Monday, April 05, 2010

Eternal Mysteries of the National Pastime, Chapter 1

Year in and year out, the Yankee bullpen reminds me, painfully, of the raccoon screen on top of the chimney at our house.

A raccoon screen is not costly, as home improvements go. But it's not something a homeowner tends to worry about upon purchasing a house without one. It is deferrable maintenance. Deferrable, that is, until the low but not that low percentage risk inevitably takes place, and raccoons set up housekeeping in the chimney. Then it's at least a thousand bucks to get rid of them, plus much agita. Raccoons are not an enemy anyone wants hanging around the neighborhood.

So it is with the Yankee relief corps. A baseball team built on the principle that no expense should be spared in its construction perennially fields a middle relief corps which indicates the club's management does not believe that baseball games contain a sixth inning. Damaso Marte? Chan Ho Park? He couldn't get guys out in the NATIONAL League.

Middle relievers are not, as a class, highly valued players, nor should they be. But there's a notable difference between honest journeymen long relievers and the table scraps New York sent to the mound last night. At all other positions on their roster, the Yankee's personnel management theory is that All-Star is the minimum credential for the job. At a job where simple competence would be a step forward, the Yanks just can't seem to find skilled tradesman, and have a dangerous preference for damaged pitchers once thought to be All-Stars of the future.

It's as if New York has lost the ability to recognize median-level major league ability. Since that's as close to stardom as middle relievers ever get, Yankee managers are left watching games wondering if the ninth inning will ever come.

Which is what the entire world thinks when it watches the Yankees play the Sox, but that's an eternal mystery for another day.


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