Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In praise of Al Leiter


I hope, I hope, I hope there’s some kind of place for Leiter in the rotation after everybody gets healthy. There’s something about him that appeals to me. The fact that the Yankees pulled him off the scrap heap, threw a jersey on him, handed him a ball, and he pitched a beauty of a game against Boston at a crucial time should give him a place somewhere on the team, even if he isn’t their best pitcher. Given the intense uncertainty of that series – losing Wang and realizing that Pavano might not come back – the Yankees needed some indication that miracles could still happen and Al Leiter brought a miracle. I like his enthusiasm and his ability to not just tolerate but thrive in the New York media sauna. I like the fact that he’s working with Mel Stottlemeyer to try to improve, and I like the fact that he knows how lucky he is. Apparently he went and talked to Torre about possibly pitching out of the bullpen – he knows he doesn’t have what it takes to stay in the starting rotation, but he’s such a burst of energy and enthusiasm that I hope he finds a place. Maybe it’ll remind everybody what’s good about being in pinstripes. That being said, I hope he doesn’t lose to Toronto tonight.

I read an article written by Don Zimmer about George Steinbrenner (“Just Treat Me Like a Human Being”). He paints an interesting portrait about what it’s like to work for the Boss – all his employees appear to be property or livestock. When his properties are producing, he’s happy, lavishing praise and attention, but the minute they don’t perform, he just cuts staff – he couldn’t really care less about the history with that person. Obviously there’s a lot of money in play here, and I’m not saying that high paid staff and players should be allowed to hang out if they aren’t producing, but there are classier ways to handle it. He’s like the worst boss you could ever have. He holds the keys to the baseball kingdom – the Yankees, New York, the pinnacle – but you have to endure being mishandled and stabbed in the back by him the whole time you’re there.