Spring Training 2002: Games 5 and 6
Winter Haven, FL
Indians 11 Yankees 5
Marlins 4 Astros 3
Observations from our first two-camp day:
1. Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia, whom you all know I think should have been AL Rookie of the Year in 2001, is the real deal. He pitched a one-hit shutout over four frames against the Yankees. The boy can flat bring it, and he cracks me up with that crooked hat. As the programs said, "So Young - So Good."
2. Eddie Murray now serves as hitting instructor for the Indians. One of the finest players of our time, Murray looks like he could still pound a few homers. Is it possible a guy like him could be considered underrated in his time? I think so - you never heard him grouped with the stars of the eighties and nineties, but Murray should be right there with Brett, Yount, Smith, Winfield, Puckett, et al. And why not? His resume is impeccable. If ever there was a first-ballot sure thing in recent years, it has to be Eddie Murray.
3. Our group truly hates the Yankees, as any Rangers fan must. How much more disdain do we feel for them now that mound-charger Robin Ventura has joined their ranks? Hey, I've seen Nolan this week - and he could take you again, Mr. Ventura. More amusing was their DH this day, the erstwhile Ranger Kevin Elster. I cannot believe the range-less wonder is still in the league.
4. Clayton has moved into first place for the "most easily amused" award. Every street we drove down in Winter Haven elicited the same excitable response: "Wow! Oranges! ON TREES! COOOOL!" (He's not the only one - Jake thought oranges grew in cartons with missing people on the sides)
5. The Lizard has grown suspicious that some players are taking advantage of the increased security measures. He has commented several times how scarce they have made themselves, a major difference between this and the savvy spring veteran's previous trips. This has made autographs and
chance meetings next to impossible, which is unfortunate. If you really work at it, you might get a signature or two, but we are too old to work on vacation.
6. News out of Yankee camp includes the release of Ruben Rivera for *stealing Derek Jeter's glove and bat*, then selling it to a collector for $2500. We got a big kick out of that one. I certainly hope that
$2500 helps make up the $1 mil payday he won't be getting anymore! What an idiot. Rivera has apologized, saying it was a "rookie mistake," and that he "shouldn't have done it." Of course, he also said that "it's not like I murdered anyone," which may be the quote of the spring.
7. Between games, we visited the famous "Steak 'n Shake," where we all ate steakburgers and milkshakes. Dinner there remains a spring training favorite, and with good reason. The fare is great, and our total bill came to about $25, or roughly the cost of one hot dog at the ballpark.
8. Once we arrived in Kissimmee for the Astros game, the sun from five consecutive day games had sapped our strength. We enjoyed a night game in the cool breeze, though young Jake could no longer use his "I need to get out of the sun" excuse to go look for girls.
9. Lizard and I hung around the Astros' bullpen for a while, where we overheard former Rangers backup catcher Gregg Zaun making fun of starter Brad Ausmus's technique. He had everyone in stitches with his routine - these things are simply not seen outside of spring training. Octavio
Dotel was also yucking it up with the fans.
10. Tim Raines, 42, is trying to make the Marlins' squad, and after one early game play, we predict he will do just that. In the second inning, he ran full speed into the left-center alley and laid out to catch a
blazing liner. How amazing. Everyone knows his credentials, yet in a meaningless spring game, he is out there busting himself to be excellent. How many of today's young stars would even attempt that play in such a game?
11. Clayton is making the rest of us crazy what with all the Perkins Restaurant sightings. Every time we pass one, he goes absolutely nuts. So if you want to open your own can't-lose business, bring Perkins to Texas. The rest of us think he will keep you in business single-handedly.