Think Happy Thoughts

It’s unseasonably cold and grey in my new home city by the bay while my old home city of New York basks in the warm sun. This is probably karmic retribution for the followers of the disgraced Barry Bonds. Frankly, talking with natives around town,  it’s hard not to feel a certain frustration with some of the fans out here who wish not to dwell on the slugger’s improprieties. Still, I understand why a fan of a player would engage in this type of denial. It’s an unpleasant thing to see our heroes fall. So, let’s for one second pretend that none of this crap is happening and do like Simon and Garfunkel and think about more innocent things. To this end, let’s talk about our favorite players around baseball and why they’re our favorite players. I’ll start. My favorite current player on the Yankees is Mike Mussina because he’s wily, thoughtful and has pitched well for the Bombers. He’s quiet, is never quoted saying stupid things, and brings to mind what Bill James once wrote about Donny Baseball: 100% ball player; 0% bullshit. My favorite player of all-time: Willie Randolph. Much for the same reasons as Mussina. My favorite Red Sock of all-time: Billy Mueller. My favorite current Red Sock: Mike Lowell (and he hasn’t even played a game yet!).   

10 comments… add one
  • My favorite Sock is Tek because he always plays hard and always says the right things, but not in a fakey, I’m-just-saying-this-because-they’re-making-me kind of way. He just seems genuine and true. I know a lot of Yankees fans don’t like him, but hey, I can’t stand their captain either. (=

    Laura March 10, 2006, 6:16 pm
  • it’s hard not to appreciate how papi approaches baseball, with humility and a greater understanding that the game is still just a game. he has turned into one of the games most prolific sluggers and his head has stayed the same size (no pun intended). i have trouble picking a yankess, because it’s like choosing your favorite ENRON executive. they’re all kinda souless. but who needs a soul when you got cash?

    sf rod March 10, 2006, 6:49 pm
  • Great question, Nick, because it’s been a while since I thought about who my “favorite” was. As a real youngster I used to idolize Pudge Fisk and Freddie Lynn, then in the 80s it was Clemens (pre-weight and surly attitude gain). In the late 90’s it was hard not to admire Nomar, and, for a brief moment before he went completely insane, Carl Everett (seriously – for like two months he was perhaps on path to be the best acquisition in many years, one of the all-time ripoff deals of the decade in all of baseball, but then his brain kicked in and everything went south). And of course Pedro, perhaps my all-time favorite, a pitcher who I would drop anything just to see – I was lucky enough to be at the All-Star game in Beantown when he famously mowed down Larkin, Walker, Sosa, McGwire, and Bagwell, and it’s just below the 2004 postseason as the most memorable series of events I have seen. But now it’s tough to say. Maybe that’s age, but I think it’s also the transient nature of things. I like Tek, for his efforts, his toughness, and his abilities, and totally dig Papi, for all the obvious reasons. Moving out of the Boston uniform, and sadly so, the player I most admired from a talent standpoint was Barry Bonds (not even a Sox), and that was an admiration from long before he started juicing. The next guy on the list is (seriously) A-Rod, who I would watch play any day of the week, if only I could hide the logo on his uniform and not have to listen to him talk about himself (same with Schilling, I suppose – wonderful to watch play, not so wonderful to watch do anything else). So I guess I have to say, if talking about the Sox, I go with Papi and Tek. Though if someone young, exciting, sincere, and joyful came along I could be convinced to change my tune.

    SF March 10, 2006, 7:11 pm
  • After I posted about Tek I was thinking about this, and I decided that my favorite current Yankee is Matsui, and it’s not because he rarely talks with the media. It’s because during Yanks/Sox games, he is always respectful of the players on the other team. I remember one game last season, Matsui slid into the plate and Tak lost his helmet trying to tag him out. I don’t remember what the call was, but what I do remember is Matsui picking up the helmet and handing it to Tek before walking back to the dugout. And this was at Fenway. It’s the little things that make me smile when watching these ballplayers. It kills me to watch so many of these guys be so disrespectful to each other and being bad sportsmen just by being impolite. Matsui is polite. That’s why I like him. And I’m a Sox fan.

