t want any part of that. I mean, it’s Sammy Sosa.”

Just an observation

There is nothing scientific here. The Guy didn’t even call in the people at Questec. It’s merely an observation that perhaps the pendulum is swinging back toward the pitcher’s mound. That, of course, or the juice maker’s broken. But when Cincinnati’s Adam Dunn last night became the first to reach 20 homers this season, it marked the latest the major-league leader had reached 20 (excluding strike-delayed 1995) since 1993.

Shea it long, Shea it loud

The Guy presents a story problem: How many digs can you find in the following monologue from Shea Hillenbrand upon arriving for his first day of work in Arizona Sunday after being traded from Boston: “I haven’t been able to sleep. My mind’s been going everywhere,” Hillenbrand told The Boston Globe. “How are the guys? How is it going to be playing in a nice ballpark? How is it going to be to park my car in a parking lot? How is it going to be to go to a clubhouse and just play baseball without all the outside distractions and playing in a market like Boston?” Wow! He managed to diss the century-old Red Sox nation, hallowed Fenway Park and New England in general, all in just the last 52 words. OK, now about that Paul Revere fella ...

A-very unusual call

For those who like strange pieces of scoring, try this one from the Tigers’ 5-3 win in San Diego Wednesday. With the score, 3-3, Tigers pitcher Steve Avery singled in the top of the seventh, came around to score the go-ahead run and held the Padres scoreless in the bottom of the inning ... yet did not earn the victory.

How’s this possible? Because in a move not found in the John McGraw Handbook of Winning Baseball, Tigers Manager Alan Trammell used Avery to pinch-hit for pitcher Wilfredo Ledezma before sending him out to pitch the seventh. Unorthodox? You bet. Not only had Avery not finished warming up, he hadn’t stepped into a big-league batter’s box since 1999. And if that weren’t enough history to buck, no Tigers pitcher had had a successful pinch-hit since Joe Niekro Sept. 2, 1970. Then again, what did the House Cats have to lose?

Just like real life

Detroit’s Dmitri Young had never faced Roger Clemens before Sunday’s faux-historic meeting in which Clemens was making his second (failed) bid for win No. 300. First at-bat against one of the great pitchers in history? Young tripled to left-center. So how did he do it? “Whenever I face a pitcher I’ve never hit against before, one of the things I do is take a few hacks against them on the video game,” he told the New York Post.

This ’n’ that

Longtime Guy associate Seth Rorabaugh points out that ESPN’s special “Say It Ain’t So-sa” that aired 3 p.m. Wednesday preempted -- in a nice bit of programming irony -- “Big League Challenge,” a major-league home run hitting contest. ... The recent addition of Billy Traber to the rotation means the Indians now have three rookies in their starting five. In an even more unlikely twist, all three are older than staff “veteran” C.C. Sabathia, who is 22. ... What are the odds? There have been three Callaway/Calloways ever to play major-league baseball, and yet in the 14th inning Thursday, Montreal’s Ron Calloway lined a game-winning, two-run single off Anaheim’s Mickey Callaway to give the Expos an 8-7 win. ... Guy favorite Clint Hurdle on the befuddling Rockies, who are 24-8 at home and 7-22 on the road: “I feel like I’m playing with a Rubik’s Cube. I feel like I’m 10 years old. I just can’t solve it.” ... You have to wonder how much sympathy there was in the Yankees’ clubhouse for Jeff Weaver (3-4, 5.17 ERA) after he was removed from the rotation in favor of Boss-pet Jose Contreras last week after Weaver told one of the New York papers: “I feel bad the team doesn’t play well when I’m out there.” ... And finally, talk about not waiting until the uniform is cold in the ground. Upon being called up by the Red Sox this week, pitcher Hector Almonte asked for No. 59 -- the same number worn by Matt White, whose place he took on the 25-man roster.

Shot and a jeer

Shot: Need proof that things have gone way beyond “a little slump” in the Bronx? The Yankees are 12-20 in their past 32 games; the “lowly” Tigers 13-19.

Jeer: “The stakes are raised; the intensity is back.” So declares the Fox promo for this summer’s All-Star Game in which home-field advantage in the World Series goes to the winning league for the first time. But ya know ... if Fox really thought this was as big as its voice-of-God ads try to make it seem, don’t you think it would have pushed for Simon, Paula and Randy to “umpire.”


Steve Ziants can be reached at sziants@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1474. This notebook was gathered from personal interviews, wire reports and other newspapers.

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