2003-10-17 / Sports

Inside Pitch

By Bryan Hoch
Inside Pitch By Bryan Hoch

Roger Clemens, left, and Jorge Posada, right, walk off the field with bench coach Don Zimmer. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)Roger Clemens, left, and Jorge Posada, right, walk off the field with bench coach Don Zimmer. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

• The intensely pressurized Amer­ican League Championship Series between the Yankees and the Red Sox didn’t bring out the best in Nomar Garciaparra, who waited until Bos­ton’s loss in Game Six to tap out his first RBI of the postseason. However, the magnified spotlight of the ALCS did do plenty to squeeze out some unsolicited psychological opinions.

Garciaparra, a fidgety player who is famed for his routines of unsnapping his batting gloves and touching his shoes before each swing, was suggested to have "obsessive compulsive disorder" by ESPN radio host Tom Kee­gan, who recommended that Garcia­parra should seek medical help during the offseason.

That’s jumping the gun, but for any fan who ever argued that ‘Nomah’ was a better player than his Yankees counterpart, Derek Jeter, the 2003 postseason should forever stand as irre­futable evidence.

A true performer rises to the occasion and shines under the brightest of lights, as we’ve seen Jeter do time and time again – Garciaparra, alleged to be a star player, wilted when the Red Sox needed him most, leaving the offensive heroics to unheralded players like second baseman Todd Walker.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: after all, Garciaparra is one of the infamous ‘Boston Three’ ($17.5 million headhunter Pedro Martinez and thuggish slugger Manny Ramir­ez comprise the other two) who shy away from any and all media, afraid that describing their ballplaying exploits in the form of the printed word could somehow inflict serious damage upon their livelihoods.

While Martinez and Ramirez are virtually unapproachable for reporters, Garciaparra extends an olive branch – you must set up an appointment for the privilege of speaking with him. But as the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaugh­nessy told ESPN, "it’s a waste of time because he never says anything worth writing anyway."

• The spirit of the old ‘Bronx Zoo’ of the late 1970’s is alive and well. Speaking with The Record (N.J.)’s Bob Klapisch, former Yankees hurler Goose Gossage called Ramirez a filthy adjective and said that had Ramirez been playing in the old days, "he would’ve gotten back in the box, and I guarantee you he would’ve had the next pitch in his earlobe."

Safety issues aside, there’s not enough of this self-policing atmosphere in baseball these days. Hitters know that they’re protected by the ever-tightening influence of the umpiring crew, and thus aren’t afraid to stalk out to the mound, bat in hand, like Ramirez did against Roger Clemens in this series.

You just know that if Clemens was allowed to ‘send a message’ to Ramir­ez, the outcome would have been quite similar to the scenario Gossage des­cribed.

• What’s the old saying: there’s a sucker born every minute? If you’re interested in coughing up some of your hard-earned cash to help support someone who’s never collected a paycheck away from the game of baseball, there’s a place on the Internet for it.

The Web site NYYFans.com is collecting donations to help pay the $5,000 fine levied by Major League Baseball upon Yankees coach Don Zimmer for his part in the Game Three melee up at Fenway Park. So far, according to site administrator Jim Frasch, Yankees fans have pledged $1,900.

Our question: with so many worthy causes out there, isn’t it quite ironic that people will band together not to battle disease or homelessness, but rather to make a stand for a piece of bench ornamentation making six figures?

• If you were among the millions who viewed the NLCS between the Florida Marlins and the Chicago Cubs on FOX, you saw Mets hurler-turned-analyst Al Leiter at his absolute best.

Teamed with Steve Lyons and Thom Bren­na­man, Leiter – who’s done game analysis for ESPN in the past and was a speaker at Mayor Bloomberg’s induction ceremonies — was an absolute hit behind the microphone, exceeding even our expectations.

Leiter was educated, prepared (throwing obscure statistics at us that only richened the broadcast) and added commentary to the flow of the game without the prodding of his booth partners, which is far more than we can say for Seattle Mariners second baseman Bret Boone on the ALCS side.

• Our old friend Bobby Valentine, who’s doing a smooth, bang-up job in his newfound role on ESPN’s Base­ball Tonight, could be headed back to the land of the Rising Sun.

Valentine, wrapping up the first year of a three-year, $1.3 million deal with the Worldwide Leader, is being ru­mored as a potential managerial candidate for the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese League.

Valentine was at the helm of that team in 1995, guiding the Marines to a 69-58 record and breathing new life into his career; the Mets would soon come calling with a vacancy at Triple-A Norfolk to begin the ‘96 campaign, and Valentine found himself in an office at Shea Stadium by the end of the season.

E-Mail Bryan Hoch: bryanhoch@ yahoo.com.

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