2004-01-30 / Sports

Inside Pitch

By Bryan Hoch
Inside Pitch By Bryan Hoch

Aaron Boone may be out for most of the 2004 season due to injuring his anterior cruciate ligament.Aaron Boone may be out for most of the 2004 season due to injuring his anterior cruciate ligament.

For the Yankees, the worst part of Aaron Boone’s potentially season-ending injury could be the timing.

According to reports, Boone suffered a major knee injury last week shooting hoops – an act expressly forbidden by his contract – and might have blown out his anterior cruciate ligament, perhaps the most devastating injury an athlete can suffer.

If that’s the case, even in the best possible scenario Boone will miss most of the 2004 season, and the Yankees – a team perennially built to win the World Series – suddenly find themselves primed to enter their exhibition schedule without a third baseman.

If Boone’s pick-up basketball injury had come in November or December, just a few weeks after he slugged that ALCS-winning home run off of Bos ton’s Tim Wakefield, it would have at least painted a brighter picture for the Yankees. At that time, the team could have still pursued any number of free agent third baseman to replace Boone – Tony Batista, Vinny Castilla and Fernando Tatis were among the veterans at the hot corner who found new homes this winter.

Now, even though the Yankees could be due to receive a significant chunk of change by way of the fact that Boone violated his agreement with the team – that friendly game of roundball could wind up costing the third baseman as much as $5 million; now you know why Jeff Kent blurted out that tall tale about a do-it-yourself car wash when he really broke his wrist in a motorcycle spill – they may not have much to spend it on. Indeed, the Yankees’ situation is something akin to Donald Trump browsing through the bargain bin at Tower Records.

Unfortunately, the Yankees are forced to go to the open market because they just don’t have the capability from within to cover third base over a 162-game schedule. Former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson is probably never going to be ready for The Show and should head to the NFL, where he can achieve stardom; utilityman Miguel Cairo is a nice fit who can play third, but not over an extended period of time. The same goes for jack-of-all-trades Enrique Wilson and infielder Erick Almonte.

Infielder Tyler Houston (a .265 career hitter over parts of nine seasons) joined the Yankees on a spring training invite in the wake of the Boone incident, but he’s no guarantee to make the club. Even if Houston does come north with the Yankees, he may do more harm than good – despite the fact that he was a productive bench player for the Phillies last season, hot-headed manager Larry Bowa literally threw him off of the team in September, claiming that Hous ton was a "loser" and "an extra guy who causes problems."

Strangely, perhaps the best move the Yankees can make now is to swing a trade for their old third baseman of a year ago, before New York became Boone’s town. The Yankees dealt away Robin Ventura on the same day that they landed Boone from the Reds for top prospect Brandon Claussen, and with Ventura now lodged as a backup with the Dodgers, a swap could work out for both sides.

The Yankees were always competitive with Ventura’s Gold Glove defense at third base, even when his bat went ice-cold, and one would have to think that Ven tura would ap prove a trade (since he was just re-sign ed by the Dodgers, he technically can’t be traded until June 15 without his consent) to a team that is still very much a favorite to contend for another American League title.

B7 Memo to whoever is currently drawing a paycheck as Pete Rose’s business manager or personal adviser: you’re fired. Desperately clinging to his hopes of reinstatement after admitting in a for-profit tell-all that he indeed bet on baseball as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Rose blindly agreed to attend an autograph signing for his book at the Foxwoods resort casino last week.

Now, maybe this can be better explained by an expert in the public-relations field, but this really didn’t raise any red flags in Rose’s camp? Public support for ‘Charlie Hustle’ has been slowly but surely dwindling since the release of his book, "My Prison Without Bars," and it will only continue to erode as Rose follows through with more bonehead moves like this one. It doesn’t necessarily matter if Rose kept a 500-yard distance from the roulette wheels and the craps tables; just the loose association with a gambling enterprise is enough to churn up bad karma in the public eye.

Contact Bryan Hoch at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.

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