Few Clouds 40° Good Evening
Few Clouds 40° Good Evening

The first bullpen session, Joe Girardi, Kelvim Escobar and Mark McGwire

The "pop" gets me every time. Today is one of two days each season in which I can put away - temporarily, at least - all of the other tools required of my job, and just enjoy the sensory components of baseball.

The other day? Opening Day.

There's nothing quite like standing under the sun, even if it's not going to be profoundly warm, and watch the (Yankees', in this instance) pitchers taking the mound en masse for the first time of the year, winding up and delivering those fastballs to the catcher.

Pop! go the catchers' gloves. It is a most beautiful sound.

As I've written before, I wouldn't enjoy my job all that much if I were a circa-1950s baseball reporter. If all I wrote about was "the game." I love trying to be a baseball/crime/finance/medicine/Capitol Hill reporter, day after day.

Today, though? I feel privileged to cover "the game" for the first pitchers' and catcher's workout. It gets me every time. When it doesn't, I should probably look for another line of work.

--Alas, part of the fun of this drill is seeing the entire starting rotation pitch next to one another, kicking off the proceedings, but today, it might not be CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez all together. Joe Girardi said yesterday that Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte would take it very slowly this spring, in light of their heavy workloads last season.

In any case, I wrote about Girardi for my column, and I asked him about the issue of complacency, given that Girardi's about as advanced as any manager when it comes to statistical analysis. He conceded that it's not a huge issue in his mind, but one he'll monitor.

What I wonder, as I wrote in the column, is whether the team's current player leadership will be as effective as that of the late '90s group. And of that team, Girardi the player might have been the best of all when it came to keeping guys in line and focused.

--Erik Boland also wrote about Javier Vazquez. When I hear Vazquez supporters counter the "Vazquez is a choker!" stuff by mentioning his first half of 2004 with the Yankees, I laugh and say, "Why don't you use the rest of his career to counter that? " Although, really - like CC Sabathia last year - Vazquez will only silence his critics, including Ozzie Guillen, with a strong postseason. Even just one good game.

--Scroll down this blog post by David Waldstein, the New York Times' new (and outstanding) Mets beat reporter, to read that Kelvim Escobar has been slowed by right shoulder discomfort. The Mets are off to a rousing start, eh?

But look: Even if Escobar never throws a pitch for the Mets, the $1.25 million they invested him was still a better buy than the $2 million they threw at Alex Cora, because of the relative upsides. A potential shutdown eighth-inning reliever should have more value than a player  whose greatest contribution is "hell of a guy."

--I'm over the steroids thing. I really am. It happened all over the game, and I'm no longer going to penalize players who used them, vis a vis the Hall of Fame, before baseball instituted a drug-testing program.

But Mark McGwire just rubs me the wrong way. Because with him, it's not a steroids thing. It's a moral-high-ground thing. Good Lord, do I hate the moral high ground.

Watch the linked video, from yesterday's Cardinals workout. Watch McGwire congratulate himself, saying, "It took a lot to do what I did."

It did? It took a lot for you to admit to something that everyone knew? Why? If anything, that speaks more to McGwire's social awkwardness than the actual difficulty of the task.

And again: If you're going with the "Steroids didn't help me hit home runs" deal...again, I don't care about that, in a vacuum. But if they didn't help him hit home runs, then why did it "take a lot" to admit he used them?

Then McGwire talks about "turning it into a positive." Again, don't give me that crap unless you're actually going to film public-service announcements explaining to young athletes that you made the wrong decision, that it gave you an unfair competitive advantage and that you've risked your overall health.

Otherwise? I'd have more respect for McGwire if his mea culpa was, "I did it, and I'm not apologizing. Everyone was using them. I just happened to be a dominant player among that era."

He wants it both ways, and that offends me. Sort of in the way that Jerry was offended in this episode of "Seinfeld," but not quite:

Jerry: ...I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he's converted to Judaism just for the jokes.

Father: And this offends you as a Jewish person.

Jerry: No, it offends me as a comedian.

See you after I hear the Pop sound.

UPDATE, 9:52 a.m.: Buzzkill: As I feared, none of the four veteran starters will be throwing today. I'll have to settle for Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin. Speaking of which, spoke with Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland this morning, and he insisted, passionately and without provocation, that Mitre, Gaudin and Alfredo Aceves all have a real chance to win the fifth starter's job.



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