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|Sunday, July 2|
|Walking the walk, talking the talk|
| Oh, sure. Lots of other baseball columns may write about John Rocker's trip to New York. But only Week in Review -- being the full-service column it is -- has embarked upon a mission to actually help him get through that trip.
So last week, we provided some very special tips for how the Rock man could go about successfully riding that legendary No 7 train. But unfortunately, he bailed on the subway thing. So this week, we're turning our attention to other matters.
You may have heard about that Atlanta undercover policeman who was supposed to wear a Braves uniform and accompany Rocker wherever he roamed this weekend. Great idea. But to really make it work, the guy has to be convincing.
Our man's first key decision comes down to this: Right-hander or left-hander.
If our undercover man is going to hang with the bullpen crowd, he's going to have to abandon his previous code of normal life as he used to know it. If he doesn't, he'll stick out like Shaq at a nursery school. "I'd say: Put sunflower seeds on his face," Andersen suggested. "That would help. Then they'd think, 'OK, he's normal.' Well, not normal. But the way it works is, anything that would be considered abnormal for most people would be considered normal for a relief pitcher."
If you watch ballplayers spit from afar, it might look simple to the untrained eye. But as with most high-level art forms, there are certain do's and don'ts. And we advise our undercover man to learn them from the experts. "He'd probably have to take a quick lesson in spitting etiquette," Andersen said. "Like, don't spit on another player's shoes unless he spits on yours first. And never spit on his socks unless he spits on your socks first. The general rule of thumb is, if the spitting is confined to the shoes, that's OK. But if it escalates above that, it's fair game to spit pretty much anywhere." Face it, friends. You don't get inside tips like these just anywhere in cyberspace. Tip No. 4: Talk the talk
In order to blend in with your average ballplayer, our undercover man is going to have to learn what to say and -- just as important -- what not to say before some innocent, civilian-type remark gives him away. "He can't be saying, 'This is a really important game,' or anything like that," Deshaies warned. "He needs to say things like, 'There's a lot of time left in the season.' He needs to be schooled in the art of clichès." And if he's going to engage in bullpen banter, he needs to learn certain highly specialized phrases. "He needs to say stuff like 'he's painting with cheese.' Andersen said. "Or, 'He's throwing some queso on the black.' "And if that phone rings," Andersen adds, "he definitely shouldn't say: 'Braves' bullpen. Undercover security speaking. Everything's OK in the bullpen.' " Tip No. 5: Sign well with others
Perhaps the biggest crisis that could face our undercover man is this: What if he's asked for his autograph? Clearly, to blow off your potential Rocker-crazed New Yorker wouldn't be a good idea at all. So if asked, he needs to sign. But how? We're thinking that 'Sgt. Wally Undercover' probably wouldn't be the way to go. Deshaies' advice: "I think he should just sign, 'Others.' You know how down at the bottom of the stat sheets, it says, 'Others,' for all the guys who have come and gone? Well, he can be that Others. And if he puts 'Others' on the back of his uniform, he can not only show the uniform, he can produce a stat sheet to show he's part of the club. "He could be like Sidd Finch. Just came in here from pitching in the Ukrainian League. If someone says, 'Where did you come from, Others?' he can say, 'Oh, I pitched in Fiji last year. Had a pretty good year over there. My agent was working on a deal.' Nobody'd suspect a thing." Unanswered questions
We interrupt our tips momentarily so Deshaies can ask a few questions that have been nagging at him about this whole undercover act. "Will the guy have all the high-tech baseball security devices?" Deshaies wondered. "The exploding resin bag? The poisonous chewing tobacco? You'd have to think so. And if Rocker gets called in, does the guy have to do the maniacal sprint in from the bullpen to keep up with him, like a pulling guard?" Heck, we don't know. But he's our panelist. We need to let him get these things off his chest. And now that that's over with, here's our panel's final tip. Tip No. 6: Look the look
In order to pull off this undercover bit fully, our guy can't go walking around looking like he just left the precinct house. No, to look like an authentic bullpen man, he's going to need those two bullpen grooming staples -- bleached hair and a goatee. "The thing is," Deshaies said, "it would be tough to grow a goatee in two days. Maybe he can get a tape-on one. But if not, he should just bleach his hair. Except he's still a rookie. And that would be an awfully bold move -- for a guy just called up from Fiji." Name game of the week
In case you missed it, the greatest transaction in baseball history reversed itself last week. A week and a half after the Mets sent pitcher Bobby Jones to Norfolk and called up pitcher Bobby Jones to replace him, they got things back to normal. They sent Bobby Jones back down and brought Bobby Jones back up. Tremendous. And thanks to Week in Review, they both got invitations to play in the Bobby Jones Golf Tournament, to boot. Ordinarily, it would be tough to top that outbreak of Bobby Jones fever. But we've found three guys in baseball who can definitely keep up with the Joneses. They're our new favorite players, Mark Johnson, Mark Johnson and Mark Johnson. And for a day last week, all three of them were in the big leagues together for the first time ever.
