Having just returned from my first game at Citizens Bank Park, a perfectly entertaining contest peppered with five home runs (including two by Placido Polanco plus a Pat Burrell shot that rattled the left-field foul pole) and ending in a 6-3 win for the minions of Bowa, I can say without hesitation that the one most memorable thing about the Phillies’ new $458 million stadium is… …hang on, give me a minute. I’ll come up with something.
You know that insurance commercial where the guy sleepily mumbles that he’s going to skip class before his roommate reminds him that college is over, and he’s going to be late for work? Now, imagine that, instead of facing some mild-mannered office manager, your boss is a graduate of the Larry Bowa School of Ballpark Dialectics who’s never actually held an indoor job. I’m not sure that you can classify minor league baseball as The Real World, but it’s at least a paying job of sorts, and it’s hard to imagine a tougher college-to-job transition than going from college athlete to minor league bus jockey without, say, taking a Wellesley grad and plunking her into the Peace Corps.
In college, while nominally an adult, you have a coaching staff that knows that a behavioral meltdown by a player will negatively affect their job status. In the low minors, on the other hand, the coaching staff is charged with weeding out the players, especially those near the talent margins, who won’t be able to handle the travel and celebrity scene if they advance. You go from living in a nice, structured dorm, usually with a bed check, to the standard short-season living arrangement–except for a few of the instant millionaires in the first dozen draft picks, that’s eight guys, one house, one car, one XBox, and a lot of pizza. You go from four games a week, mostly on the weekends, to six games a week with extensive late-night bus travel between.
There are positives to the Garret Anderson deal after all. The Tigers recall Uggy Urbina in their quest for 70 wins. The Royals lose Angel Berroa to migraines. The Expos re-sign Livan Hernandez to a three-year deal. And the A’s finally lose Chad Harville, but pick up Kirk Saarloos to replace him. All this and much more news from around the league in your Tuesday edition of Transaction Analysis.
My one and only conversation with Joe Torre took place during a lunch break about two weeks after the Yankees were eliminated by the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 Division Series. My impressions at the time were clouded by the kind of star-struck feelings that a little boy might have upon meeting with his hero. Yet, Joe Torre was not my hero so I cannot explain my nervousness. I don’t think it was merely shyness around a celebrity, because I think I would be in perfect control of myself if Burt Reynolds or Gavin McLeod appeared out of nowhere and criticized my lifelong policy of yam avoidance. In any case, weeks later my nervousness would be forgotten, and I would remember only his poise and how smooth, persuasive and in-control he was during our brief yam encounter. I don’t want to make too much of this, but clearly this was a man whose courage had been tested under fire. A different man might have been more timorous when it came to mocking another man’s side dish. Torre handled the whole encounter with aplomb, genial, yet forceful, like Gary Cooper. Shockingly, he seemed not at all intimidated by the inequality that existed between us–he being only the manager of the New York Yankees while I was the proud owner of a juris doctorate–and you can bet that if I had been Ken Kaiser, the Wookie from “Star Wars,” or GMS III himself, he would have forthrightly made the case for yams as if he cared nothing at all for his own job security and everything for the nutritional lives of his co-workers.