    Laura March 10, 2006, 8:05 pm
  • As a Red Sox fan, I feel a little guilty sometimes when I see Rivera in the ninth while the Yankees are playing a team other than the Red Sox. On one hand, I’m rooting for him to blow the save, on the other hand, I get kind of excited. He’s just a great pitcher, who strikes me as having a good attitude. My favorite Sox right now? I hate to say David Ortiz because that’s what everybody would say, but, yeah, David Ortiz. I also loved John Olerud last year, but I couldn’t possibly explain why.

    Hunter March 10, 2006, 9:39 pm
  • Paul O’Neill, simply for the way he conducted himself on the field.
    When O’Neill would smoke one out of the park, he’d immediately drop his head and trot quickly around the bases, never stopping to admire the flight of the ball, or show the pitcher up. In my opinion, O’Neill was the heart and soul of those Yankee teams that won 4 of 5 from 1996-00.
    And those fits he would throw in the dugout after making an out when he thought he should’ve gotten a hit were legendary and at times hilarious.
    I always liked those O’Neill bullseye signs the fans out in right field would hold up when he was at the plate.
    They would always play Baba O’Riley by the Who when O’Neill came up to bat.
    The evening when O’Neill played his last game at Yankee stadium, when he trotted out to right field for the last time, Baba O’Riley was playing over the P.A. system, and the fans were chanting his name. As he stood there, taking it all in, for the last time, the look on his face was, well, I can’t really think of words to describe it.
    The whole scene sent chills up my spine, and I hate to say this, tears to my eyes, and was something I’ll never forget.
    Favorite Red Sox? Well, I kind of like Manny, because he doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body, even though he scares the hell out of me every times he come up to bat against the Yanks.

    whatever March 10, 2006, 9:49 pm
  • Growing up it was Winfield for me. I didn’t read much and so I don’t know if he said stupid things. I do remember the unfortunate Bird in Canada incident but by then I was way too much a fan (I think I propagandized a false story about how Dave was throwing the ball to the infield and hit the bird by mistake).
    I always loved Bonds, for many of the reasons he’s so annoying now (not the juice stuff…the awesome skills and the acidic press relationship). I have always been a huge Pedro fan, much for the same reasons as everyone else–when you’re watching him you are watching the best and you know it down to your bones. I love his light attitude about the game and his light attitude in dealing with ownership (I’d say the same for any player against any ownership–not just the Sox)Also, he’s hilarious.
    My favorite Yankee these last many years has always been Mo. He’s just so good. I never get angry at him for blowing a save…just sad because nothing is perfect, not even Mo. The excitement you get when he comes into the game. When he gets two quick strikes and everyone in the world knows he’s going to throw the high fast ball, and then he STILL gets the guy to swing thru it—that’s awe inspiring.
    Man…I can’t wait for this season to begin.

    walein March 10, 2006, 9:52 pm
  • Favorite Yankee of all time: Mickey Mantle. He was the essence of the Yankees in my teenage years. My favorite incident was off the field: the Senate hearings about baseball in the 50’s. They interviewed Casey Stengal who was the master of double talk. He went on for about ten minutes and no one understood a word that he said. Next up was Mantle. His one line comment – “what Casey said”. They don’t make them like that anymore. Either of them.
    Current favorite is Bernie. The classiest guy in baseball. He has a quiet dignity. And his career stats are superb: 298BA, .480slg, .384obp 2218hits. 5x all star, 4 golden gloves. And his postseason numbers are amazing: 22hr, 82r, 80rbis – all post season records.
    As for the Sox… can’t think of any.. :-)

    bronxborn March 11, 2006, 3:22 am
  • Mo.
    Gotta go with Mo.
    Mo puts everything he has into the game when he’s pitching, but at the same time he realizes it’s only a game.

    john March 12, 2006, 12:22 pm
  • Mo is so talented and so dedicated that no one holds it against him that he could have clinched against both Arizona and Boston (2004).
    We know the Yanks weren’t goats, because Mo is never a goat. Even the best sometimes lose.
    Interesting sidelight: In Mattingly’s last year, the Yanks finally got to the playoffs. Seattle was great that year, and the Yankee’s star reliever, John Wetteland, just couldn’t get them out. Buck tried lots of things — leaving his starters in, and bringing other starters in as relievers, but the M’s prevailed.
    There was a rookie Buck used to mop-up. Buck didn’t seem to notice that the rookie got everyone out. The rookie, of course, was Mo, and the next year Torre made him the best setup man ever. What if Buck had used Mo as the closer?

    john March 12, 2006, 12:31 pm

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