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June 26, 2003

Breaking Balls

Digging Into the Fake Mailbag

by Derek Zumsteg

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People complain that columnists frequently do mailbag columns because they're easy. Pick some reader feedback and then write some short responses. About half the column's word count gets eaten up by the readers, and it's easier to structure. The problem is that it requires readers to ask the right questions. But why wait around, I say. So I present to you Derek's Fake Mailbag, filled with questions I wanted asked but nobody really quite asked them in the way I wanted.

You probably watch a ton of games on TV, especially on days when you're not at a ballpark yourself. Anything really bugging you?

--DZ, Washington, the state which is way cooler than the District of Columbia

People on their cell phones, waving. These are the people that think their enjoyment--look, I'm at the game! And talking to my friend watching TV at the same time!--is worth annoying everyone watching the games. These are the people who hang up wind chimes, let their dogs out for a good barking session early in the morning, tailgate in their gas-guzzling, terrorist-supporting SUVs because they're two minutes late...

--Derek Zumsteg

Yeah, yeah, I think we've heard that one. Besides that.

--DZ

Having to endure every broadcast's monitor-reading, where announcers read information put up on a monitor to read. A reliever comes on, you get a handy super-imposed box with W-L, ERA, whatever, and one of the crew says "As you can see, Giovanni Carrara is 0-4 in 15 games, he has a 8.70 ERA, and has struck out two, given up 50 walks, and 20 home runs."

If I was blind and couldn't read the box, I'd be tuned into the radio broadcast, where they at least try to give decent descriptions of the game's events. And it's unlikely that anyone literate enough to use a remote control and tune to a regional sports network on cable can't understand numbers. It's got great potential for pranks, though:

"So, Ron, I understand that you're a moron."
"There's no question about it, Dave." (graphic appears on screen) "As you can see from the scouting report, I'm obsessed with playing for one run, I constantly return to the same tired clichés, even if they're contradictory, and my strength is stories from my Dodger career."

That's in general. I have a specific complaint: watching NESN games on DirecTV, they show the same commercial break at the top and bottom of every inning. The exact same one. And it includes some lame ad for the analysis and "insight" I'm missing by not watching NESN programming during the rest of the day. So far I've seen such intelligent commentary as "Pedro may be hurt, sure, but Roger Clemens wouldn't have even said anything" (which is ridiculous, for one, and stupid, for two--why would you want your pitcher, especially one as important to a team's success, concealing injuries?) and "the Red Sox have to be able to win when they're not scoring runs. Defense is a constant. Pitching is a constant."

"Honey," I said, "have you ever been to a game with me where a player who's pretty good defensively has made a couple of errors?"
"Sure," my wife said.
"And has it ever cost the team a game?"
"Yeah."
"What about pitching--have you ever seen a good pitcher get shelled?"
"Oh, yeah."
"So would you say that pitching and defense are constants?"
"No way."
"Congratulations, you're qualified to replace a NESN analyst."
"How's the pay?"
"Pretty good, I imagine."

--Derek Zumsteg

Derek, in a recent column you said that you wouldn't cheer for the Yankees if they were playing a resurrected 1919 Black Sox team managed by Pete Rose. Is there any team the Yankees could play where you would cheer for the Yankees?

--Kered Getsmuz, Seattle

That's a great question, Kered, and the answer is yes.

Derek's Team of the Damned Annoying

  • C: Eddie Perez. I'm convinced that Perez is a modern-day Khan, using some kind of mind control on Greg Maddux that enabled Perez to hold onto a job for years.

  • 1B: Pete Rose. Guilty.

  • 2B: Tony Phillips. I'm still mad about a dirty play by Phillips a couple of years ago where he scissored Carlos Guillen's legs, shredding Guillen's ACL. That's my pick, I understand Phillips has a menu you can pick off...

  • SS: Ozzie Guillen. A nice attitude appetizer for our third baseman.

  • 3B: Bobby Bonilla. Mostly for his constant fighting with Bobby Valentine and the Mets, where he repeatedly threatened to make trouble if he didn't get more playing time, as if Bonilla hadn't made enough trouble already.

  • LF: Al Martin. Take your pick: the fighting his backup wife, lying about having a backup wife, fighting his backup wife, being acquitted of the tussle with the backup wife, and all kinds of other stuff. To my great frustration, Martin is a hard-working baseball player and considered a great clubhouse guy, which makes him even more annoying because teams consider him an asset and are willing to overlook the other stuff.

  • CF: Carl Everett. The child abuse, mostly. Or, as he was found guilty of, "child neglect" for knowing about abuse and not taking any action. Anyone who believes Everett's a good but-misunderstood guy should go hit the microfiche and look up that little 1997 bit where a judge ruled that his wife used "excessive corporal punishment" on her step-children, and they had one of their kids placed in the custody of the kid's maternal grandmother. Actually, you can just read Sports Illustrated's 6-29-1998 issue for a quick little summary, which includes Everett blowing off counseling sessions and a conference where they were going to discuss the their case. Or you can read about how shaken the Shea Stadium employee was to see the kids that were so badly beaten the Mets called in New York's child welfare agency. Everett's comments on the matter seem to indicate he's pro-spanking but that there was a conspiracy in New York to make it seem like they slapped or hit their kids. Eeeeeyup.

    If you're into spanking, there's his bizarre persecution complex, where pitchers like Jamie Moyer were trying to hit him with curve balls that went too far inside (back when Everett actually stood with both feet on top of the plate). And Everett would respond with taunts, crotch-grabbing, and general embarrassing behavior. There's also the great "The Bible never says anything about dinosaurs. You can't say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Someone actually saw Adam and Eve. No one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex." (another great Sports Illustrated quote) And the related dinosaur bones were made by man comment, implying some kind of massive conspiracy and cover-up by the entire scientific community over the last....I'm getting mad just writing this.

    Like Martin, annoyingly hard-nosed and beloved by his teammates for his dedication to his game. Why can't bad people just be bad players?

  • RF: Enos Slaughter. The Hall of Famer led an attempt by the Cardinals to strike in 1947 to protest Jackie Robinson, and later deliberately spiked Robinson.

  • SP: Denny McLain. Check out Mark Armour's article for insight into the strange life of Denny McLain.

  • Manager: Adolf Hitler

Mostly talented team on the field if you magically get these guys at their peak, through some sort of zombification process. Plus, then they're zombies. Nobody likes zombies.

--Derek Zumsteg

Related Content:  Sports Illustrated

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