As long as we're on the subject of name games, one of the great box-score entries of the year appeared last weekend, in a Braves-Brewers game. Brewers center fielder Marquis Grissom hit a home run. Braves pitchers Jason Marquis gave it up. So the classic box-score snippet looked like this: HR -- Grissom (off Marquis). "Pretty cool," Grissom said. "I hit a home run off myself." And when was the last time anybody ever did that, huh? "I never did," Grissom said. "I don't play Nintendo." At first, Grissom didn't know exactly what he did. In fact, he said he didn't realize how poetic this was until he heard us talking about it on Baseball Tonight. Then he got to thinking about how he'd gone 200 at-bats in his career without ever hitting a home run against the Braves. So how amazing was it that the first time he'd ever faced a pitcher named Marquis, he hit a home run? "There's gotta be something to that," Grissom said. "Maybe this will turn my whole career around." Never know. After all, Grissom said he'd never even seen another guy with the name, Marquis, before this. The only other Marquis he even knew about was a Mercury Marquis -- which was the car he was named after. His father worked for Ford, you see. Loved the car. Loved the name. So for all these years, Marquis Grissom has had that portion of the marquee all to himself -- except for the family car, that is. But not anymore. "It's a crazy sport, man," he said. "It's pretty hard to run across two people with the same name -- especially since it's not a name like Bobby or Johnny or anything like that. You just don't see two guys with a name like that. Of course, we've got two Moutons over here in Milwaukee, you know?" Do we know? Hey, some Moutons' Croutons, anybody? RBI of the week
We've all heard of the hit-and-run. We've all heard of the run-and-hit. But last Sunday, Cubs innovator Glenallen Hill pioneered a whole new offensive concept -- the hit-while-you-run. As with many of the great innovations of our time, however, this one wasn't exactly conceived in advance. It was only conceived, in fact, because Hill wasn't too thrilled with plate umpire Eric Cooper after falling behind in the count, 0 and 2. So he stepped out of the box to jaw with Cooper. And jaw some more. And jaw some more. Eventually, Cooper seemed to get tired of the conversation and asked Hill to get back in and hit. When Hill persisted in jabbering, Cooper waved to Marlins reliever Armando Almanza to start pitching. Next thing Hill knew, Almanza was winding and firing. So he lurched back into the box, took an emergency hack while on the dead run and did something that ought to be impossible: He hit the ball. And not only that -- he looped a single to right. And not only that -- he drove in a run, setting the stage for a two-run inning that enabled the Cubs to tie the game in the eighth inning. We know one thing: We've never seen Ted Williams espouse that technique for getting a hit. "Only one guy ever thought of this," Cubs utility witticist Jeff Huson told Week in Review. "Happy Gilmore. It was like the Happy Gilmore baseball swing." And as the Cubs watched this sensational event unfold, it definitely looked more like a script by Adam Sandler than a major-league baseball game. "You could hear him saying, 'Get in the box. Get in the box. Get in the box,' " Huson reported. "Then all of a sudden, the pitcher's throwing the ball. One second, (Hill) is walking around, acting like a tough guy. The next second, you could see him saying, 'Holy smokes. He's not kidding.' And then he got a hit. We were like, 'I didn't just see that. Did I?' " Of course, who has? Since this base hit fell to earth, Hill has spent many hours explaining how he did it to his ever-cynical teammates. So finally, Huson has figured out the key to making the hit-while-you-run play work. "I'd say the key is, you've got to be back in there before the ball gets to the plate," he said. "It's tough to get a hit if you don't get there before the ball does. The timing has to be impeccable." But now that this play has been proven successful, who knows how this might change baseball? Forget those Charlie Lau techniques. Forget those books by the Splendid Splinter. And get ready for a very special hitting seminar, hosted by Glenallen Hill. "You know those videos they're always selling on ESPN -- Tom Emanski's 'Winning Baseball?'" Huson ruminated. "I think they're going to have to put out a trailer." Nature lover of the week
