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All these writing years I’ve been flailing about from genre to genre and venue to venue, trying to find my niche. Well, I think I’ve finally discovered what it is: I want to be a gossip columnist for Major League Baseball. Consider this as practice.

images-13.jpeg Barry Bonds at The All Star Games: Barry Bonds dropped the surly persona to play a hostly role at the All Star Games held in his city by the bay last month. His charm was completely genuine—he was obviously thrilled to welcome baseball brass to his town, his park, his world. As I watched his transformation from curmudgeon to boyish excitement, I felt truly glad that he’d made it to the event. He almost didn’t: a few days before voting closed, fans didn’t seem to want him. I’d like to think I played a small part in getting him to the finish line by voting for him a number of times and urging others, on my blog, to do the same. Watching him entertain and amuse reporters, fans and colleagues, I couldn’t help but think how awful it would’ve been for him not to be there: the names Barry Bonds and San Francisco Giants are almost synonymous. And he wouldn’t have been on hand for the ceremonies honoring his godfather and mentor, Willie Mays—unthinkable.

images.jpg Barry Giant Zito: It’s so painful to watch Barry Zito, one of the hippest guys in baseball, fall apart on the mound. As an Oakland Athletic Zito shone, with a 3.64 career ERA; it’s now 4.90 as a San Francisco Giant. Worse than even that statistic is having to watch Zito, known for cooling out with yoga and meditation, wearing an anxious pained look on his face every time he pitches. On the two occasions he pitched against his former team he was so fraught that he pitched like a man on crack, and didn’t get past the fourth inning. Some people, myself included, attribute his meltdown to the enormous jump in salary that came with the jump across the Bay Bridge. We saw this happen with A-Rod, we saw it happen to Randy Johnson, and now we’re seeing it with Barry Zito. The pressure that’s brought to bear on a player who moves to a bigger-city team is bad enough, but it’s increased a million-fold when so many millions of dollars accompany the move. While the solution is obvious, I don’t expect to see a player turning down the big bucks any time soon, not even a meditating yogi. Maybe Zito will calm down by next season, maybe he won’t. A-Rod seems to have recovered nicely, but The Big Unit never did–he slunk back to Arizona with his tail between his legs–where, despite being on the DL and dealing with family problems, he’s probably much more comfortable. Which leads me to…

ph_121347.jpg …A-Rod’s future: None of the talking baseball heads seem to think Rodriguez will stay with the Yankees once the season ends. Why would he? He endured more media abuse, more booing from his own fans, and more ups and downs with his teammates than any athlete or human being should have to endure. Now that he’s proven himself with a stellar season, he can leave New York without shame. I’m proud to note that commentators are saying exactly what I said months ago: that A-Rod belongs in Chicago, playing with the Cubs under Lou Pinella, who managed him in Seattle and who’s reputedly like a second father to him. The sticking point is that the Cubs are for sale, and taking on a contract the size of A-Rod’s would be like converting your living room into a state-of-the-art gymnasium while your house is on the market, severely limiting the pool of prospective buyers. Commentators speculate other teams A-Rod might join, among them the SF Giants. I don’t see that happening unless Barry Bonds leaves—no team is big enough for both of them. If Bonds doesn’t break the home run record this season, I’m afraid he may return next year. That isn’t something I want to see happen: the Giants have suffered long enough carrying the burden of the oversized, overpaid, over-analyzed big guy. Every time a pitcher walks him I go ballistic; every time he’s up I sit there praying for him to hammer those four damn homers into McCovey Cove…

4268.jpg …and now for the most intriguing bit of baseball gossip this week: former Yankee Gary Sheffield, never the soul of diplomacy, told an HBO reporter that Joe Torre treats black and white players differently. Sheffield says black players are “called out” in the clubhouse, while white players are called into Torre’s office to discuss things in private:”I’d see a lot of white players get called in the office and treated like a man.” When pointedly asked if he thinks Joe Torre is racist, Sheff denied it, saying, “That’s just the way they do things there.” Oh, come on! That is precisely what Sheffield is saying! When the interviewer asked him about Derek Jeter, Sheff used Jeter’s mixed race heritage as the reason Torre treats him so well: Jeter, he said “isn’t all black.” Everyone in major league baseball is incredulous, pointing to Joe Torre as a model of fairness and integrity. As Jon Heyman points out in The Daily Scoop, “Gary Sheffield was half-right, which is a lot different from Derek Jeter being half-black.…Sheffield was right that Joe Torre plays favorites. He favors the players who won him the four rings. Torre loves Jeter best of all. He’d love him if he was half-green, half-awake or half-in-the-bag. Because Jeter and Mariano Rivera are the two players most responsible for Torre’s four rings.”

p1sheffieldtorregetty.jpg

Finally, speaking of racism, when are the Cleveland Indians going to change their name, or at least their logo?
images3.jpeg That’s got to be the most insulting logo of any team anywhere in the known universe. Every time I see it I cringe, so imagine how Native Americans must feel. Gee, I wonder why that particular ethnic group doesn’t seem to play much baseball.

This is your Bronx-Born Baseball Babe signing off until the next round of Baseball Chatter…

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One response »

  1. Not sure what is more frightening…the thought of what recent San Francisco Giant baseball seasons would have been like if they had never gotten Bonds…or the fact the Indians are still marketing that logo. As for Sheffield, while the media is whipping all this up into a frenzy, I’m betting 75% of true sports fans dismissed his comments immediately upon hearing they were his.

    I’m sure you’re right about Sheff…If the Giants had never gotten Bonds maybe they could have afforded better players for the rest of the team.–MS

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