I used to enjoy hanging around Don Zimmer in his days as Joe Torre's bench coach with the Yankees, talking baseball and hearing his stories. Even when I flat-out disagreed with him, the presentation was still entertaining.
One of Zimmer's biggest pet peeves was how the game had evolved to players wanting to know their "roles." Bench guys interested in when and how often they should expect to play. Relievers desiring a sense of when they would get in a game.
"Roles?!" Zimmer would shout with a cackle, the way Allen Iverson said, "Practice?!" I don't want to cite his words beyond that, because I can't remember them precisely, but they were in the spirit of, "You go in the game when your manager tells you to go in the game."
Back in Zimmer's playing days? Sure. But the world has changed dramatically, and baseball along with it. So it was just another day in the game yesterday when, following the Yankees' victory over Minnesota, Joe Girardi (a Zimmer protege) announced that Joba Chamberlain would be the team's primary seventh-inning reliever; it's the second note in the linked story.
Meanwhile, in a radio interview, Kevin Millar criticized Lou Piniella, but I'm just as interested in Alfonso Soriano's comments within this ESPN.com story about the players' desire to know ahead of time when they aren't going to play.
It's easy to say, "You millionaire crybabies neeed to clam up and follow orders!" Like in any business, however, the goal of a baseball team is to maximize your resources. And most players, being human, feel that they perform better when they have as much information as possible for their task.
To use the classic example, it's easy to say, "You should use your best reliever for your highest-leverage situation. Bring in Mariano Rivera in the seventh inning if the scenario calls for it." But Rivera would rather not hop among the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. The better call, given how the game has changed, is to have someone else good enough - like Chamberlain - to get the team out of that seventh-inning jam.
FWIW, BTW, I didn't think Chamberlain threw the ball that well to his three batters last night. He got a hard flyout from Jason Kubel, a hard grounder to first from Danny Valencia and a comebacker from Alexi Casilla.
--Here's my column from last night's game, on Ivan Nova. Very nice outing for the young man. He mixed his four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup impressively. He left you wanting to see more.
--Interesting comments by Pedro Feliciano, who essentially conceded that yes, there were times he wondered why Jerry Manuel left him in Mets games the past few years.
--The Mets open a series against the Phillies tonight, at Citizens Bank Park. Big test for the suddenly confident bunch. We've known for months how strong the Phillies' starting rotation is, obviously, but it still blows my mind when you see the pitching probables and conclude, "Oh, the Mets got a break. They get to face Joe Blanton in the middle game."
--Daniel Murphy will get some more playing time, David Lennon reports.
--The Orioles and Rangers remained undefeated, while the Brewers remained winless. Thanks to Buster Olney's blog for the link to these games. Thanks to Twitter for the link to Buster Olney's blog. Thanks to...well, you get the idea.
--I'll check in later from Philly.