In Hollywood's version of baseball, the sun is always shining. The sky is always blue. The air is always crisp and clear. So let's just say that when the Dodgers came to St. Louis last weekend, they had a feeling they weren't in Hollywood anymore. The air was filled with enough moths to staff an Alfred Hitchock movie. The sky was full of big black clouds. And so much H2O fell from those clouds, their game last Saturday had to be slightly delayed. For four hours and 55 minutes. Think about that. Four hours and 55 minutes worth of rain delays? In four hours and 55 minutes, these guys could have flown back to L.A., picked up some clean underwear and flown back. In four hours and 55 minutes, they could have caught up on three months of "Frasier" episodes. In four hours and 55 minutes, they could have watched the entire "SportsCentury" series (or just about). Instead, they spent 4 hours and 55 minutes hanging around Busch Stadium, knowing that Mark McGwire had just hit his 550th career home run in the first inning, so there was ZERO chanced they weren't going to finish this baseball game. They could have waited four days and 55 minutes, but they were going to finish this baseball game. "And it's all my fault, too," said Dodgers jack-of-all-quips F.P. Santangelo. "On the bus from the airport to the hotel, I said, 'I wish I could see a thunderstorm. I want to see some lightning. I want to hear some thunder claps.' ... And let's just say I caught a lot of crap on Saturday, as we were sitting around that clubhouse for 18 hours." Now it wasn't as if our man, F.P. Santangelo, wanted to sit around that clubhouse for 18 hours, you understand. He just wanted a little nature show -- because he's a nature-loving kind of guy. "I love weather," Santangelo said. "I'm a Weather Channel freak. I'll probably be a tornado chaser when I retire. I like to spend all day in my room watching the Weather Channel, studying the Doppler radar. "So I just wanted to see some thunder and lightning. Little did I know Big Mac would hit his 550th home run and we'd have to sit around for 17 hours so it counted. Hey, like he's not gonna hit 550 anyway? He had 549. They didn't think he'd hit one more? He was gonna hit this thing anyway. So what's the big deal?" It was a big deal kind of day for Santangelo, too, though. It was his first start in two weeks. He just didn't know when the lineup card went up that this game would last almost two weeks in and of itself. "I went up against Darryl Kile, hit a ground ball to shortstop and had to wait six hours till my next at-bat," he said. "I wound up 0-for-4. I think I lost my swing between my first at-bat and my second at-bat. What do you think?" Then again, it could have been worse. He could have lost his mind, since he did have some time to burn. "I probably drank 10 cups of coffee during that rain delay, trying to stay awake," Santangelo said. "Hey, it was game day for me. I had my bye week. I'm like a football guy. This was my Saturday afternoon to play." So he drank his coffee. He walked around a lot. And he watched the grounds crew at work trying to rescue a field that was almost literally under water "I watched them dig up the old infield and put in a new infield," Santangelo said. "They did a tremendous job. But we waited so long, they could have put new sod in, too. They could have put the topsoil down, sprinkled some seed around and grown a whole new playing surface. They had enough time, since we had to wait around so long for Mark's 550th home run to count." And somehow, Santangelo had a feeling they might not have waited quite so long if he'd hit a home run in the first inning. Just a feeling. "If I hit a home run," he said, "they're not waiting 10 minutes. If I hit a home run, game's banged. See ya tomorrow. Doubleheader." But if there was one good thing about all that rain, it was this: At least those moths that had been infesting Busch Stadium all week didn't stick around after the rain delay. Maybe they drowned. We don't know. But nobody knows where they came from, either. "Maybe it was some kind of promotion," Santangelo said. "The first 50,000 fans get 10 moths. Hey, you never know how many moth fans there are in St. Louis. It could have been Discovery Channel Fan Club Night." Wild pitches
Box score line of the week
Pirates pitcher Bronswell Arroyo made an appearance in this column two weeks ago, by pinch-hitting in the big leagues before he got around to pitching in the big leagues. He's back again for another award-winning performance, last Friday in New York: 2 2/3 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 1 balk. He was the 12th pitcher this season to give up 10 runs or more this year -- but the first since May 21. "It seemed like whatever Bronson threw, they hit," said manager Gene Lamont. "When he threw good pitches, they hit them. When he threw bad pitches, they hit them." Outside of that, though, he was great. Mystery pitcher box score line of the week
On June 10, Astros utility whiz Tim Bogar zipped through a 1-2-3 inning against the Padres in his first trip to the mound in the big leagues. He should have quit while he was ahead. Bogar returned to the hill again last Saturday -- and blew that 0.00 ERA on the first pitch he threw. (J.T Snow whacked it for a home run.) But after that, he once again found that mystery-pitcher zone, finishing with this scenic line: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (of Felipe Crespo), 1 HR. "I told him to sit on that 0.00 ERA," Astros broadcast wit Jim Deshaies reported. "But he got a little brazen." Bullpen guest star of the week
