2003-08-29 / Columnists

Inside Pitch

By Bryan Hoch
Inside Pitch By Bryan Hoch

Nomar  GarciaparraNomar Garciaparra

• The saga of Jeff Weaver has reach­ed a new low, with the Yankees righthander having been shipped down to Class-A Tampa this week to get some embarrassing side work in with Bombers pitching guru Billy Con­nors.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s gone wrong with Weaver since the Yan­kees acquired him from the Detroit Tigers last summer, but if there’s anyone who can figure him out, it’s probably Connors.

The one-time Cubs and Mets hurler is a virtuoso of pitching knowledge, hav­ing most recently figured out a number of mechanical difficulties with­in the motion of Jose Contreras – ironically, the very person who bumped Weaver from the Yankees’ starting five.

Perhaps better times are ahead for Weaver, who is 7-9 this season and raised his ERA to an unimpressive 5.85 Monday when he served up a home run to the Orioles’ Larry Big­bie. He’s still eligible for the postseason roster when the Yankees begin the Div­ision Series, and if the Connors Cure works, he might be a valuable in-season pickup for a Bombers pitching staff that has seen a stunning amount of turnover this season.

"Maybe 10 years from now I’ll say 2003 is the year that built me as a pitcher and a person," Weaver said.

• The YES Network’s Michael Kay brought up an excellent point this week regarding the accountability of the three big stars of the Boston Red Sox – Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez.

While Derek Jeter makes it a point to be available to the media in both good times and bad, Ramirez and Mar­tinez are the exact opposites up in Bean­­town.

Both have sworn off speaking to the press, although Martinez made an ex­cept­ion this week, telling a Boston radio reporter that he had no intention of coming back to Fenway Park once his current hold with the team ends. In order to speak with Garciaparra, even the poor souls who cover the Sox on a daily basis must make an apointment with the star shortstop and his club.

As Kay properly noted, that kind of a behavior is an accurate reflection of disarray in the front office – a sign that maybe the Red Sox don’t have everything in control the way they should. Somebody needs to speak to these spoiled babies, and fast.

Ramirez is a Washington Heights native who’s made no secret of his aspirations to someday play for the Yankees, but he’d better get his act together if that’s ever going to happen.

• Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda believes that the Mets are absolutely, positively clueless with re­gard to their treatment of his godson, Mike Piazza. Lasorda told a gathering of Mets beat writers this week in Los Angeles that he can’t understand why the team is so eager to move Piazza out from behind the plate and to first base, conveniently ignoring his poor throwing by defending his big bat."Do you have a better catcher?"

Las­orda said, according to accounts. "Do you got a guy that could hit .300 and hit 40 home runs? Then, damn it, move him. But you can’t get anybody better than that. What the hell do they want?" A recent article in the Los Angeles Times floated the possibility that Piazza could someday end his career in Dodgers blue, the way it started. It’s an intriguing thought, but it doesn’t really make financial sense for the Dodgers, who al­ready have a great catch­er in Paul Lo Duca and have been burn­ed by the re-acquisition of another Met, the injured Todd Hundley.

• Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone, hitting just .181 with his new team, admits that he’s been pressing to make his mark in New York since the late July trade that rescued him from the cost-cutting Cincin­nati Reds.

"Not knowing any of these guys and not knowing any of the coaches, you do want to come over and make an im­pression," Boone said. "It’s an adjustment, the whole thing, with the pitchers and a new league and all of that. Those aren’t excuses or anything, but all of that, and just basically not swinging the bat well for a couple of weeks, and that’s what you’ve got."

• Al Leiter’s political career may have to go on hold. The Mets lefthander has accepted an opportunity to step in as the third man in the booth during FOX’s coverage of the League Championship Series. He’ll be interestingly paired with Tim McCarver, the longtime Mets commentator who worked a number of Leiter’s starts as a Met beginning in 1998.

BULLET If you thought the Turner Field turf looked a little shoddy during the Mets’ series with the Braves this week, your eyes weren’t betraying you. The grass at ‘The Ted’ has been an awful mess ever since thousands of moshing Metallica fans ripped it to shreds in mid-July, and the grounds crew has been relegated to filling in the empty patches with green sand.

Here’s hoping that the band clairvoyantly performed ‘Enter Sandman.’

Bryan Hoch appears weekly in the Wave. Email bryanhoch@yahoo.com

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