Links to the YES Network’s Jim Kaat Tributes:
Calling It a Career, and more
- When the YES Network booth crowds up with Kay, Kenny, and Oh-Mercer, and you can’t figure out how you could possibly be missing anyone’s voice, it will be Jim "Kitty" Kaat’s that you are straining for. His sharp, well-timed explanations of pitching strategy and execution has reminded us that baseball is a skill and an art to be appreciated, and that we "pay" all these people because they have specialties the others do not know about.
Time to make it formal. Turn the TV volume off. Turn on John and Suzyn on WCBS AM. The timing will be a little off, but we will know the score and get some analysis at least. Suzyn lacks the insight of a player and could use a mentor like Mr. Kaat. Meantime, she out-schools the bunch in the big Yes broadcast box in the sky.
- We’ll miss you, Kitty. Meow, baby, as Kojak would say. Good luck, and please do not be a stranger. Stop by the WCBS booth if you get a chance.
In the summer of 2003, I ordered satellite TV for the MLB Extra Innings package, which allowed me to watch every televised baseball game. What a treat. See, I don’t watch much TV. Keeping my eyes open and fixed on a box drains my enthusiasm generally, unless a beautiful or fascinating series of images draws my eyes to it. Radio, now that is more my thing, and unless I am at a ballgame or at Sophie’s bar, I am usually asleep or listening.
On those spring nights back in 2003, I would come home late from work just in time to turn on the west coast games. If I was lucky, I had missed only an inning or two, and distress arose only when I couldn’t find the games fast enough to switch during commercials on what seemed like 500 stations. No MLB Mosaic had they!
At first I figured it just made sense that I would end up watching the Dodgers most often. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I was born and raised a Dodger fan. (Now, STOP NOW. This is not the time. You think it was easy becoming a Yankee fan? I DID my time. 15 years. Without baseball, that is. I couldn’t watch a game for 15 years after leaving LA in September 1981. Not that I didn’t watch the Series that year. I SAID STOP. You’ve got me all upset. Back to the story. OK?)
Soon I realized there was more to the attraction. Dodger Stadium is peaceful, orderly, and beautiful, like a Dodger home uniform. I found myself drawn to the cordial, courteous, grammatically pleasing, and, yes, mellifluous tones of Vin Scully broadcasting to me from Dodger Stadium, unencumbered by company crowded into the sound booth with him. I remembered that voice. When I first heard his voice as a child in LA, I had never heard of Brooklyn, which is where I work now. Isn’t that something? As Mark Gremse would say, "That’s baseball." Remember him? I was his favorite Dodger fan.
Accustomed to the YES (Yankees Ever Superior) Network anchors I call the SuperFriends because they seem to broadcast in teams of 4 or more (Kay, Kitty, Kenny, Bobby–did I leave anyone out? O’Neill?), I was struck by the moments of silence in Scully’s game. No plays missed during the punchline of someone’s joke. No tension waiting for the inevitable interruption by whoever’s slacks are too tight tonight. No anxiety over whether the game is interfering with Michael Kay’s beauty sleep (code word: unmanageable) No patter. No filler. Just the game. Calls. Observations. Questions. Speculations. Analysis. Reminiscences, of Branch Rickey?!. Now that’s baseball.
Now, I have a fast computer and broadband internet connection. What else do I have? MLB All Access and MLB Mosaic. All Vin Scully, any time.
OK, you A-Rod haters, remember where you were when the symbol of Yankee excess finally hit in the clutch and won a game, in dramatic fashion, at that. Starting June 28, 2006, you will have to find a different player to boo with such vehemence. I suspect most of you are Mets fans anyway. You just don’t know what to do with yourselves now that the Mets are doing so well, do you?
I mean no offense to fans of the Mets who genuinely feel for their team. In fact, I consider myself a fan of the Mets, and after a game at Shea, I frequently end up arguing with a "Met fan" on the 7 all the way back to Manhattan, defending the hometeam we just saw. Seems like the only team they hate more than their own is the Yankees.
I think there is a group of A-Rod haters from Shea. who comprise a sub-species of fan, an alleged "diehard Mets fan." As soon as Piazza went to the Padres and Beltran started hitting, they panicked, dove into the river, and started swimming uptown. By the time they got to The Bronx, poisoned by the chemicals and whateverelse they took in as they swam, A-Rod was too easy a shot to miss.
It’s not that the rest of us didn’t have anything to say about A-rod, by the way. I have revelled in the titles that Marc Marc has bestowed upon him, such as K-rod and E-rod. I am among the many who have chosen A-Rod’s 2-out at-bats to start for the concession stands. (We didn’t miss anything, did we, fellow comrades-in-line? Except those of us whose hubris tempted our attention away from the field on the 28th….) I shouldn’t be upset that he watched his winning homerun sail out of the park before running to first, right? He knew it was going. He needed to know. It won’t happen again. He’s no Soriano. Right?
If you must convince someone else or simply remind yourself that it is true, that A-rod won a Yankee game with a walk-off homerun, enjoy this video highlight from MLB.com, featuring Michael Kay’s famous "See ya!" to the homerun gone. Link: New York Yankees : Video : Yankees Top Plays Archive.
Last time I saw Kris Benson, he lost to Esteban Loaiza on a night I played hooky to see the game with Marc Marc at Shea. September 14, 2005. Inexplicably, the ticket price was $5. I’d have paid a lot more to see this match-up. As he so often has, Benson pitched well until Mets Dementia set in. More about that night can be found here.
Nevertheless, as I feared earlier this off-season, General Manager Omar Minaya has gone ahead and arranged to trade him for a reliever (Jorge Julio, plus a prospect). Floraine Kay suspects this may be another example of his apparent desire to hispanicize the team. The pattern is looking hard to ignore, but I withhold judgement, for now. Offered my choice of Benson, Aaron Heilman, Steve Trachsel, or Victor Zambrano, (all 4 had been rumored as trade bait for this offseason) I, too, might reach for the more promising younger player if I were managing Baltimore. Why Benson — or Heilman or Trachsel, for that matter — would be offered, I can’t quite comprehend, however.
On the other hand, maybe it was a friendly trade, at the management level at least. (Didn’t we all wake up today to the news that Mrs. Benson wasn’t happy about this?) As MLB.com’s Tom Singer points out, former Mets GM Jim Duquette is now working for Baltimore’s Mike Flanagan and, as some of us recall, had made a big trade for him with the Pirates in July of 2004. Apparently he had support from the Orioles’ new star pitching coach. According to Singer , Mazzone had been eying Benson for 3 years, over which time he had seen Benson keep Atlanta’s slugger squad to a batting average of .212. "Mazzone saw a project," Singer reports "and someone who could inject consistency into a volatile rotation that already included Rodrigo Lopez, Bruce Chen, Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard."
A great reliever might have been worth a trade for Benson, but I’m disappointed that the Mets seem to have picked up a pitcher whose numbers appear to be on the decline, if only temporarily. I can see wanting to hold onto Heilman to move him back into the rotation from the bullpen, where he was so successfully ghettoized last year. Ah, too familiar are these pre-season Mets Misgivings.