Crazy times -- in other words, day-night doubleheaders -- make for crazy solutions. So last Saturday, during a nutty 14-8 game in the final chapter of a day-nighter in Cleveland, the Tigers sent Hideo Nomo to hang out in the bullpen. He even wound up pitching the eighth inning for just his second career relief appearance. But it might have been the highlight of a year in which Nomo has won just one of his last 12 starts. Afterward, he was found at his locker, happily repeating the words, "Utility pitcher." And he particularly enjoyed the view of Bobby Higginson's three-homer game from his new outfield box seats. "When I watched Higginson's third home run go over my head, it was very exciting," Nomo told Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler. "It was almost like I was a spectator." Yeah. Except that his eighth-inning stint got him an official "hold." (Take that to arbitration.) Manager Phil Garner was so impressed, he said: "Nomo's new role could be closer. I told him that. He laughed. But he said if he's the closer, he could pitch every day." Miracle cure of the week
The Giants rolled into inviting Enron Field for the first time last week. And here's how much their hitters enjoyed the view: After thumping what Karl Ravech refers to as "an Enron" in his second at-bat June 23, Barry Bonds had to leave the game with a hamstring cramp Asked if he thought he could play the next day, Bonds laughed. "Here?" he gulped. "Oh, yeah. I don't care if my leg is broken." Phenom of the week
The most exciting minor-league call-up of the week had to be Arizona reaching down to El Paso and roping Alex Cabrera, who had 35 home runs and 82 RBI in just his first 53 games in farm land. Cabrera then bombed a 400-foot pinch home run in his first at-bat in the big leagues. "Those numbers dwarf anything I've ever seen," said Buck Showalter. "And I'm going to try to make use of all of them." Marathon of the week
Is there anything longer than a day-night doubleheader? Yes. A day-night doubleheader delayed by rain. And that's the fun that befell the Indians and Tigers last weekend, when they had 1 hour and 59 minutes worth of precipitation delays piled onto a day-nighter in Cleveland. In fact, the first game ended so late, it left only 90 minutes between games. And Tigers manager Phil Garner was none too thrilled. "That's cutting into my nap time," Garner quipped. "I wanted to watch Bugs Bunny and take a nap." Throwback of the week
Is it any coincidence that the A's have been on fire since that Turn Back the Clock Day on June 3 in which Art Howe dressed up like Connie Mack and Mack's 86-year-old daughter, Ruth Mack Clark, showed up to walk him to homeplate? Clark then wrote a thank-you note, which the A's hung in the clubhouse. It included an aside in which she observed that Howe "really does resemble my dad." Howe's reaction: "I hope I resemble him in more than just appearance." It was unclear whether he meant Mack's 50 years of job security or his five World Series titles. Reincarnation of the week
Cardinals extra man Larry Sutton definitely wins the Comeback Player of the Weekend award. He was sent to the minors last weekend when the Cardinals called up Eduardo Perez. But Perez got hurt in his first game, so Sutton was recalled -- before he ever got a chance to leave. Sure enough, he promptly stroked the game-winning hit in his first game "back" last Sunday. "I knew I would get another opportunity," Sutton said. "I just didn't know it would be the next day." Pinch-runner of the week
But that Eduardo Perez hamstring injury caused havoc in more than just the Sutton household. Perez got hurt running out a double just before the second rain delay in what turned into that classic featuring three delays totaling 4 hours, 55 minutes. So in between delays, when play resumed, pitcher Matt Morris pinch-ran for him. It took exactly one pitch for Morris to get doubled off second on a line drive. Asked what happened by the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Rick Hummel, Morris alibied: "I knew it was going to rain (again). We needed to get five (innings) in." Pierogi fan of the week
You think Jose Lima has had a tough year? Hey, he's Randy Johnson compared to Sauerkraut Saul, who is yet to win once in the three-pierogi race featured on the scoreboard at Three Rivers Stadium during every home game. Now Pirates reliever Scott Sauerbeck is plotting to figure out a way to get Saul a win, since the two have such similar names. He told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's Paul Meyer he is confident Saul's losing streak will not last all season. "I guarantee he'll win the last game," Sauerbeck said, "because I'll go out there and tackle the other two." Trivia answer
Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mo Vaughn have each had two 200-hit seasons. Jayson Stark is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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