When the Yankees traded for you and then signed you two years ago for $800 billion, I was so excited. I hadn’t been that happy since the time I looked down at my feet and saw that my athlete’s foot had gone away, even though it came back the next day.
Anyway, I’ve been a big fan of yours for years, and I’ve followed you throughout your career. All those great times in Texas, when you were leading the Rangers to the Promised Land, except back then the Promised Land was fourth place in the AL West. Not quite the Land of Canaan, but hey – whaddya gonna do? It was probably Juan Gonzalez’s fault. The Orioles then took you on board, followed by the Marlins. Then you made it to the World Series with the Padres, but the Yankees got lucky and swept you guys. That wasn’t your fault either – I mean, could Tony Gwynn have BEEN any fatter? Was he eating the batting donuts by accident? Sheesh.
Anyhoo, I knew even back then that you’d be a perfect fit for the Yankees – what with your surly attitude and ability to never crack a smile (even that time when Phil Nevin was tickling the bottom of your feet in the Padres’ dugout. Man, I thought you were going to KILL him!). You were all business – even after business was over and everybody was sleeping – and I LIKED that about you. After all, there’s no room for joy in baseball, not when the rosin bag has been carelessly placed on the WRONG side of the mound, and somebody on the grounds crew needs to be fired.
Then you went to L.A., and I thought to myself, “Man, that’s a lot of stops for such a great pitcher!” Luckily, every city has a place called the DL, which is where you could usually be found, icing down your strained collateral tendonitis shinbone, or whatever was ailing you at the time. Fortunately for me, you came back in 2003 virtually injury-free, and pitched well enough for the Dodgers to convince the Yankees to scoop you up in the offseason, via a trade for Jeff Weaver. Mr. Weaver had great “stuff” - and by stuff I mean hair - because most of his pitches ended up somewhere in Queens. He obviously couldn’t pitch in New York, and I wasn’t sad to see him go, because we were getting YOU, even though you were already 39 years old, and your back was being held together with duct tape.
I can still remember the press conference when the Yankees acquired you, and you held up your new jersey for everyone to see. Actually, I was surprised that you didn’t injure yourself doing that, because those jerseys can be heavier than they look. Then you turned to Brian Cashman and whispered, “You guys have a DL here, right?” What a kidder you are!
Anyway, I would say that 2004 was a rousing success, except for all of the times you had to pitch. Nevertheless, I admired how you always looked on the bright side of things. For instance, if you gave up a hit, you were like, “No big deal – I’ll get the next guy.” And when THAT guy got a hit, you were like, “No biggie – I’ll get the next guy.” And when THAT guy got a hit, you were like, “That’s okay – I’ll get the next guy.” And when THAT guy got a hit, you were like, “My shoulder hurts.” You were never too hard on yourself, which seemed to rub off on your teammates. Like sandpaper. Even after the game against Baltimore, when you only gave up three runs and came back into the locker room and punched a wall, breaking your hand. To me, it showed remarkable restraint that you didn’t just tie yourself to some nearby railroad tracks and wait for the inevitable, because let’s face it – three runs is a LOT of runs.
Game Seven of the ALCS was also a lot of fun to watch. You were ON that night. On the mound, that is, giving up lots and lots and lots of runs. Oh well – it was just the Red Sox. No big deal.
Which is why I was thrilled when the Yankees didn’t lose faith in you for 2005. Well, I guess it’s hard to just lose faith when you still owe faith $27 million. Nevertheless, you have so many great attributes that are irreplaceable, regardless of your horrendous pitching. Like, the way you talk to the media with that, “If you guys were a wall I’d punch you right NOW!” kind of ferocity. And your distinct delivery, where you look back to centerfield before you release the ball. Someone I know describes it as a “Please God, don’t hit this” delivery, even though they usually do. In fact, I think you’re the only pitcher in the league who looks into the outfield both before AND after he throws every pitch.
As I write this, you just left a game against the Pirates with a mysterious injury brought on by four earned runs. I think it was your back again. Or shoulder. Or ankle. Or finger. Or leg. Or armpit. Or scalp. Or athlete’s foot. Or buttocks. Wait – WAS it your back? I can’t remember. Anyway, I was just writing to remind you that we DO have a DL here, except it’s not actually HERE. It’s in Guam. And once you go, you can never come back.
And one other thing. When you’re packing your suitcase, try not to hurt yourself. And don’t forget the duct tape. All checks will be forwarded.